Does anyone really believe that this spiritual spark happens in the typical afternoon Hebrew school or Sunday school? Is a spiritual connection with God going to be nurtured at a Federation fundraising banquet or an Israel-based political action committee? How many families spend consistent quality time together discussing God or Jewish history? How many families even make the unwavering commitment of having Shabbat dinner together every Friday night without interruption?
The time of life when we are most susceptible and open to spiritual nurturing is childhood. Virtually all children who attend 12 years of day school marry a fellow Jew, stay committed to the Jewish people and maintain a spiritual connection with God throughout their lives. There is no statistic anywhere in American Jewish life that can beat that. The sad tragedy is that most young Jewish families can’t afford to send their children to day school.
It is now the month of Elul and the High Holidays are approaching. Jewish tradition has set aside this time of year as a period of internal reflection on our past deeds and a time of resolutions for the future. At this holy and hopeful time of year, when Jews from all walks of life congregate in synagogue, we should commit to the concept that we will leave no Jewish child behind.
It is our responsibility to make sure that high-quality day school education is available, affordable, or, better yet, free, to all who seek it, irrespective of their level of religious observance or financial resources. Providing the opportunity for Jewish education for all of our children is the only guarantee that they will maintain the spiritual connection to Mount Sinai three millennia ago.
In 20 years, when the 2028 Pew Study comes out, we can only hope the statistics will show us to be the most vibrant, spiritual and religiously educated people in America. The way to ensure it is for the Jewish community to pay attention to the pintele Yid in each one of its children.