Friday, 30 November 2018


“There are two ways to live. You can live as if nothing is a miracle. You can live as if everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein

As we are approaching the Jewish holy day of Chanukah, we prepare to commemorate the story of heroism of the Maccabees. For many, though, that holiday is mostly associated and linked with the term “miracle.” We hear about the miracle of the can of oil that lasted 8 days when it should have sufficed for one day only. We also hear of the miracle of the victory of few over many.

For some, it is unreasonable to believe in miracles. Not for me.
That is why I elected to live my life according to the latter part of Einstein’s quote. In a way, it was my destiny. It is the kind of a reality I was born into, a reality that had been shaped by a world devoid of vision, trust and hope.

Lest some may deem my words a riddle, let me explain.

It is not a secret that I am a daughter of two Shoah survivors. Their survival was, in my view, a miracle. It transpired against all odds. And if some define the term “miracle” as defying all laws of nature, then their survival, without a doubt, was one. I will not tire the readers with episodes from their life while facing the fragility of their existence under the oppression of the Nazi war machine. Their kind of horrific experiences and those of others who went through it have been documented. Those records are publicly available.

Neither am I going to sit here and play the victim. That would be too easy.

Instead, I chose to celebrate my parents’ survival. It was a miracle, just like many other milestones in Jewish history. Miracles are the golden thread that runs through it. The more we, Jews, accept that notion, the greater is our celebration of Life.

Through my parents’ unwavering gift of Life, and by default, I, likewise, consider my presence here, on this earth, a miracle.

And no miracle should be wasted.

Whether one believes that miracles are predestined and are part of a grand scheme of our universe, or disjointed, with each creating their own miracles, in either case, it is futile if gone wasted. Preserving the outcome of a miracle, vesting and upholding it is an art that some are yet to master.

One way to grasp the significance of miracles in both our Jewish, private and national life is to sustain and carry the memory of how bitter and harsh life had been before the miracle occurred. Memory through commemoration is the process in which we tie our past experiences and apply the information to our present and hopefully make it better and safer for all. 

And that, dear readers, is one of the messages of Chanukah.

May we all continue to live our life as a miracle and join in its celebration.

Chag Sameach

Thursday, 29 November 2018

The Age of Anti-Intellectualism

“People do not like to think. If one thinks, one must reach conclusions. Conclusions are not always pleasant.” 
Helen Keller

What a scary scenario, if you ask me.

As a teacher, it is my task and, above all, my duty, to raise young people to think, foster and support inquisitive minds. It is also my duty to teach them to weigh data and relevant information in an unbiased manner. As hard as it may sound and be, it is a mission (and teaching, in my book, IS a mission) that should be aimed at educating and encouraging them to not let one’s personal beliefs interfere or stand in the way to pursuing the truth based on facts and concrete evidence.

Unfortunately, as the quote by Helen Keller suggests, this does not seem to always be the case in our modern world.

True, we are exposed to an abundant amount of information but are not always given the tools nor the time to address it, analyze it, form our own opinions and reach our own conclusions about it. Many opt for the easier, faster way of internalizing it, through immediate absorption, without bothering to check its accuracy, veracity or separate the essential from the trivial.

I see such dysfunctional approaches in many of the subjects taught at today’s school. It is reflected in the way students perform on tests or projects. I mostly see it, however, during discussions of current events.

I make it a habit to discuss current events every lesson. The areas we cover include culture, sports, historical events that affect our daily lives and of course, politics. The last two realms are where I encounter such trends as described by Keller, most.

Whatever happened to personal, cultural and historical integrity, I keep asking myself as I hear students sharing their news items. In many cases, they parrot what they hear or read in the news outlets without even one bit of effort to cross reference or check the sources, their credibility or even accuracy. As far as many are concerned, if it is on the news or somewhere on the internet, then it is a Gospel.

I fear for their future. To grow up in a world devoid of personal responsibility, honesty yet copiously filled with narratives and semi truths which are planted merely because they suit someone’s agenda, can, in my humble view, only lead to disaster. What I see and what keeps unfolding itself to me is a “herd mentality” at its best.

What is even more scary is the notion that if some pro-intellectualism (as opposed to the titular concept of anti-intellectualism) individuals dare stand up and address such intellectual dishonesty, they are being chastised and isolated.

Permit me, at this point, to quote a well-known Jewish writer, thinker and philosopher, Achad Ha’am. I remember reading him as part of my High School education in Yisrael.
Achad Ha’am distinguished between Archaeological Truth and Historical Truth. They are not necessarily, he claims, one and the same.

Unlike Archaeological Truth, be it in the form of exhibits or other, which can confirm real events in the history of mankind, Historical Truth, unfortunately, is on many occasions, the one that fuels and dictates the life of humanity. According to Achad Ha’am, whoever leave their mark on humanity’s timeline, even if they are the figment of someone’s imagination, that entity becomes a Historical Truth to many. Hardly, the “intellectual” approach to addressing vital issues, if you ask many educators. Sadly, what we see more and more is the encouragement to the avoidance of thinking.

Is that the purpose of education? Is this the goal of imparting knowledge and information? Do we want to create a generation bereft of the ability and the desire to express, not their own personal truth, but facts in the form of hard evidence? Can we, at this stage, afford to relinquish our moral and intellectual compass to truths other than the ones that can be substantiated, valid and at the same time reasonable as well?

Like many of my past articles, I would like to end this one on a positive note. However, the bleak reality that surrounds us does not allow me this luxury.

Shabbat Shalom