HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal

Religious Purposefulness

Religious Purposefulness

The AVI CHAI Foundation has promoted the notion that day schools are primary incubators of “religious purposefulness,” developing the capacity to live deep, authentic Jewish lives through regular contact with the sources of Jewish tradition, be they textual, ritual, communal. Authors here probe the ramifications of this notion for our understanding of the mission of day schools and their role in Jewish communal life.

Click here to download the PDF and printer friendly version of this issue of HaYidion


by RAVSAK Staff Sep 25, 2008

This column features books, articles, and websites recommended by our authors and people from the RAVSAK network, pertaining to the theme of the current issue of HaYidion, for readers who want to investigate the topic in greater depth.

From the Desk of Susan Weintrob, RAVSAK President

by Susan Weintrob Sep 25, 2008

All of us are actively engaged in the beginning our new school year, and I hope you are reaping the rewards of your successful programs and activities. This is also a very dynamic time at RAVSAK. I am pleased to share with you some of the exciting developments taking place.

From the Editor

by Dr. Barbara Davis Sep 25, 2008

I have always enjoyed the academic calendar, because it has a defined beginning and ending. I have always wondered how one could do a job that never finishes, but continues for fifty weeks or so, is interrupted by a couple of weeks of vacation, and then resumes an endless flow.

Remember to Light a Fire

by Mariashi Groner Sep 25, 2008
RELATED TOPICS: Mission & Vision

Born and raised as a Chabad woman, I knew that I would live in a city where I would work to bring Judaism to Jewish people who wished to learn about their heritage. I never dreamed that I would be head of school at a community day school, governed by a community-represented board. I did not move to Charlotte, North Carolina, for a career in education. I came with my husband to open a religious educational center for Jews of all ages in the Carolinas. I was never concerned about being able to meet the needs of a diverse group of students with varied practices and beliefs, but I was totally unprepared to operate in a politically driven atmosphere.

Teaching Mitzvot: Challenges, Opportunities, and Questions

by Interview with Rabbi Achiya Delouya Sep 25, 2008
RELATED TOPICS: Jewish Studies

In each issue of HaYidion, the editors interview someone with particular expertise or experience in a topic related to the issue’s theme.

Jewish Identities in Process: Religious Purposefulness in a Pluralistic Day School

by Rabbi Marc Baker Sep 25, 2008

Pluralistic Jewish education is both a new model of building Jewish community and a philosophical approach to educating Jews. In the face of deep religious, social and political divisions (including interdenominational ignorance and stereotyping) within Klal Yisrael, an intentionally pluralistic Jewish community[1] does not reject different approaches to Jewish practice, beliefs, or denominational affiliation. Nor does it merely tolerate these differences; rather, it views these differences as strengths and learning opportunities.

Response by Rabbi Elie Kaunfer

by Rabbi Elie Kaunfer Sep 25, 2008
RELATED TOPICS: Mission & Vision

While I wholeheartedly support Michael Berger’s notion of a day school in which religious purposefulness is paramount, I question the extent to which we can conceive of a day school as an “intentional” community, made up of “like-minded people who self-consciously choose to live a life that they view as superior to others.” In contrast to previous intentional communities in Jewish history (sectarians, Kabbalists, labor Zionists, etc.), the day school population is comprised of children who are not making self-conscious decisions to join a community. With few exceptions, they are simply attending school at the behest of their parents.

Response to Berger by Barry W. Holtz

by Barry W. Holtz Sep 25, 2008
RELATED TOPICS: Mission & Vision

Berger has made a powerful argument for day schools as settings for “intentional Jewish communities,” places “that help cultivate purposeful Jewish adults.” In many ways, of course, this position reflects our very best dreams for the potential of the day school. Berger’s view of a school energized by an articulated and embodied vision defines the core of a successful school. I applaud his passionate advocacy of that concept; it recalls the late Seymour Fox’s famous dictum that the greatest problem in contemporary Jewish education is its “blandness.” A school with a vision is a school that rejects blandness in favor of inspiration and a sense of direction. I agree wholeheartedly with his articulation of the power and importance of vision in Jewish education.

Response to Berger by Sylvia F. Abrams

by Sylvia F. Abrams Sep 25, 2008
RELATED TOPICS: Mission & Vision

Berger suggests a heavy mission for Jewish communal day schools, the vast majority of which serve children in grades K-8, when he advocates that the creation of intentional Jewish communities will result in students who can become the core leaders of the next generation. Berger further posits that creating natural Jewish communities will only result in nostalgia and will be unable to withstand the trumpet call of American individualism.

Response to Berger by Rabbi Aaron Panken, Ph.D.

by Rabbi Aaron Panken, Ph.D. Sep 25, 2008
RELATED TOPICS: Mission & Vision

Berger’s insightful piece draws upon a particularly interesting model utilized by scholars of Jewish history: the natural vs. intentional community. In applying this idea to the contemporary communal context, Berger gives voice to a nostalgic tendency in Jewish life, one that looks fondly back upon the communities of the past (the rebbes of Europe and their followers, for example) as somehow better and more solidly constructed than those we experience today. At the same time, his writing is hopeful: he indicates that we can still establish a “vibrant yet stable core,” despite the many challenges that face our community—and that Jewish day schools are critical to this essential goal.