Fight for moderation, balance, compassion and inclusiveness

Fight for moderation, balance, compassion and inclusiveness. We have celebrated the recent dramatic reduction in next year’s tuition at TanenbaumCHAT because it is evidence of the seriousness with which the community is responding to the crisis of educational affordability. But as we also have written, the generous donation that enabled the 30 percent reduction in tuition must be regarded as only the beginning of the community’s total, creative, out-the-box effort to make Jewish education affordable. Tuition must be dramatically reduced in all the day schools and brought down even further at CHAT.

As a result of the merger of the two CHAT campuses, many Thornhill families have felt unfairly treated and neglected. Indeed, nearly one month after the tuition and merger decision, emotions are still unsettled. One worries about an anger-driven “rupture” in the CHAT parent body. This is profoundly sad and distressing.

Perhaps one way of cooling the anger and of finding a way to resolve differences is to heed the advice of Rabbi Marc D. Angel, the founder of The Institute of Jewish Ideas and Ideals. In preparation for Pesach, Rabbi Angel wrote an article entitled “Ice, Fire, and the Search for the Middle Path: Thoughts as We Approach Pessah.”

In the essay, Rabbi Angel urges us to eschew extreme approaches of either left or right. He urges us to find the “middle” path of moderation, mutual understanding and respect.

“The Jerusalem Talmud (Hagigah 2:1) teaches that the way of Torah is a narrow path. On the right is fire and on the left is icy snow. If one veers from the path, one risks being destroyed by either the fire or the ice. The Torah way of life is balanced, harmonious and sensible. It imbues life with depth, meaning and true happiness. Yet, it is not easy to stay on the path.

“Veering to the left freezes the soul of Judaism… Veering to the right causes one to become embroiled in religious fanaticism, excessive zeal…”

“It is difficult, even uninspiring, to fight for moderation, balance, compassion and inclusiveness. It is so much easier to take extreme positions, where one can argue from the vantage point of ice or fire, rather than to be “lukewarm”.

“All Jews…need to hear a principled and articulate expression of the middle path of Judaism, that veers neither to the right nor to the left…Let us all listen carefully. The future of Judaism and the Jewish people may be at stake.”

Of course, Rabbi Angel wrote specifically about matters of ritual observance. But the principles he has articulated – to fight for moderation, balance, compassion and inclusiveness – are applicable to most crises of life and especially to finding needed compromises and joint solutions to difficult, intra-communal differences.

In Rabbi Angel’s words, we urge affected parties to listen carefully to each other. The future of our community may possibly be at stake.

As all readers of this weekly update know, GAJE is singularly dedicated to bringing as many students as possible into the transformative realm of Jewish education. We have aimed our sights at all forms of Jewish education including formal and informal education, day school, supplementary school, adult lehrhaus and camps. Access to Jewish education is in great part – though not exclusively – a function of affordability. Our first target in the campaign has been day school education because day school education is the most expensive, indeed prohibitively and punitively so, for young families.

We must do our utmost therefore to bring about higher enrollment in our schools.

Toward this end, the first order of urgent communal business is to persuade, convince and plead with as many families as possible to enroll or re-enroll their children at CHAT next year. Higher enrollment will help bring about lower tuition fees and ensure the continued high quality of education in the day schools.

Thus again, we urge families to enroll their children in CHAT.

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Shabbat shalom.

GAJE

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