The inspiration and ideas for this post came from a speech given by Rabbi Shai Finkelstein, Senior Rabbi of Baron Hirsch Synagogue.
When we talk about education we most often talk about schools, and yes Jewish Day School and sending Jewish children to Jewish Day Schools is very important. However education covers a lot more than what we would call formal education. There’s informal education which one receives through youth groups, summer camps, Synagogue attendance, and what a child receives at home from his parents.
Using this broader idea of education, what should be our goals?
1. Students need to be engaged and learning needs to be fun and at the same time it needs to be intellectual stimulating as well. However when talking about Jewish education we need to find a way to bring it to life and make it real. We need to see the Amoraim (Rabbis from the Talmud) as if they are in the classroom with us. It is not just some type of medieval study but rather a living Torah that applies today
2. This leads to number two. It needs to be something that we internalize and becomes part of our lives. What we are studying and learning is not just an intellectual pursuit but rather must become part of our lives.
3. What we learn must be real and internalized so that when we are not in school, or when we begin to start families of our own we have the ability to become the teachers and pass it on to the next generation.
How is this accomplished? Our Rabbis gave us a clue when they said that being respectful (a mentch) comes before the learning of Torah. Meaning that if one wants to learn and internalize his learning he first must work on his character and behavior. In other words you need to practice what you preach.
Now that many students have finished their formal education until August or September we need to remember that learning and following the Mitzvoth (commandments) are not something that is just for the 10 months of the school year but rather 24/7/365.
We as teachers and parents need to lead by example showing that our commitment to learning and to our Judaism is something that is year round.
Hopefully if we can practice what we preach and are proper role models we can accomplish our goals and empower our students and children to be the future Jewish leaders.