What we are talking about when we talk about...
October 22nd, 2021 | 16th of Cheshvan, 5782 | Vayera וַיֵּרָא
Dear Beit Rabban Community,
It's that time of year... admissions season! Prospective parents start getting to know our school and community, exploring our values and education to determine whether this is the best home for their children and families. Teachers and students eagerly share when visitors stop by, current parents offer their wisdom to prospective parents, and our admissions team welcomes folks and stewards them through these complicated decisions. Despite the diversity of the families who inquire, they all ask about "Beit Rabban Judaism". Are we affiliated with a particular denomination? Are we pluralistic? Is hat the same as non-denominational? What does all of this mean in terms of our formal education and our lived Jewish experience. As you might imagine, these are my favorite conversations. We love admissions season.
Our wise admissions team thought it might be helpful to write a fairly succinct description of Beit Rabban "Judaism" for our website. Apparently, not every prospective parent is interested in starting a lifelong conversation about the future of the Jewish people. So, here's the website-length explanation:
We believe that the future of the Jewish people depends on our children’s ability to forge their own Jewish paths with depth, commitment, and love. As a non-denominational Jewish school committed to empowering our students, we educate toward fluency in text and practice and cultivate passionate and joyful Jewish life. Our Jewish education is rooted in the tradition of “shivim panim la’Torah,” there are seventy faces of the Torah. We embrace a multiplicity of opinions and traditions and foster a nourishing space for students to explore and refine their own beliefs.
When we describe ourselves as "non-denominational" it is not simply descriptive of the makeup of our parent-body. It is, in fact, true that our community of families and staff is Jewishly diverse, and we are very proud of this diversity. It is great from an educational perspective as students learn to respect and navigate difference. We also know that for this diversity to be educationally relevant, we have to ensure that each student can practice Judaism as is their custom with full integrity. Yes, the Jewish diversity is real and powerful and complicated, but this is not what we mean when we say we are non-denominational. We would be committed to a non-denominational education even if 100% of our families affiliated with the same denomination.
What we mean is that we believe that deep education empowers, inspires, and equips students to live their own lives, not the lives dictated to them. If we are in this for Jewish continuity (as I certainly am), we should ensure that our children connect personally to our texts, traditions, practices and people: that they know them, understand them, question them. To be clear, it is not about you do you, and I'll do me, and we are all equally authentic and compelling. It is about each child having equal access to the sort of Jewish fluency that will build their confidence to articulate and then apply their Jewish beliefs as they continue to mature.
Practically, this means we spend a lot of time learning Jewish texts and practices. It means we invest time in making personal meaning of our texts and traditions. It means we consider the practical implications of our texts and traditions on our world. This sets up a trajectory toward true ownership of Judaism. The sort of ownership that empowers our children with the passion and the skills to address whatever opportunities and challenges our people and our world face in the many decades to come, even as they step into the role of educating their own children.
Wishing all a restful and rejuvenating Shabbat,