|Tisha B'Av: an Educator's Perspectives|
Tisha B'av must be one of the least covered, least taught dates in the Jewish calendar in the general community; the only facilities in contact with a significant proportion of young people are the various community and organizational camps.
Yet every Jewish festival is a combination of different messages in varying formats; the study of the cycle of the Jewish year in its relevance to Jewish life and the individual is therefore incomplete without Tisha B'av. Some schools may approach this by cramming a few lessons in to the end of term, when students' minds are elsewhere; others may include it in part of the History, Jerusalem or Calendar sectors of the curriculum, a commendable selection of context. The real-time immediacy of the day of note to the young person will, however, be missing.
Even at a camp setting, however, where the topic is addressed at the appropriate time, there is a chance that the relevance -- equally important -- will not be evident. For how can one grieve today over something one has not personally loved, cherished or revered in one's own life?
For the observant, there is the gradual intensification of mourning customs which permeate everyday life, instilling a sadness which culminates in the lyrical outpourings of the traditional Kinot recited on the 9th of Av, and the mounting influence of the spiritual trial of the fast.
For those in Israel, there is the opportunity to visit the Kotel, to be present when thousands of people are seated on the ground in front of the remaining outer Temple Wall and experience the unusual atmosphere of communal grief.
Judaism and Jewish life revolves, too, around collective memory: knowledge and customs which pass from generation to generation to guarantee the perpetuation of relevance through emotions and acts.
For the traditional adult, this is the significance of breaking the glass under the chuppah [marriage canopy]; mentioning Jerusalem in prayers; leaving one corner of one room unpainted - because joy is incomplete without a rebuilt Jerusalem.
To many young people, however, these experiences are distant, even unknown.
In order to make the significance of Tisha B'av relevant to the geographically or spiritually remote, it is therefore necessary to: create - a sense of identification with
This identification should be with the Jewish people, with its land and complex sequels of exile, with its life, values and hopes for the future.
In other words, appreciation of and participation in the day of Tisha B'av is the sum total of a successful education process throughout the year, the camp or the course, irrespective of level, point of entry or content focus.
II. Defining the Approach
1. Associative fields:
Start by brainstorming with staff - some suggestions: land causeless hatred destruction exile corruption redemption suffering death Jerusalem society homeless Temples tragedy desolation walls Shoa longing trauma ...
2. Associative-emotive objectives:
A good one to brainstorm with the staff - a few have already been mentioned above. Suggestions are:
curiosity identification love tension sense of loss grief devotion consolation hope longing...
Questions you might want to ponder include: do we wish to generate fear or is this undesirable/taboo?
Note: If you choose a ceremony to mark any particular point in the day, this will be the sum total of all your programming; it could hardly be an isolated event!
1. Process - Everyone participates together
2. Outcomes - Everyone participates in turn in presentations.
III CHOICE OF CONTENT
1. The Point of Entry:
Whether you intend to tackle the thorny issues of Tisha B'av from a mainly national, historical, calendrial or religious angle, it is strongly recommended that there be some associative point of entry. This can be a story or some exercise about sadness/happiness, loss beyond the family, a pot pourri of community memory... Here again, we are not aiming to create socio-drama, nor create a reenactment, but to draw the group closer to the topic through identification.
2. The Focus :
Whatever your interpretation, your focus should be Tisha B'av and its relevance, messages today, to your population. From the outset, you have the option of using the Jerusalem/Zion theme in any of its presenting forms. If your focus is set, most pitfalls can be avoided.
i. Through History
On the 9th of Av, one can feel the weight of tragedy through the ages, resulting from the realities of Jewish life in exile from the moment of siege, through destruction to the Shoa.
If using the Jerusalem prism, you would focus on the Jewish people's eternal connection to Jerusalem, wherever they are or have been.
ii. Through the Calendar
There are very few totally isolated events in the Jewish calendar: even Purim spans 3 days from the Fast of Esther to Shushan Purim, while Yom Kippur, with its parallel customs of fasting and denial, completes the Yamim Nora'im - the Ten Days of Awe. Each is a period of remembrance and learning, and for self-examination.
If you choose to work around Jerusalem, many of our calendar dates center on the city; contrasting them offers interesting insights into her central role in Jewish life.
iii. At National Level
The Jewish people exiled from the land, the Jewish people's survival, the Jewish people return, a nation rebuilt; Jerusalem and Zion as national values and symbols.
iv. Through Religious Observance
Individual and family observance, culminating in community gathering, fasting all over the world, faces to Zion and Jerusalem.