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tradition, transition and change. 

03/23/2023 10:45:26 AM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

Last week I was privileged to attend the Jewish Educators Assembly conference, and I am grateful to my congregation for the opportunity to engage in professional development. The theme of Tradition, Transition and Change reminded me of the seminal work “Tradition and Change” written by Rabbi Mordechai Waxman in 1958. It spoke of the essential foundations of the Conservative movement and was important reading for so many.

Much has been written about the revolutionary nature of the response of educators to COVID, particularly in areas of technology, the transmission of knowledge, and how to create new learning environments.  It has been difficult for many Jewish students to refocus on Jewish education after public education, regardless of whether it was pre-COVID instruction, quarantined instruction, or post-quarantine instruction. Lost in the needs of the students has been the incredible strain Jewish school teachers and administrators have experienced.  I had the opportunity to marvel in the creativity and brilliance of school administrators, as well as lament the defeats and losses. Yet this was an impressive collection of Jewish educators dedicated to their students, their families, their institutions and communities, and the transmission of a sacred heritage. They are engaged in holy work that few have the skill sets to achieve. The presence of a younger generation of Jewish educators was inspiring.

Amidst the thread of the theme throughout the variety of workshops ran the powerful phrase that is the title of several books as well as a running theme through “Moneyball”: Evolve or die. How might what I have learned be applied to not just a school, but a faith community? What are the traditions that are our bedrock? What are the barriers that prevent us from evolving? What are the end goals that we need to reach, and the transitions to put in place to achieve them, much like the premise of “Understanding by Design”? Change for change’s sake is never the best path, but “that’s the way we’ve always done it” mentality places roadblocks that prevents evolving, with an unwanted yet tragic end result.

Judaism has survived for 4,000 years because it has always evolved to meet the challenges faced. There will always be new challenges as well as naysayers who predict a dystopian future for Judaism. We need to continue to express pride and engage in our traditions that have stood the test of time, yet have one foot in the waters of transitioning towards a brighter future. I know that we can achieve something incredible for the Tree of Life synagogue and look forward to what we are becoming. You are warmly invited to be a part of our journey.

Sun, June 23 2024 17 Sivan 5784