Being sensitive to our young families’ hardships

The Tishrei holidays are over. 

Children have returned to the classrooms; parents to their regular car-pool schedule; grandparents to their hovering roles of aiding and assisting; and teachers to the hard and hopefully rewarding, vital work of teaching, guiding, supporting and reinforcing our young ones. 

In his commentary on this week’s Torah portion, Bereishith, Rabbi Marc D. Angel provides insight into the “deeply troubling” story of Cain and Abel that has application for the classroom, for conversation around the family’s dining room table and for the policy deliberations of community leaders. 

“The tragedy of Cain and Abel was not simply about the sin of Cain. It was about an absence of proper relationship between parents and son, between brother and brother… 

“The absence of meaningful communication is the source of much grief and much suffering…When people do not communicate honestly and compassionately, tragedy almost always ensues. Instead of ignoring the pain of others, everyone is better served when that pain is addressed, soothed, dealt with directly. 

“Words of sincere appreciation and understanding can change a human life… Being sensitive to the sufferings and feelings of others is a virtue all of us can cultivate. 

“The story of Cain and Abel can be read as an eternal condemnation of humanity to a reality of jealousy, violence, and murder. Or it can be read as a challenge to humanity to rise above jealousies, antagonisms and hatred. It can be read as a challenge to foster understanding, dialogue, sympathy and compassion. The world would be a much better place if we would follow the second reading.” 

GAJE’s mission – to try to help make Jewish education affordable for as many families as possible – was born out of the desire to help alleviate the economic hardship of so many middle income families struggling to enrol or to keep their children in day school. 

UJA Federation has declared that the affordability of Jewish education is a top priority for our community. In Rabbi Angel’s words, they have adopted as public policy, the need to be “sensitive to the sufferings and feelings” of the young families who are doing their utmost in nearly impossible economic circumstances to raise their children with the foundation of a Jewish education. This is a glowing testament to UJA Federation and community philanthropists. 

It falls now to all of us, in the ways that we can, to support this communal effort. 

Rabbi Angel’s commentary is available at: https://www.jewishideas.org/cain-abeland-us-thoughts-parashat-bereishith

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Shabbat Shalom 

GAJE, October 25, 2019

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