Jewish History: How Learning About Our Past Shapes Our Future

If you have a high school aged-child, you know that there are two big events that happen in April: one is a holiday that asks us to remember the Exodus from Egypt; the other an annual trip to Poland that has become a rite of passage for many young people. Known as the March of the Living, the trip is a means to remembering the Holocaust, a genocide that changed the course of history.

Jewish History: How Learning About Our Past Shapes Our Future

The two events–Passover and March of the Living–occurring in the same month is purposeful. The timing allows us to make connections between the persecution of our people in both ancient history (Passover) and modern history (the Holocaust), while placing both against the context of a rebirth with the founding of the state of Israel.  Two historical events–slavery in Egypt and the Holocaust– almost led to extinction of the Jewish people. Seen, however, against the context of our people thriving in our own land, the events take on a whole new meaning.

Unfortunately, many of the stories surrounding Jewish history have a lot to do with persecution. Everything from the story of Hanukkah and the story of Purim, to that of Passover are holidays that commemorate and celebrate survival. The way in which we frame the Jewish past means so much to how our children will identify and view themselves as Jews in the future.

Teaching History to Our Children Allows Them to Develop a Sense of Gratitude

It can be easy for us in 2019 to forget that less than 100 years ago our grandparents were being exterminated purely because they were Jewish. It’s that much easier to forget that thousands of years ago we were slaves in Egypt. Teaching history to our children, however, helps them to develop a sense of pride for what our people has endured, as well as a sense of gratitude for the privilege of living at a time where we are free to practice our religion as we choose.

Our History Is What Binds Us Together As A People

There is no doubt that the Jewish community worldwide is a strong network, and this is largely, if not completely, due to the history that we share with one another. We cannot ignore that ensuring a strong Jewish future must include having an understanding of our history.  With so many young people failing to recognize the importance of having a Jewish Identity, one of the greatest gifts we can give them is to teach them about our history.

Jewish history, its rich and often tragic chapters, is one of the most fundamental things a young Jewish person can learn about their heritage. Yes it’s important to understand the holidays and our traditions, but in order to really understand the importance of Judaism, one needs to understand its past.

As Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks eloquently states:

“To be a Jew, now as in the days of Moses, is to hear the call of those who came before us and know that we are guardians of their story.”

If you’re looking to instill an appreciation for the lessons of history in your child, consider Torah High’s March of the Living/ Philosophy course

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