Posts Tagged Jewish Education

The Danger of Lowering our Expectations

Unfortunately, Jewish schools and educators have not been immune to the lunacy sweeping the educational enterprise—suppression of competition, safeguarding students’ feelings at all costs, promoting self-esteem over academic achievement and dumbing down coursework to the level of the least-capable student. What has been lost is the insistence on excellence, an aggressive curriculum of core subjects (both Jewish and secular) and devotion to hard work.

The truth is that this is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it goes back to nearly 2,800 years ago and, in a very real sense, it lies at the heart of all the problems that have plagued the Jewish people ever since.

Read the whole article here.

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New Subscription Link

Please check out the new subscription link at the top of the right hand sidebar.  New articles are posted, on average, every week or two, so you won’t get flooded with more emails.

My articles on Jewish World Review, Aish.com, and other outlets examine current events and contemporary issues through the lens of classical Judasim, as well as Torah philosophy and ethics.

For those who are already subscribed to my Yahoo group email letter, I will be phasing that out over the next few weeks.  If you would like to continue receiving articles, add the new subscription by clicking the sidebar link.

Thanks for your readership and interest.

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In Appreciation

An open letter to the St. Louis Jewish community

And Adam knew his wife…

Genesis 4:1

Why does the Torah employ an expression of “knowledge” as a euphemism for intimacy?  Because emotional and psychological intimacy is impossible with intellectual familiarity.  Similarly, the term for “gratitude,” hakoras hatov, translates literally as “recognition of the good.”  One cannot feel gratitude without first seeing the good; with that recognition, gratitude results naturally and inevitably in a morally healthy mind.

The Me’am Loez explains that the character trait of ingratitude underlies the Torah command to destroy the nation of Amoleik.  Having become free from the Egyptian sphere of influence in the wake of the Ten Plagues, the Amolekites used their newly acquired freedom to attack the nation responsible for the overthrow of their former overlords.  A nation so indifferent to how it has benefitted from another is similarly incapable of attaining even the most minimal level of human virtue.  Just the opposite, such a nation will rebel pathologically and unceasingly against any moral or legal structure imposed on it by the Ultimate Authority.  Consequently, its continued existence cannot be tolerated upon this earth.

With this in mind, I feel it incumbent upon me as a member of the St. Louis Jewish community in general, and as a teacher and parent of Block Yeshiva High School in particular, to express my most heartfelt and sincere gratitude to an individual who has gone above and beyond in support of our school.

Every private educational institution has been suffering through the current economy, and Block Yeshiva has been no exception.  As the financial crisis has steadily worsened over several years, a few persons of note have devoted themselves to the school’s survival.  They have had, and continue to have, our deepest appreciation.

Nevertheless, as the situation continued to deteriorate and the viability of the school became increasingly uncertain, one individual stepped forward to address the problems head-on, with passion and energy drawn from her increasing familiarity with Block Yeshiva and the school’s extraordinary contribution to the community.  As the twelfth hour drew near, one person made all the difference.  I therefore take great pleasure in publicly offering this small expression of gratitude and appreciation to Ms. Shu Simon.

Ms. Simon has not always possessed such enthusiasm for Block Yeshiva.  Over the last few years, however, she has learned how the school strikes a harmonious balance between Torah studies and secular knowledge, how Block students develop academic discipline, Jewish awareness and commitment, refinement of character, and international distinction, how Block serves the greater Jewish community, and how Block graduates are sought after by the most prestigious yeshivas, seminaries, and universities.  The more she learned about Block, the more intimately connected Ms. Simon felt to the school and the more prominent role she shouldered in support of our mission.

While many around her indulged in hand-wringing, finger-pointing, and strategic astigmatism, Shu Simon demonstrated the singular purpose and tenacity that are the signs of true leadership.  (I know nothing of the details of what she did – my job it is not to address the business operations of the school but to attend the academic and spiritual welfare of the students, per my training and experience.)  But amidst an atmosphere in which ideology and personal bias have frequently overshadowed Torah values and objective achievement, Ms. Simon has won a place in the hearts of all those who have sacrificed their time, energy, and tranquility on behalf of Block Yeshiva.

Any individual or institution that aspires to high standards and ideals will inevitably acquire detractors.  On the other hand, attempting to be everything to everybody results in becoming nothing to anybody.  Those who know the Block faculty and administration well have already recognized their invaluable contribution to the community.  Those who haven’t are not paying attention.

Tragically, we live in a culture where educators often feel unappreciated for their labors, and so we would be especially delinquent if we missed this opportunity to show our appreciation for Shu Simon.  May her efforts serve as a call to action for others, as well as a reminder that the crisis is far from over.  At best, we have gained a little time to rally our forces.

If you don’t know Block Yeshiva, it’s worth your time to find out who and what we are.  If you do, then you already know Block’s value.  Don’t remain silent, lest the voices of cynicism and ingratitude create an illusion of discontent and carry the day.

And again:  thank you Ms. Simon.

B’kovod rav,

Rabbi Yonason Goldson

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Distractions

Sorry, folks, I’ve been distracted by other projects and responsibilites, and my editor at JWR, Binyamin Jolkovsky, has been ill and not publishing.

Binyamin has done an extraordinary job, to the point that endless hours running a one-man show has left him very ill. If you haven’t visited his site, you should add it to your favorites. And if you’ve enjoyed the articles I’ve published there, please consider a donation, large or small, so that he can hire the assistants he will need to continue his fine work on behalf of Torah and the Jewish people.

Click on Jewish World Review and look for the link to make your tax deductable donation.

Please don’t lose touch. I hope to get back to publishing and posting before too long.

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Friday Flashback — Halloween Reflections

Here are some old thoughts about what is becoming America’s most popular holiday.

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Blowing my own Horn Dept.

I’m pleased and humbled to report that I have been honored by the St. Louis Central Agency for Jewish Education with this year’s Stuart I. Raskas Outstanding Teacher Award, and also with the national Grinspoon-Steinhardt Award for Excellence in Jewish Education.

To whatever degree I am deserving of these distinctions, without the guidance and support of my principal, Rabbi Gavriel Munk, as well as the camaraderie of the dedicated rabbis and secular teachers that make Block Yeshiva High School such an extraordinary institution of Jewish learning, I could never have developed as a teacher to the extent that I have.

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Talking to the Wall Dept.

My efforts to engage an ideologue in civil discourse.  Draw your own conclusions.

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