What success can we claim when Jewish education in our community becomes truly affordable, if that education is not itself excellent?
Thankfully, in the GTA, Jewish education is indeed excellent within the still available wide offerings throughout the day school system.
Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, President & Dean of the Valley Beit Midrash, in Phoenix, Arizona, a renowned activist for Jewish affairs and concerns and the author of twelve books on Jewish ethics, adds an important element to ensuring the excellence and permanence of Jewish education that is to be found outside the walls of the classroom.
In an article entitled, Why Jewish Education Fails, Rabbi Yanklowitz asserts very boldly what many probably assume but seldom articulate: “To be sure, formal education will have little to no value if we avoid the primary influence on our children: Ourselves.”
Rabbi Yanklowitz powerfully reminds us that education – in the fullest sense of the term – is not merely a service paid for by parents confined to the institution we call school. He provides a quick – albeit cursory – review of socio-educational literature that points indisputably to the inescapable influence of parents and of the dynamics within the home upon the child’s long-lasting development, acquisition of knowledge and formation of character.
Rabbi Yanklowitz is succinct and precise. “One can invest in every quality program in these [educational] fields but can squander the investment entirely if one’s home is not cultivated in values pertaining to the best of the Jewish experience. If educational priorities are only focused on material objects – food, athletic sponsorships, or the latest tech, for example – then the timeless values that should take precedence elapse into irrelevancy.
His words are an important reminder to us.
Our respective roles and obligation as parents, grandparents or simply caring community-minded individuals in helping bring Jewish education within reach of young Jewish families does not end with ensuring its affordability. Indeed, perhaps that is but the beginning?