What happens when interfaith communities sit around one table? One church has purchased a building that had previously been in legal limbo between a tenant and landlord, and so sits vacant, troubling the surrounding community. Another faith group is looking to establish a food pantry to serve the same part of town. They have the funding and volunteers to handle the interior carpentry, refrigeration, and so forth, but are having trouble finding a location with a landlord they could work with.
According to the 2013 American Psychological Association’s “Stress in America” Survey, the stress levels that teenagers report during the academic year are far higher than what is believed to be healthy. Alongside this, 37% of adolescent women and 23% of adolescent men report feeling depressed due to stress. What is as alarming is that about half of these teens indicate they are unsure of how to manage their stress and are struggling to find ways to cope. As educators, we must give our students the tools they require in order to succeed in their daily lives. As Jewish educators, in particular, we should offer tools specifically grounded in Judaism and furthermore help students integrate this Jewish guidance throughout their lives.
May is here, and high school graduation is approaching. Soon these young people will go off to college. A verse from the Torah on its surface is about harvesting fruit, but it can teach us something about the purpose of these college years.
“When you enter the land and plant any tree for food you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden for you, not to be eaten. In the fourth year all its fruit shall be set aside for jubilation before the Eternal; and only in the fifth year may you use its fruit — that its yield to you may be increased: I the Eternal am your God.” (Leviticus 19:23-25)