“Why don’t we have both?” – Part 2

by | Jan 4, 2019 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

[Previously, in Newsletter #13, I highlighted how, at ADRABA, we don’t have to fall prey to the old saw about blended learning and how we have to choose  between technology and teachers.  We can have both!  For the complete post, click here.  And now, Newsletter #16… ]

January 2nd’s eJewishPhilanthropy featured a nondescript study from Great Britain.  Stephen H. Miller (the British academic, not the fascist pisher in the White House) wanted to determine if there was a negative correlation between high academic achievement and Jewish community engagement.  In other words, are academically qualified Jews more or less likely to be disengaged from the Jewish community?  In the process, Miller, perhaps unintentionally, shed some light on what “Jewish success” looks like in Britain.  More specifically, how Jewish is “Jewish success”?

As fun as it would be to reproduce Miller’s findings here, his conclusion was clear. Among British Jews surveyed, there is a noticeable relationship between education and engagement.  It seems that the more educated you are, the less engaged you tend to be. 

As I waded through Miller’s methodology and conclusion, my mind wandered to “The Monkey’s Paw,” and its pithy takeaway: Be careful what you wish for.  True, it’s a breezy maxim, but, not for nothing, it’s also a Yiddish curse.

As Jews, the “People of the Book,” we always put education of our children FIRST.  It’s the compelling, rising-action of the story of North American Jewry.  Picture your ancestors!  Jostled by the faceless throng of immigrants as they descended the gangway to set foot upon the shore of North America with nothing but a few pennies… But their pockets were filled with dreams of safety and prosperity…  And the way they would achieve both of those things was through education!!   

…But education, as much as it has elevated us as a community, seems to have the potential to undermine us as well.  If Miller’s account of the UK Jewish experience has any resonance in North America, are we similarly fated to a future of less engagement? 

At ADRABA, we see a different future. 

We see education and academic achievement not as an obstacle to engagement but as a critical, foundational element of it.  We have designed ADRABA to leverage education and achievement to foster and foment engagement.  Could one learn geometry without Pythagoras?  Could one appreciate Canada’s relationship to the Commonwealth without Wolfe’s victory over Montcalm?   Then consider how much more meaningful Sukkot could be if learners researched how Sukkot was celebrated by the rabbis of the Talmud, or how traditions involving the Four Species evolved over the centuries and along Bathurst Street at the pop-up shops, or how hospitality and welcoming guests and strangers has the potential to transform human relationships and notions of community.  In our view, it is not an either/or.  At ADRABA, it’s all about academic excellence, achievement AND engagement.

And we say this with confidence because of the way we are structuring “education” to fundamentally include both mind and heart, theory and practice, book learning and doing, as well as the individual and the kehillah. 

We expect all of our students to meet (and potentially exceed) the expectations of the Ontario Ministry of Education.  We expect all of our students to graduate with a high school diploma and continue on to the program of their choice.  (That goes without saying!)

We also expect our learners to see (and experience) engagement with the kehillah as central to understanding the world.   To paraphrase the words of Rabban Gamliel, son of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, “Excellent is the study of the Torah together with a worldly occupation.” 

We can and should have both.