Earlier this month, Mem Bernstein, Chairman of The AVI CHAI Foundation delivered a keynote address at the Day School Investor Summit, convened by Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools. More than 100 philanthropists dedicated involved in day school development attended.
As the AVI CHAI Foundation is set to wind down its work, Bernstein spoke about the founding of the Foundation, its mission, and her involvement in the Foundation specifically and in educational philanthropy generally.
In explaining why she sent her children to day school, she said:
“This was about my children, and their Jewish futures, a future that would hopefully offer them social, academic, professional, and religious success. I was committed to making their experience as good as I possibly could.”
“I wanted my children – and everyone’s children – to know that they are part of an incredible people, with an extraordinary past, present, and future…
“Day schools can be one of the most effective ways to ensure children know who they are as individuals and as Jews. Day schools can give them a strong sense of community, a deep awareness that they are part of something so much bigger than themselves.”
She readily acknowledged that not everything was perfect at the school in which she enrolled her children. It wasn’t. Nor could it be. Nor is it at any school anywhere.
In describing the education she provided to her children, she spoke this memorable statement: “I could not have given my children or my family a more extraordinary gift.”
Knowing who they are as individuals and as Jews along with a sense of belonging to our remarkable people is indeed an extraordinary gift we can give our children. These days however, it cannot be done without the full commitment of the community.
In two days we begin lighting the candles of Chanukah. In addition to focusing the ambience and family involvement of the occasion, the candles also illuminate the darker spaces of sunlight-deprived, shortened daylight hours. In the same vein, it is no stretch to add that Jewish education illuminates the darker personal and communal spaces created when young Jews do not know who they are or who they could be as Jews.
You can read Bernstein’s full remarks at:
Shabbat Shalom. Chag Chanukah samayach.