The Education Series: UJEB’s Response
By Marlo Newton:
It is time to stop blaming parents for the choices they make, and start celebrating every Jewish choice that we can make possible.
It’s time to stop blaming schools for being what they are, and start expanding what school is and who it is for.
UJEB runs the largest Jewish educational enterprise in Victoria. We reach over 1500 students a week, and after 117 years of operations we’ve seen a lot of different approaches to Jewish education. I think we should beware of anyone claiming they have one way and one approach, for our community.
We need our half-hour a week class in government primary schools at virtually no cost, to open a doorway to the exciting world of Judaism. We need options of hour, hour and a half, two-hour classes, after school once a week or twice or on weekends, to teach Hebrew language and Torah and a lifelong approach to learning. We need shabbatonim and camps to deepen and strengthen our Jewish friendships, our love of Israel, and our ability to live Judaism 24/7. We need family education to take our families on the journey, not leave them behind at a drop off point. We need to include more high school students in designing their own curricula, with pathways through their interests, while opening their hearts and minds to new ideas.
We need to stop saying it’s this school model OR that one, and start saying every child needs access to a quality Jewish education. That access includes welcoming children with special needs into our schools, and our camps, and our institutions. That access means accepting those who look or sound different from ourselves, those with whom we disagree, about religion or sexuality or politics.
We need to stop saying it’s up to the major donors, or the new generation, or Tattslotto – educating the community is about using the resources of the whole community to benefit the whole community. We need to share more than we already do – teachers, curricula, resources, infrastructure, really good ideas. We need to be proactive in reaching every family, and responsive to where they are geographically, financially and emotionally.
We will reap what we sow.
If we can make it possible for every child to attend some form of Jewish education, then we will reap the benefits of an informed community.
If we employ passionate and qualified teachers and keep them motivated and inspired and appropriately rewarded, then we will reap the benefit of an engaged cohort of students.
If we provide multiple pathways into this community, through synagogue and sport and art and music and language, and Israel and social justice and study and special events, we will reap the benefits of a dynamic and diverse community where there is a place for everyone, according to their interests and enthusiasms.
If we make our celebrations of festival and lifecycle joyful and welcoming and inclusive, then we will reap the benefit of the attraction of that joy to others.
We will reap what we sow.
Marlo L Newton is the Executive Director of UJEB.