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October 10, 2003
 

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PAGE 4 The middle school steps up Between bar mitzvah and baseball, I've spent a number of columns talking about my son Ethan. But I have a fantastic daughter as well. Jerica is 10-years-old, a fifth-grader at the Hebrew Day School. She swims competitively, rides horses, paints, sings, fits in with almost any group, has lots of friends, is mature beyond her years, and has a smile that could light up the East Coast during a blackout. She's also prepar- ing for middle school. That's the interesting topic of conversation at our dinner table these days. You see, after a great K-5 education at the day school, Ethan has gone on to even greater suc- cess and happiness at a different private school. Meanwhile, our 3-year old is in the Gan Rishonim program at the J CC. So whether J erica follows in her older brother's footsteps or stays on the same campus with her little brother, we'll still be making two trips to schools next year. By Carl Alpert Guests in our sukkah HAIFA--Sukkot is a family holiday, and it comes as light relief following the emotionally more demanding Rosh Hashanah and om Kip- pur. Those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to erect a sukkah and partake of our meals under the palm fronds, have the opportunity of additional experiences. According to a tradition known as "Ushpizin", we symbolically welcome major Biblical characters to join us in the sukkah. Thus, the names of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jo- seph, Moses, Aaron, and David are uttered in the welcoming prayer, but of course no one expects them to appear. In our family, however, we have for many years made it a practice to extend the list to include other interesting personalities. These, too, may not be to appear in person, butwe can imagine interesting conversations with in- teresting people. This year, in addition to family, friends and neighbors, when we utter the tradi- tional invitation, "Enter, exalted, holy guests," we shall include a number of others whom we have long wanted to meet. Since the original Biblical septetare all males, we have always included one or more women in our list. And first, this year, will be Sonia Peres. Since her husband, Shimon, will undoubtedly be politically active on that evening, we offer her our hospitality. She has been distinguished by her complete dissociation from her husband's public life, unlike the wives of other public figures. She did not even attend the gigantic party marking Shimon's 80th birthday, which drew personalities from all over the world. We should like to ask her: Does Shimon talk politics at home? Does he seek her advice? Does she offer comments on policy, even if not asked? She is said to be a pleasant ixrson, and we hope she will open up in the intimacy of our sukkah. On another nightofthe holidaywe plan to call on the spirit of Moshe Dayan. In recent weeks the country has been disturbed by what is sup- posed to be an expos~ of what went wrong with Israel's defenses when Egypt sprang the Yom Kippur War on us. Dayan was in the thick of thin~s. What can he tell us? Were there warnings that were ignored? Did Golda Meir, then Prime Min- ister, respond as she should have? What does he have to say about charges that in order to avoid blame for acts and decisions that were his re- sponsibility, he allowed the blame to be shifted on to others? The whole country is asking these and many similar questions. He should be able to provide answers - if he will be willing to talk. We shall press hard. For the next night, another woman, but this time the wife of Yasser Arafat. While he is under a state of siege imposed by the Israeli army on the shattered buildings in Ramallah, she and their child are said to be living in comfort in Paris. Does she hear from him often? Does he ask about the child? There is talk that Israel may expel him and send him abroad. Would she look forward to his joining her? Theirs was never considered a great romance. Perhaps she'll con- fide in us. We shall not ask her what she thinks of Israel Her views are well known. For a change of atmosphere, ~ve plan to invite the orchestra conductor, Zubin Mehta, a native of India. He was first invited to fill in as guest conductor of the Israel Philharmonic in 1961 when the scheduled conductor became ill. That began an association which has continued to this day, culminating in his designation as Mu- sical Director for life. What does he think of the state of music in Israel? Does he think there is a special Jewish talent for music? What are his views on the playing of Wagner in Israel, consid- ering the feelings of many Holocaust survivors on the subject? And perhaps delicately, does he have any views with regard to the future of Israel's relations with the Palestinians? The country certainly needs advice, so why should we not invite our traditional wise man, Solomon? He reigned over this country almost a thousand years before Christ and built an empire that extended from Egypt to the Euphrates River. With it all, he enjoyed friendly relations with all the neighboring states. Does he have any advice for our present government? True, his