(Guest columnist, Rabbi Dr. Wallace Greene, is the Executive Director of The Shulamith School of Brooklyn}
The frum world has always lived in its own little bubble. This is by design and of necessity in order to maintain and transmit our values and lifestyle. Our schools and institutions have thrived despite the external and existential threats posed by the secular world. Sociologists and other observers of the phenomenon can speculate why, but we live in a time period when we have drifted far to the right both politically and religiously and this tendency is continuing.
At the recent Torah Umesorah Presidents’ Conference the keynote address was delivered by Jay Schottenstein to whom we are all indebted for his many philanthropic endeavors, especially the Art Scroll Talmud. He presented an impassioned appeal to no longer be silent about the importance of Israel in our schools. Given the world’s silence in the face of ongoing terrorism in Israel, he urged Torah UMesorah leadership to ignite the flame and encourage passion for Israel among our students. We need to speak out and stand in solidarity with Israel. [His address is available on line at http://matzav.com/tonight-live-on-matzav-8-pm-est-torah-umesorah-presidents-conference-thursday-night-keynote-session/ -at 58:30]
For too long Israel has been the stepchild in many yeshivos. Modern Orthodox day schools all teach about Israel and Zionism but it is still a treife or at best a pareve subject in the right wing schools. This cannot continue. The battles over ideological and secular Zionism are not the issue. Our children need to be informed and educated about the history and significance of Israel after churban bayis sheni. The issue is not Medinas Yisroel vs. Eretz Yisroel. Yisroel, Oraisa, Kudsha Brich Hu, chad hu. We can no longer ignore the reality of Israel’s existence. We can no longer pretend that it has no theological significance. We can no longer withhold from our children a chelek of their heritage. It is flagrant negation of our educational responsibility to our children if we cannot convey to them why Israel is important in their lives. Especially today.
It is clear that we are not advocating militant secular or settler Zionism. This is not a call for aliyah. It is simply unconscionable not to educate our children concerning that place about which we daven daily. Fasting and reciting tehillim have their place, but do not replace an understanding of why Israel is in danger and how we arrived at this situation. It’s not Rav Kuk z”l vs. the late Satmar Rebbe z”l. It’s not even about Agnon or Koret. We’re talking about basic knowledge and information.
The Shulamith School of Brooklyn was the first religious girls school to open in Brooklyn in 1930. It is today, and has always been proudly Zionistic. It is sad that Shulamith is still the only frum girls school in all of Brooklyn that marches in the annual Celebrate Israel Parade in New York. It is even more unfortunate that there are some families who may not consider Shulamith because this pro-Israel position may hurt shidduch opportunities !
Mr. Schottensrein’s call to action is right on target. Many will vehemently disagree with his point of view. He is not telling schools how to it, just to do it. It’s a classic case of accepting money but not supporting the ideas of the donor. Will the leadership of our religious schools heed his admonition? Not to do so is irresponsible and kafui tov.
(Rabbi Dr. Wallace Greene is the Executive Director of the Shulamith School of Brooklyn. He also administrates the Alisa Flatow Memorial Scholarship Fund for post high school study in Israel}