by Daniel R. Weiss
This past week, together with Abby Felsenthal, our Director of Admissions and Programming, Marc Sorin, our Bornblum Board President, and Rachel Phelps, our Board Secretary, I attended the Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools conference in Atlanta. With over 1100 Jewish Day School professionals and Lay Leaders, we were charged to “Dare to Dream”. Using Prizmah’s four impact areas, (1) Deepen Talent, (2) Catalyze Resources, (3) Accelerate Innovation, and (4) Network to Learn, we attended sessions, met with other small schools and enriched our own plans and goals for our school for the coming years.
This week our Torah portion begins a new book of the Torah, Vayikra (Leviticus). The story of the building of the Jewish people and the building of the Tabernacle is complete. The Torah now turns its attention to the actions that take place inside of the Tabernacle and ultimately inside of the soul of the Jewish people.
Our attention must be to do the same. We must not focus solely on the physical structure; we must look at what is within its walls. That is our students, our families and the community that we have built. They are our reason for existing as a school.
Vayikra begins a detailed description of the Korbanot, sacrifices, that were to be brought in the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. If we look at the Hebrew word for sacrifice, we are able to get to the true essence of what the true purpose of a sacrifice was. The Hebrew word for sacrifice is קרבן. The root of which is קרב, which means close. The true purpose of a sacrifice was to get us close to God.
Paul Bernstein, Chief Executive Officer for Prizmah in his eJewish Philanthropy article, at the conclusion of the conference shared, “The 1,100 passionate, determined, optimistic educators, administrators, lay leaders and donors who attended the Prizmah Conference in Atlanta this week – all believers in Jewish day schools – are acutely aware of the sacrifices that so many families have to make to access the kind of quality Jewish and secular education we strive to offer.”
He goes on to write, “Many people ask: is it worth the sacrifice? In the modern era, we too often view the idea of sacrifice negatively.” At the Prizmah Conference, just as the weekly Torah portion opened the Book of Leviticus/Vayikra with its focus on sacrifices, we understood the idea differently.
“Making a sacrifice, in the truest sense of the word, is not negative. Sacrifice is an inherently positive, optimistic act. We are not truly giving something up; ideally, we are engaging in sacred dialogue, gaining a precious relationship. Sacrifice is a sign of closeness, remembering the Hebrew korban – from the same root as to draw near, lehakriv. When we make a sacrifice, it is to become closer to something we feel is important, to stand in relation to something we want to approach.”
Bernstein shares, “Rabbi Jonathan Sacks calls sacrifice ‘the choreography of love.’ We are willing to make sacrifices for what we love. In contemporary societies, people’s willingness to make sacrifice has arguably grown thin.
What is it today that we love enough to be worthy of sacrifice, that we want to draw closer to? Is it to draw nearer to God?Is it to connect more deeply to our children? Is it to strengthen our community? What role do Jewish day schools play that makes them such a hub of so much sacrifice?”
They enable us to do all three – to feel closer to God, to connect to our children, and to build the kind of communities that will sustain us over generations.
“In a world where love-as-sacrifice is being forgotten, the sacrifice to provide a deep Jewish education is more important than ever. Sacrifice for Jewish day schools brings priceless returns.”
In his opening keynote address George Couros, shared the following ideas.
Finally, Taylor Mali, in his book and online videos “What Teachers Make”, says the following:
“You want to know what I make? I make kids wonder,
I make them question.
I make them criticize.
I make them apologize and mean it.
I make them write.
I make them read, read, read.
I make them spell definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful over and over and over again until they will never misspell
either one of those words again.
I make them show all their work in math
and hide it on their final drafts in English….
Here, let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true:
Teachers make a… difference! Now what about you?”
We all have a chance to sacrifice. We all have a chance to make a difference. At Bornblum, I know that we do. Now what about you?