Rabbi Avraham Infeld is an award-winning, highly acclaimed, innovative, inspiring teacher. He was born in South Africa, moved to Israel as a teenager, and now lives in Jerusalem. Some four decades ago, he established Melitz, a non-profit educational institution that works with Israel and Diaspora young people to foster Jewish identity rooted in a pluralistic understanding of Jewish life and the centrality of Israel.
His lectures are unique and gripping. The key message to which he constantly returns and has returned throughout his teaching career is essentially: the peoplehood of Jews is the framework for our Judaism.
Rabbi Infeld’s most recent work, A Passion for A People: Lessons from the Life of a Jewish Educator, was the subject of a wonderful commentary by Steve Freedman, Head of School at the Hillel Day School in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Freedman enthusiastically recommends the book.
Freedman begins his review by asking: “When you ask your child to think of a story about a character taking off shoes, what do you want the association to be? Cinderella, or Moses at the burning bush? This is one of many poignant questions Avraham Infeld asks in his new book.”
“How we answer Infeld’s question may very well give an indication of how we view ourselves as Jews. It’s not that we shouldn’t know both stories; it’s about priority – which story do you first want your child to connect with?
And how we answer the question, Freedman adds, “will significantly impact us as we move through this century.”
Rabbi Infeld argues that embracing Judaism is ultimately more important than how we do so. There are many ways to be passionate about Judaism, according to Rabbi Infeld. “One embrace is no less authentic than another. Rabbi Infeld advocates that today’s Jews must find ways to be “unified, if not uniform,” through diversity.
For Rabbi Infeld, Freedman writes, “this sense of unification begins with reclaiming the understanding that we are a people. It is thus imperative that each Jew knows her story, and can see himself in that story.” Freedman points out that this is the central challenge of Jewish education today.
He enunciates the goal of the educational program at his school “to enhance the ability of each child, and each family, to feel a greater connection to the Jewish people by developing a relationship with God, a connection to Israel, a mastery of the Hebrew language, and the internalization of the Jewish story.”
Indeed, we share this goal.
We want our connection to the Jewish people to live on forever. To achieve this, however, Jewish education must be affordable.