We are hosting, at New London, after Shabbat Services a L’Dor VaDor lunch for founder members and new members. But let me take this opportunity to look into the future.
Last week we held a service and lunch for 10-13 year olds, well attended and well led by our Noam Movement Worker, Ben Russel. In the afternoon, tots abounded at our home for Havdalah in Pyjamas which was as chaotic and fun as any 3 year old could wish. This Shabbat we are celebrating the Bar Mitzvah of Daniel Lubin and, at the children’s services for 0-5 year olds, we’ll be debuting the new Children’s Siddur that Chazan Stephen Cotsen has been working on. A 6-10 year olds Children’s Service will also be running. Our resurgent Cheder is on half-term, but the Monday’s Babes in the Wood special with Mabel’s Monsters is now full and we can’t accept any more attendees.
That’s all very exciting. For a long time we, as a community struggled to find sufficient younger members to create a centre of gravity for youth activities, and while we still struggle when it comes to teenagers, that picture is changing. This creates a new challenge – what should we be doing with and for the generation to come? Many of the children of the founding generation of New London drifted away from the sort of commitment to Jewish life their parents exemplified, certainly only very few remain involved in the Shul today. More gloomily still is the notion that not only did New London ‘lose’ many of a generation who cared too little, it also lost a good number of those who cared too much. A score of families who wanted more Jewish opportunities for their children and a more committed community left in search of these things at other Synagogues. What went wrong? I wonder if one of the failings is connected to the emphasis on a certain vicarious intellectualism. A good New Londoner was a Jew who agreed with the teachings of our founder Rabbi, but didn’t do much about it. Rabbi Jacobs studied the Talmud but I, growing up at New London, was never engaged with serious Torah study, I was never expected to take ownership of this tradition myself. Aside from occasional Synagogue attendance it wasn’t clear to me what I was supposed to do. I don’t recall ever being told, at New London, that it was MY Jewish obligation to keep Kosher, engage more profoundly with Shabbat or even – here is a contentious one – seek out a Jewish life-partner. That needs to change. We – the educators in the community – have to be more articulate about why doing more and knowing more is such a vibrant and vital part of being Jewish. And we also need to be clear about setting standards and calling on our kids, and their parents, to support us in giving the generation to come a serious understanding and relationship with their Jewish heritage.
These are all good challenges to have, but I call on all the community in supporting us as we seek to ensure our Jewish future, not only for the tots and teens of today, but for the tots and teens of the generation to come.