Looking Toward the Jewish Future: The Story Continues
Me’ah is a simple Hebrew word meaning “one hundred.” It’s also the name of a program at Hebrew College, an intensive Jewish educational experience designed for busy adult learners of all backgrounds. After graduating from the Me’ah program, I am very excited and optimistic about the future of Judaism. Though Me’ah graduation represents 100 hours of learning, the Me’ah experience represented much more than that for each of us who participated. Like much of Judaism, my Me’ah experience was not an individual journey, but a communal one.
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 Me’ah 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 Me’ah to fill in the gaps of my knowledge. I went to Hebrew School, spent time in Israel, and have been involved in the Jewish community as a layleader, as a professional, and even as an educator. But I have always been very self-conscious about the gaps in my knowledge. Still, the time was never quite right to fill them in. There were kids to raise, committees to serve on, places to travel, 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 Me’ah, 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 of the program. However, I now feel very positive about those gaps, rather than negative. I now know with certainty that I will never know or understand everything about Jewish history and the Jewish experience, but I feel secure in my understanding that the goal is not to know everything. Somehow, that feels comforting and empowering in a way that it didn’t 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 that we are the next chapter of the story. Future generations of Jews will learn about the ways Judaism integrates into our lives and into the lives of our children, grandchildren, and community – whatever those ways turn out to be.
The story is not over. Learning about the beginnings, and all the earlier pieces, has truly served to make me appreciate and 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 schmaltz – or something else entirely.
Generations before us have struggled to make meaning out of Judaism all across time and space. We are no different. And yet, 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.