In all honesty, I don’t remember much of actually going to school at SJCS – it was almost 6 years ago and I was little. But I do know what it gave me. SJCS taught me that it’s okay to ask questions and challenge the teacher. SJCS teachers taught me how to do this through asking me lots of questions about how I was thinking about a problem and hammering into me that if I am confused, I need to take control of my education and ask for help. At SJCS I learned that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but rather of strength, because you can identify where and when you need help, which not everybody can do. SJCS also taught me that kindness goes a lot further than jealousy and it gave me skills for how to deal with conflict. For me, what SJCS instilled is the kavod (respect) for others and to always walk in the other person’s shoes before judging them.
One of the most valuable things I walked away with from SJCS was the building blocks to learn more languages than just Hebrew and English. Through middle school, learning basic Spanish came easily to me and I couldn’t figure out why. Last year, in my first year of high school Spanish, my teacher noticed I was “acing” the tests and class was easy for me. When we talked about why that might be, I mentioned I was exposed to a foreign language in elementary school through learning Hebrew and she said, “That’s it!” At SJCS, my brain was wired to understand and to push through the frustration that comes with learning a foreign language.
SJCS gave me teachers that still support me to this day and an irreplaceable community of friends. But above all, SJCS instilled in me my passion for social justice (Tikkun Olam) and that’s what fuels me every day. Through volunteering and examining what I can do to help people less fortunate than me when I was little, it is ingrained in me now to recognize my privilege and help people who have less than me. I think social justice issues are important because I know I am so blessed to have been born into a family with the means to send me to private schools. I think it is my purpose and duty as a human being to make other people smile or to make their lives better, even just a little bit. Currently, I am involved in a number of social justice organizations. This is my third year serving as the Social Action Vice President for Temple Beth Am’s youth group and I am currently running a program which provides opportunities for Jewish teens to give back to their communities. My dream is to do Peace Corps and, hopefully, Doctors without Borders, to help people less fortunate than I am. My natural passion for social action was enriched by SJCS, which taught me how to become involved in my community and ultimately led me to where I am today.
Shira Lyss-Loren, SJCS Class of 2011, Seattle Girls’ School, The Bush School