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Preparing Honorable, Contributing Citizens

January 08, 2021
By Adam Tilove

No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, this was a difficult week for our country, and our democracy. As events unfolded at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, I couldn't help but think about HBHA’s mission statement: To prepare students for fulfilling lives as Jews and as honorable, contributing citizens.

What is a citizen? The 14th Amendment of the Constitution states that, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside.”

Most of us are citizens simply because we were born here. And according to the law, we are entitled to certain rights because of our citizenship. We are entitled to protection, and basic economic infrastructure. The political philosopher Thomas Hobbes stated that life without government would be “nasty, brutish, and short.” Governments exist to provide us with a life that is both civilized and long.

But what do we owe? What does it mean to be an honorable and contributing citizen?

At HBHA we believe it is our responsibility to understand and honor our system of government; 

  • to uphold the highest aspirations of our country - a government that is made “by the people and for the people,” and 
  • to be informed by truth and make thoughtful and ethical decisions on governance, including our most primal right to self determination - our right to vote. 
  • This work begins in the classroom. We strive to help our students develop critical thinking skills, so they can form their own opinions. We teach and model civil discourse. We tap into Jewish ethics and traditions to drive home the importance of kavod (respect), tzedek (justice), chesed (caring) and kehillah (community).

Judaism has recognized for centuries that our success rests to a large extent on the success of the country in which we live. We have incorporated various prayers for our country into our liturgy. I would like to quote one such prayer from the Conservative Siddur, Lev Shalem:

Our God and God of our ancestors, grant to our country the will and wherewithal to fulfill its calling to justice, liberty, and equality. May each of us fulfill our responsibilities of citizenship with care, generosity, and gratitude, ever conscious of the extraordinary blessing of freedom, ever mindful of our duties to one another. Bless those who volunteer to labor on behalf of us all; may they find the strength and courage to complete their tasks and fulfill their dreams. May our judges, elected leaders, and all who hold public office exercise their responsibilities with wisdom, fairness, and justice for all. Fill them with love and kindness, and bless them that they may walk with integrity on the paths of peace and righteousness.

May all this come to pass, and may we uphold our duties to become "honorable and contributing citizens.” 

With warm regards,

Adam Tilove
HBHA Head of School