Renewing our vows
It was on Shavuot that the newly liberated people of Israel accepted the Ten Commandments and were then commanded to teach them to their children for all generations through eternity.
Is it any wonder then, that from the very earliest days of Jewish communal living, the festival of Shavuot has always been tied to the education of our children? In bygone days in Europe, it was at this time of year that young children began their Jewish education. In contemporary times, around Shavuot, we celebrate the confirmations and graduations of our children.
It is appropriate, therefore, because of Shavuot, that we choose this time of year to remind our communal leaders of the urgent need to address the creeping, worrisome erosion of the most important of all infrastructures of Jewish communal life: Jewish education. It is not only the alarming, debilitating high cost of Jewish day school that imperils the Jewish future. It is the fact that too many of our children receive very little, if any, Jewish education at all.
But the word “Shavuot” also means vows or promises. It is thus also fitting, again precisely because of the Festival of Shavuot, that we think of the need to strengthen, maintain or repair the many intersecting sinews of the infrastructure of communal life in terms of renewing intra-communal vows.
Jewish community leaders, whether appointed or elected, lay or professional, have been entrusted to seek the well-being of our community. Their “vow” to the community, their obligation, is to do their utmost, to work diligently, fairly, honestly, without hidden or alternative agenda, le shaym shamayim, for the sake of advancing the causes for the entirety of the Jewish community. Community members, as well, have obligations for the well-being of communal life, to support one another, to be thoughtful toward the “widow, the orphan and the stranger,” to use the biblical imagery for the vulnerable among us.
In the past few weeks, we have heard from thousands of people who have told us that they regard The CJN to be one of the key sinews of their Jewish communal life. They want the paper. Indeed, they need the paper to continue. For it is uniquely in the pages of The CJN where the diverse individuals, organizations, agencies, visitors, stalwarts, youngsters and oldsters of the community meet, where voices from many widely varying segments of our community have the opportunity to speak and be heard.
On page 1, CJN president Don Carr, writes that the lay leaders of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and Federation CJA in Montreal “have both expressed their unremitting support for the success of our rescue efforts.” The challenge to the community – leaders and members – is to recall the mutual intra-communal “vows” to secure the infrastructure that defines our community, two key pinions of which, education and The CJN, require immediate recommitment.