Just Community approves proposals to change Constitution display and student store
Dress code proposal from Rabbi Schwarzberg is defeated almost 2-to-1
Three different proposals – two by students and one by a teacher – were presented at Town Hall March 15, the 17th Town Hall of the year. Two of the proposals passed, but one, regarding dress code, did not, inciting controversy.
The defeated proposal, from Judaic Studies teacher Rabbi Ari Schwarzberg, would have implemented a specific dress code for two specific Jewish holidays, Yom Haatzmaut and Yom Hashoah. The two which passed created a new council to run the Student Store, and a display of the updated Just Community Constitution to hang in place of the current one.
Rabbi Schwarzberg’s proposal was presented first and was the shortest proposal considered. Titled “Look the part, be the part,” it said that on Yom Ha’atzmaut and Yom HaShoah – Israeli Independence Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day – the dress code should be blue-and-white clothing and black-and-white clothing, respectively.
The intention, Rabbi Schwarzberg wrote in the proposal, was that “the entire Just Community should be dressed in a dress code that reflects the character of the day.”
However, many argued against this proposal, saying that it would take away from the days themselves to enforce a strict dress code.
History Department Chair Dr. Keith Harris said he “didn’t particularly care for having a dress code for the specific day, only because it gave the administration the authority—although this wasn’t the literal writing of it—to have policies on anything at any time.
My take: things that make our lives easier – we vote yes to. Things that might make our lives ‘slightly’ harder we vote no to.
— Rabbi Ari Schwarzberg, Judaic Studies
“The spirit of it, however, I embrace and appreciate,” Dr. Harris said. “You should dress a specific way, especially on a day like Yom HaShoah.”
Rabbi Schwarzberg’s proposal was defeated almost two-to-one. The tally, according to Agenda Chair Keira Beller came to 64.4% voting against and 35.6% voting for out of 160 votes.
Rabbi Schwarzberg was disappointed and spoke out on Schoology after the Town Hall was over.
“My take: things that make our lives easier – we vote yes to,” Rabbi Schwarzberg wrote in the Just Community Schoology group. “Things that might make our lives ‘slightly’ harder we vote no to.”
Later in the same Schoology thread, Rabbi Schwarzberg asked senior Elliot Serure, co-chair of the Fairness Committee, to show him the vote results split into upper and lower classmen’s tallies.
“I wonder if we’d see a difference in the way people think about yachid & rabim,” he wrote, using the Hebrew words for “the individual and the many.”
Ultimately, the vast majority of students came to school on Yom HaShoah April 20 wearing white shirts despite having voted against the proposal. The night before, Rabbi Schwarzberg had posted his idea in the form of a request on Schoology and in gradewide group chats, and also contacted parents to request that students do so, even though it was not considered official school policy.
The second proposal, by senior Alex Guetta, was called “The Student Treasury” and concerned the Student Store.
It proposed creating a new council called the Student Treasury, whose job would be to manage the Student Store and vending machine. A council, as described in the Just Community Constitution, is a “secondary structural component of the Just Community [that] acts as a more focused and smaller governing body,” compared to SAC, Agenda and Fairness primary committees.
Under the proposal, members of the council would be placed in charge of ordering snacks, creating a staffing schedule, stocking the shelves, pricing goods and keeping records.
Students on the council or chosen by the council would run the store during Lunch, Flex, and free periods. Council members would be upperclassmen.
While most at Town Hall seemed to support the bill, some stated that the responsibility of running the Student Store should only be for seniors, as the profit from the store goes to funding the seniors’ Poland-Israel trip.
Opponents of the proposal argued that the Student Store had been the responsibility of students before, and due to a variety of problems, was given to Ms. Muriel Ohana, Assistant to the Head of School.
In an interview after the proposal was approved, Ms. Ohana stated that she cannot staff the store at all hours of the school day, for example during some Flex periods and other times when students might want to make purchases. She does, however, open the store during breakfast, lunch, and sometimes during Flex in the afternoon.
She said she was assigned to take it over this year because students had not been able to run it successfully.
“If children had been doing it properly, not giving free things away, and just doing what they needed to do, they would still be running it,” Ms. Ohana said. “The problem is that they’re not responsible. That’s why I had to take over, and ever since then, it’s been making profit, we’re selling things with the right prices, and it stays clean. The kids just want it as a hangout place.”
The student store proposal ultimately passed. The Just Community voted 86.3% for and 13.7% against, also out of 160 votes, according to Agenda Chair Keira Beller.
The third proposal presented March 15 was by senior Evan Beller and titled “To Create a More Just Community.” Evan proposed that, in response to the rewriting of the Constitution in the 2019-20 school year, a new parchment and frame should be made to display the current Just Community Constitution, which was ratified on May 13, 2020 .
This new document would be placed in the same location as the current one, in the second floor stairway lobby, next to the Ed Support Suite.
Evan’s proposal also said this action should be repeated whenever a Constitution overhaul is approved.
It also specified that the current Constitution cannot be destroyed or leave the Shalhevet grounds unless voted on by an Agenda proposal.
Most students spoke in agreement with the proposal. Senior Elliot Serure offered to contribute to the artwork on the new document.
While it’s important to keep the old one and to see the history, redrawing the Constitution to see the new version would be a good idea.
— Gabrielle Urman, senior
Senior Gabrielle Urman said framing the new document did not mean getting rid of the old one.
“While it’s important to keep the old one and to see the history, redrawing the Constitution to see the new version would be a good idea.” said Gabrielle.
The proposal was passed with 55.6% votes for and 44.4% votes against, according to Agenda Committee Chair Keira Beller.
Under the revised school constitution, all three proposals had been approved in advance by the school’s Judicial Review Subcommittee, comprised of elected representatives of students, faculty and administration. This meant that if they were passed, they would be binding on students and administration.