The Power Of Knowledge
hat's the most significant underlying message I
Detroit Jewry's top educator and a U.S. leader in shaping
have from the April trip to Israel that I spent
Jewish learning, was optimistic despite the hurdles.
with 567 others from the Detroit, Ann Arbor
"We're pointed in the right direction," she said.
and Toledo Jewish communities?
And I trust her judgment.
That's what is most asked of me since I returned from
Despite funding constraints, the Alliance is building a blue-
Federation's Michigan Miracle Mission 4, a remarkable 10-day
print that should have the wherewithal to be a national model
journey despite the long shadow of the Palestinian intifada.
for connecting a diverse Jewish community.
My answer: To flourish, diaspora Jews must embrace Jewish
Individually, we can help by giving to Jewish causes, and by
continuity across generations and borders as the gateway to a
bringing our children and grandchildren into the circle of -
strong Jewish state and vibrant Jewish people.
believing that the practice of Judaism truly matters.
As I spoke with shopkeepers on the Ben-Yehuda pedestrian
JN Publisher Arthur Horwitz is a lay leader of the Alliance.
mall in Jerusalem, soccer moms in Michigan
But he has never mixed that role with the editing of the JN.
Jewry's Partnership 2000
So I quote the Jewish Educational
region in the Central Galilee,
Service of North America, an independ-
artists in the holy city of
ent think tank unafraid to rattle the sta-
Safed and soldiers at an air
force base near Tel Aviv, the
- In a position paper on 21st-century
same theme kept recurring:
learning, the New York-based JESNA
Israel is only as strong as dias- ti
"Only Jewish education that is engag-
Israelis look to Jews the
ing, inspiring, rich in Jewish content,
world over for emotional and
relevant to contemporary life, anchored
economic support. That help
in communities where learning is rein-
is pivotal to our brethren,
forced in practice, and delivered with
who are 43 months into fighting terrorists fix-
high quality will have the power to
Clockwise from top .•Yaakov
ated with destroying the Jewish state.
transform Jewish individuals and commu-
Marviza, 25, K obi Mizrahi, 20,
On Tuesday, six Israeli soldiers from the
nities. Jewish education today does not
Eitan Newman, 21, Ofer Jerbi, 21, meet this high standard."
Givati Brigade gave their lives in defense of
Aviad Deli, 21, Edron Amar, 20
our ancestral homeland when a Gaza land
Coming up short is not because of a
mine planted by Hamas and Islamic Jihad
lack of spending. U.S. Jewry invests more
exploded beneath their armored vehicle. The
than $3 billion a year, but "Jewish education is still
bombing followed overnight fighting triggered
7, characterized by pockets of excellence surrounded by
by Israel's Qassam rocket factories sweep in Gaza
much that is less than excellent," says JESNA.
City's Zeitoun neighborhood. Proud of their
Locally, $3.87 million, or 13 percent, of Federation's
quarry, hooded terrorists paraded sacks filled
Annual Campaign this past year went to Jewish educa-
with body parts of the slain. Such barbarity
tion services across the spectrum.
should strengthen not only Israeli resolve, but
Nationwide, initiatives over the past decade have
also diaspora ties to Zionism.
changed the educational landscape for the better, but
Israel is doomed if ignorance about and apa-
have not produced the systematic improvements
thy toward it dominate the diaspora.
required, argues JESNA, although I have no doubt
We don't all need to be religious scholars. But
Detroit is closer to making such improvements than
Shabbat, holidays, learning and mitzvot — and a grasp of the
most communities if we stay the course amid budget cuts.
issues confronting Israel — should be special parts of each of
JESNA is right: What America's Jewish communities need
our lives as Jews. At stake is our future as a people.
are objectives, teachers and programs fundamentally linked
Kids mimic adults. So adults who are Jewish in name only
and leveraged as components of an engine generating continu-
won't inspire kids to stay tuned in to Jewish experiences
ous, measurable improvement.
beyond their bar or bat mitzvah. With unaffiliated and inter-
We can't afford to fail.
marriage rates topping 50 percent nationwide, we better wake
Without Israel and Torah, diaspora Jews lose what binds
and nurtures us, far flung as we are. Mission-goer Stephanie
I think back to the sixth-graders who my bus mates and I
Michaels of Temple Israel spoke to this after returning to West
shared juice with in Nazareth Illit during the April 18-28 mis-
sion and how joyously these kids celebrated Yom HaAztmaut,
"If it is possible to feel your soul growing," she said, "then
Israel's Independence Day. They grasped the importance of a
my experience on this first trip to Israel would have to be the
Jewish state rising in the ashes of the Holocaust.
embodiment of that sort of spiritual change. It was a chance
In Detroit, the burden to teach and inspire starts with
not only to connect with the people and places that touch us
Federation's Alliance for Jewish Education, our central
so profoundly, but also with ourselves and with God."
resource for Jewish learning. It touches 6,300 day, afternoon
Michaels unwittingly defined Jewish learning as a profound
and supplemental school students — and thousands of adults.
spiritual connection tied to individual enlightenment.
The Alliance faces the daunting tasks of reversing assimila-
I like how Rabbi Lee Buckman of the Jewish Academy of
tion trends and slowing the flight of so many Jewish young
Metropolitan Detroit expanded on that notion Monday.
adults — our community's potential future Jewish leadership
"In the open, liberal world we live in today, that lacks the
— to urban cities perceived as hipper, like Chicago, Boston,
artificial barriers of anti-Semitism and ghettos," he said, "the
Atlanta and Los Angeles.
only thing that will help ensure a knowledgeable, committed
As we chatted on the bus going back to the hotel after the
and passionate new generation of young adults is immersing
Yom HaAtzmaut party for mission-goers, Harlene Appelman,
children in the texts, values and traditions of our people." ❑
Thanks to you
was an amazing
event and a
truly ma key a
the lives of