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July 28, 2014 1:27 am

Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

avatar by Elly Libin /

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Torah study like what is pictured in this scene at the Kol Torah yeshiva in Jerusalem is typical of the first night of Shavuot. Photo: Matanya via Wikimedia Commons. My wife Suzy and I will never forget our wedding day. It was not just the uplifting ceremony and beautiful party that left an indelible mark. Some life-altering advice that we received from one of our guests informed and shaped our lives from that day forward.

My high school teacher, Rabbi Moshe Yagid, pulled us aside just before the chuppah and challenged us to choose one mitzvah that would be the foundation of our marriage and our lives. He explained that we would have to work as a team to ensure that every facet of our chosen mitzvah would be fulfilled appropriately for the long term, and that this challenge would keep us focused and grounded.

We decided that building Jewish families would become our mission for life.

As Suzy and I began building a family of our own, we became intimately involved in Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services, bringing scores of Jewish children into our home as active foster parents. The relationships we developed with each child were precious reminders that providing children with a safe home and a strong education would set the stage for a healthy future and allow them to develop the emotional tools they needed to build stable and loving families of their own.

Though this sounds basic, especially to those of us who were blessed to grow up within such a framework, the truth of the matter is that countless children around the world grow up without the love, support, and resources they so desperately need, and wind up with serious deficiencies of these very elemental ingredients for healthy growth and development.

In addition to providing our children with love, support, and a top-notch education, we also make sure to stress the importance and centrality of Torah values. To maintain the appropriate balance and deliver the right messages, we send our children to schools that value higher education and Torah equally.

In our minds, it is not enough for us to raise a child who will build a single healthy family. We want our children to become contributing members of the Jewish community, individuals who will constantly give of themselves to build up their neighborhoods, cities, and society at large.

Living with this healthy preoccupation, I joined the board of Friends of the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT). As a leader in the field of higher education in Israel that is at the forefront of educating otherwise-forgotten Israeli populations, including the haredi and Ethiopian communities and religious women, JCT was a perfect fit for me. Working with JCT—an institution that provides a framework of educational support and professional training in a Torah-rich environment—allows me to make a difference on the individual, familial, and societal levels simultaneously, and sets an example for my children regarding the kind of impact they can make on the world with the right partners.

And the impact is truly phenomenal. Many of JCT’s students are the first members of their families to pursue higher education. By providing them with serious opportunities for personal and academic growth, we are not only shaping their careers, but securing the futures of their entire families. In turn, each family’s financial health drastically improves Israeli society as a whole.

We often forget the impact that a single educated child can make on the world. Armed with the right tools, a Jewish child can become the ultimate builder, transforming personal success into a boon for his family and community as well as the entire Jewish world.

Instead of bemoaning our societal woes, as we so often do, our energies would be better spent ensuring that every Jewish child is provided for appropriately—mind, body, and soul. A confident, well-rounded Jewish child will build a strong and Torah-centered Jewish household, dedicate himself to the cultivation of the global Jewish community, and ease, if not alleviate, numerous societal tensions.

Years later, Suzy and I are so thankful to Rabbi Yagid for forcing us to choose a single direction for our life’s work. Our dedication to the development of Jewish families has, indeed, kept us grounded. More importantly, it has allowed us to stay focused on the unbridled potential for true greatness within every Jewish child.

Elly Libin is the president of Friends of the Jerusalem College of Technology.

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  • charlie johnson

    You in Israel could examine the failure of the USA and use the information to the benefit of your nations future. We have an oversupply of doctors and lawyers that few can afford their fees..Maybe Bill Gates and mister Zuckerburg find no problem in that area.But a nation who does not provide opportunities for the majority will soon become a hostile land for the few elites.After all. The robots who may replace the rifleman in battle has to be built and produced by humans who get their hands dirty working. In the USA in the past there were a number of creative folks who had no Ivy league diploma. They had minds and put their minds to work.Many were working class citizen. Not professionals.They knew the technology that in interested them. Saul Marrantz. Was a New York Jewish man. He learned radio in the US Navy .He became an innovator of electronic audio devices of the highest quality.William Lear had an 8th grade education. He went into the navy to learn radio electronics.Remember the Learjet? It is made in Canada now with a new name.It was these ordinary persons who created the great wealth of the USA. We have a great debt now. But I think this same kind are yet in our mist today. But also we have a new trend.The inventors are being cheated out of their inventions and government funds go to non creative academics who produce little of value.(Unless you count words as valuable.Try making your dinner with words.) So ,If you want a strong nation you can make it possible by getting the stumbling blocks out of the path of the creative folks. Or just continue to suffer as we do in the USA and rely upon the creativity of China. A temporary solution.

