May 21, 2024
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May 21, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Remember the days of “there’s no I in team?” Boy, are those long gone… We all know they’ve been replaced with “there’s I everywhere”—iPhones, iPads, iPods, selfies, and when there’s finally something called a Wii, it’s spelled with two I’s! What message is this sending to this generation? I know a lot has already been written and discussed about the detriments of this I label. Nowhere is it more noticeable than in the classroom. You probably think this is going to be all about “Carenot Clara” or “Selfish Sally,” but I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

It’s a common scenario in an everyday lesson. “Matilda, please pick up the papers on the floor,” the teacher calmly asks. But, Matilda says they’re not her papers so why should she pick them up? This discourse continues until either Matilda picks up the trash, another student decides to help out, or the teacher herself throws out the trash. There are many reasons why Matilda is resistant to throwing out garbage that is not hers. It could be she doesn’t like touching dirty things, has never had actual contact with trash before, that’s what housekeepers are for, or feels she’s been put on unfairly—why me, Morah? Why always me??

Did you ever try exiting a classroom when about 20 middle schoolers are trying to enter? Most of us just wait it out, rather than try to push our way through. I mean, why wait for the adult to leave first, right??

But, I’m happy to report that for every resistant Matilda and pushy Plato, there are many helpful hands ready to clean up, erase boards, even hold open doors. These children seem impervious to the effects of the I generation. You know this didn’t only happen in English, it’s going on in other languages, too. Who doesn’t love good “kneidlach” (you), rugelach, kreplach? But, now we have BisLi (me) KefLi, you get the idea…

So why is it that the majority of our children are waging a successful battle against egoism? Why do I daily feel such pride when all I need to say is “clean up in aisle 2, please,” and, lo and behold, the classroom floor is suddenly clean? Why do I not get stampeded when the bell rings? Because there is always a Mendy the Mensch, not only holding the door open for me to exit first, but also keeping the other students at bay till the morah leaves. Why do we see such evidence of Hillel’s famous words in our day schools:

אם אין אני לי מי לי? וכשאני לעצמי מה אני? ואם לא עכשיו אימתי

Words that while teaching our children to advocate for themselves do not allow them to only think about themselves. Wisdom that when joined with the teachings of Rabbi Akiva

ואהבת לרעך כמוך

provide our students with the צידה לדרך they need to combat this I morality.

Is it because our children are lucky and privileged to find themselves in a Torah environment where they are not only taught the Torah’s intrinsic values, but experience them firsthand? When you start the day with Modeh Ani and not Ani Modeh? Yes, there is the I, but what a different I it is? Our children begin with thanking Hashem for all He has given them and it is the order of these vital words that send such a powerful message…every morning.

So, I generation, you can try to influence us. At times we do fall victim to your charms, but within the walls of Torah, our children learn to put others first, to care about klal Yisrael. Our schools create a community of kindness, of כל ישראל ערבים זה לזה, a community where Hillel’s words and Rabbi Akiva’s lessons are practiced day in and out, a place where there really is no I in team.

By Robin Elbaz


Robin Elbaz is a teacher at Yavneh Academy.

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