The horrific events in Charlottesville, VA this past weekend reaffirmed my thoughts on the importance and necessity of a Jewish education and a positive association with a Jewish community for our youth and families.
I have vivid memories of growing up in Southern California as a young Jewish girl who always wore a Star of David necklace. Unfortunately, I also have vivid memories of all the times I would hastily tuck the necklace underneath my t-shirt, to blend into the crowd and conceal my Jewish identity. As a Jewish adult, I am thankful for the many experiences that shaped my Jewish identity today, proud that I am unapologetically Jewish first and no longer compelled to hide by Judaism. My Jewish education began in an after school program, much like our JLC, and it forever altered my quest to seek Jewish knowledge and community, and to explore what it meant for me to live a meaningful and authentic Jewish life.
Now is not the time to further assimilate in our comfortable suburban lives. We cannot sit idly by as racism lives in our schools and communities. As parents, it is upon us to arm our children with strong Jewish identities, moral courage, and the ability to articulate the value of being Jewish.
JLC, our Jewish Learning Community, provides so much more than a Jewish education. Having seen firsthand the transformation in our teaching approach and the learning style of Shomrei’s JLC last year, I can confidently say our students are receiving an education in community, friendship, and belonging. The minute our students step into the building, they are greeted with friends who share a common bond and by teachers who work tirelessly to inspire and reach each student, according to the ways that will work best for him or her.
The earlier children are exposed to the value of a Jewish education, the more likely they will be able to articulate why being Jewish is part of his or her identity. They will feel the rhythm of Jewish life and will understand the powerful bond of the Jewish people. They will know the value of their place in the Jewish community, as they actively work to feed the hungry, raise funds for Syrian children, place toys in the hands of newly arrived refugees, and connect with their Jewish brothers and sisters near and far, including in Israel.
Our children will understand that living a Jewish life does not happen in confinement. Jews are a holy community, a people who require a minyan of 10 adults to pray. We were not meant to learn about Judaism online, from behind our computer screens. Jewish life does not thrive in this manner.
The best way to combat the racism and hatred bubbling in our country is to delve deep into who we want to be, and who we want our children to be. JLC is designed to bring families together, to grapple with issues of Jewish identity and theology. We are here to help families find their footing on their unique Jewish path and to commit to living as integral members of an ethical community. This is the best protection we can provide to face the ugliness in our world.
Take a stand. Join us. I promise the act of leaning in and leaning upon your Shomrei community will have you reaping a reward greater than you ever imagined.