Beit Midrash

  • Family and Society
  • The Education of Children and Students
To dedicate this lesson

The Great Countdown

The time has come to reconsider our "independence" in the length of the summer vacation and make it shorter.


Rabbanit Nomi Shachor

Kids (and teachers) have started the "countdown" until the end of June. It says a lot about how we all – parents, children and society value what is done at school. The two months of "vacation" from school, convey our attitudes towards the learning process. One – children "work" very hard all year long, and have "earned" a long vacation. But is that necessarily true – that kids need a two (!) month vacation to recuperate from the "hardships" they went through? I dare to say that the parents need that vacation more…
Another point: In Israel the vacation is also called: "the great freedom". Are we really agreeing to the concept of "freedom" describing the weeks of non-studying? Do we agree to a period of "doing nothing" at all as the proper way to live our lives?
A little of history: The idea of "Education for Everyone" as the state's responsibility is a very modern concept. It began around two hundred years ago in Europe, and later spread to the rest of the world. The Jewish people had already decided more than two thousand years ago to institutionalize the education of all Jewish children. The Torah orders parents the basic role of teaching their children, "ושננתם לבניך - and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children". During the Second Temple, it was decided to open schools with teachers under the community's responsibility, which taught all children. For generations, Jews have invested in teaching methods, institutions and books proving the importance of education. In 1948 when the State of Israel began, it built its education system according to the British system, and we "inherited" the long months of vacation, and the concept of "freedom from learning".
The time has come to reconsider our "independence" in this area. We really should rethink our positions as the main "teachers" of our children and prepare ourselves to the time ahead. We should decide if our children will have a "vacation" or "be free" from all responsibilities – religious and otherwise. Just as parents involve themselves in all aspects of school – there is no reason that we should not monitor camps and other activities during the summer.
Changes can be made by communities. Our school in Shilo, decided to have a "camp in school", run by the teachers themselves, including studying and other activities, at an affordable price. Our Yishuv, Ma'ale Levona, has run for years a summer program for teenagers including Torah studies, work and activities, funded by the parents, the community and the regional council.
If we are an "enlightened nation" when it comes to education, we can be one when it comes to vacation.
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