Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel would say, “on three things the world stands: on judgment, on truth, and on peace, as it is said (Zachariah 8:16), ‘Judge truth and the justice of peace in your gates” (Pirkei Avot 1:18).

Solel is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. My father just celebrated his 60th birthday a little over a month ago. A place I love and a person I love both turning the same age. Hmmm…

My parents grew up and lived in the Chicago area until just a few years ago when they decided winters here were enough, and their anniversary vacation destination of Las Vegas turned into their new home. My mother was able to transfer her job out west, but my father has been retired for nearly a decade now. Not as nice as it sounds, retiring at 50. You see, he was in the restaurant business his whole career, but an illness forced him out of the work force early. He has always been a hard worker, a trait I inherited. He had been working part-time hours

over the past few years at various local Jewish organizations. Several years ago, before they moved, I went to visit where he was working one evening. The director was there and he told me something that made me proud, but also made me think: “Your dad is a man of emes. Do you know what emes means?”

I did, actually. The word emes is the Yiddish (and Ashkenazic Hebrew pronunciation) word for truth. Flash back some years before that to 2001 at my grandfather’s funeral. My grandfather’s childhood friend is delivering the eulogy for my Papa Jay (who my son Judah is named after). My grandfather is described as a shtarker, Yiddish for ‘strong’ or a strong person. I didn’t think about this until years later, but now I am piecing these two qualities together.

A father who is a man of truth and his father who is strong. How can I live up to these two? How will I be described by my children and by the generations after me?

My goal as a Jewish educator and youth leader is to exemplify those exact qualities and ensure the children I work with do the same. I need to be honest with the students, especially in my work with our teens. They will see right through me if I am being fake in any way, so I need to be open and sincere with them. In turn, I expect the same. I believe this is one reason we have
three distinctive and successful teen programs: youth group board, 8th-12th grade class/confirmation, and our madrichim (teacher assistants). The other quality, strength, goes right along with truth and honesty. It does not have to be physical strength, but can be strength of mind or strength of character. My wish is for our Lev Solel students of all ages to ask questions, to learn about Judaism, and to be mensches, good people in their community.

I remember visiting my grandparents in Florida when I was younger and going to minyan during the week with my grandfather. This was one of many places where everyone knew his name and where he loved volunteering. He would be proud of what I am doing today and proud to see all the Lev Solel students that pass through our hallways each Sunday and Tuesday, knowing that I am able to make an impact in their Jewish lives and that Solel is a warm, welcoming community for all.

Here’s to truth & strength,
Michael Schneider
Assistant Director of Education, Youth, &

Copyright © Congregation Solel, 2017. All rights reserved. Member of the Union for Reform Judaism

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