“Education is not just what we know, it’s who we are,” says Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. There has been a long standing tradition of Jewish people embracing the value of education and understanding the opportunities it creates. Beyond opening doors to the future and encouraging creative thinking and innovation, Jewish education teaches learners creative problem solving, teamwork, respectful interactions, and interpreting text in a variety of ways.
Personally, I was drawn to Jewish education by an understanding of the roles community, tradition, culture and identity play in personal happiness. While growing up I was fortunate to experience Jewish rituals and traditions that had been passed down through the generations. Spending Shabbats and holidays with my cousins, celebrating life-cycle events and sharing tragedies together wrapped me in a warm, loving, secure blanket of community and support. I always knew that I would do my best to pass these blessings on to my children and grand-children.
Being able to share these defining Jewish characteristics with our community, to work with families through good times and bad, to facilitate life-cycle events, and to support and love them through it, is one of the joys of my work. The intrinsic rewards of this work far supersede the “tsoris” and stress. Watching someone find and embrace a comfortable place within a loving and supportive community provides satisfaction way beyond the value of a paycheck.
I am blessed with the ability to answer my calling within a pluralistic community committed to the values of egalitarianism, non-discrimination, tolerance, inclusivity and relationships. Beyond my family, Jewish education defines who I am.
SUE PENN is currently the Director of Congregational Learning at University Synagogue where she oversees all education from ages 4-104. Sue has been honored for being an innovative educator and is committed to creative approaches in Jewish Education. Sue currently sits on the Board of the Jewish National Fund of Orange County, and of the Reconstructionist Educators of North America, where she was a previous chair. She is also co-president of the Orange County Jewish Educator Association. Sue also runs educational webinars for the Reconstructionist Movement.