Friends, this week my colleague Eric Maurer, Executive Director of JTConnect, shares his thoughts on how our Torah portion relates to Jewish continuity. Federation is proud to support JTConnect's teen education and engagement programs. Shabbat Shalom. - Howard
The historian Simon Rawidowicz wrote a famous essay in which he described Jews, with our constant fear of extinction, as the "ever-dying" people. Rawidowicz argued that almost every generation of Jews has feared that it was the last.
This theme can be seen in this week's Torah portion when Joseph - recently reunited with his brothers - urges them to return to Israel and gather their belongings and relocate with their father Jacob to Egypt. Before agreeing to travel, Jacob insists on sending his son Judah ahead to establish a school for the family.
Jacob looks ahead and fears for his family's future. He realizes that the only way to preserve his family's Jewish identity is to ensure that Jewish education is available from the start. Only by making the children the top priority would Judaism continue to thrive in the generations ahead. And this value has followed our people throughout history. Our citadels are schools and our greatest heroes, teachers.
We also understand that in order to fulfill Jacob's vision, we need to do more than just establish institutions of learning where we impart information to our students. Rather, Jewish education is about instilling within our children a love for Yiddishkeit - the Jewish way of life - and fostering within them the moral compass our tradition demands.
We are lucky to live in a Jewish community that shares Jacob's emphasis on education and invests so much in our children. From day schools to Hebrew schools, summer camps to youth groups - Greater Hartford puts its community support where its priorities are.
Through Jewish Teen Learning Connection (JTConnect), I am blessed to work with a talented group of educators and Jewish professionals who encourage our teens to explore their own personal Jewish journeys. Through classroom learning, volunteer opportunities and experience-based programs, JTConnect strives to instill a love for all that Judaism represents.
As one teen recently said, "JTConnect shapes my relationship with Judaism. Through my many personal discussions with rabbis and teachers, I've learned how multifaceted Judaism is, and how everything I do and am connects with it."
She is not alone in her experience. Hundreds of local Jewish teens explore, deepen and celebrate their Judaism with JTConnect every year. This would not be possible if our community didn't value and prioritize our children. It would not be possible without the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford's steadfast support. And it would not be possible if we didn't continue to be concerned - like Jacob and our ancestors before us - about our future.
Jewish Teen Learning Connection
Photo caption: Teens in JTConnect's Monday evening program light candles for the seventh night of Hanukkah.