We Always Have Our Minds, We Must Use Them

21 Jul

“They can never take your education or your mind,” my Grandfather told me. He escaped from Europe in 1918 in an effort to avoid service in the military. For a Jew in 1918, a military career was not a good option.

Although Grandpa’s formal education ended, he was a strong believer in education for his children and grandchildren. He came to a country, that although it had quotas for college at the time, there was still an opportunity to get an advanced education for everyone. In New York City, many children of immigrants went to CCNY, City College of New York, where education was basically free!

He would be proud to know that five of his great grandchildren have or are working on secondary degrees: four master’s degrees already completed, one in progress and a PhD on its way. No one can take this education away.

We are the people of the book, the Torah. We are a people who stress learning and education. My family is one that continues this tradition. In this country we have had the opportunity to learn at any college or university. We have had the freedom to study Torah as free and independent people.

My Grandfather never learned to read English well. We grew up reading street signs for him as he drove. In fact, I learned to read by listening to my Grandmother read to him.   My Grandmother also came from Europe and was fortunate enough to go to night school to learn English.

But do not think my Grandfather was uneducated. He was not. He was literate in Yiddish, Hebrew and Polish, as was my Grandmother. English was their fourth language.

My Grandfather was a Cohen, from the priestly group of Judaism.   He had a beautiful voice. When I was a small child, I loved to sit under his tallit with him as he chanted the prayers.

I also stress education.   I have taught high school. I work at a school now. And I made it clear to my children, from infancy, that education was the most important job they had.

No matter what you do in life. No matter where you live. Nothing can ever take your education away from you.

In Israel they know this. Recently Shimon Peres, the 93-year-old, past president, said: “In Israel, a land lacking natural resources, we learned to appreciate our greatest resource, our minds.”

This is a truth for everyone.   Education and your mind are always yours. No one can take these away.

The United States has been a country of immigrants; a country where people can get an education. Where people can read the books they want to read, study the topics they want to study; use their minds to be whatever they want to be. The USA is a country of free speech and freedom of religion.

I hope it continues. We always have our education and our minds. I hope people use their minds this November.  I hope they remember that we all came from elsewhere.  Use their minds and their education to do what is best to keep our country free, to keep the haven for immigrants alive, to avoid the pitfalls we see in Europe.  The world is a scary place right now.  But we need to use our minds to keep out fear and to reject those who would use fear and hatred to change American.

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6 Responses to “We Always Have Our Minds, We Must Use Them”

  1. Sherry July 21, 2016 at 12:18 pm #

    Wonderful!! Education–yes, smart!! (Stroke health, speech–me). Thank you.

  2. Amy July 22, 2016 at 8:11 pm #

    Now that I am retired from teaching law, I volunteer in the public schools in the city near us. I have learned a whole new perspective on the value of education, seeing these children who have no books at home eager to learn and hungry for an education, something I assumed as a right as did my own children.

    • zicharon July 22, 2016 at 8:18 pm #

      The NCJW section I volunteer with has been providing free books for over 2500 elementary school students every year for about 20 years. We give them books as birthday gifts. For many of them these are the only books they have ever owned.

      • Amy July 22, 2016 at 8:21 pm #

        There’s a non-profit in our area called Links to Libraries that does the same thing. I go into the classroom once a month to read to the class and then each child gets a free book. I did this in two classes this past year (as well as tutoring once a week), and I was amazed by how excited the children were to get a book and to hear me read, things my children took for granted, as did I.

      • zicharon July 22, 2016 at 8:24 pm #

        Exactly. They cherish their books.

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