then, I wonder, how substantive and effective can these communities be as sources of meaning and connection for the individuals involved?  And how well do they function?

Let’s look at an example from a different realm of 21st century life…

Hockey (I am in Canada, y’all…) demands early wake-ups, juggling carpool logistics, physically taxing practices, expensive gear, and demanding game schedules that seem to stretch over the whole of the calendar year and often demand extensive travel.  Families, I have heard, feel held hostage to these schedules… but, no worries, they quickly develop Stockholm syndrome.

Now let us imagine if those involved in that hypothetical hockey team told the coach:

Tzitzit not included.

“You know, my kid is on the team.  And she really wants to be on the team, but she hates waking up early.  Just hates it.  So I think she can commit to coming to practice before school maybe once a month.  And, well, yeah, I really think that spending all that money on pads and skates and helmets and sticks, well… we can talk about that later.  And as for the game schedule, it’s really demanding on my family and you know we have all these other commitments… but she really wants to play so perhaps we can change the schedule a little to make it fit in to our schedule a bit better?”

Any thoughts about how the coach might reply?

And yet, when we talk about Team Jews, we expect all the coaches everywhere to address the following question with great sensitivity and pragmatism:

So how do we teach Hebrew, t’fillah, holidays, Israel, life cycle events, and mitzvot, while inculcating mensch-like behavior and values in under four hours a week, while not conflicting with the community’s soccer schedule?

(This question comes as part of Wren Beaulieu-Hack’s rumination about family involvement in Jewish education and how that might bridge the time gap…)

My short, glib answer:  We don’t.  We can’t.  Especially when Jewishness clashes with Soccerism or Hockeyanity.

When Beaulieu-Hack writes that “parents are demanding and want their children to be Jewish”, I wonder:  How much are parents willing to put on the line to back this demand? Would they be willing to give up soccer and hockey for twelve years if it conflicted with content-and-value-rich Jewish learning experiences? Or, if they are not comfortable with either/ors, would they be willing to commit to soccer and hockey to a substantially lesser degree?

Once I designed a t-shirt with the following slogan:  “JUDAISM – the Ultimate Extra-Curricular Activity!”   It would have made an epic statement about commitment and priorities, but then, I realized, that folks might not get the joke and shelved the design.

And upon re-reading this post (as I did with a previous post), I realized that the tone might strike one as being a bit judgmental about team sports and individual and family choices, but hey, where would I be, as a Jewish educator charged with imparting Jewish values, if I stood idly by (or “on the sidelines” ) and said nothing about whether Jewish learning might have more value vis-a-vis normative Jewish behaviour or the future of the Jewish people than, say, playing soccer or hockey?  And I know full well that in speaking ill of hockey north of the 49th parallel, I take my life in my own hands… but for the sake of the Jewish people, I will not be silent!

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