Saturday, October 22, 2011

Connecting Gilad Shalit's Release with Jewish Values

A few weeks ago the NY Times' Thomas Friedman wrote a piece in which he lamented how Americans have lost sight of their original values. I gulped, thinking that I share a similar concern, only mine is over the loss of Jewish values among Israelis and the Jewish nation at large. On the spot I decided to devote part of the holiday gap period between now and Hanukkah to customs revolving around important Jewish principles. Then along came Gilad Shalit's release from captivity, the role the Israeli public played in this 5-year campaign, and voila! I knew I had the launching pad for customs relating to Jewish values. And I also realized that we're not as bad off as I thought.

What is it that connects the Gilad Shalit saga to Jewish values? That cardinal rule: Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh la'Zeh -- All Jews are Responsible for Each Other. Yes, it was the Shalit family that waged a tireless campaign. However, when a summary of the past five plus years was shown on Israeli TV the night Gilad was released, it became clear that it could not have been accomplished without the unending support of the Israeli public. Endless public protests, marches, petitions, concerts given by popular singers, and even a mock solitary confinement campaign conducted by the country's celebrities this past June turned the Shalits and the country into one gigantic extended family. Right after his release Israelis who never met Gilad showed up at his house to greet him. Not because they were nosy. Because they had fought for his freedom all these years. Because Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh la'Zeh -- All Jews are Responsible for Each Other. 

How does this translate into the classroom? There's a lot to work on. Let's start with cliques and their impact on other students. Next come the loners. How can you make them feel part of the class? Gilad Shalit was in isolation but we now know that he didn't feel totally "alone" since he knew about all the support he was getting back home. And last but certainly not least, let's get a handle on bullying. We want our children to learn how to stand up for each other, not emotionally or physically abuse one another. As we witnessed with Gilad Shalit's captivity, we Jews excel in organizing protests. So, how about planning an anti-bully protest in school. Have kids create their own placards, develop anti-bullying slogans that can be chanted, have kids speak out against bullying. At the same time, find out why the bullies are bullying. There may be some deep-rooted problems that you can help solve. It's all part of being responsible for each other.

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