Weekly Update: July 22, 2016 — 16 Tamuz 5776

Ensuring that our ‘tents’ are spiritually alive

GAJE has occasionally referred to the insights of Rabbi Marc Angel the head of New York-based Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals in this column. We do so again this week.

Rabbi Angel comments upon the Torah portion of the week, Balak, by discussing the attempts by many synagogues these days to find “solutions” to the perceived lack of adequate inspiration and spirituality in synagogue worship. Rabbi Angel refers to the key passage in the portion when Bil’am blesses the people of Israel saying: “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob; your dwellings O Israel.”

Rabbi Angel’s conclusion is germane to GAJE’s work.

“It is far from a simple matter for moderns to maintain, or regain, a sense of intimacy with God. Much of the time-spirit (dichotomous struggle) militates against genuine religious experience. Religion is not an easy way to God, and is not a short cut to spirituality. Treating symptoms without going to the root of our problem only makes the problem worse. (Our emphasis)

“If we want our synagogues to be more spiritual, we have to be more spiritual ourselves. If we want our “dwellings” to be spiritually alive, then we first have to be sure that our “tents” are spiritually alive.”

The “root of the problem” of which Rabbi Angel writes is the increasing drifting away by large swaths of the younger generation from a sense of belonging to the Jewish people. Intense, community-supported, family-affirmed Jewish education is the best remedy for curing the problem.

To hope and to ensure, in Rabbi Angel’s words, that the future tents and then the dwellings of the Jewish people are (Jewishly) spiritually alive, we must therefore provide a Jewish education to our children. We must do our utmost to instill in them a sense of Jewish belonging.

That means we must also do our utmost to ensure that Jewish education is affordable.

•••

The return to school is around the summertime corner. GAJE is ever mindful of the financial and other sacrifices that so many families are making to ensure their children receive a Jewish education. We remind and assure our members and the larger public that GAJE is relentlessly and absolutely committed to making that Jewish education affordable. To the families that send their children to Jewish school despite the huge burden, we offer our deepest expressions of appreciation and thanks. To the families for whom the financial burden is no longer bearable, we offer our understanding, empathy and hope that you will be able to reverse your decision in the future when Jewish education is truly affordable.

Reminders:

  1. Please contact your rabbi to ask him or her to speak out during the High Holidays or even sooner on behalf of affordable Jewish education.
  2. If your family is eligible for the tuition cap program at the AHS or Leo Baeck campus in Thornhill, please enroll. Contact the Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Education at the UJA Federation for further information, 416-635-2883.
  3. Please contact your Member of Parliament to help ensure funding for security needs of the school your children attend. Contact CIJA for further information, 416-638-1991.
  4. We believe with all our hearts that the crisis regarding the cost of Jewish education is solvable. We believe that to say there is no solution breaks faith with our forebears and with the deepest values affirmed throughout Jewish history. We further believe that the obligation to solve the problem lies with the entire community.

•••

Shabbat shalom.

GAJE

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