The season of simchas is upon us, but the ways in which we would normally celebrate those graduations and weddings couldn’t be further from what we had pictured. After all, at the heart of these celebrations is the human desire to gather together in times of joy with our dear friends and families, and now we are stopped in our tracks because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We can’t help but mourn the loss of these long-held traditions, and I certainly am going to miss a few celebrations I was really looking forward to attending: My daughter was to walk across the stage at UCLA to receive her college diploma, and after four years of getting my son through high school I won’t get to see him strut across the very stage where I received my high school diploma. But, these changes in all of our simcha plans, as well as a general shift in our ways of celebrating life, have brought something even perhaps more meaningful to our lives. We all now have a very special opportunity, the chance to start new traditions, to find creative new ways to celebrate each other, and the gift in finding the simplicity required for a meaningful celebration.
This year at Irvine Hebrew Day School (IHDS), we held our own simchas in new and exciting ways: a Mother’s Day tea party via Zoom complete with fancy hats, student-made gifts, poems and student food creations, as well as a Lag B’Omer celebration with remote dancing around backyard bonfires. To keep student and staff morale high we have had daily “spirit days,” because every day should feel like a simcha, including Zoom Charades Gameday, dress-up-like-an-inspiring-person-day and Friendship Day. If you know someone who has made plans for a beautiful wedding, that wedding may become a more simple yet elegant small backyard gathering with a makeshift chuppah, a wine glass, and blessings of a loving marriage, good health and togetherness. And if a birthday party means playing Pictionary with friends over Zoom, then the memory of those laughs and giggles can last a lifetime. This year at IHDS we are promoting our inaugural class into middle school! These bright, hardworking students will be coming together on the last day of school in an unexpected way, gathering in their families’ cars for a parade around the campus, with teachers waving and cheering them on as they honk and cheer! The joy of this celebration will be found in coming together to culminate a year of academic learning, personal growth, and spiritual development, but doing so in a way that no one ever expected. Creating memories, albeit different than what we had initially expected, is no less special. As we reflect on this time, remember how we found creative ways to make each other feel loved, supported, and celebrated. Let’s show our children the true meaning of simcha, creating joy with each other, no matter what life throws our way.
Tammy Keces, MA is the Head of School, Irvine Hebrew Day School and Positive Discipline in the School and Classroom Lead Trainer and a contributing writer to Jlife Magazine.