letter a

“I’m telling you. People come and go in this Forest, and they say, ‘It’s only Eeyore, so it doesn’t count.’ They walk to and fro saying, ‘Ha ha!’ But do they know anything about A? They don’t. It’s just three sticks to them. But to the Educated – mark this, little Piglet- to the Educated, not meaning Poohs and Piglets, it’s a great and glorious A.” –Eeyore, summarized from The House at Pooh Corner (chapter 5)

I read this years ago and could never get it out of my mind. I find that every so often I take my own Torah education for granted and forget that not everyone knows about the Vilna Gaon or knows 5 different tunes to Shir HaMaalos on Shabbos.

In our interactions with those who were not exposed to a traditional Jewish education, it is extremely easy to forget that to the uneducated, to quote Eeyore, the letter “A” is, simply, three sticks.

Being able to explain and give over concepts in Yiddishkeit takes multiple skill sets. You have to be a communicator, and educator, have marketing knowledge, and know how to take and reformulate objections, just to name a few.

At the core of every outreach opportunity we have, is the importance of respect. As a non-kiruv professional, I interact almost daily with many not-yet-observant Jews. I have some as clients, some have me as a patient, I see people at the grocery store.

Not every interaction ends up in a discussion about Judaism, but I am always careful not to make anyone feel like less of a person because they were not privy to the chinuch that I am very grateful for.

Neil Harris has 15 years of full-time experience in both teen and adult informal education. In 1994, he pioneered  the idea of using Starbucks as a kiruv destination for NCSY events (what is currently NCSY’s “Latte and Learning” program). He currently works in the healthcare industry, gives a mussar vaad, and also teaches a chabura on the sefer, Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh. 

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