The eyes have it: Experiencing a full solar eclipse, together

Posted on: August 31st, 2017 by tgregory

After learning about the science behind the eclipse, students see it for themselves at Akiva School. PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHELLE MANDICO

A lot of things get labeled once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, but what happened on Aug. 21 truly was: the chance to witness a full solar eclipse with friends and colleagues on the Gordon Jewish Community Center campus.

The GJCC hosted a family eclipse viewing party in the Camp Davis drop-off area, offering music, games, art projects and a special presentation from Super Science Tennessee. Special eclipse-viewing glasses were sold out before the event. 

Smaller groups of people set up lawn chairs to watch. Others checked the progress of the eclipse as totality approached.

At Akiva School, the whole day was devoted to the phenomenon. Parents, students and others from the greater Nashville Jewish community were there, along with students and teachers from three Jewish day schools from Memphis and Knoxville, Akiva Principal Daniella Pressner said in a newsletter to parents.

“Our children will be rotating through educational booths, dancing to music about the moon and the sun and learning with each other, our faculty, and a NASA representative,” she wrote. “It is remarkable to think that we will all be watching the moon completely pass by the sun; in the middle of the day, we will be able to look up into the darkness to see the stars. Most awe-inspiring is that our children will get to experience the workings of our magnificent universe firsthand, not in a text book, or a computer-based simulation but outside with the Universe. 

“Our tradition teaches that on the fourth day of creation, God created luminaries. These luminaries were to serve as ‘signs’ to help us identify days and seasons and years. Some of our Jewish sources view the notion of the eclipse as a warning or even a bad omen, as these signs are no longer functioning as they were intended. But we are also taught to view these warnings as reminders of our substantial responsibility to this world.  Unlike the Greek tragedy, our tradition teaches us that our actions do, in fact, impact this world.  We are not helpless; in fact, it is our right and responsibility to be helpful.  The eclipse serves as a reminder that while we may not be the ones in charge of the entire Universe, sometimes we must engage it as if we are, in whatever capacity we are able.” •


Photographs by Carrie Mills

Nashville Federation Executive Director Mark Freedman, left, and his wife, Leslie J. Klein, join family members to usher in the eclipse.

Rich Askey, aka Mr. Rich the Super Scientist, views the progress of the eclipse with his daughter, Aurora. He presented a science demonstration as part of the GJCC’s Family Eclipse celebration.

Gordon Jewish Community Center Executive Director Leslie Sax, left, chats with Carla Rosenthal, past president of the GJCC board of directors, and David Jacobs, executive director of the Mandell Jewish Community Center in West Hartford, Conn.

GJCC Membership and Development Director Dara Freiberg and son Rory look skyward.

What the camera saw when aimed at the eclipse.

GJCC Gallery Curator Carrie Mills and son Garrett, roughly three hours before totality.

An attentive owner helps adjust eclipse glasses for Gatorade the boxer.