On one hand, one could make the argument that as a teaching member of a Schechter faculty at a Conservative Day School, everyone should be expected to attend the tefillah. On the other hand, if our mission is indeed child-centered, shouldn’t we on faculty development days be creating opportunities for our faculty to connect with and understand why every student’s day starts with tefillah? Additionally, if we are also tasked with enriching our students’ tefillah on a daily basis, should we also not enrich our faculty’s prayer experience on our faculty development days?
So, next Monday on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s Birthday and the commemoration of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s 40th yahrzeit, we will be mandating our entire faculty to participate in one of the following two “Beginning Our Day sessions:”
Shaharit tefillah with Storahtelling Torah Service: This prayer service will have a modified tefillah structure. It will include all the prescribed prayers that according to Jewish law should be said at a Shaharit (Morning Service) and will focus on an interactive Torah reading and exploration of the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.
Discussion Entitled: “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel: Thoughts on Educating Students in a Faith-Based Environment.” This discussion led by Rabbi Elias will not contain any elements of public or private prayer and will take place in the curriculum library.
In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, “the function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.” By inviting our entire faculty to participate either in a dynamic tefillah or an important discussion of the impact of learning in a faith-based environment, our focus on the experiences of two of the most accomplished and thoughtful people of the 20th century who marched together for the freedom of all will in Rabbi Heschel’s words, “combine loyalty to one’s own tradition with reverence for different traditions.” At the same time, we will have demonstrated and modeled for our faculty that all of us irrespective of religious faith and/or denomination are all responsible for the spiritual and intellectual growth for all of our student body.