Town Hall: A History

By Anna M. Dubey ‘21

“When you leave the school, you realize how rare this kind of experience is,” said Rabbi Natan Kapustin, co-creator and co-facilitator of Town Hall.

On November 16th, the high school community participated in its first Town Hall of the year about the new policy allowing students to attend parent-teacher conferences. Students who spoke – ranging from freshmen to seniors – offered a diverse selection of comments about their feelings on being present at these conferences.

Town Hall is a monthly opportunity for all students and faculty to voice their opinions and ideas about pressing school issues. Although student government is another opportunity to do so, the vast majority of students are not involved in it. Town Hall exists as a way to allow all students to contribute to the improvement of the school and its policies.

Rabbi Natan, the co-creator and co-facilitator of Town Hall along with Director of Jewish and Student Life Rabbi Dahlia Kronish, described the evolution of Town Hall.

“When the school first started, Town Halls were a central feature of it … Many important decisions were made in Town Hall,” he said. He also mentioned that for a few years, the administration had stopped holding them. “[The pause] was kind of a natural evolution of the school … There was a question of exactly what to do during Town Hall,” he clarified. “As more and more policies were made, there was less and less of a need for a forum to create policy together.”

Rabbi Natan also commented that there will be fewer Town Hall meetings this year than last year due to schedule changes.

Rabbi Natan, Rabbi Dahlia, and Student Government President Zeke Bronfman meet about two weeks in advance of a Town Hall to choose a topic. “We talk about all sorts of possibilities, things in the world that we might want to talk about and things that might interest the students, or things within the school,” Rabbi Natan said.

Students have mixed feelings about whether Town Hall topics are relevant to their academic lives. Theodore Canter, a twelfth grader, suggested, “I think it would help if we had pre- or post-Town Hall discussions about the topics so as to make [Town Hall] more effective.” This change is virtually impossible due to scheduling, but it reflects on a larger sentiment among the student body that Town Hall is meant to effect change. Freshman Alexandra Wenger similarly confessed that she didn’t find it to have a purpose at all, since expression of opinions doesn’t directly lead to changes. “One of the things that people often get confused about in Town Hall is they think it’s supposed to solve problems, but that’s not always the purpose of Town Hall. Often it’s to share and exchange ideas. The goal isn’t necessarily to solve a problem: it’s to foster discussion,” Rabbi Natan said.

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