Jewish Affairs Caucus of the National Education Association

© National Education Association - Jewish Affaris Caucus 2023

From the Chair…

Pomp and circumstance refer to an ostentatious display of superiority. For example, you’re giving a speech at a gala dinner, and you end up talking too much about your achievements, making you seem like you are the center of the universe. Right now, with the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the upcoming coronation of King Charles III, you would think with all the media and press they were and are the center of the universe. What does this have to do with Rosh Hoshana? On Rosh Hoshana, we Jews have pomp and circumstance, and we declare that Hashem is the “center of the universe”.

The central observance of Rosh Hashanah is the sounding of the shofar, the ram’s horn, on both days of the holiday with the exception as when the first day is Shabbat then we blow the shofar only on the second day. The blowing of the shofar represents the trumpet blast that is sounded at a king’s coronation. Its plaintive cry also serves as a call to repentance. The shofar itself recalls the Binding of Isaac, an event that occurred on Rosh Hashanah in which a ram took Isaac’s place as an offering to G‑d. 

On the first day, we read about Isaac’s birth and the banishment of Hagar and Ishmael. This reading is followed by a haftarah reading about Samuel the Prophet. Both readings contain the theme of prayers for children being answered, and both of these births took place on Rosh Hashanah. On the second morning we read about the binding of Isaac and G-d’s testing of Abraham. The shofar recalls the event that occurred on Rosh Hashanah in which a ram took Isaac’s place as an offering to G‑d. The haftarah tells of G‑d’s eternal love for His people.

I am seeing connections with the NEA and the Jewish Affairs Caucus, ushering in a new “king”, a New Year, children, Isaac’s rise in Judaism, and the promise to Hagar for Ishmael to “lead a great nation” e.g., Islam. I have great respect for Becky Pringle, President of NEA, but I had some concerns about her leadership during the Representative Assembly. One of our members made, to me it was an unnecessary apology, for a statement that there was “feeling of hate” in the room. Yet, another NEA member dropped the “f-bomb” with a passionate and perceived a “fake argument” to support an anti-Israel New Business Item. I felt leadership was lacking at that moment in time. This NBI will affect our children now and in the future whether it be well intentioned or not. With the political climate, as in Texas and Florida, the “rewritten” curriculum is diluting the Jewish story. This is causing great consternation for the caucus and Jews in general. It is exposing the angst we Jews often suppress. A fight in the NEA between Sarah and Hagar (Jews and Muslims). Hashem promised greatness for both. Why the anger?

Let me digress and speak on Samuel. The Philistines (often confused as Palestinians) inflicted a decisive defeat against the Israelites at Eben-Ezer, placing the land under Philistine control, and taking the sanctuary's Ark for themselves. After having possession of the Ark for seven months and visiting with calamities and misfortunes, they decided to return the Ark to the Israelites.  After 20 years of oppression, Samuel, who had gained national prominence as a prophet, summoned the people to the hill of Mizpah, and led them against the Philistines. The Philistines, having marched to Mizpah to attack the newly amassed Israelite army, were soundly defeated and fled in terror. The retreating Philistines were slaughtered by the Israelites. The text then states that Samuel erected a large stone at the battle site as a memorial, and there ensued a long period of peace thereafter.

I speak of Samuel in that we have to have foresight and knowledge to educate those misguided (far -right conservatives and often even far-left liberals) about truth. We must invite our Jewish organizations to partner with local and state affiliates of the NEA to help educate about Israel and Palestine. We must encourage our Jewish teachers to join the NEA and our caucus to help defeat the DeSantis’s and Abbotts of the world from rewriting true History. We have to educate our fellow NEA members about the Middle East. Who else is going to do it? Just as Samuel recognized Saul as king, who was heavily criticized, we have to work with Becky to make her a better leader so her successor can be another “David” who will stop this insanity taking over NEA.

So, on this Rosh Hashana, a day of prayer, we must ask the Almighty to grant us a year of peace, prosperity, and blessing. It is a joyous day that we proclaim Hashem as “King of the Universe”. With that knowledge, we accept who shall live, who shall die, who shall be impoverished, who shall be enriched, who shall fall, and who shall rise, etc. as decreed in the heavenly court. Remember, if we are allowed to live, we must do our part to “rise”, for passivity shall make us all “fall”.

L’shana tovah,