rule ran into difficulties in his latter years, but even that experience may be helpful to us. Should we ask Arik Sharon to join us for the evening? These are going to be busy and interesting evenings in our sukkah. We shall be stimulated as we give our imagination full rein. Whole worlds will open up before us, and we shall require more time to ponder and evaluate what we have heard. The remaining sessions in the sukkah must be left for that purpose. We shall certainly not lack food for thought, in addition to Nechama's delicious and healthy meals. THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT. O O CENTRAL FLORIDA'S O ISSN 0199-0721 Winner of 36 Pre~ Awards INDEPENDENT JEWISH VOICE O O Editor/Publisher Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Gene Stare Kim Fischer HERITAGE Florida Jewish News ( I SN 0199-0721 ) is published weekly for $34.95 per year to Florida ad- dresses ($41.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Central Florida Jewish News, Inc 207 O'Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park, FL32730. Periodicals postage paid at Fern Park and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER P.O. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 emil: Heritagefl@aol.com Society Editor Bookkeeping Gloria Yousha Elaine Sehooping Account Exe~tivtt Barbara do Carmo Marci Gae.~r Contributing ColumoistJ Jim Shipley Carl/dpert Michael Gamson Tim Boxer David Bomstein Gall Simons Production Department David Lehman Teri Marks Charlene Weiss HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH Truthfully, we had assumed all along that Jerica would be somewhere else next year. Now we're not so sure. The reasons for our uncer- tainty are twofold. First, she's had wonderful years and a solid education at the day school, and loves her teachers and friends there. Second, the middle school sounds like it's headed in the right direction, thanks to strong lay leadership and a zealous commitment by Dr. Barry Render to grow the school and retain more students as they move from fifth to sixth grade. The biggest stumbling block faced by the Selznick Middle School has, since its inception, been its size. Classes of 10-15 teenagers just sounds too small to most parents. During a time when there's an increased need for socializing, a tiny, cliquish environment hasn't appealed to a broad base. What's been pointed out to me, however, has really turned my head. There's no doubt that the Hebrew Day School offers a quality education, and has thetest scores to prove it. While it's also true that many private schools don't tout or release their pupils' scores, it's easy enough to presume that the day school's status as an elite learning institution would hold up. There's also a case to be made for what size school can be equated with success. Is it 150 middle school students? Is it 100, or 75? There are stable, successful Jewish day schools around the country that have populations of less than 75 students. While growth is an important, per- haps even a critical Component of the Selznick Middle School's future, we shouldn't hold out a number of students that in and of itself will determine a level of success. Finally, I'm really excited about the possi- bilities of a friendly partnership with Orange- wood Christian School. The talks include Or- angewood students coming over to the day NEWS, OCTOBER 10, 2003 ,> school to study Judaism, Hebrew, Latin, and other advanced programs that the day school has, and for day school students to study Span- ish, Christianity, college entry level math and other advanced programs that Orangewood offers. Pins, athletic coaches and ball fields may be shared. Orangewood has a great soccer program, baseball fields the opportunities are exponential, and the potential to get an even better, more well rounded education while learning about cultural differences and simi- larities between Jewish and Christian teens is especially exciting. So we're weighing our options. I will tell you that our ultimate decision will be based on what's best for Jerica. And beyond that, I hope everyone knows that the Patricia R. Selznick Middle School is in the process of doing what's- best for its future - improving and advancing in every way possible. P.S. To the letter writer who challenged my request for an evaluation of the middle school - please remember that leadership isn't based on support of an institution but support of a com- munity, and Jewish values don't get imparted solely to kids who attend a Jewish school from K-8. Jewish identity starts at home and gets rein- forced in myriad ways, from synagogue to a solitary year of day, school to many years of Jewish education. It s up to us as parents to do what's right for our kids, and that may lead us in many directions. The opinions expressed in this column are the writer's, and not those of the Heritage or any other Jewish organization. That's the good word until next week. Write the Heritage, or e- mail your comments, critiques, and concerns to dpbornstein@earthlink.net. Stemming the tide of assimilation and intermarriage in America By Harvey Blitz, President and Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Executive Vice President, Orthodox Union The results of the National