Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik taught that, “The individuals belonging to the community complement one another existentially. Each individual possesses something unique, rare, which is unknown to others; each individual has a unique message to communicate, a special color to add to the communal spectrum.”
This teaching summarizes the best of what Jewish education can offer, for within the realization of its words lies the emergent and holistic experience of what Jewish education can be.
Jewish education takes place in myriad contexts: home, synagogue, school, camp and even in the media’s messaging (social or otherwise). At its best, Jewish education is the craft of creating, weaving and building an ecology of agency and appreciation for the diverse tapestry of Jewish life, culture, practice and wisdom, within the hearts and minds of its learners.
While of course excellent Jewish education is based on strong and clear content objectives, as well as learning the skills necessary to access our ancient and shared heritage, it should not be taught as such from a consumerist (i.e., memorize and forget) point of view. Rather, what and how we educate and learn must be rooted in the understanding that Jewish education is not something “we go through” or that we are ever done with; it is a lifelong journey, a framework for understanding life and being empowered to act!
When education is conducted from this angle, learners become courageous agents of their own, and our shared, communal Jewish destiny.
Learners who learn “the way” of Jewish education come to understand and appreciate that their voice is the next refrain in the song of Torah as sung throughout time, that the Torah is their Torah, which is a gift to be received, a way of being to be discovered, and a treasure to be shared.
Such is the experience of Jewish education at Irvine Hebrew Day School, where learners are immersed in a wide range of interrelated explorations including Hebrew, Holy days, Tefillah, Tanakh, Text-skills, Torah She-Bal-Peh (the Oral Torah), Yahadut (literally, “Judaism,” but figuratively, additional subject matter not covered elsewhere, such as topics in Jewish history, Zionism – “Torat Eretz Yisrael,” Middot – Jewish Values/Ethics/Character, Jewish life cycle events, and service learning, or “Tzedek”). Also included are art and ritual (communal learning/celebratory experiences).
When these spheres of knowledge are understood in relation to each other, the sum is greater than its parts. The sum is the tree of life as expressed in the hearts, minds and actions of our learners; the sum is the tree of life as expressed in the orchard of life that is Irvine Hebrew Day School.
Rabbi Baruch Rock is Director of Jewish Learning at Irvine Hebrew Day School. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.