(July 21, 2014 / JNS)
By Elly Libin/JNS.org
My wife Suzy and I will never forget our wedding day. It was not just the uplifting ceremony and beautiful party that left an indelible mark. Some life-altering advice that we received from one of our guests informed and shaped our lives from that day forward.
My high school teacher, Rabbi Moshe Yagid, pulled us aside just before the chuppah and challenged us to choose one mitzvah that would be the foundation of our marriage and our lives. He explained that we would have to work as a team to ensure that every facet of our chosen mitzvah would be fulfilled appropriately for the long term, and that this challenge would keep us focused and grounded.
We decided that building Jewish families would become our mission for life.
As Suzy and I began building a family of our own, we became intimately involved in Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services, bringing scores of Jewish children into our home as active foster parents. The relationships we developed with each child were precious reminders that providing children with a safe home and a strong education would set the stage for a healthy future and allow them to develop the emotional tools they needed to build stable and loving families of their own.
Though this sounds basic, especially to those of us who were blessed to grow up within such a framework, the truth of the matter is that countless children around the world grow up without the love, support, and resources they so desperately need, and wind up with serious deficiencies of these very elemental ingredients for healthy growth and development.
In addition to providing our children with love, support, and a top-notch education, we also make sure to stress the importance and centrality of Torah values. To maintain the appropriate balance and deliver the right messages, we send our children to schools that value higher education and Torah equally.
In our minds, it is not enough for us to raise a child who will build a single healthy family. We want our children to become contributing members of the Jewish community, individuals who will constantly give of themselves to build up their neighborhoods, cities, and society at large.
Living with this healthy preoccupation, I joined the board of Friends of the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT). As a leader in the field of higher education in Israel that is at the forefront of educating otherwise-forgotten Israeli populations, including the haredi and Ethiopian communities and religious women, JCT was a perfect fit for me. Working with JCT—an institution that provides a framework of educational support and professional training in a Torah-rich environment—allows me to make a difference on the individual, familial, and societal levels simultaneously, and sets an example for my children regarding the kind of impact they can make on the world with the right partners.
And the impact is truly phenomenal. Many of JCT’s students are the first members of their families to pursue higher education. By providing them with serious opportunities for personal and academic growth, we are not only shaping their careers, but securing the futures of their entire families. In turn, each family’s financial health drastically improves Israeli society as a whole.
We often forget the impact that a single educated child can make on the world. Armed with the right tools, a Jewish child can become the ultimate builder, transforming personal success into a boon for his family and community as well as the entire Jewish world.
Instead of bemoaning our societal woes, as we so often do, our energies would be better spent ensuring that every Jewish child is provided for appropriately—mind, body, and soul. A confident, well-rounded Jewish child will build a strong and Torah-centered Jewish household, dedicate himself to the cultivation of the global Jewish community, and ease, if not alleviate, numerous societal tensions.
Years later, Suzy and I are so thankful to Rabbi Yagid for forcing us to choose a single direction for our life’s work. Our dedication to the development of Jewish families has, indeed, kept us grounded. More importantly, it has allowed us to stay focused on the unbridled potential for true greatness within every Jewish child.
Elly Libin is president of Friends of the Jerusalem College of Technology (www.friendsofjct.org).