Jewish Population Survey, delineating an aging, shrinking and increasingly intermarried Jewishpopulation are not surprising, but are nevertheless alarming. They represent the extension of trends previ- ously spelled out in the 1990 population survey, especially in terms of assimilation and its off- shoot intermarriage, and the steady loss of Jews from our small population. The real value of this kind of survey is not merely a listing of statistics, but appearing as it did before Rosh Hashanah, serves as a shofar call to awaken the Jewish community to what it must do. Let us face the facts- once an individual chooses to marry a person of another faith, that person is almost certainly lost to the Jewish community, as are the children from that mar- riage. Lighting Chanukah candies once a year is symbolism, but it does not make a child Jewish --- particularly if the Chanukah candles are in front of a Christmas tree. As we know, when the 1990 study was pub- lished, the Jewish community was shocked and galvanized into action -yet more than a decade later the figures are still so grim. We understand that the results would have been even worse had these actions not been taken, but we as a com- munity have a long way to go to stem the tide of indifference and lack of pride in one's Jewish heritage that have produced this demographic debacle. We'therefore propose a four-part plan to attack the community's demographic ills. Our plan is as follows: Jewish Education: This is the number one priority. Education should be emphasized in all of its forms, both formal education in Jewish schools, and informal programs such as camp- ing and Israel trips. The OU's highly successful National Conference of Synagogue Youth for years has emphasized these informal approaches, directed both at Orthodox teenagers and non- observantor unaffiliated young men and women. These programs work. In contrast to American Jewish society as awhole, the intermarriage rate of involved NCSY members is close to zero. The emphasis on Jewish education must in- clude not only its quality and expansion but its funding as well, as tuition costs continue to climb, making formal Jewish education unat- tainable for many families and causing severe economic consequences for others. Strengthening of Synagogues. Synagogues have to determine how best to relate to their communities, how to build their congrega- tions, how to improve programming for all levels of observance, and how to be friendly and welcoming places. The OU's Department of Community and Synagogue services will re- double its efforts with our synagogues on these approaches, providing advice and program" ming; working with them on building leader7 ship; creating more opportunities for positive growth both individually and communally; and ultimately bringing them closer to our Torah and Jews worldwide. ,~ Strengthening and Encouraging the Jewish Family: Assimilation and intermarriage do not happen overnight. The Jewish family is the first defense against these threats to the communitY. The Jewish community must emphasize pr.O- grams to help singles marry other Jews, to help families flourish, to help them cope with their challenges, to give them resources to turn to. To give two examples: For the past several years the OU has presented highly successful progra# nationally in positive parenting; this summer, a successful pilot program was held for strengtW ening healthy marriages. Outreach Programs Must Reach Out Fur ther: We must intensify contacts with indiffe~ ent Jews, adults as well as young people, develop programs for them. NCSY is an example of how to interact with youth. Even as we ser~ Orthodox youth through NCSY, we will incre~ our emphasis on outreach to Jewish young rn~ and women who know little or nothing of th ~ heritage. The purpose of NCSY outreach eff0~ is to make these young people aware of tht~ beauties of Jewish life and observance, of trts richness of their traditions, of the importance. ' Israe! in the life of the Jewish people, of delight of the Sabbath and the holidays, an ! the way they can live as committed Jews and,S~2~ be modern young adults. NCSY makes it cir. that you can be young, cool, aware, and a o voted Jew. This is not a proble m any one of us on our can solve. The community as a whole rn~ devote its resources toward assuring imprrOw" I results in the next survey. ,2~/~ I I Let us all respond therefore to this t~ [ Iq gedolah of the National Jewish Population~,~,~1 vey with a concerted effort to step up our ~i,I to preserve the Jewish people as an integral~ 1 of American society -- to see us grow, to l[ flourish, and to produce a community ] I with the beauties of our Jewish heritagel~ i with the goal to live our lives as devoted JIev~ ~ | The Orthodox Union, now in its second ~, tury of service to the Jewish community ~ I[ "q North America and beyond, is a world lead t"~,/) community andsynaggo ue services, adult ~'-~1 :~ |l " ~ cation, youth work through NCSY, p011~:r, | action through the IPA, and advocacy for ~r | sons with disabilities through Yachad and WoP Wre Way. Its kosher supervision label is the ~ ~ ' most recognized kosher symbol and ca~,~e, found on over 275,000 products manufacttl / z~ in 68 countries around the globe. ,~o l