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July 29, 2015 / 13 Av, 5775
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Our Chelm-like Leadership And The Crisis In Jewish Education


These suggestions, if implemented, would reverse the rapid course of American Jewish assimilation. Logic and self-preservation would dictate that every national Jewish philanthropic and rabbinic organization stop business as usual and hold national emergency meetings to discuss and implement massive funding of Jewish education.

In many ways we live in a surreal modern-day Chelm, and our Jewish leadership is reminiscent of the Grand Illustrious Council of Wise Men of Chelm.

Should our contemporary version of the Grand Illustrious Council of Wise Men of Chelm meet in the near future to discuss the problem of exorbitantly high tuitions preventing Jewish kids from receiving day school educations, the first thing they would do, in all likelihood, is convene important sounding committees and blue ribbon commissions to study the issue. If past performance offers any indication, they would, after much self-righteous and tortuous hand wringing, publish a very lengthy report with fancy graphs and charts and then do absolutely nothing.

And after all that they would probably implement the precedent of the “fallen buttered toast rule” and opine that Jewish kids are prevented from receiving a day-school education because their parents are obviously not working to full capacity and not earning enough money to pay tuition.

Chelm is a nice place to hear about in fairy tales. It is an altogether different story in real life. Let’s stop this institutional foolishness and join together to demand that every Jewish child be granted his or her legitimate birthright: communally funded Jewish education.

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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.

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