Serious Pluralism, Serious Judaism, Serious Democracy: Aryeh Geiger z”l

Haim Watzman South Jerusalem lost another of its pillars this week. Aryeh Geiger, a religious educator for whom the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin signaled the need for a complete revision of religious education in Jerusalem, passed away this week after a four-year battle with cancer. I, and my daughter Misgav, were among the many hundreds … Read more

Jews, Despite the Holocaust–“Necessary Stories” column from The Jerusalem Report

Haim Watzman

Dear Niot,

You told Holocaust jokes at the table on Friday night. Ima and I grimaced and tried to segue into a discussion of the boots you are refusing to buy and your insistence on trudging through the Polish snow in running shoes. We acknowledged that telling jokes with your classmates would be a legitimate way of letting off pressure during your trip, although we didn’t think the ones you told us were particularly funny.

It was then that I knew how I was going to write this letter, a letter that your teacher asked us to deposit with him in a sealed envelope for you to read, in Hebrew, when you arrive in Poland. That’ll be at about the same time that The Jerusalem Report’s readers receive it in their mailboxes in English (and thanks for giving me advance permission to share it with them).
I reminded you that when your older sister and brother wanted to sign up for their class trips to Poland’s Nazi death camps, in what has become a routine part of the Holocaust curriculum for Israeli high school seniors, I objected. “Why?” you asked.

I explained that I don’t want my children to be Jews who are Jews because they are victims. I don’t want my children to be Israelis because the world hates them. Our history, tradition, and culture are rich and powerful and provide adequate reason to want to be a Jew and an Israeli even if Hitler had never been born and the swastika never had reigned.

When your sister said she was going to Poland anyway, I was reminded of a comedy skit I once saw at a club in New York.

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What’s My Kid Doing in This School

Gershom Gorenberg

While the outrageously dedicated volunteers of Limmud – the grassroots Jewish study festival – bounce me around South Africa, Ha’aretz has gotten around to publishing my article on the dilemma that moderate religious families face in Israel as they seek an education for their children (Hebrew original here, English translation here):

At the gates of the state religious schools, in many places in Israel, two cultures meet. One, religious and modern, turns over its sons and daughters to the other, more insular, to educate them in its stead. The parents live with their children alongside secular families in mixed neighborhoods. A quick glance at a list of the teachers’ phone numbers reveals that many live in settlements or in neighborhoods known as Haredi or Hardali – religiously ultra-Orthodox, politically ultra-nationalist.

The geographic gap reflects a rift in attitudes toward religion and toward the wider world. It expresses itself in how each side relates to secular culture, to non-Jews, to the limits of rabbinic authority, and to the manner of thinking about politics…

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