The 40 new alumni of the Epstein School can be confident in the years to come that there will always be at least one place where they can return to the Sandy Springs school and fit right in: the finale of the annual “Shiriyah.”
The then-eighth-graders could see what to expect at the Hebrew-language musical extravaganza Feb. 12, as could the hundreds of other performers from preschool up. While current students sang “Shir Israeli” (“Israeli Song”), complete with arm motions and other movement, Epstein alumni filled the floor in front of the stage to join in the performance.
Head of School David Abusch-Magder said he gets emotional every time he sees generations of Epstein students come together for “Shir Israeli.”
“When I watch that, I sit there, and I say, ‘We’re doing this for a reason. It’s making a difference. I’m proud of our students, and I’m proud of the work that our school does.’ So it actually gets quite emotional,” Abusch-Magder said.
Epstein has made “Shiriyah” part of the school program for almost two decades. It mixes singing, dancing, band music and drama, all emphasizing Hebrew. The theme changes each year, and sometimes the school does two shows instead of one, choreographer Meliss Jakubovic said. She ensures that Israeli dance remains part of the performance.
This year’s show, produced and directed by Hamutal Keinan and performed in front of more than 500 people, celebrated Israel’s 70th birthday with music, dances and costumes from the many immigrant cultures that have merged to form modern Israel.
Such themes combine with the celebration of Hebrew and the dancing and singing to unite the Epstein community and develop the students’ identities, Abusch-Magder said. “They’re all going to connect to Israel, to Hebrew and to Epstein in their own unique ways, but they’re going to connect.”
Middle School Principal Myrna Rubel developed and led the “Shiriyah” program to strengthen student ties to Hebrew and Israel, and Abusch-Magder said it will remain a centerpiece of the school despite her retirement at the end of the school year.
“I am confident that this is a program that will continue to evolve and will continue to be meaningful,” Abusch-Magder said. He has seen many Jewish day schools but knows of no other with a program like it. “I’m thrilled that this is our showcase.”
He said “Shiriyah” fits two core elements that set Epstein apart in the marketplace: its Hebrew programs and its commitment to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math).
“Shiriyah” also meets Epstein’s goals of creating confident lifelong learners and giving students access to their unique Jewish identity, he said. “They have lots of different ways to enter into what it means to be in relationship with Israel, and those songs that are in Hebrew really wind up being a part of who our kids are for the rest of their lives.”