The end of the school year compels us to say “thank you” to the men and women into whose care – for the near holy purpose of educating and inculcating information, knowledge and values – we entrust our children. Those men and women are not only teachers. They are administrators, custodial staff and volunteers as well.
But in this missive we focus on teachers.
In an article published on eJewishPhilanthropy entitled “Jewish Life Made Me Feel Visible: The Purpose of Our Work Engaging Jewish Youth”, Mark S. Young offers a concise, potent definition of one of the main aims of teaching Judaism.
(I paraphrase his statement.)
Jewish educators, professionals, and leaders do their jobs well, when they enable youth, and adults to love and embrace Judaism and help create the path to becoming “visible”, i.e., “not only for others to see me for what I authentically have to offer but visibility for me to see myself for what I can offer.”
Young describes how Jewish life made him feel visible.
“How does Jewish life accomplish this? I argue that its primarily through harnessing the values we hold so dear. We are all created in the image of a being bigger then ourselves. We are all creatures in service to a world and not looking at the world as in service to us. We are all commanded to supporting each other’s path to self-sufficiency and perhaps also self-actualization. We don’t always bring up these value statements when we play capture the flag or attempt the zip-line on the ropes course or during a late night song-session or climbing Masada or preparing for b’nai mitzvah or confirmation. It’s all there though, and it’s really special.”
Young’s thoughtful meditation is broader than a plea for formal Jewish education. His jumping off point is the Tony Award winning musical Dear Evan Hansen. Young uses the musical and its central thematic struggle as the literary device weaving his message about the educator’s role in helping bring children to embrace the unique majesty of Jewish life.
It is not by accident that our Sages decreed that the first Kaddish recited by mourners in the daily Shacharit service is dedicated to our teachers and to their students and to their students in turn. In keeping therefore with our tradition, GAJE conveys its deeply felt appreciation to all of the individuals who help to educate our children.