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Let's not run out of "gas"
12/22/2011 12:41:00 PM
URJ President Rabbi Richard Jacobs told the brutal truth in his amazing speech in the Biennial's closing plenary last Sunday.
He told the Jewish world that when it comes to religious school education that we treat Jewish education about the same way we do when we pull up to a service station.
"People drive in and drop off their kids as if it were a gas station," he said. "To fill up the next generation with Jewish gas. The parents keep on driving, coming back and hoping that their kids have Jewish nourishment. Maybe we do it because our parents suffered through Hebrew school. Truth be told, many of us are here despite the Jewish schooling we received."
I remember that when I was attending Hebrew school, I thought of many different ways to feel under the weather when I'd call my parents, begging for permission not to go. Then there were Sundays when religious school lasted from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., which seemed like an eternity.
And like Rabbi Jacobs said, so many of us were out of the religious door as soon as our b'nai mitzvot were over.
I consider myself fortunate, because I attended a Jewish camp such as Habonim D'ror Moshava. In my three years there, I learned more about Israel, basic Hebrew and Jewish ritual than all of my years of Hebrew school combined. But, because I grew up in a secular home, the knowledge evaporated at my front door.
Later in life I started teaching at an afternoon religious school. I taught a class in current events and also one in Jewish history. But I learned that my class was for some of the students, on an equal level with after school activities ranging from sports to yearbook. I had one student who stopped coming to class for about six weeks, because she was a ballet dancer and had to prepare for the Christmas performance of the "Nutcracker Suite." Toe shoes were more important those weeks than Tanach.
So here we are years later at the Biennial, and Rabbi Jacobs is speaking about parents joining their children in the synagogue for Jewish education. There is an impact when a child sees his parents learning and taking learning seriously. So I applaud Rabbi Jacobs for being so on target and not glossing over these issues.
Two years from at the next Biennial, I do hope that we can look back and remember what Rabbi Jacobs said right here in the D.C. area, and that the way we educate our children has them coming back for more fuel, instead of running out of gas.
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