Our Inclusive Community by Barbara McGlamery, Senesh Parent
Openness, inclusion, empathy and support. These words perfectly describe Hannah Senesh to me. We have been tremendously proud to call Senesh our home for the last nine years. Lorenzo, our oldest son, newly graduated in June, is now off to Little Red School House for high school.
I was raised in Lake City, Florida. A town with maybe one Jewish family. My own family was Southern Baptist. I grew up with no hatred for Jews, in fact, Judaism was seen as the bedrock of Christianity. I was never a religious person. Then and now I identify as, well, nothing. I moved to NYC in 1994 and in 1996, was working as a librarian at the New York Public Library when I met Adam Perlmutter, a tall, Jewish Yankee lawyer from Connecticut with a motorcycle; more than a triple threat. There were a lot of raised eyebrows in my family, but I was in love.
Raising a Jewish family was important to Adam, and not being religious myself, I accepted that it was important to him and therefore important to me. Lorenzo was born and as we were looking for elementary schools, Hannah Senesh came onto our radar. It was creative, small, and inclusive; all the things we believed a good elementary school ought to be.
But it was on day three of third grade when we realized how giving the school was – to both children and their families. Lorenzo was struggling with academics and fitting in. One day a team of three caring adults including the classroom teachers, the learning specialist, and the Lower School director, assembled. This team helped us create a plan of attack to get Lorenzo up to speed. That turned out to be the turning point year for our son when he gained academic mastery and more importantly, developed self-confidence. It’s the individual attention each child receives at Senesh that makes this school so special. You send your kid off every morning to a place where you know the adults are in his corner.
Frequently people who don’t know the community ask me if I’m treated differently at Senesh because my son is Jewish and I am not. I can say that there has not been one instance where I felt excluded. I luckily stumbled upon an open, loving and giving assembly of teachers, administrators, parents and children. The values that are taught at Senesh are Jewish values, but also the universal ones that ring true to all of us. Kindness, openness, and community.
I am so grateful for the people at Senesh. It takes this kind of love and learning as a community for children to feel safe to be themselves and respect their individual narratives. That includes acceptance of their family background. Thank you all for helping us raise a bright, engaged, spirited boy into a promising and thoughtful man.