On a cool and overcast day on October 25th, amid the echoes of the growing Coronavirus pandemic, the 2019-20 grade 8 student graduates were invited back to receive their diplomas and participate in the new Heschel garden initiative, by assisting with the planting of new trees, plants and shrubs in the first phase of Heschel’s teaching garden revitalization. Of course, in Heschel tradition, hot chocolate took the edge off the cool weather.

In this ceremony of nature, the students were finally allowed to put a period on the sentence which marked their Heschel career, as their graduation ceremony, amongst other things, was cancelled due to the pandemic. Multiple generations of students, parents, teachers and volunteers, in an illustration of the Heschel familial ethos, arrived on Sunday morning and throughout the day in bubbled cohorts, to help begin the new cycle of life at Heschel.

Digging holes, planting trees, spreading mulch and catching up were the order of the day, as the new garden plans begun to take shape. From the youngest to the oldest, people all pitched in, in what was an enjoyable day and a message of hope during the pandemic.

“It’s very satisfying to be able to plant trees with Heschel graduates who missed their graduation because of Covid-19. Planting together brings closure and a sense of the future”,  said Yarden Bourlas, a grade 8 teacher at the school and a driving force behind the garden project.

It was a wonderful start to the creation of new outdoor spaces and classrooms, which is now, more than ever, needed to help serve our current students better in this age of social distancing and smaller classes. Following the planning, forums, meetings and discussions of the last year, a more timely project could not have been foreseen, and will continue to grow. We anticipate further student and volunteer participation in the future to help bond our community inexorably to the future.

“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement… get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”

—Abraham Joshua Heschel