  • David Scop

    was Rabbi Moshe Yagid your teacher in MTA?
    what a beautiful sentiment he gave you.

    trying to get in touch with a Rabbi Yagid that used to live in Brooklyn, taught in MTA in the late 80sI can be reached @ 7184376155

  • Mireille Mechoullam

    Mr Zinn you live in wonderland. You are clueless about the conflict. Before giving advice you should do some homework: like reading the Hamas Charter. You should also know that their prophet Mohamed said that Jews are sons of pigs and should all be killed. Hamas doesn’t invest in building a society that respect life they building a society of Jihadists who are promised entre autre finding in haven 72 virgins for their pleasure. I can go on but it would be easier for you to make some research. Hamas should have learn from Israel how to build a democratic society that respect freedom instead of building a society of hateful generation.

  • I have always respected many Jewish traditions including devotion to family and children. I am also vehemently opposed to the ongoing slaughter in Gaza and view the images of atrocities against children and civilians with horror. Netanyahu’s claim that Israel does not target civilians is obviously a lie. I also hold my own country to be complicit in these crimes. The article “Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children” was quite good, but shouldn’t we expand the question to “Why We Should Invest in All Children”. Imagine a world where children and the future they face became an international priority; a world of builders not destroyers. Gaza can only result in another generation of hate and children caught in the middle of the bloody conflict are destined to be irreparably damaged. As written in the Talamud,”Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, ‘Grow,Grow.'” Just as the “Beatitudes” and “The Sermon on the Mount” are rarely invoked by self-proclaimed Christians in times of American conflict ( often unjust and illegal), Israel seems to be distancing itself from the best of its own teachings and rich culture.

    ” We need to decide that we will not go to war, whatever reason is conjured up by the politicians or the media, because war in our time is always indiscriminate, a war against innocents, a war against children.”
    – Howard Zinn

    • Tamar

      We should invest in all children and teach them these: right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right concentration. After we teach them and they understand and follow all of these, that’s very good. And if after we teach them and they do not follow all of these, that’s their own choice of destroying themselves. We are the only ones that are responsible for our own action. Good or bad actions – our own action. With our thoughts, we make the world.

    • esther noodelman

      What happens if war comes to us….we,the innocent are being attacked by hundreds of missiles,are we not to respond and retaliate to prevent further aggression,or,in your words,go to war? We have loyal upstanding citizens who are innocent bystanders.

    • Abbushuki

      @ Mr.Zinn: There is a reason that even Israel’s leftists support this “just war”. If you begin to pay attention to the pronouncements of the Foreign Press Association you will learn that you’ve been hoodwinked with propaganda as accurate as statements by “Baghdad Bob”. The vast majority of dead Gazans were males of military age. 136 were children who died digging tunnels. Wake up and smell the Cordite.
      JCT is one of the world’s finest schools. It yields high-tech engineers, managers, cost-accountants, M.B.A.’s and even nurses. All its graduates subscribe to the highest moral and ethical standards. It reflects the Torah values of its supporters.
      It’s students would never make your mistake of drawing a conclusion from false data. First they seek truth; a lesson that would serve you well.

