The public communication of most Jewish organizations is all about naked self-promotion, writes Ken Gordon. But what if those organizations changed from being boosters to educators?
Day schools are consistently successful in providing Jewish continuity, writes Ken Gordon. So why don’t we open their learning to the larger community?
This isn’t just the opening paragraph of a classic American short story — the lead-off piece in the collection titled “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities” — it’s an astounding instance of cultural prophecy. Poet Delmore Schwartz intuited our need for home movies to become public. If you’ve ever posted or commented on a home video on Facebook or YouTube, you know how that desire has been realized. Schwartz also shows how viewer response and the main attraction simultaneously vie for attention. From “Mystery Science Theater 3000” to “Beavis and Butt-head” and DVDs with directors’ commentaries, the legacy of “In Dreams” continues.
Last year, I published an essay on MyJewishLearning.com called “Seize the Day School.” I worried about this essay. “Seize” spelled out, in great detail, my own ambivalences — note the plural — about sending my daughter to Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston. I feared that once the piece was published, her teachers might treat my little girl…differently; that the school moms would stop smiling at me and my wife; that our tuition bill would start growing exponentially.
Back in September, JBooks.com, the Web site I edit, teamed up with JVibe*, the magazine for Jewish teens, to throw an intergenerational event called Get Lit 2008. Preparing for this literary *soirée (which featured writers Tova Mirvis, Jonathan Wilson, Adam Wilson and Jon Papernick) was a lot of work, but publicizing it was remarkably easy. Why? A happy accident, really: our publications live in a kind of non-profit kibbutz here in Newton Upper Falls, Mass., and many of our friends and neighbors helped get the word out.