With the setting of the sun at the end of Shabbat this weekend, the Jewish calendar changes seamlessly into the Festival of Shavuot.
Pesach was the first step toward our collective sense of peoplehood. But it is Shavuot that established our identity as a Jewish people: as the People of the Book.
We are the people that enshrined literacy as a theological obligation. We are the people that understood from the very beginning of our existence as a distinct group that study, teaching and the passing forward of knowledge, traditions, and values, were the deeply engrained mechanism for ensuring generational permanence.
That is why, irrespective of century or geography, the education of the young was the first and highest priority for community elders.
For that reason and as an appropriate segue to the celebration of Shavuot, we feature an article written by Manette Mayberg, entitled Pursue Distinction: A Philanthropist’s Call to Action to Jewish Day Schools. Mayberg is a trustee of the Mayberg Foundation. Six years ago, the Foundation established the Jewish Education Innovation Challenge (JEIC) whose purpose is “to reignite students’ passion for Jewish learning and improve the way Jewish values, literacy, practice and belief are transferred to the next generation.” With such a mission statement, the work of the JEIC attracts our attention.
In this article, Mayberg focuses on the grading system in the Jewish-subjects component of day school. In forceful language, she calls for a change away from the conventional method of grading. “It is inconsistent with Jewish wisdom to judge critically a Jew’s ability to learn Torah subjects…We feel the painful results of this rigid form of evaluation with every student who graduates from a day school without a lifelong love of Jewish learning and a rock solid Jewish identity,” Mayberg writes.
We do not reproduce the article to reinforce Mayberg’s views on the method of grading students’ achievements. Rather, we point readers’ attention to it for two reasons.
First, because Mayberg writes about the need for courage: “Courage is a vital trait for Jewish growth and expression… I invite all Jewish day school leaders and stakeholders to have the courage to say what needs to be said, to do what needs to be done, and in doing so connect the dots that will actualize our efforts to evolve day schools into the distinct greatness befitting the Jewish people.”
Second, because she has chosen to write at all, to become involved, to share time, ideas as well as resources to ensure the permanence of our people by strengthening and renewing our time-tested, proven infrastructure: Jewish education.
Shabbat Shalom. Chag Shavuot Samayach