Ever since I can remember, my parents taught me success is not about being the best, but trying your best. The end result is out of our control, but what is crucial is the effort invested. This approach reflects a core principle in Jewish thought. Over the past 18 months, as a participant in the Ma’ayan programme, it is something I have been frequently reminded of.
Under the expert guidance of the Chief Rabbi, Dayan Simons, professors at UCL and other professionals, we received advanced pedagogical training in adult education.
The course focused on matters relating to women’s health and halachot (laws) governing marital intimacy. The way in which these complex concepts were brought to life challenged the group in a number of different ways but also enabled us to see one another’s unique skill sets and talents.
There were times when I was pushed out of my comfort zone, humbled by the sheer volume and depth of knowledge presented on topics I had not even encountered before, and I sat in awe as I learnt from our teachers. But I knew this was something I needed to persist with to completion.
My husband and I are blessed to have four beautiful daughters and I am often asked how parents can best prepare their children to be committed to Jewish life and continuity.
For me the answer is clear. We need to live it, make it relevant and find it exciting and meaningful in our own lives. Using the gifts we have in this generation, be they technology, ease of travel, our education system, it is incumbent upon us to make Judaism relevant in every aspect of our lives. Rather than limiting it to shul on a Shabbat morning, Judaism should underpin our every value and practice. In this way, I believe we can be the impetus for our children and the wider community as they ask the questions which form their respective Jewish journeys.
Just as a smile is contagious, I believe enthusiasm for Jewish life breeds yet more enthusiasm. This perspective demands I too, as a parent, continue to question and develop my own understanding and live with genuine excitement about our faith.
Rabbi Ezriel Tauber, a prominent rabbinical figure, provides an excellent illustration. Imagine, he says, a new type of synthetic potato. It smells and tastes like a real potato but has one important difference – when you plant a synthetic potato, nothing grows.
Only a natural, original potato can produce others like it. So with us.
We must invest in our Judaism, make it ours, and in doing so ensure our love and passion will project outwards and influence those around us so it carries forward to the next generation. As a parent I try to adhere to this teaching, and as a rebbetzen I try to impart it communally. On a personal level, this mindset is what prompted me to apply for the Ma’ayan programme.
The effort invested in our programme, the depth of knowledge gained and growth experienced by us all has been immeasurable. Learning and working with an intellectually astute and immensely talented group of women reflects the different voices in Anglo Jewry. Variations in our backgrounds, skills and personalities are clear, but it is a diversity crucial for us to advance women’s learning opportunities on an individual, communal and national basis. There is no “one fits all” approach, and the ten of us reflected that.
The programme is in its infancy, but as Ma’ayanot we are ready to reach out to communities and to enhance their education and Torah learning. In doing so we hope to develop the existing opportunities for the ‘ma’ayan’, the ‘wellspring’ of Torah, to continue to flow.