For 18 years, from the earliest days of “mommy & me” all the way up until high school graduation, I attended a small, Jewish day school in the suburbs of Baltimore, MD. Contained within a seemingly un-poppable bubble, I spent long days, specifically from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., learning about Jewish holidays, hearing stories from the Bible, and studying the many laws that constitute Jewish life. All of this, on top of taking math, english, social studies, and science classes.

At times I longed to switch to a regular school, one where I could be dismissed from school at 2:30. Every. Single. Day. And one where I wouldn’t have to endure these classes that seemed so trivial at the time. But my parents would not even dream of letting me weasel my way out of what they believed to be an important experience. So I continued my Jewish day school education, and looking back on it, I realize just how right they were.

Sitting in my dorm room, 1,123 miles away from home, in a new school and a new city, I just want to say to my Jewish Day School:

Thank you for showing me what it means to be a community.

During times of happiness, from special Jewish holidays to winning the annual basketball tournament and everything in between, we always united to celebrate as a school. On the opposite end, in times of sorrow, whether it be the death of a family member or that of a soldier in Israel, we always joined together to pray for comfort, peace, and health in the world. Looking back, I appreciate these moments for what they were, and know that I will always be a part of a special community.

Thank you for fostering my love of Judaism and Israel.

Throughout my years, you taught me some essential components of what it means to be a Jew: that I should care for others, strive to be the best version of myself, and live each day with meaning and purpose. You also gave me Israel, a beautiful country filled with incredible people, a rich history and culture, and an everlasting spirit. These ideas are now ingrained into my being; without them, I would not be who I am today.

Thank you for teaching me that winning isn't everything.

The sports at my school could be classified as anything but serious. In the entire span of my athletic career, I witnessed only two occasions where players were cut. 99.9% of the time, everyone made the team, and everyone was given an equal chance to learn, grow, and succeed. Although this system stands in stark contrast to how typical athletic organizations function, for my school, it worked. We learned to value hard work, camaraderie, and having fun. Winning was rare, but this taught us to appreciate even the smallest of victories.

Lastly, thank you for preparing me for college.

You might be thinking, how could I have been prepared for college by living in a bubble for my entire life? Yes, it is true that my life predominantly existed in this Jewish bubble, and that my friend group consisted mainly of people just like me. But my Jewish Day School education equipped me with the necessary tools to succeed not only in college, but in life. Tools that I don’t think I would have received anywhere else. From it, I’ve learned to treat people the way that you want to be treated. I’ve learned to believe that everything happens for a reason, and to trust that things will be okay in the end. And lastly, I’ve learned that each day we have on this earth is a gift, and that we should not merely sit back and appreciate it, but take advantage of each moment to ultimately live a meaningful life.

So thanks again, for the bagels, for the 8 hour school days, and for the lessons.