Building Jewish community at home.
As we prepare for Passover, a Jewish holiday that emphasizes the themes of human freedom and dignity and the power of people to change their destiny, I am reminded of the words of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. Rabbi Sacks spoke in Montreal in early March at a Federation CJA event about the challenges facing the Jewish people. His talk was educational and inspirational with an overall message that was realistic yet hopeful.
Rabbi Sacks spoke about many issues including global antisemitism, Israel and leadership. But the one that I wish to focus on today is his message with regard to education. Rabbi Sacks believes that the strength of any Jewish community is directly related to its investment in Jewish education. It is this, more than anything else, that will determine the degree to which a community will flourish Jewishly. But Rabbi Sacks was not only speaking about formal institutional education. He also stressed the importance of Jewish education in the home, because it is in our homes that we sow the seeds of the future. His message was simple. We should raise our children to be proud Jews.
This theme strongly resonates with me as I plan a large Seder for my immediate and extended family.
At the Seder table, questions are encouraged, from young and old alike. The more inquisitive the better. Thoughtful answers - and even discussion and debate - are not only encouraged but expected as we retell our story.
During Passover, young children are encouraged to be center stage. Adults welcome their enthusiasm and participation as the story of liberation unfolds. When the youngest among us recite the four questions, everyone around the table feels pride in their accomplishment. The Passover Seder is an invaluable opportunity to teach our children to be proud of their Jewish traditions, history and identity.
The developers of the PJ Library understood the value of a child centered family program delivered right to the doorstep. JFC-UIA and many Jewish Federations across Canada sponsor subscriptions to the PJ Library
for thousands of Canadian families. PJ Library offers Jewish families with young children of all ages the invaluable opportunity to teach them about Jewish history and culture with a free subscription to books and audio material with Jewish themes.
There is much talk across the globe about Jewish continuity and how to connect the next generation to community in this hectic world where family and professional obligations often leave little time for active community engagement. Yet, it has proven true over the generations that if we inculcate strong Jewish roots in our children and grandchildren within our homes by celebrating Jewish tradition as a family, these roots will most definitely spread and grow to support the larger Jewish community.
Wishing you and your family a joyful Passover.
Julia Berger Reitman
Chair, Jewish Federations of Canada - UIA