In the past several months, I’ve thought a lot about a statement that our sages made about the Exodus.  They said that due to the merit of righteous women, the Israelites were redeemed.

The rabbis recognized that it was the heroism of five courageous women that led to the redemption of our people:  Moses’s sister, his mother, an Egyptian princess, and two midwives.  They each defied the murderous decrees of the oppressive Pharaoh.  They had a choice:  to go along and acquiesce or stand up and take action even at great risk to their life.  They chose the latter.

Over the past nine months, I’ve felt as if the Jewish community has met a group of modern day heroines.  They didn’t stand up against an evil decree, except in an existential way.  But their faith and actions were so heroic that I realized that if we emulated these women, we could redeem the world.

First are the mothers of the three Israeli teens who were abducted this past summer:  Racheli Frenkel, Bat-Galim Shaer, and Iris Yifrach.  These three mothers of grief possessed such strong faith and inspired the Jewish community to unite in ways we had never seen before.  Thousands of Jews–Hasidic, secular, and everything in between–gathered at the Kotel.  Racheli Frenkel was approached by a group of children who told her that they had just offered a prayer on behalf of her son and the other two boys.  She turned to them and said reassuringly, “I believe with full faith that they’ll return; but if they don’t, be strong.”  “Hashem lo oved etzleinu,” she said, “God doesn’t work for us.”  What humility to maintain faith in God and yet recognize in a time of desperation that the world does not revolve around us!  Racheli Frenkel showed me, all of us, what deep faith looks like.

That was the summer.  The winter came and we met another set of women.  Bashi Twersky, Chaya Levine, Breine Goldberg, and Yakova Kupinsky were the surviving wives of the four men killed in the Har Nof synagogue massacre. These women were faced with a choice in the face of the brutal murders.  They could have cried out for vengeance.  They could have cursed in anger.  Instead, they looked inward.  They said that within the Jewish community there was so much divisiveness.  The unity of the summer seemed to have been forgotten.  Healing must begin from within the Jewish community, and they declared that the first shabbat after their husbands’ deaths should be devoted to “Ahavat Chinam,” unbridled love towards one another.  I was inspired by their selflessness and so were others.

This Pesach, I understand better the rabbis’ insight that due to righteous women, we can redeem the world.  We can redeem it if we emulate the moral courage of Miriam, Yocheved, Batia, Shifrah and Puah.  We can enrich it if we draw from the deep faith of the three strong mothers whose brave sons brought out the best in us.  We can improve it if we incorporate the selflessness of the four wives whose husbands won’t be at the seder this year.

Jewish day school enrollment has been the hot topic of discussion in the Jewish community.  Everyone has a theory why enrolment is down.  Some argue it’s because of the cost of education; tuition at day schools can exceed that of Canadian universities. Others say it’s because of value; fewer families today value an intensive Jewish education than in previous generations.  Whatever reasons we come up with, we cannot neglect the fact that we are part of a larger issue facing the GTA education sector as a whole.

Anyone who has been following local news knows that our public educational institutions are also experiencing financial stress.  The Toronto Catholic board announced a budget deficit in excess of $23 million.  The Toronto District School Board announced that 130 of its schools are less than 65 percent full. The Teaching Assistants at the University of Toronto and at York University are on strike.  The student population is down all over the city, and budgets are stressed.

There are likely unique factors that affect the Jewish community.  However, we shouldn’t think that we are immune to the demographic challenges faced by all schools in the Greater Toronto area.

I am confident that the entire TanenbaumCHAT community has the support, the grit, the vision and the creativity to overcome these challenges. We as a team has  what it takes to create a school of enduring significance with two thriving campuses.

This week is Rumble in the Jungle.  My schedule was crazy, but I managed to sneak in a few minutes to watch the boys’ volleyball game—TCW v. TCK.  I entered the gymnasium at TCW, moved over the right of the judge, and then realized that I was standing on the TCK side.  I began to worry that someone might think that I was favoring the younger child over the older.  Anyone familiar with the Book of Genesis knows the problems that causes.

I crossed over to the other side of the floor and stood behind the scorekeeper’s table, which is situated at the midpoint of both teams.  There I stood.  TCK had won the first game.  TCW won the second.  I didn’t need to see the tie-breaking third game because either way I won.

The two campuses have distinct identities.  Yet, while one is Toronto and the other Vaughan, one is Wallenberg and the other Kimel, one is South and the other North, one is CHAT and the other CHAR, to me they are both TanenbaumCHAT.

I imagine Serena and Venus Williams’ parents felt the same way when they watched the two sisters compete against each other at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre in Forest Hills, NY.  Archie and Olivia Manning likely shepped naches regardless of the outcome in any of the “Manning Bowls” when their sons Eli (Giants) and Peyton (Colts) butted heads in NFL football.  The Staal parents from Thunder Bay are no strangers to a face off among their sons Marc, Eric and Jordan Staal.  Regardless of the final score, these parents win.

My goal for the year ahead is to bring the schools together not just to compete but to collaborate.  Greater cooperation will help streamline operations.  It will build a stronger “chevre” for our students when they go to university or to Israel.  It will show that we are, indeed, one school of enduring greatness flourishing on two campuses.  It’s win-win!