I’ll admit that I was over-the-top happy when I learned that my grandson, Wiley, would be going to Gan Elohim. I love TBE and care deeply about Wiley having a strong Jewish identity. And so just knowing he would be at Gan Elohim felt like Dayenu. It was more than enough.
What I could not have unanticipated were the multitude of ways that Gan Elohim would enrich Wiley’s life. The shy, frightened little “Duckling,” who clung to my leg in the TBE parking lot in September 2019, has grown into a confident boy who loves his TBE friends, loves learning, loves Judaism. There are many people that contributed to this Dayenu outcome, but a few stand out.
First and foremost, Nancy Ostroff shepherded Gan Elohim through the pandemic with calm, wisdom, patience and pragmatism. I am grateful that neither Wiley nor any of our family became sick with Covid, but more important, I so appreciate Nancy’s willingness and courage to follow the science, talk with the experts, and find ways to keep the school going and thriving in unbelievably challenging times.
Wiley’s teachers—most especially Missy, Rachel and Stephanie—cherished and nurtured each of their students, playing to their strengths and fortifying them in the weaker spots. At Gan Elohim, Wiley acquired social skills that already serve him well and will surely do so in years to come. And they gave him the gift of a true love of learning. I will always remember the day when Wiley, just 4 1/2, got into my car at pickup and asked me to name some oviparous animals. I had to admit to him that I did not know what the word meant.
Our clergy did a beautiful job of connecting Wiley and his Gan Elohim buddies to the larger TBE community. He especially enjoyed welcoming Shabbat in the sanctuary with Rabbi Philip and happily sang along (I know because he brought the words and the melodies home with him) when Cantor Shanna and Cantor Josh brought such joyful music into the classroom.
None of any of this could have happened without TBE’s dedicated building crew and staff, who kept Gan Elohim clean and safe before and during the pandemic. I especially appreciated them on those cold winter days when they stood outside in the parking lot to make sure that pick up traffic moved along safely and that each child had time to be safely buckled in their car seats.
Each of them—and Danielle at the front desk—demonstrated to the young children that one does not have to have a fancy title to make a real difference in the lives of others.
Wiley graduated from Gan Elohim this morning. Our family has been blessed in countless ways. I can happily say Dayenu, but for us there are Gan Elohim blessings to come: Wiley’s sister, Edie, begins there in September.