L'dor V'dor: Helping Teens Find Their Place in Jewish History
L’dor v’dor (from generation to generation) are words we as Jews say often. We are reminded each year during the Passover seder to connect the past to the present and to the future, by teaching our children. What better way to teach our children, specifically our teens, than by offering them the opportunity to see, touch, feel, and experience Jewish life in Europe and then travel to Israel. How very lucky I am to have witnessed this experience recently with a wonderful group of NFTY teens.
As a Jewish educator for many years, the six days I spent in Prague, Krakow, and Warsaw were among the most rewarding weeks of my life. Yes, these are normal Jewish American teens, interested in sports, music and French fries, and yet, there was an amazing yearning to learn more about who they are and more astonishingly, about who they are in the context of Jewish history. I am particularly impressed by the level of curiosity and compassion these teens exhibited.
I am a Jewish educator because my grandfather, who was a teacher in Germany before the Holocaust, was not able to fulfill his career dreams. After watching the movie Schindler’s List on the bus ride from Prague to Krakow, we toured the Jewish quarter and its many synagogues. We learned about the richness of Jewish life of Krakow in the pre-Holocaust days. After lunch in the big town square, we returned to the Jewish ghetto and ended the day in the nearby courtyard of Schindler’s factory. Sitting in a big circle, I was given the chance to share the story of my mother’s and my grandparents’ escape from Germany. They were among the lucky survivors who found refuge in a small farming village in France. There they were protected by the kind and brave righteous Gentiles who risked their lives to do the right thing, just as Schindler did.
The goal in any educational setting is to connect the big ideas to individuals, so that ultimately, learners can make personal meaning of the world in which we live. Making such connections is always a challenge, and perhaps even more so in these times, when we are witness to so many confusing and troubling realities. And yet, these NFTY students (members of the Reform Jewish youth movement) have been given the gift of learning experientially, while in the moment. Each day was filled with powerful lessons, challenging them to think beyond the immediate and to connect the past and the present. Their amazing well-trained educators bring the very best of educational theory and pedagogy to their teaching.
L’dor v’dor was truly the message of the week. I am filled with feelings of gratitude at having shared this experience with future leaders of the Jewish people.