Apples Dipped in What?

Gabi Kamran

Voices Editor

Note: I’d like to clarify that in no way is this article an attempt to insult or undermine the efforts of the Milken administration, the Jewish Studies department, or the various student organizations dedicated to Jewish affairs on campus. Both the article and the video were meant to be entertaining, satirical pieces that expose an underlying truth about the lack of care and effort that many Milken students display towards our religion. 

“Wait, what’s Shemini Atzeret again? Like, actually, I have no idea what that is.”

“Is Sukkot the one where you build the house in your backyard and smell the lemon?”

“I thought Simchah Torah was the one where we pray to Moses.”

These inspirational sentiments are quotes from three Milken seniors, gathered as I walked around campus interviewing students about their knowledge of the upcoming Jewish holidays. And as I learned from my little campus adventure, parts of which you can watch in the video below, these seniors are pretty much rabbinic scholars compared to a large part of the student body.

Milken gives us a generous number of days off every fall with the intention of allowing us to explore our spirituality on the Jewish holidays. Isn’t it kind of concerning (and even a little insulting to our school) that many of us are sitting around wondering if an etrog is just a giant, bumpy lemon?

In the words of Ms. Jessie Mallor, Jewish Studies teacher, “If you don’t know what something is, like, hello, Google. Just like you would Google ‘What’s the Constitution,’ Google ‘What’s Shemini Atzeret.’ It’s not like it’s hard. When people don’t do that, it’s like, well, how much do you really care?”

But isn’t it Milken’s job to teach us about Jewish holidays, you may ask? Well, of course. But as Rabbi Gordon Bernat-Kunin, Rabbinic Director, explains, “At Milken, we teach about the Jewish holidays based on the assumption that students already know the basics. Our challenge is: how do we teach you something about the holidays that is sophisticated? Because you guys are able to go much more in depth than you were in the fourth grade, when you learned about the practices and the foods and the way that we dress for each holiday.”

I know what you’re thinking: “What’s the point of teaching myself about these holidays? It’s not like I’m planning on becoming a rabbi.” And you have a point. Milken is a pluralistic school, and some of us don’t come from observant families. What’s our motivation to get up and learn about our religion if we’re certain we’ll never need to know about it in the future?

Ms. Mallor has the answer: “All of these holidays give us a chance to access something that’s so the opposite of superficial, something that’s really real and eternal and internal. Maybe people don’t have time to deal with that kind of depth, but you’re going to be Jewish for the rest of your life. Get a little more active.”

Observant or secular, our parents send us to a Jewish school for a reason. What do you say we make them proud and show them that the money they pay for our tuition isn’t going to waste? Let’s stop waiting for our Hebrew teachers to pass out worksheets on the rules of building a Sukkah and start doing a little building of our own.

 

7 COMMENTS

  1. As a Milken student this is an extremely offensive video, and I believe that it should be taken off the web. It portrays our school in a joking manner and criticizes our Judaic Studies department. Firstly, many of the students in the video were clearly just messing around, and wanted to make funny jokes. I think you are correct in the fact that many students do not know what Shemini Atzeret is, but I bet you can find some at Milken. Also, many of the students whom these questions were asked are not passionate about Judaism. If you surveyed students who are active in JLIFE, they could easily tell you the answer to these questions.
    While some of the answers were comical, I think it sends a negative image of our school across the web.

  2. I agree 100% with “A.” This video casts our school/ student body in an incredibly negative light.
    Also, I don’t think this is the most constructive article…if you are truly outraged that students don’t know much about the Jewish holidays then ask questions, propose that we are taught about them, ask why we have days off, etc. It’s disappointing that we don’t all know the answers to these questions, it’s not something to laugh about. Furthermore, as stated above, this video only represents a small portion of the student body and one “type” of student. I know many people that could answer those questions, myself included, and frankly I’m kind of offended by this video. And just to say it again, this just makes us all look bad; we’re not representing Milken well. We shouldn’t be proud of our lack of knowledge…it’s fine not to know things that we maybe should know; and it’s ok (to a certain extent) to joke about it amongst ourselves…but to broadcast it on the internet?! And Instead of just laughing about it and brushing it off, we should go out and learn something– take this information and act upon it.

  3. I was very disappointed by this video. I know it was intended to be a “wake up call” to the Milken students however as stated by A, there are many individuals who do have the knowledge of these holidays and what they mean. What makes Milken special is the fact that not every student comes from the same Jewish background or observance level. I am proud of my knowledge and observance. This video was making a gross generalization. There are those at Milken who have Jewish knowledge and observance outside of school but feel disrespected because of people like those portrayed (whether in real or fake) in the video. To imply that Milken doesn’t teach these holidays is blatantly false. Today in Hebrew class, my class read a print out IN ENGLISH all about the meaning of Shmini Atzeret. In the Beit Midrash program, which most students have the option to take despite outaide involvement in Jewish activities, students learn about the unknown holiday of Hoshana Rabah, celebrating the end of sukkot, which is actually going on tomorrow. Based on these and other examples, what you portrayed in your video was disrespectful and shined a negative light on a school that tries so hard to promote Judaism and its values. Perhaps it is up to you, the student to not roll your eyes at Oneg, or to join in a holiday celebration. Next year, those same questions will be answered. All you have to do is ask.

  4. I am deeply saddened by this misrepresentation of our school staff, student body, and administration. Firstly for our staff: they work very hard to make sure that we are informed, teach us what we don’t know, and show us how we can apply it to our thinking and lives, regardless of our observance. Much of our student body participates actively to promote a Jewish culture in our school. We have various events, town meetings, and posters to inform our student body. Finally, the administration makes it a point that the Judaic studies department and our students are running programming that is effective and fun.
    This video was very staged, and does not represent all of us. Some students are active in the Beit Midrash program, JLife, and other student organizations.
    I have felt very in touch with my spirituality upon coming to Milken. I’m sure the aim of this video was to be funny, but it represents our school on the internet to prospective families and other schools in a really negative way. I respect your free speech, but advise that you take it down. People look at our community by looking at the Roar, and prospective families might not “get the joke.”
    If this is really how you feel, you should make more of a point to put more effort into taking advantage of the beautiful opportunities you have been provided with. You are really fortunate to attend such an exceptional school where what Judaism means to you is excepted.

  5. I really enjoyed reading this. It gives good incite and incentives to Jewish teens everywhere to learn about their culture and who they are. It is inspirational and applicable to our lives both at Milken, with oneg, Jewish studies classes, and spiritual practice, as well as outside with shuel and all the holidays.

  6. Pluralism doesn’t mean accepting only the knowledgeable people; it means accepting everyone. One thing that makes Milken special is that we have so many different kinds of people from totally different backgrounds. Sure, some ethnicities may have a larger share of the Milken population than others, but in terms of how we practice and study Judaism, all of us are different. That video that I just watched totally disproves everything we believe in as a community.

    The Milken community teaches ethics and justice, and videos like that are made…wow.

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