Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center Embodies Limmud
Rabbi Daniel Septimus
While the excruciating Texas heat continues, the summer program calendar has concluded and the school and fall program year has begun. The summer months provided a much needed opportunity for us to leave our homes and immerse ourselves in new settings through travel to new places where we learned about different cultures and practices around the world, to Jewish summer camp experiences in Central Texas and far away, where our youth and teens engaged in informal Jewish learning and prayer while making friendships that will last a lifetime. It is a true reminder that learning takes place on an ongoing basis.
In this column, we have been studying our core Jewish values, which guide the goals and priorities of Shalom Austin. In the previous few months, we learned the importance of tzedakah (pursuing justice through acts of Jewish giving), kehillah (community building), and k’lal yisrael (the oneness and unity of the Jewish people worldwide). This month I would like to explore the Jewish value of limmud (the centrality of learning and Jewish culture to Jewish life).
We are commanded to study the instructions of our tradition and to literally, as the blessing indicates, “busy ourselves in the words of Torah.” By ongoing immersion in Jewish learning, we gain wisdom, meaning and purpose for what our role is in this world as Jews and human beings.
Until recently, the way we engaged with our tradition was by learning with a teacher who would guide us through books of Jewish texts, stories and history. The Internet has changed the way we acquire information, and as a result, our tradition and insights have become much more accessible to anyone seeking to learn. These changes are causing the Jewish community to evolve how we engage in Jewish learning.
As you will read in this edition, I am proud to announce the establishment of the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Jewish Culture and Education and the hiring of Rachel Stern, a seasoned educator and mentor with more than 20 years of experience in Jewish learning and education, as the first director of the Center and Chief Learning and Engagement Officer of Shalom Austin. I would like to thank the Rapoport family for their leadership and very generous support in making this dream of taking Jewish life and learning to the next level as we evolve to meet the needs of our Jewish community during what is a transformative period of Jewish life.
In partnership with our synagogues and community organizations, Rachel and her team will explore ways that we can ensure that limmud or Jewish learning and culture, will remain central to creating a vibrant and healthy Jewish community where every person and family can live their best Jewish lives. Please join us Tuesday, Oct. 16, at the Shalom Austin Annual Meeting where we will celebrate the opening of the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Jewish Culture and Education and introduce Rachel to our community.
As we approach Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, may we celebrate what we have achieved and analyze where we fell short in the year that has passed. And may we look to the future for what we can accomplish together through our immersion in Jewish learning and culture with fellow human beings and community.