Two weeks ago I was honored to give a talk about my Meah experience at the Hebrew College Meah graduation. Here are excerpts from my words. Bottom line, I am very excited and optimistic about the future of Judaism. If you want more detail, keep reading.
Like much of Judaism, this was not an individual journey, but a communal one.
Meah. A simple word meaning one hundred. Meah graduation represents one hundred hours of learning. But, being here at Meah graduation is more than that for each of us.
Each of us has our own experience and made the decision to participate for different reasons. Each of us has a different story. In some ways that is the essence of what Meah has been about for me, the stories of so many, the stories of my fellow students and teachers, and the stories of those whom we got to know from generations past.The “why” for me was simple. I wanted to take Meah to fill in the gaps of my knowledge. I went to Hebrew School, spent time in Israel, have been involved in the Jewish community as a layleader, as a professional, even as an educator. But I have always been very self-conscious about the gaps in my knowledge. But it was never the right time. There were kids to raise, committees to be on, travel to do, projects to coordinate, a career to attend to, family and friends to spend time with, a Temple Board to lead – the list goes on.
Having completed Meah I now know, more than ever, that there ARE things missing in my knowledge base. That is not how I expected to feel upon completion. However, I now feel very positive about those gaps rather than negative. I know with certainty now that I will never know or understand everything about Jewish history and the Jewish experience but I feel secure in my understanding that knowing everything is not the goal for me. Somehow that feels comforting and empowering in a way that I didn’t feel before.
What is most striking to me about this set of classes is the way in which it put my own personal and family history into a context that is both personal and universal. I am also acutely aware that the story is continuing and that each one of us is writing the story and is the next chapter of the story. Whatever ways Judaism integrates into our lives and into the lives of our children, grandchildren and community, that is what future generations of Meah students will learn about.
The story is not over. Learning about the beginnings, and all the earlier pieces, has truly served to make me appreciate and actually feel incredibly optimistic about what’s next – which according to the New York Times may be artisanal gefilte fish, slow-fermented bagels, organic chopped liver and sustainable shmaltz- or it may be something else.
Generations before us have struggled to make meaning out of Judaism all across time and space. We are no different. And we are different. We will make and leave our mark and we can’t yet know what it will be. That is an incredibly exciting feeling.