The “From the Desk Of” series is my regular email to the Valley Torah High School community.
Last week marked the end of a two week crueling AP exam season. I am very proud of all our AP students and all the hard work they put into their AP classes as well as preparing for their exams. I am also grateful to my staff who worked hard teaching the students as well as helping ensure the AP exams ran smoothly, which they did. However, the students, our staff and myself all ended the week exhausted. As the final AP exam ended last Friday, by the time Shabbos came along I found myself unable to clear my head and be in my usual relaxed and welcoming mood for the gift that is Shabbos. However, as soon as I walked into shul my AP state of mind decompressed into complete bliss.
As I walked into Shaarey Zedek for Mincha, I saw the ETTA banner in the hallway that indicated they were having a Shabbaton in our community. ETTA is an organization that serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. When ETTA has a Shabbaton they require volunteers to spend Shabbos with their participants. These volunteers go to shul with them, attend the meals with them, ensure they have a great time and help them in anyway throughout the weekend. As I walked into the actual sanctuary I was greeted by more than the usual group of Valley Torah students who daven there. I saw my students from the Valley, my students from Encino and my students from the Pico and Hancock Park area. It was wonderful to see them, but what was even more wonderful was the fact that each of these Valley Torah students was sitting next to an ETTA participant. With the exception of one boy, the male volunteers on the Shabbaton were all Valley Torah students. I could not have been more proud.
At Valley Torah we state that we prepare our students for Yeshiva, College and Life. It is not an either or proposition. We take all areas seriously. However, with the focus on the AP’s these past couple of weeks (and throughout the year in general) it was wonderful to get a reminder about the “Life” aspect of what we do. Supporting and building life skills and personal character among our students that will last way beyond their graduation date is a critical part of our mission. Sure, we pride ourselves on getting our students into the best Yeshivas and Colleges, but we are not doing our job if they go to these institutions ill prepared to engage with world around them without the highest of morals and values. Last Shabbos it was clear that we are successfully doing our job. I want to thank Dr. Michael Held, the executive Director of ETTA, and Mrs. Leah Schachter, who organized the Shabbaton, for their amazing work for this amazing population and for giving our students the opportunity to be of service.