Abraham and the Three Angels by Marc Chagall
Last summer my husband and I took our three children to Europe for a friend’s wedding. While we were there we went to the Musée National Marc Chagall, or the National Museum of Marc Chagall in Nice, France. It is a gorgeous little museum that houses seventeen Chagall paintings based on the books of Genesis, Exodus and the Song of Songs. My takeaway from the visit, aside from being deeply affected by the paintings, is that it reinforced that the money we invest in sending our children to Jewish Day School is very well spent.
When we were at the museum, I told my then-nine-year-old son, “Chagall spent his childhood in yeshiva, which meant he had a solid grasp of the stories from the Torah. When he grew up, he was able to take his expansive textual knowledge and turn it into something new and beautiful. That is why we send you guys to day school. We’re making sure you get knowledge and tools. You can do whatever you want with them.” Had Chagall not had such a strong grasp of our holy books and had he not lived with our ancient stories, he never would have been able to create art of that depth related to our heritage.
I am a singer/songwriter and today I played a concert for Jewish women. Afterward, someone approached me and asked me if I had a Master’s degree in education. I wasn’t quite sure what she meant and then I realized that she wanted to understand how I have a strong enough grasp of the prayers and texts to pick out words that move me in order to set them to music. No, no Master’s degree, but I do have many years of Denver’s strong Jewish day schools under my belt as well as a year of Yeshiva in Israel. That education is what has given me the tools to forge my own path professionally and as a Jewish community leader (my husband and I co-founded an independent minyan ten years ago).
My children attend a modern Orthodox day school. While neither my husband nor I would consider ourselves to be party line Orthodox, we chose to send our children to the school because we were impressed with the rigor with which the students learned Hebrew language and gained access to our ancient texts and prayers. I am not sending them there because I want them to be Orthodox; how they choose to worship now and as adults is their business. I had to go through many twists and turns in my own religious journey and I expect that they each will as well. But, by sending them to day school, I am ensuring that they will have ample tools through which they can connect to their tradition on their own terms. Maybe they will become charedi. Maybe they will reject it all outright. Most likely, I imagine they’ll end up somewhere in the middle. Regardless of how they turn out, my husband and I know that we did our best to give them the most access to an ancient tradition that is deep, enduring, and meaningful.