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Colleyville, CJL, and Jewish Identity

01/26/2022 04:10:06 PM


This week’s Torah portion from the book of Exodus, Mishpatim, contains the famous verse, "Then he took the record of the covenant and read it aloud to the people. And they (the people) said, 'All that the Lord has spoken, we will faithfully do'!"  (Ex. 24:7)  This text describes a key moment when we joined together as a Jewish people.   On Saturday, January 15th,  Jews of all denominations were again united when we collectively held our breath during the hostage crisis at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, TX, and we rejoiced together, when, due to Rabbi Walker’s bravery and the congregation’s recent security training, all of the hostages emerged physically unharmed.

The vision of the CJL includes the goal to “foster and support the growth of its students as Reform Jews, so they may find meaning in their Jewish identity in our rapidly changing world". As part of that, our mission states that the CJL lessons and activities are designed “to help students form a personal connection to the Jewish Community, its heritage and practices as well as issues facing the community".   Therefore, we created opportunities - where appropriate -  to discuss the hostage event in Colleyville during our Wednesday CJL classes.   Some of our teens were eager to process the event with their teacher and peers. Our Confirmation class (10th - 12th grade) led by Rabbi Jaech discussed the event in the context of antiSemitism, noting the differences between the antiSemitism in the 1930’s and Colleyville, specifically looking at the actions of law enforcement (compared to Kristallnacht) and the response of the interfaith community in Colleyville. Another teen class led by CJL Faculty Instructor Stacy Shapiro discussed the event in the context of Jewish peoplehood.  In Kitah Vav (6th grade) led by our CJL Faculty Instructor Susan Smith,  we discussed Colleyville in the context of a unit on Jewish role models, and we reflected on how Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker is a modern Jewish role model. In some of our CJL classes,  the discussions elicited more questions than answers.  

The event in Colleyville encourages us to reflect on our Jewish identity and shared peoplehood.  Rabbi Avram Infeld , a renowned Jewish educator, describes Jewish identity as a five-legged table.   According to Infeld, the five legs represent memory, family, covenant, a relationship with Israel,  and Hebrew.  Ideally between the school and the family we are strengthening our children's Jewish identity in all those areas. The harrowing event in Colleyville elicited reactions and support from the global Jewish community, demonstrating that these legs of Jewish identity amongst our global Jewish community continue to stand firm.

A week after Colleyville, our Kitah Hey (fifth grade) Instructor Judy Kropf led the Kitah Hay class in a  Zoom conference call with an Israeli classroom of similar aged students in Israel.  The Israeli students asked our students, “Do you feel more American or Jewish in the United States?”  Our students had a range of responses, that in the CJL and that among their Jewish friends they felt more Jewish while out in the street or in public school, they felt simply American.  Through the Zoom call, our students played games, laughed, and connected to our Jewish mishpacha (family) in Israel. 

I would like to encourage everyone to discuss  Rabbi Infelds’s metaphor of the five-legged table with our families and child(ren). What are the components which comprise your family’s Jewish identity?  On which legs does your Jewish identity stand?  Although the CJL begins these discussions with students in our classes, our Jewish identities will be strengthened  by continuing this discussion and demonstrating support for these ideas at home. Together let's make sure the Jewish unity which began at Sinai continues to be strengthened in the next generation. 

Thu, June 30 2022 1 Tammuz 5782