We Like to be Scared, Don’t We?
Many phenomena accompany the hottest weeks of summer. The inevitable traffic jam on the way up to the cottage – and back. The sunscreen-stained scrawl of camp letters assuring one and all that fun is being had. However, with certain children, that list would not be complete without a trip to Canada’s Wonderland.
Apparently, fun is had at Canada’s Wonderland.
Even by people who queue up for more than two hours to experience less than sixty seconds of simulated terror.
For me, roller coasters are, at once, cutting-edge tech and old-timey. The first roller coaster ride in North America took place in 1884 in Coney Island, New York. The minute-long ride had two parallel 185 meter long steel and wood tracks with 13-15 meter drops in opposite directions. Cars reached a harrowing 9 kilometers per hour. Today’s roller coasters are, shall we say, a bit more intense. The Millennium Force in Sandusky, Ohio, has a 2,000-meter long track. Its highest drop is 90 meters and cars reach a top speed of 150 kilometers per hour.
Doesn’t that sound fun? The pounding heart, faster breathing and the energy boost caused by the quick release of glucose as part of the “fight or flight response”?
Or is it the eustress, or “good stress”? (“Eu” in Greek means “good.”) Thrill-seekers ride roller coasters to intentionally experience stress – but in a positive way. In other words, a particular kind of stress is pleasurable.
These days, I wonder if the Jewish community functions in the same way.
We struggled to find our place in 20th century North America.
Looking around in 2019, one could say that that mission was successfully accomplished.
In his 2016 HART talk at the Hartman Institute, Shaul Magid argued that Jewish fixation on existential threats could be read as an act of disbelief in the covenant, and demonstrative of a lack of faith in God’s promise that the Jewish people would not be destroyed.
Indeed, in my book End of the Jews: Radical Breaks, Remakes and What Comes Next, I argued that despite our “lachrymose” history, we have rolled with every punch and emerged even stronger. We should lean in to crisis, not curl up into a defensive posture.
And yet, there seems to be no greater crisis in Toronto in 2019 as there is in Jewish education! Numbers are dropping. Campuses are closing all over the GTA. This is surely a harbinger of worse things to come! Should we roll up the drawbridge? Hunker down?
I say: Just the opposite.
We succeeded in establishing a system of traditional schools that served broad swaths of the community.
However, we’ve reached a moment in education writ large where traditional schools are not delivering the kind of education necessary for the 21st century.
The stress of this realization could prompt us to circle wagons… or act boldly.
Our kids need something more, something cutting-edge, something new to prepare them to contend with the challenges the future will no doubt bring.
ADRABA is one solution. We hope there are others.
Our community may overuse the rhetoric of crisis, but fear has never hindered us as a people. Perhaps we just like to be scared… but just a little. …But it’s a good scared because, in the end, it spurs us into action.