The Mishna says, “Lo haMidrash haikkar, elah ha ma’aseh” – “Study is not the essence [of life]; rather, it is how we translate the study into action that counts.”
As we approach summer, our office goes into high gear planning the coming academic year. We plan holiday celebrations, special programming and guest speakers. Often, we include trips within driving distance of the temple to bring the core curriculum to life. We try to be creative, inspiring and thought-provoking to encourage our students to ask questions: after all, this is one of the most important things we teach.
We also include projects which we hope will reinforce our message of repairing the world one person at a time, with the ultimate goal of building community.
This past year we collected money and donated goods to create “emergency bags” for families and elders in need, especially in Monmouth County. We all felt the impact of Superstorm Sandy, but most of us had the resources necessary to wait out the resulting damage. We had blankets and water and flashlights and batteries and canned food. So our Kindergarten through 7th graders sorted and packaged over 100 huge bags to give away, which we did to a remarkable food bank/resource agency in a church on the Shore.
Our second task was a result of helping Reverend Smalls, the tireless pastor of the Lion of Judah Faith Center in Trenton, which is one of the recipients of our annual toy and clothing drive. When we asked her how we could help her church in an even more meaningful fashion, she mentioned that their Fellowship Room of her church desperately needed painting. So a group from the temple, including parents, children and teenagers on their own, helped her congregants restore the room into a usable area to gather. We ate together and talked together and learned a little more about each other’s communities. We followed that with a contribution to help them purchase new carpeting for their church, since their old carpeting had been damaged by a leaking roof.
Finally, in conjunction with the Social Action committee, a part of this past Mother’s Day was spent planting flowers and delivering them to residents of Sunrise Assisted Living on School Road East.
Our High School program included a Hanukkah party at the nursing home, sending lollipops overseas to a member of our community’s Army battalion in Afghanistan and volunteering to help restore normalcy to our area in a project called “Sea Bright Rising.”
What will we do this coming year? Our school and the Social Action Committee will begin the year with a “Backpack Brigade,” providing essential school supplies to needy children in our area. We will build on our efforts to provide Thanksgiving dinner for the hungry and Passover food to Jews unable to provide for their own families. And we will continue to respond to the cries of those less fortunate than we are.
Why do we do this? Why do we make Social Action part of our religious school curriculum? Because “Lo haMidrash haikkar, elah ha ma’aseh” - ”Study is not the essence [of life]; rather, it is how we translate the study into action that counts.” Because when we try to explain who we are to people new to our temple and new to our area, we respond by telling them what we do. After all, that is truly the essence of Temple Rodeph Torah.
I wish you a wonderful summer, and I am looking forward to learning with your children and repairing the world with your children, in the fall!