What is the value in belonging to a Jewish community? The value is in the values.
Anyone can teach a child to read Hebrew, and if that is too difficult there is always transliteration. But only a Jewish community can instill Jewish values: the values that will prepare a child for life in today’s “truthiness” society.
As I listened to this year’s 12th grade students speak about their Jewish education during their graduation ceremony, I was struck by how they focused on two things that they are taking with them as they head off to college: their connection to their Jewish community and their connection to Jewish values.
“The most important thing that I will take with me is that no matter where I am in the world, I will be thankful for who and what I have, and will enjoy spending time with old and new friends. I can proudly say that Temple Rodeph Torah has and will always have a special place in my heart as my second home.” – Ashleigh Alves
“As I leave the safety of my home and temple to begin this new chapter of my life, I believe that I have been given the skills I need to remain true to my Jewish faith and keep my religion central to my identity. I know that I will always have a place in the Jewish community and in Temple Rodeph Torah, no matter where my life takes me.” – Allie Beutel
“My 12 years of Hebrew School have shaped me as a person, in ways that I will take with me through college and beyond. I have learned how to incorporate Jewish values into my ethics and decision making to help me determine what is important to me in life through the lens of Judaism… The most important thing I will take with me for the rest of my life are the relationships that have formed here at Rodeph Torah. The friends I have made in this class and through RTSY are ones that I know will not fade, and the many educators and clergy members have taught me valuable lessons that will stick with me…As I leave home and begin my adult life, I know that I will always have a home in TRT and in Judaism.” – Jenny Beutel
“Reform Judaism is a key component of my identity; with one of its primary tenets rooted in social justice, it has shaped my relationship with advocacy and civic engagement. Through my experiences I have learned that what I am most drawn to in Judaism is the core value of social justice… I will be able to serve a much larger community and do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.” – Marissa Klass
“One of my favorite lessons was when Rabbi Weber taught the ‘fence around the Torah,’ which means not putting yourself in a position where you might break your morals. I will be sure to keep that in mind during college and for the rest of my life and will always try to stay true to my ethics. I thank TRT for teaching me so much about Judaism and giving me a great foundation on which to learn and grow.” – Tyler Mercado
“I don’t know where I would be in life if it were not for being a part of this temple for almost my entire life. Starting from when I came into Hebrew school in the second grade, all the way to now, Judaism has been one of the most important factors in making up who I am. I have learned what it means to be a member of a community, to stand up for what I believe, and what it means to be Jewish.” – Mark Rivilis
“I am very lucky to bring with me a collection of Jewish values and morals that I have gained through my TRT Hebrew School career. In Judaism, we are taught to question what we are told. I never want to be the person to blindly accept the information I am presented with, and I vow to always attempt to make balanced and informed decisions. I also will take with me lessons of tolerance. TRT has an amazing way of building bonds and finding common ground with the community. Though I tend to be reserved sometimes around others, I will try my hardest to build relationships the TRT way, with an outstretched hand and a kind gesture. Lastly, I will take my faith with me wherever I go in life, to college Hillel and beyond.” – Sydney Schoenholtz
For those of you who are part of the Rodeph Torah community, I hope you take pride in the values we are instilling in the next generation. And if you are looking for a community which will welcome your children (and you), I hope you will come learn more about us. Reading from the Torah is a wonderful skill, but embracing the timeless values Torah teaches will change our children’s lives!
Wishing you a peaceful, wonderful summer,
Rabbi Don Weber