As your Rabbi- Director of Lifelong Learning, I spend a lot of time on the internet reading. I know I’m not alone. I flag articles and memes and video links, I save them, and I file them away for future reference. There’s one recent article I’ve gone back to again and again in the past few weeks.
In the article called, “Why Bother? A Religious School Manifesto,” Rabbi Nicki Greninger lays several compelling reasons families should invest in their children’s Jewish education. “Yes,” she writes, ”There are American values, but Jewish values ground us and guide us. Jewish values encompass many generic human values such as kindness and compassion, but there are values unique to Judaism too.” Shabbat for example, teaches us about finding balance in our lives, taking time for rest and reflection for connecting to community.
Judaism too offers us a chance to be a part of something bigger, not just community, not just a family, “but a chain of tradition thousands of years old, and when you take it seriously, it helps you know who you are and what you stand for. . . at its best, Judaism can give meaning and purpose to your life. It has a calendar that can give shape and meaning to time, it has rituals that can bring holiness into your life and the world. When you are in crisis or feel like you’re free-floating, Judaism can give you roots, a foundation, a structure, texts, stories, prayers and teachings to give you direction and hope.”
When I think about why I (and so many of you, as volunteers, lay leaders and parents) spend so much of our time invested in the educational programs of this synagogue, it is because I believe with all my heart and soul in the power of Judaism to do just what she describes. Though she focuses on the reasons parents should invest in education for their children, I read her article and was convinced that this is why we invest in education for our entire community.
She argues that Religious Schools are necessary to support parents in the task of providing them “a foundation for the life and help[ing] them to understand the world around them.” She points out that formal Jewish education teaches that “being part of a Jewish community is an essential component of Judaism.” I agree and add that no matter where we are in our lives or our Jewish journey, we continue to need support in understanding the world around us and our place in it. We continue to need the support of our community. We continue to need to feel a connection to our spiritual selves and to God. Communal education not only teaches us how to find our place in the world and the community, but it creates community through the process and teaches us about ourselves.
As we on the Lifelong Learning team prepare for a new academic year full of learning for all ages, these are our goals. These are the values that guide us. From adult Lunch-and-Learn programs, to Religious School, to Scholar-in- Residence and Congregational Retreat weekends, we are working hard to bring all that Judaism has to offer to you. Of course, we need your help! Our programming can only offer community, meaning, and identity building if you sign up and join us! We need financial support from those who are able, in order to ensure we can offer valuable learning to the entire community. We need you to share with us what’s working and what’s not, what you’d like to learn and what you need, so that we can bring community, values, and meaning to the lives of all of our congregants.