Many of our schools will soon be closed for a couple of weeks of rest and recovery. The teachers and administrators who transform the classrooms and the buildings from schools to places of learning and attachment will be deservedly at ease, at least for a few days. And the students, too, deserve a break from the regimen of rules that comprise the discipline of study.
It is an opportune time, therefore, with gratitude to the people who facilitate the education of our children, to reflect upon and reinforce the urgency of a special plea to the Jewish Diaspora communities made some three weeks ago by Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in the pages of The CJN.
“The most urgent challenge jointly facing Israel and Jewish communities worldwide is that of ensuring Jewish continuity,” Lieberman stated. “It cannot be emphasized enough how important – indeed critical – this issue is for both Israel and world Jewry,” he added. Appealing to the entirety of the Jewish communities around the world, he wrote, “It is our joint responsibility and duty to ensure the continuation of a strong Jewish identity.”
Lieberman framed the need to ensure the continuation of a strong Jewish identity, in part, as a response to what he referred to as the “symbiosis” of the “persistent scourge of antisemitism and the particularly dangerous overlap between antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment.”
We would frame that need in broader terms.
The goals of ensuring Jewish continuity, Jewish identity, a sense of peoplehood and a desire to belong to this uniquely ancient-and-modern people derive from the very beauty and fulfilment of doing so. Experiencing and passing forward that sense of fulfillment is itself the best response to antisemitism.
But if he stated the objective of ensuring continuity and identity too narrowly, he was quite categorical regarding the means of doing so. “Nothing is more crucial to advancing this goal than Jewish education,” Lieberman wrote.
We wholeheartedly agree with him.
Jewish education – in all its many manifestations, but especially comprehensive day school – must be the highest priority on the agenda of Diaspora communities.
It must occupy the best and brightest minds of the community, lay and professional, across organizational divides. And since the scope of the challenge exceeds the abilities of any single organization to provide solutions, the entire range of community organizations and concerned community members should now be conscripted to find a way to respond to the challenge with the breadth and effectiveness necessary for our children and, indeed, for the Jewish people.