A Puzzling Story

My mother has a habit of giving back gifts we give her. This is not regifting a few weeks or months later, it’s instantaneous rejection. My sister, Rachel, and I have learned not to take this personally. Growing up in war-torn London, our mother has little patience for anything not truly useful. Rachel and I have taken it upon ourselves to regift these returns and put them to better use. If she doesn’t want them, let’s find someone who does.

“Oh, Daisy, thank you for the puzzle but I don’t think it is one I’ll use” accompanied a recent gift-giveback. The puzzle was brought to campus the following week and sat, unopened, over the summer and into the year, in the new student lounge.

In early October, this happened:


Followed a few days later by this:


Over the course of the next three weeks…

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And...finally, this:


Each day, as I walked past and talked with the students putting in their puzzle time, it struck me that I cannot think of a school where something like this would be both collaboratively built and protected. Not once did someone break it apart, mess up the pieces, or take “just one” as a joke. The puzzle belonged to everyone and everyone respected the puzzle (and the puzzlers) — which is extraordinary and so very Kehillah.

Think back to your high school. How long would a puzzle, not glued to the wall, last? In my independent school it would have made it about 15 minutes. Not because we didn’t espouse responsibility and kindness but because we didn’t live it each and every day. We didn’t take pride in our belonging to the community and the community belonging to everyone. We didn’t demonstrate valuing each person’s unique interests and talents.

Kehillah is a school like no other because the community is like no other. My friend used to ask, “are you proud to wear the sweatshirt?” as her litmus test for whether a school was a good fit. Hang onto that question while I finish the puzzle story…

Last week, I saw that a new puzzle had begun in the student lounge and a new, larger table had been brought in to accommodate. I asked one of the lead puzzlers what happened to the first puzzle and she pointed to it, sitting, completed, on a side table next to the couch. “Do you want to mount it so it stays together?” I asked. She thought for a moment and responded, “No, let’s leave it for someone else to build again.”

We can all be proud to wear the sweatshirt.

L’shalom, (in peace)


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