The irreplaceable importance of Jewish education

Dark times require light, some form of illumination.  Thus, pandemic requires a heightened sense of responsibility for others. And, assault on Israel (read Jews) because they are Jews, requires us to champion our Judaism. Thoughts and prayers are necessary but never sufficient.

So, we point out again and ever, the irreplaceable importance of Jewish education. There is no better way to champion our Judaism – during these dark times and indeed always – than by teaching the young generation who they are, where they come from and how they too might make their own unique contributions to improving the world for the next generation. And the eve of the festival of Shavuot is an ideal moment to recall this millennial, permanent, people-sustaining relationship.

In the summer of 2018, Rabbi Allan Zelenetz, published an essay in Conversations, The Journal of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, entitled Born in Another Time. It is a wide-ranging reflection on the essence of Jewish education. Although Rabbi Zelenetz writes ostensibly about Yeshiva Day School education, his thoughts provide a template for all (affordable) intensive Jewish education. His ideas are applicable to all schools whose aim is to instill in their students the knowledge of how to “be” and how to “do” Jewish.

“[T]he ideal Jewish Day School is an organic unity within whose walls our younger generations… learn to live as whole beings whose Jewish identity is at the same time intrinsically bound up with their intellectual, spiritual, and social-emotional growth, with their studies in the liberal arts and sciences, and with their positive participation in society at large” Rabbi Zelenetz wrote. His definition may be a bit cumbersome. But it hits home.

Our tradition tells us in language intended to penetrate the soul as well as the mind that we – all Jews – were present at Mount Sinai for the Giving of the Torah (the origin of Shavuot). Unlocking the memory of having been there is the purpose of Jewish education. And then, just as we did some 3,500 years ago at the foot of that small craggy desert mountain, we will be standing in common purpose alongside each other.

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Rabbi Zelenetz’ article is available at:

https://www.jewishideas.org/article/born-another-time

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Be safe. Be well. Shabbat shalom. Chag Shavuot samayach.

GAJE, May 14, 2021

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