Like many heads of Jewish community day schools, I come to my position via a circuitous route, in my case a doctorate in Spanish literature. In my favorite book, Cervantes’ Don Quijote, the self-defined knight of the title makes himself a helmet out of pasteboard. He tests it by slashing it with his sword, destroying it in the process. He then rebuilds it, and rather than testing it, places it confidently on his head, declaring it “a work of the most perfect construction.” Such is the difference between science and faith.
Faith is the raison d’etre of Jewish community day schools and high schools. It is what distinguishes us from our colleagues at NAIS, public schools, and charter schools. At the same time, discussions of faith often make us profoundly uncomfortable, precisely because we are community schools, and our definitions of faith reflect the diversity of thought repeatedly captured in our humorous stories about “two Jews, three opinions” and the island castaway who built two shuls, the one he attended and the one he wouldn’t set foot in.
But faith and, more importantly, religious purposefulness, lie at the very core of what we do. Making faith meaningful and purposeful is one of the greatest challenges we face in dealing with young hearts and minds. The articles in this issue address this challenge in many ways, from the conceptual to the pragmatic. The authors themselves, as teachers and leaders, wrestle with the same issues that their students and followers encounter: how to reconcile faith and critical thinking, how to nurture belief, how to accommodate divergent ideas and practices—all within the context of what is developmentally appropriate, particularly with our increased awareness of the unique aspects of adolescence. That we engage with these questions dispassionately and with insights gained from other fields is entirely consistent with our Jewish faith and traditions. As Edmond Fleg wrote, “I am a Jew because the faith of Israel demands of me no abdication of the mind.”
We hope that you will find this issue of HaYidion valuable and applicable to your work. Faith is a complex and difficult subject because, as Will Herberg wrote in Judaism and Modern Man, the beliefs which a person holds “are not necessarily those he affirms with his mouth, but those that are operative in his life.” We hope you will find, in our authors’ words, inspiration to make faith an ever more vital and significant part of your students’ lives. ♦
Dr. Barbara Davis is the Secretary of RAVSAK, Executive Editor of HaYidion and Head of School at the Syracuse Hebrew Day School in Dewitt, NY. Barbara can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each fall, the seventh grade students in my Jewish social studies class begin the year by participating in the Jewish Court of All Time online simulation. JCAT is an innovative learning adventure that is a joint venture between the University of Cincinnati’s...[More]
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