Teaching Our Principals About Religious Diversity

Teaching Our Principals About Religious Diversity

December 20, 2016

ORIGINAL URJ ARTICLE can be found at: https://goo.gl/q88uMX

How Religious Diversity Can Strengthen Your Community
By Stephanie Butler , 12/20/2016

With the winter holidays approaching, many Jewish parents – in our community and others – face the annual task of reminding our children’s teachers that not all students celebrate Christmas. Last year, when I expressed concerns about this issue to our local school superintendent, he responded with the heart of a teacher, offering me an opportunity to highlight this issue at a specially created program this year for the school district’s administrators and representatives from numerous faith communities in our area.

I jumped at the opportunity and quickly formed a small planning committee that included Rabbi Lynne Goldsmith of Temple Emanu-El in Dothan, AL, a fellow congregant, Barbara Minsky, and me. Recently, the school administrators gathered with representatives from 10 different faith communities (Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Religious Science, Freethinkers, Catholic, Episcopalian, Seventh Day Adventist, and Presbyterian) for a session that was engaging and enlightening for all.

Dothan’s mayor, Mike Schmitz, always a good friend of the Jewish community and a proponent of strong inter-religious, inter-racial, and inter-cultural relationships within our community opened the program, speaking about the beauty of Dothan’s diversity and the power of community when we all work together.

I followed the mayor, providing a summary of the religious communities in our area. No one was surprised that Baptists comprise 50% of the population in our local area, but many attendees were amazed that the percentage of Catholics, at about 3%, is as high as it is and that our local Muslim community is larger than the Jewish community.

Barbara Minsky reviewed the laws governing religion in the public schools, reminding school leaders that individual students may pray in school, but teachers and administrators may not encourage religious activities by students. She also noted that although students may distribute religious literature to their peers – and even proselytize – they may not harass other students. Here in the Bible Belt, what is and isn’t permissible in this realm is of concern to all of us who belong to minority religious groups.

The various faith leaders, including clergy, parents, and community members, then spoke candidly with school administrators in small groups. Highlights of this dialogue for school leaders included:

Studying verses from the Koran
Learning how isolated Seventh Day Adventist students can feel during the winter holiday season
Understanding that “nones,” atheists, and agnostics are present in the community in greater numbers than they originally thought
Learning about the diversity within Christianity
Being introduced to the basics of Buddhism and Hinduism
For the faith community volunteers, the session demonstrated that school leaders are eager to know more about students’ cultures and beliefs and teachers seek to be inclusive, but sometimes they just don’t know quite where to begin.

By far, the overriding message of the gathering is that much more binds us together than separates us. I am hopeful that despite our differences, this feeling of oneness will persist and that the interfaith session will serve as a catalyst to ensure that every child in our school system feels safe and respected – during the holiday season and throughout the school year.

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Holiday Wrapping for House of Ruth

Holiday Wrapping for House of Ruth

December 19, 2016

Each year, Temple members volunteer to wrap gifts at the Wiregrass Mall. All funds raised go to the House of Ruth, a grass roots, non-profit dedicated to providing safe, temporary shelters for battered women and their children. Mid-December wrapping proved to be much quieter than our normal Christmas Eve gig, but we appreciate everyone who showed up and Loretta for leading the project.

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Getting Ready for Chanukah!

Getting Ready for Chanukah!

December 14, 2016

Each year our religious school children buy small Chanukah treats and gifts for their families in the Judaica shop. We couldn’t do it with out the patient help of our Sisterhood members helping the children to shop wisely and wrap gifts. Thank you ladies!

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Interfaith Service & Goldsmiths Honored with key to the city

Interfaith Service & Goldsmiths Honored with key to the city

November 23, 2016

At last night’s Community Interfaith Service, Rabbi Lynne and Rob Goldsmith were given a key to the city by Dothan’s Mayor Mike Schmitz. They were honored for their many good works on behalf of, not only the Jewish community, but of the people of Dothan.

