I recently read that, “It may be harder to enter a Jewish day school these days, but once inside it’s a lot easier to become a proud Jew.”
It is almost too difficult to put into words how I feel about the most recent waves of anti-Semitism sweeping the world today, especially when it hits so close to home. What I know for sure is that the tried and true strategy to combat anti-Semitism and to the survival of the Jewish people has, and always will be, a Jewish day school education.
When you peek inside our classroom doors you will witness the best defense we have against anti-Semitism – the study of Judaism. We provide an atmosphere where students are free to practice being Jewish, be curious about their heritage, take pride in their history, develop a love for the State of Israel, and to learn ancient texts, in Hebrew. We believe this approach will instill a strong Jewish identity in the next generation of Jewish leaders, role models, and thinkers.
Growing up in Israel, I realize, especially now, that I was immensely privileged. I was immersed in the Jewish homeland, the culture, and history. I didn’t have to think about Jewish identity.
Today I have another privilege: the responsibility of teaching our youth what it means to be a Jew. I have made this my personal mission. This responsibility comes with challenges: however, I feel we have no other choice.
What we teach every single day will have rippling effects for generations to come. Schools such as ours must not only continue to thrive, but MUST rededicate their missions to teach our children to be proud Jews. We must teach tolerance, respect, and derech eretz, or an ethical and responsible way to live.
In a society where being Jewish is being a target, where members of the KKK are celebrated on national television, where Jews are the intended victims of terrorist attacks while going about their daily lives, we must prepare our youth to combat these atrocities through knowledge and education. Our Hebrew Academy Mission Statement is the foundation upon which we prepare future leaders to counter hate and anti-Semitism and defeat those who desire to destroy us, and face whatever challenges they may experience in the future. In part, our mission statement provides: “to educate Jewish youth to become knowledgeable, responsible citizens and committed Jews; to teach our students to be independent thinkers capable of making intelligent choices; to foster in our students a strong Jewish identity; to educate our students to cherish the faith, knowledge, and traditions of our unique heritage; and to teach our students to become moral and ethical individuals, imbued with the spirit of Judaism and with concern for the Jewish community, the American community, and the community of mankind.”
It is said that sustainability is the ability to endure whatever obstacles are put in one's way. For the past 3,000 years, the Jewish people have always had to defend themselves and unfortunately, I suspect we will continue to face many more battles ahead.
In the words of Elie Wiesel, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
I offer to you, that a Jewish Day School education is the most powerful weapon against anti-Semitism and hate. Let us work together to ensure our children are prepared, equipped, and empowered to stand up to all injustices in the world today.