Nu York, New York: A Jew Who Is Public School Proud

I am a Jew and I am Public School Proud. No doubt this will irritate and even anger some Jews who think that public school is not good, but is actually awful, or even worse. But most people in the United States, including most Jews, do attend or have attended public schools in their hometowns. Some public schools are excellent, some are awful, most are somewhere in the vast middle. Attending public school does not mean a Jewish child will not receive a Jewish education, both formal and informal.
I am advocating and promoting the mission of public school education for a variety of reasons, and if you have read my columns in the past, you will see that I have written about public schools and students at other times. This time I am touching upon public school pride for two main reasons: one, the New York City public school proud campaign which has been gaining momentum and exposure, and my pride about the varsity show at our local high school.
Last night my husband, younger daughter and I attended the Edward R. Murrow High School annual SING show. This was the 40th anniversary edition, and it was also our older daughter's fourth and final SING performance. Jess has participated in SING for every year she has been a high school student at Murrow. Each time she was a member of the band for her team, playing guitar. This time she played electric guitar and bass guitar, on various songs of the show.
SING for those who do not know, is a type of varsity show, a student-run show that includes a teen-written script, music, acting, dancing, costumes, scenery and much more. Grade levels compete against each other for a victory and bragging rights. SING has precedents but officially debuted 71 years ago at Midwood High School in Brooklyn, when an English teacher named Bella Lipson Tillis (who was Jewish) organized and supervised students for this event. Several schools throughout New York City participate in SING and have developed special traditions for their schools, but a common aspect is adapting known songs (pop and rock songs, Broadway show tunes, movie songs, Americana) and writing their own lyrics for the music.
This year at Murrow the Senior-Fresh show was called "Marching to the Beat" and the Junior-Sophomore show was called "It's Always Sunny in Singh City." Both had their positive qualities and drawbacks, but overall it is wonderful to see a few hundred students get involved in a creative, wholesome, energetic and social activity that promotes skill and talent for kids of various ability levels. Some of the teens are exceptional singers, dancers and musicians; others are average but still wanted to be part of the show and the fun. Many other students who did not get involved still came to see the show and root for their peers.
One of the more heartwarming touches of the Junior-Soph show was that a seriously disabled girl in a reclining wheelchair was part of the chorus. Another student wheeled this child around during at least two musical numbers. There were a few children in both shows who have Downs Syndrome or walk with crutches, and they proudly clapped and sang along with the rest of the kids. This is the kind of camaraderie you see here at Murrow and at other schools that have SING each year.
Of course I was particularly proud of Jess, who is a very skilled and ambitious musician, and even though she sometimes griped about rehearsals, bossy kids and other drama that took place during the weeks leading up to the performances, she was happy in the end to be part of this big team effort. She and several friends received Four-year participant certificates and were cheered heartily.
In addition to kvelling over my own daughter's achievements, I cheered for students I have seen over the years at Murrow, who have such energy and promise. For instance, I whooped for this young man Matthew, a Senior class dancer and choreographer, who is so marvelous and can do astounding "death drop" splits. Girls in both teams did intricate and spirited Step Dance routines, along with some boys. A boy on the Senior-Fresh team sang an inspiring song, written to the tune of the main number from the award-winning Broadway musical "Dear Evan Hansen." All the kids put their hearts into their performances, and it was so much fun to watch.
This year there was an added feature, a slideshow tracing the 40 years of SING at this high school. Included were black-and-white and color photos of SING shows from the 1970s to this year. I cheered super loudly for my year's picture (1982) and my brother's year (1984). 
SING at Murrow High School and other schools in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island is a grand tradition, and something that public school students and alumni can point to with great pride. Some people have used SING as a launching pad for their own careers (for example, noted cartoonist and writer Roz Chast did art for Midwood High School SING when she was a student there). For many others, SING becomes a fond memory of their high school experience. Yes, we are Public School Proud for our SINGS.