Read more about the event from the Dothan Eagle below:

Interfaith service brings Dothan faith community together

Nov 23, 2016.

Jim Cook

Barriers of faith and identity fell for at least one night Tuesday as local residents filled Temple Emanu-El in Dothan for the ninth annual Dothan Area Interfaith Thanksgiving Service.

The event brings members of Dothan’s various faith communities together each year to interact with one another and to express their thanks.

“If six faiths can come together and share coffee and cookies that should give us hope that this can be accomplished in a larger way throughout the country,” Rabbi Lynne Goldsmith said.

Rev. Dr. Sam Persons Parkes delivered a message concerning the artificial boundaries people tend to erect between each other and how God and various adversities can break down those divides.

“I believe the divine intentionally haunts the border between them and us,” he said.

In addition to Parkes’ message, the event also including readings from Buddhist, Christian, Hebrew, Hindu, Muslim and New Thought texts.

Brian Seidman, president of Temple Emanu-El said the annual service spoke well of Dothan residents’ commitment to diversity and inclusion. Seidman said several interfaith events are held throughout the year, and that more awareness of these events could foster a greater spirit of community among local residents.

Karen Nanning attends the Dothan Area Interfaith Thankgiving Service each year.

“It’s heartwarming and uplifting, especially after this year,” she said.

Kris Doss said he enjoys how the service brings people who may not ordinarily socialize with one another together.

“Sunday is one of the most segregated days of the week,” he said. “This brings people together and encourages respect for one another’s beliefs.”

During the event, Dothan Mayor Mike Schmitz recognized the contributions Goldsmith and her husband, Rob, have made to the community. The Goldsmiths will soon move to Colorado to be closer to family.

Original article at: http://www.dothaneagle.com/news/local/interfaith-service-brings-dothan-faith-community-together/article_d63810cc-b125-11e6-8c81-df53d10729b3.html


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Dothan schools have been ranked top in the state

Dothan schools have been ranked top in the state

November 16, 2016

From the Dothan Eagle:

Posted on Nov 14, 2016 by Jim Cook

Newly released ACT Aspire test scores revealed positive growth for the Dothan City Schools in student achievement, with some Dothan schools scoring among the best in the state.

Dothan City School Superintendent Chuck Ledbetter announced the results at the Dothan City School Board meeting on Monday.

“We’re very excited about our scores,” he said.

Ledbetter said ACT Aspire scores have risen for the city school system. He also announced some standout performances by local schools, including:

Montana Magnet School – No. 1 in state in third grade math scores.
Heard Magnet School – No. 13 in state in third grade math scores.
Montana Magnet School – No. 2 in state in fourth grade math scores.
Heard Magnet School – No. 3 in state in fourth grade math scores.
Montana Magnet School – No. 5 in state in fifth grade math scores.
Heard Magnet School – No. 1 in state in fourth grade math scores.
Beverlye Magnet School – No. 6 in state in sixth grade math scores.
Carver Magnet School – No. 4 in state in sixth grade math scores.
Carver Magnet School – No. 6 in state in seventh grade math scores.

Ledbetter said that considering the small amount of local tax revenue the city schools received compared to other top performing school systems in the state, Dothan’s achievements are impressive.

“Nobody’s getting more for their money than the Dothan City Schools,” he said.

On Monday the city school board approved a new contract for Cloverdale Elementary School Principal Aneta Walker. The board also approved contracts for mentoring services with SpectraCare, 360 Ministry Outreach, Healthy You and Ladi Vee’s Etiquette and Consulting, LLC.

The board also recognized Jimmy Berry, a student at Selma Elementary School, who saved a fellow student from choking earlier this year.

Original story: http://www.dothaneagle.com/news/education/four-dothan-schools-score-among-best-in-state-on-act/article_ee17487a-aadb-11e6-9c48-9f6ab21a0c55.html

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