Though this post is based on an experience that I had, and in some respects facilitated, it isn’t a post about me. It’s a post about Jewish Day Schools and the importance of spontaneous Judaism. Where else in North America could a group of 60 4th graders possibly find themselves in the midst of an impromptu Jewish song session during lunch on a Friday afternoon in the middle of February? Seriously, where else? And where else would such an occurrence be experienced as a unexpected delight but also as something completely within the realm of possibility for a typical day at school?
Then multiply these experiences – the hawk and the song session, by, I don’t know, a thousand? Every day, every hour, every moment that a Jewish Day School like The Davis Academy is open for business there exists a unique and compelling potential – the potential for spontaneous Judaism.
One of the unintended (and I think detrimental) consequences of being in the Diaspora is that Judaism is something that gets scheduled rather than being something that just naturally occurs.We wait until Friday night, Saturday morning, or some other time to allow ourselves to enter into a Jewish state of mind or to be in the midst of a Jewish community. Even if someone were to find him or herself unexpectedly yearning for a Jewish experience in the middle of a random day, the likelihood of being able to honor that yearning is unfortunately minimal. I don’t think this is a controversial observation.
The hawk, the song session, the ability to recite Kaddish on a regular basis for a grandparent that has recently passed away, the casual and unplanned theological conversation with the rabbi or Jewish studies teacher, hearing Hebrew spoken in the hallways… The power in each of these is their authentic spontaneity. More than merely episodic, this spontaneity is essential if we’re going to embed Judaism in our lives in compelling and meaningful ways.
I hope I’m describing a phenomenon that many Jews value. If authentic, spontaneous, contextual, informed, substantive, and meaningful Jewish experiences are still of value to the Jewish people, then Jewish Day Schools offer the greatest likelihood of providing them on a random Friday afternoon in February.
Rabbi Micah Lapidus, Ed.D. is the Director of Jewish and Hebrew Studies at The Alfred & Adele Davis Academy, Atlanta’s Reform Jewish Day School. He is a member of the board of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and an alum of DSLTI (Cohort 8).
cross-posted on Rabbi’s Pen