April 15, 2024
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April 15, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Part of the American work ethic has enshrined the notion of an annual vacation for workers. Two weeks is the norm for many wage earners. Many employees in the Orthodox world have to balance their time off with the Yomim Tovim. Those with children in day schools very often take time off during “Yeshiva Week” and those who can afford it also go away for Pesach and/or Sukkot. Teachers are also off but unless their spouse or parents can spring for it, their vacation options are limited.

Unless one is a teacher, there is no real comprehension or understanding of what really happens in the classroom to create the magic that everyone expects. Parents and the community want the best for their children. They express their opinions, and demand results. Rarely however, do outsiders really understand what happens to make all this possible.

Teachers are highly motivated individuals who do not put in a normal working day. Most often they spend each night preparing materials, grading papers, writing lesson plans, creating Smarboard presentations, as well as cooking and taking care of their own family and children. It is far from a 9-5 job, and there is no compensation for this overtime, be it on a weekday, Sunday or holiday.

Critics will carp that “They get off every Jewish and secular holiday, get tuition breaks, and who else gets two months off every year?” They have no understanding of what a teacher does. I know of no teacher who doesn’t spend the summer working on new ideas and materials for the coming year. When do all the posters get made? When do the notes welcoming new students get written? Well-prepared lessons take time to craft and tweak. “Vacation” time is to reflect on what went well and what didn’t and how to plan a better, more enriched lesson. Multiply this times the different subjects that a teacher teaches, and factor in the need for differentiation and innovation. This takes a lot of time. Teachers also need to update their technology skills and then figure out how to integrate them into the classroom. Many teachers use the summer months to hone their skills even further by enrolling in seminars and other professional development opportunities.

After 10 hectic months, they deserve and need a break. Yet, many work in camps as a way to give their children a camp experience that they otherwise could not afford. Some parents complain about schools being closed on erev Yom Tov, forgetting that teachers also need to prepare for the holiday.

We take so much for granted in our schools, especially after the past two years of COVID instruction. But now we face another challenge—school safety. It’s not a matter of party politics or semantics. It’s just common sense. Some of our schools have invested heavily in security upgrades including cameras, armed guards, ID badges, limited access, etc. The danger is still out there. As long as there are crazies intent on doing harm to our children, especially targeting Jewish institutions, with access to military assault weapons, we cannot be silent. As long as our children and their teachers are at risk how can we sit quietly as passive observers to the craven impotence and moribund cowardice that has infected Congress?

Should all teachers in public, private and parochial schools go out on strike until strict gun control legislation is passed? Do we fully comprehend the risks we are assuming when we send our children to school? Do we blame teachers for being scared despite all the active shooter drills and “what to do if” manuals? Easy access to weapons and the abundance of antisemitic hate groups should concern us. We do not need to be in the headlines. It’s time that we demonstrate our love for our children and for those who teach them. Bear in mind that teachers spend more time with children than their parents. It’s time to end the practice of child sacrifice. Those who oppose meaningful gun control laws should be voted out of office regardless of your political affiliation. Partisan politics can resume in the next election cycle. Saving actual lives is more important than propping up officials who are only interested in their NRA support.


Rabbi Dr. Wallace Greene has had a distinguished career as a Jewish educator.

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