OUR RELIGIOUS PHILOSOPHY
The Downtown Jewish Community School is inclusive and pluralistic in both philosophy and composition. We serve a diverse community of Jewish families and our school is enriched by children and families representing a wide range of Jewish belief and practice. We respect this diversity due to our deeply held conviction that there are many ways to be a Jew.
The Bible is an important part of the Jewish Studies curriculum. Because of its ethical teachings, The Bible is considered the most important book for the Jewish people. Most Jews understand that, although the stories in the Bible may not be literally “true”, these stories have truths to teach. For example, the story of Adam and Eve teaches us that human beings are all one family and therefore we all have responsibilities for each other, despite our many differences.
The word Bible comes from the Greek word biblos, meaning book and connotes a library. In Hebrew, the Bible is called the Tanach and is divided into three parts containing many books.
Torah: The Torah is also known as “The 5 Books of Moses” (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus & Deutoromy). The Torah starts with Creation in Genesis and ends with the death of Moses in Deuteronomy.
Neviim (Prophets):The Prophets begin with the children of Israel entering the Land of Israel and include ethical teachings.
K’tuvim (Writings):Include all the other books of the Torah which include poetry, stories and proverbs.
DJCS primary grades include some of the child-friendly stories of the first two books of the Torah: Genesis (which has to do with beginnings) and Exodus (which includes the story of leaving Egypt). Study in Grades 3+ include some of the Prophets and Writings.
Grade 5-7 students who choose the Bible enrichment option (available when sufficient interest warrants) have the opportunity for more intensive Bible study of additional chapters of Torah, in English. This study includes selected chapters from the Torah, on a three year cycle.
God and Prayer
From time to time, our older Jewish Studies and Hebrew classes engage in dialogue about the significance of prayer. Several of the most difficult questions Jewish people have struggled with over the ages, such as “Does God hear my prayers?” and “Why do bad things happen to good people?”, are raised and discussed.
Judaism provides no one definitive answer to these basic questions. DJCS is inclusive and pluralistic in both philosophy and composition. We serve a diverse community of Jewish families and our school is enriched by children and families representing a wide range of Jewish belief and practice. We respect this diversity due to our deeply held conviction that there are many ways to be a Jew.
That being said, we are a Jewish religious school. As such, we affirm the strong connection between Judaism and God. We respect the many different conceptions of God within Jewish tradition while understanding that the ultimate concept of “God” is beyond human comprehension.
We can only talk about God in human language. To do so, we use metaphor. In the literal sense, God has no gender, no arms to outstretch, no mouth to speak nor ears to listen. Thus, the idea that “God hears your prayers” can also be understood as metaphor. For many Jews, prayer is not a vehicle for getting God to intervene in the world to cure a sick person or change who wins a game. Prayer is neither magic nor a substitute for action. Rather, prayer may strengthen our own hopes and our own efforts, help us clarify what we truly need, help connect us to our community, or simply heighten our own appreciation of the world around us.
As for why God allows bad things to happen, many people believe that God created people in God’s own image to complete and repair the world. Disasters, illness, wars, etc. are not punishments from God. They are caused by an element of chance/randomness in the world or by destructive human beings who have chosen to do evil. Faith in God is what can give us the resources to cope with our loss and the resolve to choose good rather than evil — to rebuild after a disaster, to care for the elderly, find a cure for disease, work hard for the best candidate, etc.
Rabbi David Wolpe uses the metaphor of light to describe his concept of God in“Teaching your Children about God.”
Light is a sign of God. When I speak to children in a sanctuary, I use the example of the eternal light hanging above the ark. Why is light a symbol of God? Because light itself cannot be seen. What we see is not light, but light bouncing off other things – walls, clothes, faces, even particles in the air.
The same is true of God in this world. We cannot see God. God becomes real to us through other things. God becomes real through the beauty of the world, through the actions of people. But God’s self, God’s essence, remains invisible – or, really, intangible.
Just like light, like justice, like goodness, we cannot see God, but we can know God and bring God into this world. I cannot show you goodness, but I can show you an act of goodness. I cannot show you God, but an act of godliness makes God somehow tangible. That is our responsibility in the partnership. We carry the light so that it can be seen.