Shalom Chaverim (Dear Friends),
This past week, I had the great joy to visit with a young man I taught at the Community Hebrew High School while I was Associate Director at the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee. Rick is 26 years old. After college, he served as a Lone Soldier in the Israeli army for three years and is now working for a Jewish community organization in New York. Over the years, he has gone out of his way to meet me for a meal, a coffee or a beer, whenever we are in the same city. The friendship we have developed and my pride in the mensch he has become is priceless to me. Meeting with Rick reminds me of how important a Jewish education is to our young people. It helped me become the person I am today and inspired me to make Jewish communal service my career, just as it did Rick.
Now more than ever, it is vital to our Jewish future that our teens learn to apply Jewish values to their lives…to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment…to know what it means to be a responsible citizen in our world today. More importantly, they must learn to become that responsible person, for as the Torah teaches us, we are all responsible for one another.
Here in the Valley, we are fortunate to have several Jewish high schools, including the Bureau of Jewish Education’s Hebrew High. It has been providing positive Jewish experiences for Valley teens for over 45 years! The fine instructors represent all our religious movements and include rabbis, high school teachers, lawyers, writers and entrepreneurs. They have a common love for Judaism and a special gift for working with teens. Their experiential service-learning program, Hebrew High Care-A-Van, includes 30 teens who are traveling the West Coast performing mitzvoth/acts of kindness this summer. It is just one of the many BJE programs that are inspiring and engaging our community’s young people.
This week’s Torah portion is Shelach (Send), where Moses sends spies to explore the land of Canaan, the future land of Israel, to see if it can be conquered. We can all be very proud that our Federation dollars are being used by the BJE to “send forth” our teenagers with the tools needed to build and grow the next generation’s thriving Jewish community and improve the world.