How Roland Park Country School Celebrates Jewish Heritage


As part of the Roland Park Country School’s  core value  to seek and embrace diversity, several affinity spaces offered to students from kindergarten to 12th grade are an integral part of student life. In the Lower School (K-5), the affinity spaces are named “Branches and Leaves” –an ode to the school’s centennial song “We are many, we are one. Many branches, many leaves…”— with the Branches and Leaves for Jewish Girls group being one of our most popular and engaging spaces.

“This group is a wonderful community for girls who identify as Jewish to come together to celebrate and share their heritage and educate their classmates on elements of Judaism,” said Heather Samet, Lower School STEAM teacher and club sponsor for the past seven years. “This dedicated space also allows our students opportunities to meet other Jewish girls in the Middle and Upper School.”

Read on to learn more from Heather about this important program that encourages our students to love and appreciate their identities.

What does the Branches and Leaves for Jewish Girls group do?

We come together once a month to create crafts, play games, and talk about upcoming holidays or important dates in the Jewish calendar and how we can share these events with the RPCS community at large. We also have a significant community service portion to what we do. To honor the concept of tikkun olam, we recently made cards for the local children’s hospital and planted trees. We discuss how doing good deeds not only makes the girls feel good, but also aligns with our goals of bettering the world through social justice and ethical behavior.

The girls not only form bonds with their classmates, but also with the older girls. The benefit of having our K-12 program all under one roof at RPCS is that we’re able to engage with the different divisions and the younger students often look up to the older girls as role models. Last year, the Upper School Jewish Heritage Club joined us at our December meeting to create our own dreidels and then play the game, and they read the book The Miracle of Hannukah together. They also share their personal customs, and make crafts together, such as candlesticks and hallah covers.

How do the students benefit from this space?

I grew up going to a predominantly Jewish school, so I was confident in my heritage and could talk to all of my friends about the different traditions, holidays, etc. Here, I want the girls to feel just as confident as I did when sharing their excitement for the upcoming New Year or when contributing to the conversation about traditions for Hannukah as a classmate talks about their traditions for Christmas.

You mentioned that this group shares the Jewish heritage with the greater RPCS community. How do they accomplish this?

Recently, the girls led fundraising efforts in the entire Lower School for Tu BiShvat. They led an informational session during their schoolwide morning meeting to explain what the holiday is and why people should participate in fundraising. The fourth and fifth graders also led their classmates in a chocolate seder. The students who are being introduced to these holidays and traditions are incredibly enthusiastic about engaging and are always asking questions to understand more. The Jewish girls light up when they get to explain why they plant trees for a holiday or make specific foods at certain times.

What are your goals for the Branches and Leaves for Jewish Girls group in the upcoming years?

I would love to continue the schoolwide education and start more all-school events, like a dress down day for Purim and a fifth grade seder. I would also like to have foods out for the whole school during the high holidays. We also used to have a traveling sukkah between the tri-school that we stopped during COVID that I would like to bring back.

To learn more about the affinity spaces at RPCS, visit

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