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November 18, 1988 - Image 55

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-11-18

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Institute Bridges Gap
Of Teachers, Jewish Kids

HEIDI PRESS

News Editor

T

he tables were turned
last week at Temple
Israel where teachers
from 20 Oakland County
school districts became
students at the the temple
sisterhood's 20th Institute on
Judaism.
Focusing on "Understan-
ding the Jewish Child," the
day-long institute described
Jewish rituals and practice
for 180 teachers. In the lobby
of the temple, tables were set
up with ritual items depicting
Shabbat, Chanukah, Pesach
and other holidays.
Sisterhood members were sta-
tioned at each table to ex-
plain the meaning of the ob-
jects and the observance.
Guests were invited to par-
ticipate in workshops probing
celebrations, home life and
values and beliefs. The
workshops were conducted by
the temple rabbis, M. Robert
Syme, Harold Loss and Paul
Yedwab.
The institute, this year
chaired by the sisterhood's
Past President Carol Cooper,
was inaugurated 30 years ago

"We are a people,
in a national, and
cosmic, sense."

by Sonia Syme, wife of Rabbi
Syme and a former teacher in
the Detroit Public Schools. It
was after her.son was taunted
with anti-Semitic epithets
that she approached the
school system about doing a
program about better com-
munication between ethnic
groups.
The human relations
department of the Detroit
Public Schools helped initiate
the program. The first session
attracted about 100 prin-
cipals. It soon became so at-
tractive, Mrs. Syme said, that
scores of teachers wanted to
attend. Because so many
teachers would be absent
from the classrooms on a
regular school day, the in-
stitute was moved to a civic
holiday when classes were not
scheduled.
After Vatican II in the
1960s, the Catholic communi-
ty took interest in the pro-
gram and the University of
Detroit and Marygrove Col-
lege representatives
attended.

Mrs. Syme recalled that the
institute, held at the temple's
former site on Manderson
Avenue in Detroit, had such
an impact that "teachers
wanted to come to Jewish
homes" to see the actual
observances.
Today, she said, teachers
still can't understand, for ex-
ample, why students must be
absent for Jewish holidays.
"Thachers don't understand
why people are different,"
Mrs. Syme said. "But they
came here to learn:'
At a noon luncheon, Rabbi
Daniel Syme, a teacher, son of
Rabbi and Sonia Syme and
vice president of the Union of
American Hebrew Congrega-
tions, talked about the kinds
of questions teachers ask him
about their Jewish students.
Syme is frequently asked if
Judaism is a race, ethnic
group or religion. "We Jews
consider ourselves a people,
not only in a national sense,
but in a cosmic sense. All
Jews are responsible for one
another wherever they may
live. We are a religion, an
ethnic group, a people and a
family."
Syme said he is often ap-
proached on why Jews are "so
fixated on the Holocaust." He
told his audience that it is a
time in their history when
Jews were chosen for exter-
mination just because they
were Jews. He said Jewish
students remember the
Holocaust not just for
themselves but for all
humanity. "If we forget, we
will lay the path for the
possibility for another
Holocaust," he said.
Teachers also are curious
about their Jewish students'
concern for Israel. Syme ex-
plained that Israel "is the on-
ly place on earth any Jew can
go to as a matter of choice or
right." He added that "hu-
man life in Israel is a su-
preme value," and listed ways
in which Israel is involved in
making life better for all peo-
ple via agricultural assis-
tance and medical research.
Another aspect that in-
trigued teachers is Jewish
students' involvement in
social issues. He said that it
is their duty to try to right
social wrongs. "They learn
this from an early age," Syme
said. "It is a divine command-
ment." He student involve-
ment in providing shelters
for the homeless, food for
the hungry and protesting
against nuclear proliferation.
He challenged the teachers

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

55

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