Next week, March 23 and 24, we will be celebrating Purim. Because we are in a leap year, the holiday coincides with the advent of spring. More than all of our holidays, Purim, is a visual and experiential delight for our young children. But all of our holidays, in significant ways, are geared toward our children. A mere four weeks later, we will be celebrating the actual Festival of Spring (Pesach). In so doing, we will usher into our respective personal and family lives a period of seven weeks that throb with profound communal significance. We will celebrate and commemorate Pesach, Yom Hashoah v’Hagvurah, Yom Hazicaron, Yom Ha’atzmaut and Shavuot, all deeply significant and ethereal moments on our earthly Jewish calendar.
Include the children.
Participating in the holidays is one of the ways that helps embed forever into the souls of our children the precious, life-sustaining sense of belonging to the Jewish people.
Helping embed that life-long sense of belonging is the essence of the first purpose of GAJE’s activities.
Many people know Michael Steinhardt as the American philanthropist who, along with Charles Bronfman, helped found the successful Birthright program that has introduced thousands of Jewish youth to the State of Israel.
As reported recently in the Jewish Exponent of Philadelphia, Steinhardt is embracing a new cause to place high on the community’s agenda. He now “wants to change the way we think about day school education.” His key concern is how to expand non-Orthodox day school education in the United States to reach “a much wider group of people.” According to Steinhardt, fewer than 10 percent of non-Orthodox children go to day schools.
“The community writ large should reflect upon the fact that the great majority of non-Orthodox young people don’t attend day schools and ask why that is,” Steinhardt told the Jewish Exponent.
Steinhardt argues that without a redefinition of communal values, the future looks bleak. He wants to lead the discussion about redefining those communal values.
“The fact is,” Steinhardt says, “day-school graduates are much better-educated Jews than their peers who don’t have a day school education.” And at the end of the day,
Steinhardt may not define Jewish education the way we might in Canada or include the same curricula components as we might in Montreal and Toronto. But based upon unassailable empirical evidence from study after study, observers of Jewish communities around the world, including in Canada, do agree with him that it is Jewish education that is the prime determinant of Jewish continuity.
Helping make Jewish education affordable is the essence of the second purpose of GAJE’s activities.