Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Calling All Jew-Ju's

Shalom: I have been working with students, teachers, schools and communities within the Jewish world for the past thirty five years. During this time, I have held a variety of positions, met tens of thousands of Jews from all walks of life, all denominational movements, every age grouping and from within just about any sub-group you can name. Through all of these encounters, I have been privileged to meet and learn with and from so many people. I always loved the idea that Kohelet, my favorite book of the Tanach, was written by (as many say, Shlomo HaMelech) the one who gathered the sayings and collective wisdom and learning of all that he had seen and experienced. As Madame Chiang Kai-shek once stated “We are all the sum total of all we have done, everyone we have known, and everywhere we have been.” I think that this is true of all of us and that if we are tuned into this awareness, we will all find the book that is inside of us waiting to be written.

One of my most important role models and a personal hero would have to be Nechama Leibowitz. Now of course, so many people know her valuable insights and articulate writings as she explores the meaning of Torah texts, using the added lens of the commentaries that expound on those texts, particularly Rashi. What is important to remember is that her recorded words of wisdom used by so many on all levels of learning were originally from her notes as a high school teacher. I have always taught as well as learned with and from classes throughout my career and intend to do so for many more years to come, G-d willing. I love teaching because of the incredible energy of a number of people who are a community of learners for a specified period of time and are together for the purpose of sharing and growing together, collecting their accumulated insights and observations as they consider important matters. These insights and writings in this blog are the result of some of these classes, these shiyurim, of which I am privileged to be a part.

A word is in order about the format. I am a strong believer that “questions unite and answers divide.” I value the questions we ask and learn the most from the quandaries that my students and colleagues pose as we study and explore texts together. Therefore, each writing in this blog presents, shares if you will, ideas that have occurred to me in the course of study and each one begins as well as ends with a question to show the lack of completion of the journey and that there clearly remains a need for further study, further exploration and further searching.

Why this blog at this time? Many of my students and colleagues keep pushing me to write and to publish the content of these lessons and different lectures I have given through the years. This I have done as well, but I like the idea of ongoing conversations – a virtual (in both senses of the word) expansion of the physical classrooms in which I spend so much time – so I am venturing into this new venue.

Why the name? Jew-Ju’s is my answer to Jew-Bu’s; that is to say, as there are Jews that often have to move outside of the pale of Jewish teachings and understandings to find themselves as Jews (and so many of these move onto Buddhist circles), we can find the same answers, challenges, and resolutions (if not solutions) to our many quandaries and concerns within Judaism. As the adage goes, the answer you seek is often right in front of you – just see it!

Please join in the conversation as I begin this new venture in facilitating this shared virtual community of seekers, thinkers and believers.



Dr. Saundra Sterling Epstein
Director, BeYachad – Bringing Best Educational Practices and Jewish Education Together

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