One of the great thinkers of late 19th/early 20th century Zionism was Asher Ginsberg (1856-1927), better known by his pen name, Ahad Ha’Am (“one of the nation”). Primarily an essayist who championed the proposition that the movement of return to Zion must begin with a revitalization of Jewish culture, Ahad Ha’Am profoundly influenced such younger Zionists as Chaim Nachman Bialik and Chaim Weizmann. Born in the Ukraine, Ahad Ha’Am relocated to London to serve as agent of the Wissotzky Tea Company and, eventually, settled in Tel Aviv.
During this seemingly unique period, I found myself reflecting on the life and times of BJE’s longest serving educational professional, Rabbi Zalman Ury, z”l. Rabbi Ury, whose tenure at BJE spanned 1959-2006, lived an extraordinary life. Born in a small town in Poland, he attended the famous yeshiva in Kletsk, headed by the noted Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Aharon Kotler. During World War II, Zalman Ury and his yeshiva classmates were deported by the Soviets to a labor camp in Siberia, then to a collective farm in Uzbekistan.
Leafing through the pages of the February 21-27 Jewish Journal, I spotted headlines of Journal stories published 20 years ago. One caption, in particular, caught my eye. “Day School Count: A new census yields surprising results on Jewish day school attendance.”
On February 20, BJE’s Reshet-LA will "graduate" eight schools from Tier One of the program, bringing to 15 the total number of part-time Jewish school programs engaged in the practical work of school innovation. As the program continues to grow, participants are benefiting from the unique opportunity to connect with and learn from national experts in the part-time religious school world, opportunities that are only made possible through BJE.
It is a common practice for organizations to ask people to pledge their support in order to meet immediate needs. This is referred to as annual giving. The Torah, however, imagines a much longer-term commitment when it comes to education.
In the story recounted in Parashat Va-etchanan – which we read a few weeks ago – Moshe gave the People a pep talk as they prepared to end their travels in the wilderness and enter the Land of Israel.
Each August, as a new school year approaches, the cycle of Torah study is in its “home stretch,” nearing the close of the fifth and final book of the Torah, Devarim. Devarim means “words.” It is a title drawn from the opening phrase of the book: “These are the words that Moses spoke….” The context is dramatic: Moses, liberator, lawgiver and leader of the Israelites for forty years, will soon die; the book is his farewell addresses, delivered over the last weeks of his life. Devarim offers much on which to reflect, as a new school year begins.
Shavuot, celebrated this year, June 9-10, is both an agricultural holiday and a festival associated in rabbinic tradition with the experience of Torah at Sinai. In describing the Israelites as they stood at Mt. Sinai, the Torah comments: va-yichan sham yisrael, Israel camped there. Noting the use of the singular in the verb form “camped,” Rashi famously observed that the Israelites (plural) were – at that moment – as one nation with one heart.