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Columbus Jewish Day School

Students honor King by wearing leis

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CHRIS PARKER/THISWEEKNEWS
Students at the Columbus Jewish Day School wore leis to an assembly Friday, Jan. 18, to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The leis are related to Martin Luther King Jr.'s teachings and his affiliation with the Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, whose teachings are the foundation of the school. King and Heschel once marched together wearing made by the Rev. Abraham Akaka, a pastor from Hawaii and another leader in the Civil Rights Movement.
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The Columbus Jewish Day School prepared this year for Martin Luther King Jr. Day a little differently than other schools, with students making leis in art classes.

Students then wore the leis to an assembly held Jan. 18.

"Friday (Jan. 18) is a very meaningful day here at our school," said Rachel Hillman, the school's director of development and marketing.

The leis are related to Martin Luther King Jr.'s teachings and his affiliation with the Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, whose teachings are the foundation of the CJDS, Hillman said.

"One of the pillars of our whole curriculum is social justice," Hillman said. "That's the foundation for so much of what the teachers are doing."

Art teacher Susan Couden researched a photo of King and Heschel marching together in Selma, Ala., in the 1960s. In the photo, the men wore leis made by the Rev. Abraham Akaka, who was a pastor in Hawaii and the state's first commissioner for civil rights.

Couden explained in the school's newsletter that Akaka knew King and couldn't participate in the Selma march so he "lent his support to the courageous marchers in Selma by adorning them with flowers."

Couden told the students Jan. 18 that "leis are given and worn in Hawaiian tradition as symbols of love, spiritual meaning or connection, healing, honor and respect. They also are symbolic of the circle of a family embracing.

"(Akaka) sent leis to the marchers through a Hawaiian delegation."

Heschel believed "in the importance of bridging disparate worlds and of educating people to internalize religious tradition in a meaningful way" and was active in the Civil Rights and Soviet Jewry movements, according to school officials.

Hillman said the students learned about King's teachings in all classes as part of the school's integrated curriculum.

The halls of the school were filled last week with stories, art and poems, all related to King's work, Hillman said.

The lessons culminated Jan. 18 with an assembly in which all the students celebrated King and Heschel and welcomed CJDS founders Donna and Ron Solove and CJDS graduate Ari Schottenstein.

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