In his commentary this week on parshat Behukotai, Rabbi Marc D. Angel, inspires us that we can take to heart in our efforts to make Jewish education truly affordable. He imparts the message that it is vital for individuals to move past good intentions. To make a difference, individuals must actually take steps.
It is not always an easy thing to do. Rabbi Angel understands this. People become locked into their routines and often cannot summon the will to make the required change. But he encourages us not to yield to the inertia of good intentions.
He finds compelling wisdom in the words traditionally spoken out loud by synagogue congregations when the public reading of one of the Five Books is completed. The words vary somewhat between Sephardi and Ashkenazi congregations. But they are variations on the same theme. Indeed, they rely upon the very same core phrase. In Rabbi Angel’s synagogue the congregation proclaims (in Hebrew, of course): “Be strong, and let us strengthen ourselves; be strong and let your heart have courage, all you who hope in the Lord.”
He tells us that “hizku” can be translated as “strengthen yourselves, be resolute”. Only after we adopt that sense of resolve, “ve-ye-ametz levavhem”, then “God, in turn, will give courage to your hearts.”
The first step, Rabbi Angel suggests, is to strengthen ourselves in the face of self-doubt, or lack of confidence, or feeling stymied. Then we must decide to take action. Rabbi Angel writes it very succinctly: “We need to take the initiative; we need to demonstrate resolution; we need to assume responsibility.”
Rabbi Angel’s insistence upon the need to act, to take initiative resonated for him with a memory of a reading in “The Heart of Man” by Erich Fromm. “Most people fail in the art of living not because they are inherently bad or so without will that they cannot live a better life; they fail because they do not wake up and see when they stand at a fork in the road and have to decide.” (Our emphasis)
It is not hard to see how Rabbi Angel’s and Fromm’s insights apply to GAJE’s mission. Affordable Jewish education is achievable. We – the community – must make it so. We stand at a fork in the road. The path we choose will determine the Jewish future of our community. We cannot leave the responsibility to the next generation. We must act now.
Rabbi Angel’s dvar Torah is available here.
The Federation agrees with this depiction of the situation. The leadership has proclaimed making Jewish education affordable to be the community’s top priority.
One of the education-related, communal initiatives underway is a campaign, Every Kid Counts, to remedy discrimination by the Government of Ontario that “denies many students with special needs access to various essential health services because they happen to attend an independent school.”
Federation and CIJA are urging the government “to expand the range of services offered by the School Health Support Services program” to include every child with special needs who face unique learning challenges. The government’s funding policy is wrong, Federation and CIJA state, ”because it denies children with disabilities access to the educational environments they may require. We believe every student, regardless of ability, should have equal access to the services they need to succeed.”
GAJE agrees with this effort by Federation and CIJA. Community members must join the effort. In the words of Rabbi Angel and Erich Fromm, we must recognize we are at a fork in the road that requires us to decide to act. Go to the Every Kid Counts site to let the government know that the discrimination in its funding policies is offensive and objectionable.
The Every Kid Counts campaign may be accessed here.