During this year’s annual Chanukkah Festival of the Arts, two of our Grade 8 students took the stage to share reflections on their transformative journey at Heschel, expressing gratitude for the community, education, and values that have shaped them over the past decade.

With their permission, we are sharing their amazing speech below.

A: Now more than ever we are proud to be decade-long Heschel students. Listen – we all know we don’t have the fanciest school, or the biggest gym, but after 10 incredible years as Heschel students we can tell you this…At Heschel, we have everything we need – solid friends, the most dedicated teachers and staff, a true community,  the most incredible spirit, and the kindest most well-rounded people we know. 

No doubt, Heschel has shaped us into the people we have become today. 

D: you have taught us to learn and to teach, and to think for ourselves. You have taught us what true kindness is and how to share and receive it.  You have taught us to be proud practicing Jews and contributing members of our community.

A:  Today is our last Chanukah concert. We have so many nostalgic memories of this event – starting from JK with immense anticipation and many nerves before  performing Kad katan, and then watching the grade 8 dance with awe and looking up to our grade 8 buddies as we walked down that long aisle with our flashlights. Hard to believe, today we are those grade 8 buddies!

D: With all that is happening in Israel today, we are feeling connected to our Jewish identity more now than ever before, and we have never felt more proud to be Jewish. We credit our deep connection today to our many years of a meaningful Jewish education, using our unique lens’ to connect to Jewish concepts through intricate and creative projects – from our Megillat Esther in the early years, the Julily Seder plate in grade 5, and our Music as Identity project in grade 7 – all of our learning was deeply rooted in Jewish teachings and values. So now when we face our Judaism like never before, we know exactly where we stand, we know exactly who we are.

Just last week, we experienced one of our most impactful Heschel memories yet. When word got out that there would be a rally for the Jewish people on Parliament Hill, Heschel didn’t hesitate for a moment before organizing buses to make our voices heard. Heschel taught us, not just in the classroom and in the lesson plans, but through the actions of our leaders. That day at the rally they taught us that there is no room for silence in the face of injustice, especially when those injustices are against our own people. 

A: As we learn from rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel himself –  “In any free society where terrible wrongs exist, some are guilty – all are responsible”. Heschel has taught us that we are responsible and that each of us can make a world of difference. They taught us that the only way to dispel darkness is to BE the light.

And now a short message to you all. 

D: To our teachers, on behalf of all the Heschel students –  we want you to know that we see how hard you work, and how much you care – and we could not be more grateful.

A: To all of the grades that will one day graduate. Take it from us –  Heschel is truly special, and we are all so lucky to be part of this community. You may not know that yet – but trust us, you will! The more you give of yourself to your community, the more you will get out of it – so try out for the teams, join the choir, go to the events – you’ll see – Heschel will feel like home. 

D: To our graduating class. We want you to know that this journey has been beyond incredible because of you. You are our family – you always have been and you always will be. No matter where our journeys take us – that will never change. 

A: To all the parents – thank you for not only choosing Heschel, but for being part of the Heschel community alongside us. 

D: May Heschel continue to be a beacon of light in the Toronto Jewish community and beyond.

A+D: Thank you everyone, and we hope you enjoy the rest of the Chanukah concert!