Monday, November 14, 2016

the jewish task in an age of trump

For a long time, my favorite line from the liturgy has been a reference to God as every day renewing the work of Creation. There was a hopeful to it, a promise that nothing had to be simply because it had always been but that each day we had a chance to start again.

What is only now becoming clear to me is what that actually meant, that nothing exists on momentum alone. Even the most basic civic commitment, even the most rudimentary ethical standard, even the most elementary consensus as to standards of rational discourse, all of these have been shown to be if not illusory at least astonishingly fragile. Rather than taken for granted, they must be rebuilt every day, tended and protected.

This rebuilding, this regular maintenance of the fundamental pillars of a just, kind, and healthy world is both an urgent need, and the responsibility of everyone who wants to live in such a world. And that suggests that a Judaism worth engaging in must be actively participating in this work.

I’ll put it this way:  Everything we have seen about the president-elect, from his early career to the beginning of his candidacy to his first acts following the election suggest that a his election and the forces his election have unleashed pose an existential threat to the American experiment and to global society. Any institution that pretends moral authority, that claims to present eternal truths, that presents itself as important, must be engaged in fighting this threat. The only question for Jewish institutions is to determine what our role in this struggle will be.

At the very least, those of us involved in Jewish education can resolve that our greatest role is to nurture wise, kind, and caring students, students who will use what tools we can give them to help build, every day, those pillars of society we took for granted for too long. Students who will be call us to be their partners, every day, in renewing the work of Creation.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

this is what we are here for

This is the email I sent to the students in our MA program. If you're a teacher, it's for you, too.

Hi, my friends... If you are like me, you are probably dealing with some strong emotions, perhaps apprehensive about what lies ahead. I don't want to project my own feelings onto you; I know I'm feeling somewhat at a loss.

I want to remind you, though, of some of the great blessings you have - not in general, not in the abstract, but right here, right now:

First, you are able to give your students an enormous gift by providing them with a calm, loving, non-reactive presence. Be there for them.

Second, as Jewish educators, part of our work is to help our students grow into wise, loving people. Is there more important work than this?

Finally, you have as your colleagues some of the biggest-hearted people I know - in the field in general, and in this program specifically. We are all here for each other. Please feel free to reach out to me or to your classmates if you feel a need, and let your classmates and your coworkers know that they can reach out to you.

This is what we're here for. I'm proud to be with you.