Blessed are You, G‑d, our G‑d, King of the universe, who has chosen us from among all people, and raised us above all tongues, and made us holy through His commandments. And You, G‑d, our G‑d, have given us in love, festivals for happiness, feasts and festive seasons for rejoicing the day of this Feast of Matzot and this Festival of holy convocation, the Season of our Freedom, a holy convocation, commemorating the departure from Egypt… Blessed are You, G‑d, who sanctifies Israel and the festive seasons. Amen. - Excerpt from a Prayer for Passover

Come Friday evening at sundown, many of our Jewish students and families will gather to observe Passover. This sacred time includes a feast with food that helps to tell their sacred story of liberation. They will read passages from the Torah, recall enslavement in Egypt, and join in the movement of G-d that freed them from oppression. This will undoubtedly conjure other moments of captivity, even ones that continue to haunt the faithful to this day. This observance is truly a mixture of great sorrow and joy.

In speaking with some Jewish students in our community, Passover is also a great reunion of family and friends, from near and far, who may be seeing one another for the first time in a good while. This is a testament to one of the many ways religion can be a balm for the soul, as belief, tradition, and rituals bring people together. In addition, I imagine leaving this occasion ignited, not only energized by those I hold dear, but also sparked through remembering G-d’s ongoing liberation in the world.

At Berkeley Preparatory School, our mission includes the moral and spiritual development of each child in our charge. As an Episcopal school, we observe holy days and seasons from our tradition, as well as lift up sacred occasions from other faiths. Convocations are one way we live out these values.

With that in mind, our Kindergarten and 1st grade Jewish families were invited to a family convocation this week in honor of Passover. We gathered in the Casper Piazza in the Seivold Center for a time of reflection and prayer. Two of our eighth-grade students, Jacob Sams and Zev Huneycutt, joined us to give a glimpse of Passover in the home, as well as lead us in some Hebrew prayers. Vicktoria Warlaumont, an Upper Division parent, provided Matzah for our classrooms. Several families took us up on the invitation, with many also bringing younger siblings to the gathering. The Spirit of G-d was apparent in the room, as we were able to learn and grow together as a community.

I offered an image to bring Passover to everyday life; for reflection beyond convocation. As we assembled, four helium balloons were tied down to the floor with clamps in the middle of the piazza. It was made clear that these balloons represented the people of G-d, who, at one time, were held back from freedom. I then asked the students if they wanted to set them free. With a big YES! we cut off the clamps, thrilled to see those balloons sailing upward and disappearing into the skylight. The people were freed, and we gave thanks.

This image has continued to resonate with me this week. I have wondered, with G-d’s help, what balloons in my life need to be set free? How about yours?
Founded in 1960, Berkeley is an independent, Episcopal, college-preparatory day school located in Tampa, FL, for boys and girls in grades Pre-Kindergarten through 12. Approximately 1,400 students gather here from the greater Tampa Bay area to form ONE Berkeley.