HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal
A Memorable Middle School Mentor
Politz Day School was for me a unique and exceptional school in providing its students with a close-knit, intimate environment of excellence in Judaic and general studies. What made it especially outstanding was its eclectic array of teachers. During my 12-year Politz experience, I was fortunate to learn from mentors of numerous faiths and backgrounds, each of whom had an idiosyncratic story to tell in the classroom. As a middle school student, I was surprised at how individuals from such dissimilar worlds could inspire and impact so profoundly.
My seventh and eighth grade rebbe, Rabbi Eliezer Abramson, was one such person. He lived in Lakewood, New Jersey, a town more renowned for the study of Judaics than secular works. However, upon entering his home, this preconceived notion would immediately dissipate. On his bookshelves stood Judaic books alongside secular works, covering the classical subjects of philosophy, art, science and history. In class, he quoted from both the Talmud and the classics alike. His breadth and depth of knowledge on all subjects, and his ability to synthesize them all, made a great impression on me. He inspired me to learn in the Torah uMadda style, embracing and mixing limmudei kodesh with limmudei chol (Jewish and secular studies) to achieve a true understanding of the world, history, God, religion and human nature. He showed me that, paradoxically, facing the challenges of complexity would facilitate the path to spiritual and intellectual clarity.
In addition to his academic role at Politz, my rebbe engaged outside the boundaries of his immediate community to effect change. He invested much time in several kiruv organizations, mentoring individuals from various backgrounds in the ways of Torah uMadda. In advocating his worldview, he consciously and confidently stood out among his neighbors. My rebbe’s pride in his work, his students and his kiruv community was evident and positively infectious.
I carried my rebbe’s lessons with me throughout high school, and continue to reflect on them today. His commitment to engagement and synthesis continues to speak to me and shape my development as a citizen and Jew. As I learn in Yeshivat Har Etzion, with plans to study in Columbia University, I hope to successfully live my rebbe’s values for years to come.
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Day schools aim to transmit a passion for Judaism to their students. Parents send their children to day school because they want them to cultivate a love of Judaism in all its dimensions. The articles in this issue explore the vital but elusive notion of Jewish inspiration from various angles. How do we define it, measure it, and recognize when we've achieved it? What does a school need to do to become a place that inspires students, faculty and all who work there? In what ways can schools undertake a process of change to improve in their work of inspiring students? And what do students and alumni tell us inspired them? Come to read, learn and be inspired for your work in Jewish education.
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