Sunday, January 15, 2012

How Far Have We Come?

I am on a plane traveling to Atlanta for the North American Jewish Day School Conference.  Over 600 Jewish educators will come together for the next three days to share, reflect and learn from each other.  I look forward to writing about the conference, but not right now…

For me, the notion of flying to Atlanta, the birthplace of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the weekend of his birthday and the National holiday which marks his birth, is quite powerful. In school on Friday, our 3rd graders and their teachers conducted a wonderful assembly that taught all of our students a bit of the civil rights movement and about Dr. King’s life and vision.  Historically accurate and appropriate for the K-8 crowd, the assembly program stopped short of bringing the issues to the modern day.

We have come a long way since the days of state sponsored segregation.  But as I reflect on our world today, how far have we really come and how much further to we have to go?  As a parent, I can’t help but think about my children and what they know, how they see the world and how the world in which they are being raised will welcome them.  I also wonder if I am giving them enough to be agents of change—the tools, the desire and the commitment to these values.  We live in a world of inequality, where men still make more money than women, where communities and neighborhoods are not fully integrated, not necessarily by design, but there are places that it does exist.

And in today’s New York Times, a lead article in the New York edition talks about the challenges in Israel right now, where a segment of the population wants to limit the public view, the role and the rights of women.  There is so much to say about this topic and the feelings that it evokes for me as a Jew, as one committed to Israel and as a person who just can’t understand how this can be allowed in a modern country.  As an educator who will shortly take 33 8th graders to Israel, I am thinking about what this means to them and what my obligation is to show them and to teach them about what is going on, to enlighten and to educate.  I don’t know if there is a link between these two ideas, but I think there is a lot that we can learn and teach our children that can transform the next generation.

Change can be a slow process, that I understand, however, I wonder if our collective consciousness is aware and ready to fully engage in the next step to making our communities places where we can live out our beliefs about equality and fulfill the dream of Dr. King while expanding it even further to make our world that makes us proud.

Yes, we have come a long way, but I think the road ahead of us is even longer. How far have we really come?

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