“Contemporary Jewish education has the task of creating the very society of which it should be the reflection.” -Israel Scheffler, Visions of Jewish Education
Contemporary Jewish education is a generative endeavor—it’s about creating something that doesn’t yet exist. The “something” that contemporary Jewish education is tasked with creating is nothing less than a new society, or more simply stated, a better (even ideal) world.
What aren’t we trying to do?
We’re not trying to perpetuate the status quo. We’re not trying to resuscitate an ancient past, nor a mythic one. We’re not trying to impart some specific or esoteric knowledge or dogma to a new generation with the hopes that they too won’t let it fade away. We’re not cultivating a generation of complacent and unquestioning followers of fashion.
What are we trying to do?
We’re trying to build a better world. We’re trying to pour old wine into new bottles, and we’re creating new varietals. We’re innovating, improvising, visioning, challenging, reinventing, discarding, sifting, shifting, and grappling. We’re starting with the end in mind and challenging one another to get there from here.
Creating a society requires chutzpah. It also requires patience, humor, grit, and teamwork. The good news is that each step we take toward our goal strengthens us to take subsequent steps. The students we are challenging today will be the parents we are partnering with tomorrow. The required “long view” in such boundless and invigorating work must achieved through many incremental steps. Eventually the world we are trying to create and the world in which we live will start to resemble one another. At that point we can truly point to Jewish education and say, “That’s tikkun olam.”
Rabbi Micah Lapidus lives in Atlanta and serves as the rabbi and Director of Jewish and Hebrew Studies at The Alfred and Adele Davis Academy, Atlanta’s Reform Jewish Day School. He is also the executive vice president of PARDeS, the consortium of Reform Jewish Day Schools. He blogs at Rabbi’s Pen: Judaism Then, Now, Soon.