Solidarity Week, previously called Ally Week, is a week each November designated by GLSEN to focus on, recognize, and appreciate people’s diverse and varied backgrounds. The name was changed to be more encompassing as we work together to support people who identify as members of various religious, gender, racial, and other communities, that may or may not be our own, and build understanding and unity. In conjunction with GLSEN, we were excited to welcome guest speakers last month to talk with middle school students, celebrate our community’s differences, and encourage in-depth conversations.
Sponsored by Rodeph Sholom School’s Gender Sexuality Alliance Club (GSA) and moderated by Advisor Samatha Dolitsky, guest speakers Charlie and AC spoke with 7th Graders about their personal journeys, their jobs working to gain equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community, and answered a multitude of questions posed by the students. As exemplified by their thoughtful and probing questions during the meeting, middle school students demonstrated their openness, curiosity, willingness to learn, and ability to share and advocate for each other in a non-judgemental atmosphere. Students were particularly interested to hear that Charlie, who writes LGBTQ+ policy and advocates for it in court, helped write the legislation that now allows non-binary people to select “X” as their gender on their driver licenses, ID cards, and birth certificates. AC works for a nonprofit that advocates for LGBTQ+ equality in sports, partnering with athletic organizations from High School to College, and the NBA. The students were also interested in the guests opinions on former University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I National Championship, who faced criticism this year.
The Rodpeh Sholom School Health and Wellness Team, including psychologists Dr. Lisa Brown, Dr. Jonathan Stern, and mental health counselor Samantha Dolitsky, serve as important professional resources for both students and parents. They provide a range of support options to our community as needed, including individual sessions, group meetings, and Zoom meetings, in an effort to allow students and parents to have a comfortable space for discussion. During these pivotal years when students face considerable mental and physical growth, it is important that families have the support they need when difficult questions or challenges arise, and the Health and Wellness Team is well-equipped to support their journeys. In addition to supporting initiatives such as the recent guest speakers, they lead a weekly Wellness Class about anatomy and puberty including how the media affects body image, relationship boundaries, emotional and personal space, communication, and decision making skills. Note: In the Pirkei Avot (a compilation of Jewish ethical teachings, Rabbi Hillel wrote “al tifrosh min hatzibur” which translates to “do not separate yourself from the community”. The community in question could be any, but it is my obligation and my joy to stand with them. This concept of fighting for others is often referred to as “solidarity”.