Providence Hebrew Day School, 450 Elmgrove Ave. Providence, RI 401-331-5327
Feb. 17 Deans letter
Dear Parents, This past week has seen a whirlwind of activity that offered growth opportunities for our parents, teachers and students. It is interesting that all three of these groups are intertwined, and growth in any one of them actually affects all of the groups.
This past Shabbos, our high school girls were treated to an amazing, inspirational and transformational Shabbaton at the home of Rabbi Ben Tzion Klatzko. Immediately upon entering his home, we knew that we were about to have a special experience. We were welcomed into a 50-foot-long dining room that hosts anywhere from 40 to 80 people on a weekly basis. Rabbi Klatzko is an expert educator who speaks to the hearts of every audience, regardless of religious affiliation. I would like to share a lesson from each of the three workshops that he delivered. On Friday, the Rabbi opened his lecture by asking the girls to define Judaism. He said that most people respond to this question by saying that Judaism is a religion. He went on to explain that Judaism isn’t a religion; it is a relationship. Religion, said the Rabbi, connotes a set of rules, guidelines and “dos and don’ts” that unfortunately don’t speak to the neshama of most people. Judaism is a relationship, as the Torah so vividly points out in many places. Examples of this are “Vihiysem li segulah mikol ha’amim – And you shall be special to me from among all of the nations,” and “Banim atem lashem – You are Hashem’s children.” Building a relationship requires us to think about all of the benefits of that relationship, and it also requires an investment on our part. On Shabbos morning, Rabbi Klatzko delivered a workshop entitled “Purple Jacket People.” The goal of the workshop was to analyze through a story how our actions and responses make a difference and that people are constantly looking to us as Jews. On a bitter cold night in Chicago, after shopping in an almost empty store, Rabbi Klatzko returned to his car. He was tempted to leave the shopping cart alone in the now rather empty lot. He remembered his lecture and thought that if he was one of the Purple Jacket People, he was obligated to model the proper behavior, so he rolled the cart on that freezing cold night into the cart aisle. He figured no one would see, but suddenly, the man in charge of the carts saw it and remarked, “Only a Jew would return the cart.” During Shalosh Seudos, Rabbi Klatzko delivered a class entitled “Gates,” where he explained that when we experience a particular event like a beautiful sunset, a visit to a sick person or any other special time, we are granted a moment of inspiration in our lives. It is on these occasions that the gates to Hashem are open. We can choose to run through the gates and seize the opportunity to use the inspiration of the moment to make our own personal resolutions, small or large. However, all too often, the gates are open but we choose not to enter, and we just stand by, take pictures and watch. Rabbi Klatzko closed the Shabbaton by asking every girl to take a piece of chocolate and make a personal resolution out loud. The girls returned from the Shabbaton full of inspiration and are looking forward to the next Shabbaton. I then realized that everything that the Rabbi shared with the students is equally applicable to adults, and I chose to share it with you this week. Rabbi Klatzko’s lectures are available on Torahanytime.org.
The second event I want to mention was a special lecture this past Monday night, where Rabbi Yosef Lipson spoke on the topic of “Reaching Today’s Youth at THEIR Level.” The shiur was well-attended and enjoyed by all, and his words of inspiration will affect the way we as educators view and teach our children.
Lastly, on Tuesday, our entire Judaic staff and our parent body were treated to lectures by the world-renowned educator, author and speaker, Rabbi Dov Brezak. Using fascinating stories based on his own experiences, Rabbi Brezak reminded us that all principals, teachers and parents must realize that we live in a world that poses new challenges to our chinuch system, both in school and at home. We must recognize these challenges and use strategies to build our children; by focusing on their positive traits and educating and parenting with lots of love and caring, we can hope to achieve success. Special thanks to the following individuals and agencies for their support of this special event: Mrs. Elisheva Bielory for urging us to bring Rabbi Brezak to Providence; Mr. Nadav Minkin for driving Rabbi Brezak round- trip, from and to NY; Providence Community Kollel for co-sponsoring the event; and a number of anonymous donors, who helped to defray the cost of this special project.
As I look back at this week, I realize that we are a community that places such a high value on staff development, parenting and, most of all, creating a vibrant partnership between the home and school. As we all grow together, there is no question that our joint efforts will enhance the future of our children.
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman, Dean