Celebrating Religious Holidays on the Downtown and Merle-Smith Campuses

October 21, 2022

Dip your apple in the honey. Shake the Lulav. Happy Birthday to the universe!

As the fall holidays were celebrated around the world, Moravian Academy students and faculty enjoyed learning more about these sacred traditions, with and from the Jewish members of our community. For example:

  • 20220927_115724For Rosh Hashanah, Downtown and Merle-Smith students in Kindergarten through Upper School were invited to dip apples in honey to wish one another a sweet new year. We celebrated this annual “New Year” tradition with our own Moravian Gold honey, harvested from the apiary on the Merle-Smith Campus, and beautiful red apples, picked from the orchards of Moravian Alumus, Ben Scholl ’98

  • Beginning School students on the Downtown Campus learned more about the High Holy Days in Kinderchapel, especially the importance of apologies and forgiveness, and enjoyed the story of Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse. 

  • Lower School students on our Downtown Campus learned about Sukkot from guest speaker, Rabbi Michael Singer from Congregation Brith Sholom in Bethlehem. Rabbi Singer brought a Lulav, a symbol of Sukkot that is made from the leaves and fruit of four plants: date palms, myrtle, willow, and etrog or citron. He explained how the shape of each plant reminds us of our eyes, mouths, hands and hearts, and how each of these parts of ourselves can be used to serve God and each other. Then he demonstrated how to shake the Lulab in every direction, a celebratory dance that reminds us how God is present all around us. 

  • In honor of Sukkot, the Jewish festival of thanksgiving, we celebrated the connection between gratitude and generosity with guest speakers for Lower and Middle School Chapel from our local food banks. From Northeast Community Center, Executive Director Paula Johnson and Program Director Sara Ebersole spoke to our Downtown Campus Middle School, and Connie Pierce from the Central Moravian Church Food Pantry spoke to our Downtown Campus Lower School, helping to launch our upcoming food drives. 

  • Merle-Smith students and faculty shared in a special Gratitude Chapel, inspired by Sukkot, where Upper School French teacher, Carolyn Wert, shared her daily gratitude practice, and Co-Director of College Counseling, Mrs. Lisa Dubreuil, Aliza Coolidge ’24, and Michael Alayon ’25 each reflected on the importance of gratitude in their lives. This was followed by an advisory activity where students wrote thank you notes to people who have made a positive impact on their lives.

When we invite guest speakers to Chapel, we ask them to do three things:

  1. Share the story of your culture… tell us about your holiday, belief, or practice, and the place and meaning it holds in your tradition.

  2. Share your personal story… tell us about the place and meaning of your tradition in your own life.

  3. Invite us to reflect on our own stories… what ideas, questions, or inspiration does your tradition offer that we might all reflect on and learn from, no matter what tradition or culture we come from?

These three questions serve us well, as we seek to celebrate and learn from the many traditions and faiths represented in our community, and to inspire and encourage spiritual growth. We welcome our community members to share their traditions with one another, and to celebrate together what gives our lives meaning and purpose. We are looking forward to the upcoming celebrations of Diwali, Dia de los Muertos, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas. 

If you or your family has a religious or cultural tradition you would like to share, please contact me at jnichols@mamail.net.   To all who celebrate, and to each of us, Shanah Tovah um'tukah', may you have a good and sweet new year, and a very Happy Diwali to those who are celebrating this week! May we embody the light.


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