All posts by davidggross

Education, Education, Education.

Imagine that I call you “stupid”. The odds are you’ll reciprocate in kind (or worse). Imagine that I call you “stupid” and bring an OECD study to prove it. You have now several options: you can deny/prevaricate/give excuses or you can accept the central premise while allowing for particular circumstances and societal exigencies.

This is a slightly obscure way of introducing a meeting I sat in on between leaders of the Jewish Federations of North America and two Members of Knesset. All the guests were particularly interested in education and the societal value it had in overcoming economic obstacles, especially in the context of integration of Ethiopians as well as families that have been trapped in a cycle of poverty since the 1950s. The individual that raised the OECD study made the point that a longer school day might go a long way in preventing destructive and ultimately criminal behaviour.

The response from at least one of the MK’s was underwhelming to say the least. It was especially disheartening, given that the individual in question is a well known educator, who has had the benefit of sustained academic education and has been inculcated with intellectual ambition. I wanted shout out “Why shouldn’t these kids get the same chance you got??!!!”

Education has forever been the birthright and the apex of achievement for the Jewish People. Only today, two Jews won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry (http://www.jpost.com/Jewish-World/Jewish-Features/Israeli-scientists-awarded-Nobel-Prize-in-Chemistry-328246). Lehavdil, see the first blog 😉 for what is possible in terms of Torah.

The first step on the way to academic excellence is ‘to know what we don’t know’. This basic humility does more to open ourselves up to all possible avenues of learning than any other approach. These MK’s are still new, let’s hope they have a better answer next time.

After the funeral…

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They say over 700,000 people came to Rav Ovadiah’s funeral today. That’s over 10% of the population of Israel. In UK proportions it’s the equivalent of six cities the size of Birmingham. Obviously, the city came to a standstill. People are stuck all over the country because they can’t get back or leave Jerusalem.

I sat all day trying to fathom the magnitude of the vacuum that has been left by one individual. What an individual! They said that he remembered manuscripts of sefarim in Cairo which don’t exist anymore. In purely terms of p’sikat halacha the work he did is probably equivalent to the whole spectrum of Nobel Prizes several times over.

The fact that President Peres was so moved today shows the breadth of influence that Rav Ovadiah wielded.

Today we lost the last of the giants. Let us not forget that we have the privilege of riding on their shoulders, and make full use of the view.