If a family membership in the synagogue is $2200 per year and educating a child in our Hebrew School is $1000 per year and you're a family with two parents and two kids, you should ask yourself: What is the better way to spend $4400 this year on Jewish identity? Synagogue affiliation or a trip to Israel?
I posed this question to a bunch of teachers today and no one hesitated: for one year, a two week trip to Israel has more value, packs a greater punch.
It demonstrates a living, thriving Jewish majority; it demonstrates a living, thriving and relevant Hebrew language; and it represents not a segmented Jewish identity but a whole one, complex to be sure, but nevertheless, whole.
And then I thought: What an innovative idea for contemporary synagogue life.
Call it Hofesh/חופש, or Vacation/Take-A-Break.
Your membership at the synagogue, for one year, is expressed in going to Israel for the first time as a family--for two weeks. We don't want you to spend your money on Jewishness here; rather, spend it there. And then, when you come back, see what it does for you?
You have to do this before the bar/bat mitzvah year.
Two Weeks There v. One Year Here.
What would happen to the family's sense of language, culture, land, identity and nation that, in the classroom and in the hands of ambivalent parents, exist in a vacuum?
I think so.