by Rabbi Ofek Meir
Rosh Hashanah 5781
Dear Leo Baeck Education Center Family and Friends,
The Hebrew word “shana” in Rosh Hashanah, has two meanings L’shanot (to change) or L’shanen (to repeat anew). This year, more than ever, we have been challenged with the dilemma of what to change as we adapt to the new normal and what to preserve moving forward.
For me, at the helm of the Leo Baeck Education Center, I often feel as if I am in a triage center, setting priorities on the basis of what is truly important. I hope that lesson I learned from this process may be helpful to you as you begin the new year.
For 41 years, every student who entered our school had the honor of hearing the famous 1,000 days speech by my Rabbi, teacher, and mentor Rabbi Robert Samuels z”l, who spoke about the journey that lay ahead. This journey always starts with a Shabbaton called “Machane Dworkin” where 60 rising 12th graders run a camp for the 400 new 10th graders.
It is a formidable experience leaving an imprint for years to come. let me share two examples of the impact “Machane Dworkin” has on students and staff alike.
First, most of our students experience a Progressive Kabbalat Shabbat for the first time. A student, Maya, observed, “I was first introduced to Progressive Judaism at Dworkin. When I went to the synagogue on our campus, I wanted to take my seat but couldn’t find the women’s section. Sitting all together in a synagogue was new to me and I liked it very much. Now I am looking for a way to fuse my traditional roots with my developing Jewish identity.”
The second, is about our “Leo Baeck values.” Mullan, a Druze student at Leo Baeck from Daliat El Carmel said that Dworkin is about, “…Respect and equality. I have always felt respected here and always have every opportunity to speak my mind. When I went to Dworkin I was a little afraid. But my counselor made me feel welcome, as she did everyone else. When I will be a counselor, I will treat everyone fairly and equally and that is how they will learn to do the same.”
“Machane Dworkin” is one thing so important that I will never cancel it. And so… we found a way to carry on in a different framework but ensuring the same goals are met.
What is your “Machane Dworkin”?
What MUST you preserve in your life, albeit in a new way?
My wish for the new year comes from Pirke Avot:
It is not up to you to finish the task but neither are you free to refrain from it.
In this way, we change our year in order to repeat it again.
Wishing good health to you and your loved ones,
Rabbi Ofek Meir, Headmaster and Managing Director