January 7, 2021 | 23 Tevet 5781
Dear Barrack Community,
I have had the blessing of being a teacher of government and history for the last 50 years. What I always loved most about teaching these subjects was the ability to inspire in my students a reverence for justice and the rule of law. I taught my students to understand the constitutionally guaranteed peaceful transitions of power.
As a young teacher living in the Washington, D.C. area, I came of age during the Vietnam War and the Watergate era. In the 1970’s my students and I were assailed nightly by images on our TV screens. Images are so powerful, and those images—often reprinted in our local newspaper, The Washington Post—were the basis for my lessons, our communal discussions and the sermons of our rabbis. Fifty years later, the powerful images that we saw today during the assault on our Capitol and the stirring words we heard from our Presidents, past and future, etched the events of January 6, 2021 into our hearts and minds forever.
Former President George W. Bush, in a rare public statement, called the events at the Capitol yesterday, “a sickening and heartbreaking sight.” He intoned that ”our country is more important than the politics of the moment.” Echoing President Bush’s sentiment that our elected leaders must be able to fulfill their duties in peace and safety, President-elect Biden decried “the assault on the most sacred of American undertakings, the doing of the people’s business.”
At Barrack, one of our essential Derech Eretz values is Kehillah/Community. Today, we all need the comfort and security that comes from community. Our liturgy affords us many opportunities to pray for peace. Toward the end of every service we sing Oseh Shalom — “God who makes peace in the heavens, may you make peace for us here on earth.” Additionally, a “Prayer for our Country,” is often recited on Shabbat:
Our God and God of our ancestors, with mercy accept our prayer on behalf of our country and its government. Pour out Your blessing upon this land, upon its inhabitants, upon its leaders, its judges, officers, and officials, who faithfully devote themselves to the needs of the public. Help them understand the rules of justice You have decreed, so that peace and security, happiness and freedom, will never depart from our land.
Siddur Lev Shalem
Many synagogues have adopted variations of that prayer, including asking people of faith to call upon governing authorities to fulfill God's purpose of bringing about justice, mercy and peace.
As Jews, we look and pray towards ירושלים, towards Jerusalem. As Americans, the central focus of our institutions of justice and our American traditions is Washington, D.C. The legitimacy of our democracy was tested yesterday. As a Jewish educational institution, this is a moment we cannot ignore. Our mission and vision is to cultivate within every student wisdom, courage and kindness and to prepare our students to be leaders in our country and in our Jewish communities here and around the world. In our classes today at all grade levels, our students will discuss the context of yesterday’s events, and they will have the opportunity to respectfully discuss and share their feelings within our pluralistic setting.
Today, we are all students of government. Individually and collectively as a nation, we must work together every day so that we may continue to be a beacon and a blessing for the world.
Head of School
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
Honor-כבוד | Courage-אומץ לב | Kindness-חסד | Community-קהילה