7 Adar 5778
Dear AJA Community (and beyond),
Earlier in the month I shared the idea of how meaningful it was to come together in Israel - to engage, connect, learn and grow with so many leaders of our Atlanta Jewish Community. As I mentioned, I strongly believe that a precursor to any work we can do on our small pieces of our AJA Community, and then ultimately the overall Atlanta Jewish Community is to recognize that we are all mishpacha - family.
I’m here to tell you, that although the concept of treating each other as family is not new...it works. In Israel, we put all of our cards on the table. No topics were off limits, yet we approached them with respect and consideration for each other. This simply does not happen enough - in our own homes, in our community, in the world. We have become conditioned to be “kind” and “politically correct (PC)”. We don’t ask people how they stand on political issues, we don’t ask who they people vote for, we don’t question the way that people connect with Judaism. We have (especially in Atlanta with lovely Southern Charm) the inherent need to be polite and not stir the pot.
Don’t get me wrong, I agree 100% with kindness and the idea of being PC...I just assert that we can do both of those while also challenging each other and asking the tough questions. We need to start the tough conversations in our individual Jewish circles, which will hopefully lead to asking them in bigger circles, and ultimately the Atlanta Jewish Community.
In Israel, we discussed the future of Jewish education in Atlanta, the importance of creating that sense of belonging, how to connect with Israel, how we can make Jewry relevant for all Jews...tough stuff, eh? I believe that in order to drill down to get the answers, we first have to ask the questions boldly and find the “why” (my favorite word!) When you get to the “why”, you get closer to the emotional and intellectual reasons that you believe what you do.
Of all the tough questions we discussed, I want to focus on one: “Why Be Jewish?”. We live in a generation where we all need purpose. Our children have a need for meaning-making (interpreting situations, events, objects, or discourses, through the lens of previous knowledge and experience). Our view of Judaism is based on our own experiences and connections. We must allow our students to create their own “Why Be Jewish?” narratives through experiential and intellectual work. To understand and articulate one’s passion for and connection with Judaism, we need to discuss and debate it (with kindness and respect). There is no quick answer to the question.
It’s a challenge to put into words the feelings we have about “Why Be Jewish?”. It’s an emotional connection that is hard to communicate. Think about how it feels to share a Pesach Seder with your family, to light the Chanukiah together and share light with the world and to have a meaningful Shabbat experience. How can you possibly put those feelings into words for someone else - whether they are Jewish or not? Some things just need to be experienced. It is only after these intellectual, personal and experiential connections where we can formulate our own reason “why”, that we can we start the conversations and debates.
PS. [switching gears to groggers and hamantashen…]
Parents, Grandparents, AJA Friends - if you want your family name included on the PTSA Mishloach Manot baskets, click HERE to participate in this Purim Mitzvah.
AND, don’t forget to RSVP for the fun-filled Upper School “Purim Night Live” show and dinner on 2/28!
Rabbi Ari Leubitz