Focusing on What is Within
by Daniel R. Weiss
Daniel R. Weiss is the Head of School at Bornblum Jewish Community School in Memphis, Tennessee.
Just prior to Shabbat this past week, my family hung our Mezuzah on the front door of our home. We had been in the home for just barely one month and knew that we had 30 days from when we moved in to hang our Mezuzah. The reason for this is that less than 30 days (a month) is too temporary. Living somewhere for a full cycle of the moon, shows permanency.
The blessing that we recited when we hung the Mezuzah really resonated with me. We said the words, Likboah Mezuzah, to affix, make regular or permanent, constant. When we hung our Mezuzah, we did so to make our stay in Memphis permanent. We are no longer visitors. We live here. This is our home.
The idea of a Mezuzah is a form of protection. We often forget that what makes the Mezuzah important is the scroll within rather than the casing on the outside. The casing, is called a bayit, a house. It does not matter what the bayit looks like. What matters is what is contained within.
The same is true of a person. It is less important what we look like or what we wear, than what is contained within. So too for our school. We are blessed to have a beautiful facility. It is warm and inviting. But what is even more beautiful, is what is contained within, our students and our families. They are what we need to make permanent. We need to focus our attention on what is within.
An article by Iliana Glovinsky, in the San Diego Jewish Journal illustrates why it is essential to send our children to Jewish Day Schools. The article titled, “Seven Reasons to Send Your Kid to Jewish Day School” explains the author and her husband’s decision to “tighten (their) belts” in order to instill a Jewish identity in her children. The seven reasons that she cites are: values, community, excellent education, individualized attention, a love for Israel, Jewish continuity, and well-rounded students.
I want to highlight three of Iliana’s seven reasons and her explanation: excellent education, individualized attention and well-rounded students.
“3. Excellent education. There is the misconception that by dividing the day between secular and Jewish studies, secular education suffers. Far from being a hindrance, the double curriculum enhances students’ skills and academic confidence. A recent meta-analysis of 90 studies on the effects of different types of schools concluded that `students in religious schools enjoy a significant academic advantage over their counterparts in traditional public schools and charter schools.”‘
“4. Individualized attention. Jewish day schools offer the opportunity to cater to the individual needs of the students and develop personal relationships between the children and school staff. The small student-to-teacher ratio allows the teachers to get to know each child, understand their needs and motivation. This helps the child acquire a strong academic foundation and a positive attitude toward learning.”
“7. Well rounded students. Jewish day schools do a good job of educating well rounded students who have a love of learning, who are connected, who take responsibility in their communities and support Jewish institutions, who have experienced spiritual growth and who are ready for the challenges posed by the world. The focus is on the whole child, his or her intellectual abilities, potential, emotional well-being, family and environment.”
As a community, it is our responsibility to make sure that our Mezuzah is well protected. We rely on the community to strengthen the bayit, to help reinforce, to hold up, if you will, the scroll. As our community school, I look forward to helping to make sure that not only are our scrolls secure, but that what is written on them in not only accurate, but is written with love so that it becomes indelible.