HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal


From the Editor

by Barbara Davis Issue: The Educated Jew
As Jews, we have always had dreams, and as Jewish educators, we believe, as did Herzl, that אם תרצו אין זו אגדה—If you will it, it is no dream. Thus it is fitting that this Shavuot issue of HaYidion—which will reach you during commencement season—examines the “Vision of the Graduate,” and asks the question, What does it mean to be an educated Jew?

But the articles in this issue appeared in my editorial inbox just as my school was celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut. This caused me to wonder what connection, beyond Herzl, might exist between our journal’s theme and our Jewish homeland. Googling “educated Jew,” I was surprised to discover a 1915 speech by Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis entitled “A Call to the Educated Jew.”

Addressing an audience of American Jews of German descent, Brandeis said: “Our intellectual capacity was developed by the almost continuous training of the mind throughout twenty-five centuries. The Torah led the ‘People of the Book’ to intellectual pursuits at times when most of the Aryan peoples were illiterate. Religion imposed the use of the mind upon the Jews, indirectly as well as directly. It demanded of the Jew not merely the love, but also the understanding of G-d. This necessarily involved a study of the Law.”

What further interested me was the linkage that Brandeis then established between Jewish education and Zionism: “[T]hough the Jew make his individual life the loftiest, that alone will not fulfill the obligations of his trust. We are bound not only to use worthily our great inheritance, but to preserve, and if possible, augment it; and then transmit it to coming generations. …Jewish life cannot be preserved and developed, assimilation cannot be averted, unless there be reestablished in the fatherland a center from which the Jewish spirit may radiate and give to the Jews scattered throughout the world that inspiration which springs from the memories of a great past and the hope of a great future.”

Like the passionate and deeply felt words of Brandeis, the articles in this issue will resonate with readers. The perspectives, as always, are varied, even contradictory, but all have the underpinning of a deep commitment to Jewish learning, and accomplishment, and a Jewish future based on educational achievement. Strikingly, when taken together, they form a multicultural model which, as Paula Hyman, professor of modern Jewish history at Yale, has noted, “is particularly appropriate to the ambiguous position of Jews in Diaspora, who create Jewish culture in the space between being a part of the larger society and apart from it.” I am certain you will find them fascinating reading. ♦

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 shds@twcny.rr.com.

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The Educated Jew

The authors here are engaged in an argument leshem Shamayim, for the sake of Heaven, over the question of what should a Jewish day school produce. Some emphasize cultural knowledge: Hebrew fluency, tefillah mastery, literacy of core texts in the Jewish library. Others view middot as central: ethics, commitment, curiosity, caring; while yet others choose social action as the goal.

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