Rabbinically Speaking with Rabbi Hauptman

Rabbi Shaya Hauptman, Head of School, Torah Academy of Jacksonville


Back to school…BACK TO SCHOOL?! Our heads begin to reel from the onslaught of ads in the papers and the signs plastered all over Walmart and Target. That very familiar yet uncomfortable feeling wells up deep inside, striking a mixture of fear and relief into every parent’s heart. It’s been a long summer, perhaps too long, and we’ve been itching to see our children get back to their daily routines. Alas, the flashbacks of those late-night emails from the teachers and principals, the temper tantrums and the stressful studying before tests causes us each to begin questioning, “Am I truly prepared to go through another ten months of this? G-d, help me!”

But school doesn’t have to be this way. The Torah places great value on education and literacy, while balancing the burden with the understanding that we are to guide each individual child on his or her own path by utilizing the skillsets unique to him or her. When we partner with our schools to ensure that our children’s individual needs are met, and the school creates a warm and personalized environment, those concerns begin to fade.

Furthermore, what makes a Torah education so vital to our budding Jewish future is the content of the material combined with the positive influences surrounding them day in and day out. When our children are taught the values and traditions we’ve been gifted at Sinai by teachers who live by those self-same values, everything changes and it all becomes worthwhile.

Understanding that learning offers more than the ability to pass standardized testing, but actually guides intrinsic growth in every one of our children is a fundamental principal of Judaism. Jewish consciousness refers to it as learning lishma, or, for its own sake. Can there be a more potent lesson or means of alleviating the pressure on our children when we teach them that, although tests are an important part of memory retention, the ultimate goal is to learn for the sake of learning?

Are we concerned that we’re sacrificing too much to offer a Jewish education to our children? Perhaps they would have a better chance succeeding at life were they to be inundated by extra coursework and advanced placement opportunities. Studies have proven that Jewish education offers something rare in today’s society: the ability to think critically. In a world steered by rapidly changing news cycles and trends which grow more ridiculous and more dangerous by the day, it’s comforting to know that our children are shielded during their formative years.

Brooklyn Law School Professor Dr. Aaron Twerski notes in an article in Crain’s New York Business that the largest and most successful photo supply company in the United States is owned and operated by Jews with a Torah education. Torah-educated Jews also own major commercial and residential construction companies, and they are accountants, comptrollers and computer experts who hold high positions in banks and other financial institutions. Our day school graduates enter the business world with skills that are often superior to those taught in secular schools.

True, school isn’t easy, but neither is child rearing in general – and it’s not meant to be. The challenges of life are a gift to us, no less precious than the gift of our children. May we all avail ourselves of the traditions and values so fundamental to our heritage, to grow day by day and show our children just how important their education is. And remember, when you start missing them hanging around the house all day, well hey, summer is just 10 months away!