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A Bunch Of Waldos


Where are the presidents of the major Jewish organizations? Why is funding Jewish education not the number-one agenda item on any Jewish organizations’ annual meeting? Why is funding Jewish education not even a significant topic at any Jewish organizational annual meeting?

There is a terrible piece of black humor circulating among many young Jewish families – families that are committed to sending their children to Jewish day schools but are struggling to pay the $15,000 tuition per child. The joke is that tuition is the best form of birth control. In fact, many families are limiting the number of children they have because they just can’t fathom paying an additional $15,000 per year per child.

Do we not comprehend the current tragic state of affairs facing the wealthiest Jewish community in the history of the world? Jewish education has become a philanthropic stepchild relegated only to the wealthy and those families willing to assume mammoth financial sacrifices, while more children are not being born because tuition for Torah education is cost-prohibitive.

We should not be surprised if a new book is soon published that closely resembles the Where’s Waldo? series. Instead, the new landscape would be the contemporary Jewish organizational maze. Hidden within that picture, the readers’ task would be to answer, “Where’s the Waldo Jewish Leadership?” that presided over the Generation That Abandoned Jewish Children.

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It makes no sense. It defies logic. You’ve got two reliable statistics from two reputable sources and yet they stand in utter opposition to each other, like statistical non-sequiturs.

Released in 1987, Where’s Waldo? was the first of illustrator Martin Handford’s Waldo series of books to become a sensation. Where’s Waldo? introduces readers to the eponymous hero, a distinctively dressed young man who sets off on a worldwide journey. Waldo travels to everyday places, like the beach, ski slopes and the zoo, each of which is detailed by two-page illustrated spreads filled with people and activities. Somewhere amidst the intricately crowded scene is the camouflaged Waldo, and readers are asked to scour the detailed illustration to locate the lost traveler.

Nearly 52 years ago, on October 5, 1956, a newly released movie billed itself as “the greatest event in motion picture history.”

There is an allegorical story about a luxury passenger ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean that hits an iceberg and begins to sink. On the lower decks, the crew and passengers make a valiant but unsuccessful effort to plug the hole in the ship’s hull. On the upper deck, first-class passengers rearrange the deck chairs, sun themselves and play shuffleboard, seemingly oblivious to the disaster around them. Meanwhile, the ship’s band plays on.

Every year Forbes magazine publishes a list of the highest paid individuals in the world. This year Forbes informed us that the actor Johnny Depp made $92 million while Nicole Kidman was Hollywood’s highest paid actress, commanding an estimated $16 million per movie.

Every January, in an annual rite, nearly half of all Americans make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight. About half of those will pledge eternal servitude to their new diet plans. Sometimes the diets work – in the short run. We drop a size or two, look younger, more svelte and bask in insincere gratuitous compliments from colleagues and friends. But two-thirds of Americans who lose weight gain it back within a year. Over 90 percent gain it back within five years.

Everyone is familiar with the age-old question: If a tree falls in the forest, but nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound? To some, that may sound like a silly rhetorical quandary, but it actually provides a wonderful metaphor to describe a huge problem facing today’s Jewish community.

In Yiddish folklore, the real-life Polish town of Chelm was characterized as a legendary community of fools. According to this folkloric tradition, Chelm’s residents were exceedingly proud of their tradition of non-wisdom and convoluted insight into the world’s problems. They viewed themselves as brilliant.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/a-bunch-of-waldos/2008/06/12/

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