I am a firm believer in the importance of Jewish day schools and their role in the Jewish community. As a parent, as a Jewish communal leader, and as a “Jew in the pew,” I recognize that a successful day school has an impact on its community which reaches far beyond its own students. Day schools attract new families to a city, are often an important tool to recruit and retain clergy in a community, and serve as incubators for new programs and curricula which can be implemented in a wide variety of Jewish educational environments. And let us not forget their primary raison d’etre: they educate our children and inculcate in them not only knowledge but an immeasurable sense of Jewish pride. In discussing the importance of day schools, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks once said, “To defend a country, you need an army, to defend civilization, you need education.”
For all of the aforementioned reasons, and while wearing all of my aforementioned hats, I pay special tribute and offer heartfelt thanks to the Lynne and Andrew Redleaf Foundation, which yesterday awarded a $9 million grant to the Heilicher Minneapolis Jewish Day School. By my way of thinking, this investment benefits each and every one of us, whether or not our children are currently enrolled at the school. It makes our community stronger and lays the groundwork for the next generation of Twin Cities Jews.
During my remarks at our annual meeting just a few nights ago, I pledged Federation’s commitment to do more to provide Jewish families with a “passport to Jewish life;” in essence, resources to provide easier access to day school, religious school, Jewish camp, and other educational and enrichment opportunities. Recognizing that a majority of our children do not attend day school, as a Federation we need to help lead the effort to make all educational experiences in Minneapolis first-class and that everyone has access to them. Federation’s track record in its role in launching the successful Yachad program bodes well for our future undertakings. I look forward in the coming months to exploring with leaders and parents throughout the community how best we can help in this vital arena.
Quoting Whitney Houston in the title of this month’s message is by no means an attempt to diminish the importance of the conversation. Quite the contrary, if anything it demonstrates the universal recognition of the necessity of educating our young. If we get this right, the next generation’s chances of flourishing increase exponentially. I do not want articulate what happens if we get this wrong.