When Mendy asked me to speak about the Chabad Hebrew School experience at the ceremony tonight my first thought was.. 'Of course!' Most people know I like to talk and I like Mendy even though I can't give him a great big hug. Then I thought...'what is wrong with him?? Why would he ask me when he knows I challenge him with liberal, feminist questions about the Jewish view on everything from women's roles to gay marriage to proof of G‑d's existence? That I often act as if I'm not convinced of the motives of Chabad.' I thought about it for a while & I almost tried to back out of doing it but then started to really think about why my kids are in Hebrew School at Chabad. Something I have half heartedly already done but needed to do more if I was gonna speak honestly about it. So I gave in.....smart Rabbi!

Here is the original reason. Aside from the price being substantially lower than other synagogues and Hebrew Schools, most of my friends were here and they claimed they liked it, a lot. I never liked going to Hebrew School, even a little bit and my child now had the same teacher I had when I was growing up, so I knew what was going on there. It couldn't have been good. I had heard all about Chabad's innovative Aleph Champ program that supposedly transformed the way kids felt about Hebrew School. I learned that it's hands-on and interactive and that kids actually like learning Hebrew. And finally and probably most importantly, I had heard people going on and on about Bracha's sushi salad. Those things coupled with an undeniable sign from Hashem or the universe, that I really could and should leave the temple I spent my entire childhood at, was enough to push me out of where I was and through the doors of Chabad.

Upon trying to come to terms with the kind of Judiasm I wanted my children to identify with, I struggled with what I considered hypocrisy in religion of all forms. Leading me to question whether I should send them to Hebrew School at all or just teach them our rituals and holidays on my own. I had come to feel as if Reform and Conservative organizations were trying to be all things to all people without standing firm on anything, and secretly judging the kind of Jew I was.

What I have found with Chabad, on the other hand, is that it is not trying to be something it isn't. They are Lubavitch. They genuinely welcome everyone at their table, and when you are with them, at their event, you do it their way because they are convicted [in] their beliefs as we all should be. They don't care what you do away from them......they are being Jews the way they want to be; and have convinced me that they are OK with us being the Jews we want to be. As long as we don't give up. I think this is the most important lesson our children are learning from being at Chabad.

In generations past, families would join a synagogue as a matter of course. Maybe even just to get their children Bar and Bat Mitzvah'd. Parents today are even more detached from Jewish life, with a lot of them choosing not to join a temple at all. There is this “barrier of engagement” that synagogues have erected that frontload membership and building fees before families can send their kids to Hebrew School. It's a shame how a lot of temples are so obviously run like a business. [It has been apparent for years that new ideas are essential to create any kind of desire for young Jewish families to connect with their community and help their children understand their Jewish history without all the guilt!

After decades of stagnation in Hebrew education, Chabad seems to have come closer than any other community of Jews to creating an enviornment that my kids can relate to, inspiring them with knowledge and the commitment to continue our traditions throughout their lives. Although a cynic by nature, after hearing countless people, similar in mindset to me, talk about what the entire Teldon clan, who we all know are staples of our community and synonymous with Chabad on Long Island, have done for them, I have come to believe that Chabad's first priority is to engage children and their families in Jewish life in order to keep our history alive.

So thank you to Rabbi Teldon and Brocha and the entire Hebrew School staff for working so hard to ensure that our children know who they are and where they come from. As my Mother always says, “L'Dor V'ador. From generation to generation.

From a speech at the recent Hebrew School End of Year exercises.