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Spirituality is Non-Binary

Let’s play the association game. I say “Jewish Studies at Bialik” and you say…..

You might say what many of our families say, “Hebrew and academic excellence,” and you would be right, of course. The Jewish Studies program at Bialik is cutting edge. It meets the needs of our students by implementing best practices. But, if we play again and I say “Jewish Studies at Bialik” would you say, “Spirituality?” 

Rachel Weczberger, PhD candidate at Hebrew U says, in her study on spirituality, “Judaism has become a cultural resource serving many Israelis in their own private formation project.” Binary distinctions of secular and religious Judaism are no longer what define us. She says: “Spirituality is eclectic and different approaches are beginning to challenge accepted lines drawn between different denominations.” Well, didn’t we say that Bialik was cutting edge? We have known this all along. 

Did the students at Bialik learn Avinu Malkeinu, Al Chet and Netane Tokef as part of the High Holiday services? Yes, they did. 

Did they learn just to say it or sing it on page X of the holiday Machzor? No, they did not. 

What they did was to explore Rabbinic statements; they made comparisons to Leonard Cohen’s version of “Who by Fire;” they read God’s Paintbrush and other pop culture artists.

What do our Grade 6 students have to say? 

“A personal goal I have set myself this year is to be a kinder sister. The first thing I am going to do to make this happen is to take advantage of this Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to apologize from the bottom of my heart for all the unkind things that I did to my brother this year and to really try hard to create the better version of me.”

“My spiritual goal is to be more helpful around the house so there would be less stress and hopefully make it easier for my parents.”

“I would name God “Friend” because God can help me through my problems and support me in anything I do.”

“The name that I like most in the book is “Comforter.” It is my favourite because God is always with you and when people are with me it makes me comforted. So if I’m alone and no one is near God would comfort me. “

Now that is eclectic and cutting edge. That is spiritual. That is the way that Bialik fosters connections, community, personal meaning and, above all, excellence for all students, all families, all denominations. That is the way that, at Bialik, we challenge accepted lines in order to draw new lines and new possibilities — helping our students prepare for their future. That is Jewish Studies at Bialik. 

We want to wish all of our families a very meaningful family experience throughout the holidays. Sukkot is yet another opportunity to demonstrate our responsibility to make a positive imprint on the world in which we live. It is a time to show appreciation for what we have and commit to what we can do. Our students are already leaders and innovators in this field. We can hardly wait until they become the decision makers. 

ופרש עלינו סוכת שלומך 

May you and your family be enveloped by peace, happiness and good health. 

Kathy Friedman
Director of Jewish Studies