“Teaching by Being”

Dear God,

teach me to embody those ideals

I would want my children

to learn from me.

Let me communicate

with my children – wisely

in ways

that will draw their hearts

to kindness, to deceny

and to true wisdom.

Dear God,

let me pass on to my children

only the good;

let them find in me

the values

and the behavior

I hope to see in them.

Those are words of prayer written by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov from his Likutey Moharan (2:7).

They feel particularly appropriate to me writing, as I am, the morning of what will soon be Kol Nidre and the beginning of Yom Kippur.  ‘Tis the season for the most personal of reflections and the most profound hopes for the future.  Mine are encapsulated in the words of Rebbe Nachman above.

I read those words of two minds – as a parent of two and a principal of many.  It serves as the reminder for why in each of my teacher’s Preplanning Week binders they found this quote from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (for more, please see my prior blogpost “A Place in Time“) saying that “We need to have more than textbooks, we need text-people”.  We can have the best books, most well though-out curriculum, and the most sophisticated technology – and hopefully we either do or will soon – but without the right people what does it really amount to?

Another of our traditions during the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur includes the act of teshuvah – the complicated act of acknowledging past wrongs, correcting past mistakes, promises of changed behavior, etc.  For my part, here in the most public of forums, please allow me apologize to all those I have wronged or hurt, intentionally or unknown over the past year.  It has been a remarkable year in the life for me and my family as we have transitioned our jobs and locations; moved far from family and friends; and have tried to keep from our children all the stresses felt.  It has not always been easy on those around us.  I look forward to working on myself to be the best “me” I can in the upcoming year.  For me, my wife, my children, my family, my friends, my colleagues, my teachers, my students and their families – I hope this year to live up to the words of Rebbe Nachman and Rabbi Heschel.

Easy fasts for all who do so…meaningful reflections for all who feel the need.  I welcome your sharing the thoughts, prayers, and quotes that speak to you during this time.  I welcome you joining the brave few who do comment on these blogposts…I wager I learn as much or more from you than you do from me.  Join us.

Author: Jon Mitzmacher

Dr. Jon Mitzmacher is the Head of the Ottawa Jewish Community School. He was most recently the VP of Innovation for Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools.  He is the former Executive Director of the Schechter Day School Network.  He is also the former head of the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School, a K-8 Solomon Schechter, located in Jacksonville, FL, and part of the Jacksonville Jewish Center.  He was the founding head of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Las Vegas.  Jon has worked in all aspects of Jewish Education from camping to congregations and everything in between.

3 thoughts on ““Teaching by Being””

  1. Thank you for another uplifting blog post, Jon! It takes confidence and courage to openly share thoughts on your new position as Head of School as well as your reflections on education, Jewish tradition, etc. As parents of your students, Steven and I find your blog (and the blogs of your faculty) an extremely helpful mechanism. We enjoy participating by responding and by encouraging friends in the parent community and beyond to also read your insights.
    As you requested, I’d like to share an inspirational quote from UK-based Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. He writes: ‘(T)he greatest achievement in life is to have been, for one other person, even for one moment, an agent of hope.’ This is from his book, To Heal a Fractured World: The Ethics of Responsibility.
    You and your teachers are agents of hope for our children and their classmates and for that we are extremely grateful.
    We wish you an easy fast and meaningful Yom Kippur experience,
    Andrea & Steven

  2. I just got a chance to read your blog on “Teaching by Being” and I thoroughly enjoyed it! Thanks for the upbeat post and the reminders of what the holidays are all about!
    Thanks again,
    Kandi Shainbrown

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