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Community and Meaning

December 12, 2011

by Jill D. Eisen

Jewish education is about community and meaning. It should be imaginative, interactive, exciting, meaningful, and spiritual for both adults and students. It is through real life experiences and intimate interactions during learning, praying, and volunteering that adults and students develop strong Jewish identities and powerful ties to Judaism, congregation, clergy, community, and Israel. 

In his book, Taking Hold of Torah, Arnold M. Eisen, now chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, explains that by gaining emancipation from the ghettos and participating fully in American society and culture, Jewish communities paid the price. Along with our highly-valued modernity, enlightenment, social acceptance, and political liberties came the consequence that Jews could choose whether, as well as how, to be Jewish. Like Mr. Eisen, I believe that Jewish Americans are returning to Judaism because it offers precisely what they have lost, thanks to the freedoms and choices conferred by modernity: “integral community and meaning profound enough to live by.” Therefore, it is our responsibility as Jewish educators to fashion a community that helps Jews live by Jewish values while they fully participate in American society.

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