Mary Itri, a fifth-grade general studies teacher at Stephen S. Wise Temple Elementary School, hugs one of her students after being named a 2012 Jewish Educator Award recipient. Photo courtesy of the Milken Family Foundation

by Elliot Rabin

As we draw closer to the transition between RAVSAK’s close and NewOrg’s emergence, I find myself taking stock of RAVSAK, thinking about my feelings of admiration and collegiality for the numerous extraordinary day school educators and supporters in our world, and reflecting upon the splendid jewel that is a community day school. The work of leading, teaching in, and sustaining community day schools requires absolute passion and commitment, along with equal doses of wisdom and intelligence. This work requires stakeholders to give of themselves, all of the time, and I’m continuously amazed at the overflowing wells of energy, ingenuity and generosity found on every CDS campus. In this post I use the word “I” a little more than I’m used to, because I want to describe my own personal belief in the cause of community day schools–the ideals and values they live out, the miraculous achievements they represent.

I’ll start with a couple of personal stories. The first took place one time that my wife and I were on vacation in the country. We were in a small town that had a shul, and when we walked inside Shabbat morning, we found a devoted circle of congregants discussing the parashah with the rabbi. During the conversation, one of the more active and passionate members, who said he was a Jew by choice, expressed that what he loved about Judaism was that it encouraged people to think for themselves. Judaism gives us a rich tradition of stories, laws and debates, and leaves room for many voices to join the ancient, ongoing choir. This is the Judaism taught in community day schools.

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