    • Eva

      You are incredibly naive (and Howard Zinn was too).
      Yes, war is hell and unfortunately there are always civilian casualties (specially when Hamas wanted to maximize them to win the PR war) but you can’t one-sidedly decide that you “will not go to war”. We all would be living under fascist dictatorship if the Allies didn’t fight Nazi Germany in WWII.
      Similarly, Israel would be wiped out if they wouldn’t fight against Hamas, that rejects Israel’s right to exist, fired thousand of rockets into Israel and built terror tunnels with the only goal of kidnapping and killing Israelis.
      Israel didn’t target civilians, but Hamas’ modus operandi is to fire from playgrounds, hospitals etc to maximize civilian deaths. Read their manual..
      or even listen to the journalists who are not terrorized by Hamas anymore.
      You have seen the terrible pictures from Gaza, because that is what Hamas wanted you to see.

      You have to stand up to bullies, whoever they are.

    • Robert Kalfus

      Mr. Johnson, it is indeed sad that the value that Hamas’ leaders place on children is ONLY as HUMAN SHIELDS. The leaders of the Hamas movement who forcibly took power in Gaza, at the point of their guns, and then were elected, have perverted their entire society’s values to focus on one objective: killing Jews, and destroying Israel. Sad, but true. You can wish for, and I join you in “caring for all children”. Please tell me what you would do when one of those children for whom you want to encourage to “grow” runs toward you wearing a bomb-laden explosive suicide vest? Would you hug them, embrace them, in love, or only to prevent their hands from detonating the explosive vest?
      I urge you, look at the videos, examine the training manuals, read the Hamas charter: and think how best to deal with people who are training, and planning, day and night, non-stop, to kill you, your family, and to exterminate a society which produces healing medical technology – and makes it available for the very people in Gaza who need health care?
      “Gaza can only result in another generation of hate and children caught in the middle of the bloody conflict”, you say, and the fault – and responsibility for that lies solely in the education and training those children receive from their overlords, who value them only as dead or maimed bodies to show for TV cameras.
      Yes, it is indeed horrible, and disturbing.
      After World War II, the Allied forces de-nazified Germany. Eradicated the Jew-hating books, movies, culture. Hamas wants a seaport and an airport, and Israel wants the government demilitarized. Sounds like a good trade. Both sides need to get something. But Hamas has repeatedly shown that they cannot be trusted, that allowing their access to a seaport and an airport would only bring in more and better armaments. They are the children who enjoy playing with matches – but worse. They enjoy harming others. The Hamas leaders must be removed and prevented from having the ability to teach hatred, and must not be allowed to acquire and use ever more lethal weapons.
      I am sure we would all appreciate your answering the question put to you: what concrete action would you propose? (“Concrete” is a good term to use, noting that instead of building housing, hospitals, schools or parks for the children in Gaza, the Hamas leadership used a reported more than 800,000 metric tons of concrete to build tunnels to attack Israel.

    • Haile Stressor

      Mr. Zinn,

      You seem to have forgotten that Islam, the religion not of peace but of Jihad, eternal war to the last man against Infidels — that’s you and me– is the common thread of 99% of terror around the world.

      Yes, if we could only get together, to celebrate our common humanity, to love each other as G-D intended, we could make this verdant earth a paradise. But that requires us to accept each others’ uniqueness, to celebrate our diversities that enrich the world, and to leave each other to pursue happiness in the way we each see fit. Alas, Islam forbids this. With a fanaticism that makes the Spanish Inquisition seem mild, the devotees of the Cult of Mohammed demand our conversions or our deaths. Indeed, it is only their hatred of our way of life (freedom is a concept unknown to them) that makes us their common enemy and keeps them from murdering each other for minuscule perceived doctrinal deviations. But if the West should ever succumb, the Sunnis and Shiites will go for each others’ throats until mankind will have vanished from this planet

      • Godfrey Michaels

        Mr. Stressor:

        Jihad is an Islamic institution that is widely misunderstood. Non-Muslims fearfully regard it as an Islamic practice that aims to wage ‘Holy War’ against all disbelievers, to convert them to Islam or to kill them.

        The concept of jihad has been hijacked by many political and religious groups over the ages in a bid to justify various forms of violence.

        Jihad is not a violent concept. Jihad is not a declaration of war against other religions. Military action in the name of Islam has not been common in the history of Islam. Scholars says most calls for violent jihad are not sanctioned by Islam.

        It is the radical extremists — of all faiths — that must be addressed and converted to peaceful ways.