Twice in the past week I have had the privilege of learning Torah and exploring big ideas with passionate and engaged adults in our community.
Last Friday, at our weekly staff Oneg Shabbat (Shabbat celebration), about 50 of my colleagues came together for breakfast and a discussion of the weekly Torah portion. Given that we are reading about the Exodus from Egypt, we discussed what it means to be enslaved and to be free, and how we experience cycles of exile and redemption in our own lives.
Colleagues from every faith and cultural background participated, which highlighted for me what an engaged and passionate professional community we have here at CJP. I was inspired by the willingness to delve deeply into the wisdom of Jewish tradition, to explore universal themes about the human condition, and then to reflect openly and honestly about our personal journeys. As I near the six-month mark in my new role here at CJP, I am grateful to be part of such a purposeful and growth-oriented professional culture.
Teaching is one of my great joys, and my week began with a class of devoted adult learners. We have been studying together for years. I find it amazing that this group of highly accomplished and incredibly busy individuals makes fixed time in their schedules for learning.
Committed to exploring their Jewish identities and deepening their relationships with Judaism and with one another, our group wrestles with texts and big questions about Jewish identity, ethics, and spirituality. There are so many other examples of formal and informal groups like this, and this commitment to creating an intellectually and culturally vibrant community is one of the ways that our Greater Boston Jewish community is unique.
As the Exodus story nears its climax in this week’s Torah portion, we read about Passover and its rituals. It is a holiday that encapsulates what Jewish education is all about. At the heart of the Passover seder is the charge: “B’chol dor v’dor — in every generation, one is obligated to see herself as if she personally went out of Egypt.” To most effectively pass our story and our values on to our children, we need that story to speak directly to us. We need to seek meaning and relevance for ourselves.
Thankfully, we live in a community so full of diverse opportunities to learn, and we live at a time when online classes and resources put thousands of years of wisdom at our fingertips. Now, it’s up to us to walk the walk. The most powerful way for adults to transmit Jewish culture, traditions, values, and identity to the next generation is by living them, modeling them, and always striving to learn more.
Rabbi Marc Baker
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About the Author
CJP President and CEO Rabbi Marc Baker is an educator, writer, and leadership mentor who is devoting his life to Jewish learning and building Jewish communities.