June 19, 1991

by Rabbi Daniel Schur

The pressing problem of Jewish empathy-assimilation and intermarriage was the cause for the proverbial modern day Chelemites to sit three days and three nights, and contemplate a solution to this serious problem facing the masses of our people. Again, millions of dollars will be wasted to find a solution to this problem, although the solution to Jewish survival faces us smack in the face, but the Chelemites are reluctant to accept it. A Chelemite was drowning, and set up a desperate hullaballoo. "Help! Help! I'm going under!" A passerby, on the shore, heard the drowning man's shouts. "Why are you making such a todo?" he yelled back. "If you can't swim, can't you, at least, get out and learn how?"

I will not charge millions of dollars for my advice, but my advice is worth its weight in gold. As teachers of religion, ethical and moral laws, we must adopt the tried and proven pedagogical method of teaching by example. It is futile to preach objectively. Words are hollow and meaningless, if the speaker cannot prove their feasibility, and, what is even more important, the teacher's personal sincerity. Our sages warned us long ago -- "First adorn thyselves and then adorn others." How much substance can we await from sources that spring from unobservance and disregard for Mitzvos? Teaching by example - our grandmothers appreciated Judiasm more, when they toiled almost to collapse and fatigue to make their homes ready for Pesach than the women who attend lectures in the Temple and ridicule as obsolete - the changing of the dishes. One observance of a Mitzvah will give the student a more comprehensive understanding of the subject than ten written essays.

Teachers, who for the most part, are ignorant in the field of Halacha and open the Shulchan Aruch for the sole purpose of exposing its impracticality without reverence for the sources that went into its construction - such teachers today are responsible for intermarriage and assimilation. Teachers who make light of the sacred Sabbath and water down the religion by teaching Torah as biblical literature are breaking the panes and shattering the windows of Judaism.

Jackie Kochevi, Community Sheliach, was asked, "What are some meaningful Jewish experiences that may interest children?" His answer, and I quote, "A trip to Israel or a summer camp experience often has a positive impact on a child. Eight days in Israel is the same amount of time as a whole year in a congregational Shul." It doesn't speak well for our congregational Shul's educational programs. Jewish appreciation - Jewish existence - Jewish eternity - "eight days in Israel?" The patient has Cancer - take an aspirin.

When, at some future date, present day American Jewry will be judged for its merits and achievements, the redeeming factor and the most positive aspects of our Jewishness will not be found in our poorly attended palatial synagogues, nor in our flimsy achievements in interfaith relations, not even in our philanthropic endeavors, as praiseworthy as these may be. It will be the achievements in positive Torah education - authentic Torah education that will be admired and considered redeeming by future historians. The establishment, growth, and above all, the aims and influence of our true Torah Yeshivos will be the monuments to present day Jewry. These, and only these, are the guarantees for Jewish survival, the sureties against our disappearance as Jews, and in a broader sense, it will be this Biblical spirit that will safeguard mankind against the horror of mass destruction, under who shadow we have now lived for almost a generation.