Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
“Remember for good the man Yehoshua ben Gamla, because were it not for him the Torah would have been forgotten from Israel. At first a child was taught by his father, and as a result orphans were left uneducated. It was then resolved that teachers of children should be appointed in Jerusalem, and a father [who lived outside the city] would bring his child there and have him taught, but the orphan was still left without tuition. Then it was resolved to appoint teachers in each district, and boy of the age of sixteen and seventeen were placed under them; but when the teacher was angry with a pupil, he would rebel and leave. Finally Yehoshua ben Gamla came and instituted that teachers be appointed in every province and every city, and children from the age of six or seven were placed under their charge.”
— From the Talmud, Bava Batra (Yehoshua ben Gamla lived in Jerusalem 1st century CE)
If you’re Jewish, the importance of education is emphasized from a very young age. Our history has taught us about the many benefits of education: maintaining a connection to G-d’s laws; having the tools to function in the greater society; developing a commitment to learning, discipline, and dedication to our roots; and devoting ourselves to the future of the Jewish community.
Other groups, particularly Asian folks, also treasure their education for many of the same reasons. And the commitment to pursuing a secular education is also a priority for Jews. In many ways, however, the commitment to Jewish education, per se, seems to be fading.
A book could be written about how many Jews have fallen away from being engaged in their religious education. Some of those reasons can be summarized here: diminishing interest in following Jewish law; loss of stature for religious education overall; engagement with other “gods,” whether materialistic, religious or political. For these Jews, Jewish education has taken a back seat.
It also points to the negative influences of outsiders to education overall. We only need to look at our own public schools to see the degradation, biases, misinformation and narrow agendas that are dominating our schools. In one sense, we could say that the declining involvement with religious education and Jewish education may be a growing indicator of the abandonment and distortion of the teaching of US history and values in public schools. Just as religion is suffering from the temptations of the modern world, so is the appreciation of this country’s humble beginnings.Published in