DCL’s Drash from Rabbi Julie Schwarzwald, Director of Congregational Learning

 

But let justice well up like water, Righteousness like an unfailing stream.

–Amos 5:24

Having spent the last three months in various forms of quarantine as a result of the pandemic, we woke up two weeks ago to learn of the wrongful death of George Floyd – the most recent example of racial injustice. This past weekend, many of us joined local rallies to stand together – while socially distancing – to share our outrage. We hope that this time, things will change. And we ask ourselves once again, how did we get to this place?

To educate our children with the understanding that we are all created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God, is to emphasize our mission to accept each individual as they are – to recognize that they are exactly as they are meant to be. We can learn from our children. You’ve seen the pictures/memes of children who look different from one another meeting each other and immediately playing together. Youth who have been in class together for years simply accept each classmate’s learning needs and are often able to ignore anything that could be disruptive – and will tell adults, “That’s just how they are.” 

Social justice and social action have long been components of Judaism and have found their place in congregational education. As Rochelle and I have discovered with weekly preschool Shabbat, it can be challenging to find tangible activities for our youngest learners that demonstrate this. We need to fully integrate the value of b’tzelem Elohim into our curriculum, with regular conversations about how our tradition, our history, and our values and commandments inform our daily life. 

A song that we have sung all year in BBRS has been echoing in my head all week. Elana Arian composed “I Have a Voice” with teens at URJ Kutz Camp last summer. What a powerful anthem for our time.

I have a voice

My voice is powerful

My voice can change the world

 

I will open my eyes 

I will not look away 

I will use this gift I’ve been given

Every day

 

I will give of myself 

I will reach out my hand

I will use this heart I’ve been given

To take a stand

 

I will fight for the truth 

I’ll stand up for what’s right

I will use this strength I’ve been given

To be a light

 

I have a voice

My voice is powerful

My voice can change the world

Professional development is essential as we look toward the next school year. While we maintained connection and celebrated successful conclusions to our school years, we know that this pandemic has brought to the forefront a necessary revolution in education. Every BBRS and CBI Preschool teacher will attend the NewCAJE virtual conference this summer with an emphasis on learning new tools for online and distance learning while exploring philosophy, pedagogy, and best practices. I am investigating the best technology to continue to make our education accessible to all. Mila Naiman and I will also attend the USCJ New Directors’ Institute as we prepare to take on leadership of the preschool following Rochelle’s retirement. 

As we continue planning various scenarios for the upcoming school year, we keep in mind how to offer increasingly accessible Jewish education, with righteousness and justice for all.

Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel used to say: on three things does the world stand: On justice, on truth and on peace.

–Pirkei Avot 1:18

 

May we find them soon,

Rabbi Julie