Education Day 2021 Brings Focus to Re-Energizing Moral Education After Pandemic Year - The Jewish Voice
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Education Day 2021 Brings Focus to Re-Energizing Moral Education After Pandemic Year

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From the White House to small town America, the country unites in honoring the Rebbe

By: Tzemach Feller

After a year in which schools were shuttered for long months and education faced profound setbacks, dozens of cities and counties, nearly every state as well as the White House have united today in proclaiming Education and Sharing Day, a day focused on the higher purpose of education: building students’ character and emphasizing moral and ethical values. These values were consistently promoted by the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. Recognizing the Rebbe’s profound contributions towards the advancement of promoting moral and ethical education, every president since Jimmy Carter in 1978 has proclaimed the date of the Rebbe’s birth—11 Nissan, this year March 24—to be Education and Sharing Day, U.S.A.

Rep. Carlton Wing holds up a charity box, known as an ARK, in the Arkansas House of Representatives

In his proclamation for Education and Sharing Day, 2021, President Joe Biden focused on the significance of the day after a year of pain and loss. “If the isolation and loss of the last year has taught us anything, it is just how much we need each other, how intertwined our lives are, and how deeply we crave conversation, connection, and community. We are at our best when we work together and help our neighbors, whether down the road or around the world.”

“This lesson is at the heart of Education and Sharing Day, U.S.A., when we celebrate the role models, mentors, and leaders who devote themselves to the progress and success of each new generation, to reinforcing our common bonds, and to lifting up our highest ideals. Today, we mark the legacy of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, a guiding light of the international Chabad-Lubavitch movement and a testament to the power and resilience of the human spirit.”

Richard David, the mayor of Binghamton, N.Y., presents the city’s Education and Sharing Day proclamation to Rabbi Aaron Slonim, executive director of Chabad of Binghamton. (Credit: Megan J. Brockett)

“This initiative has been supported annually by every President since Jimmy Carter, and underscores the importance of inculcating our young people with good education and values,” Rabbi Levi Shemtov, executive vice president of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) Washington, D.C., told “Thankfully, this initiative has transcended partisanship for decades, and allowed leaders from across the political spectrum to help further the Rebbe’s passionate vision and hope for the betterment of society.”

Shemtov annually coordinates Education Day proclamations across the country together with his father, Rabbi Avraham Shemtov, national director of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) and chairman of Agudas Chasidei Chabad—the umbrella organization of Chabad-Lubavitch—who coordinated the activities surrounding the very first Education Day celebration in Washington, D.C., back in 1978.


Re-Energizing Education After the Pandemic

President Joe Biden’s proclamation was echoed throughout the country, as nearly all 50 states issued proclamations of their own, and scores of municipalities did the same. From Chicago, Ill.; Orlando, Fla.; and Newark, N.J., to Kauai, Hawaii; Vacaville, Calif.; and Altoona, Pa., local governments recognized the Rebbe’s message: that education should not merely focus on the acquisition of knowledge and preparation for a career, but that it focus on building character and inculcating values of morality, ethics and charity.

It’s a message that rings truer than ever following the devastation that the pandemic wrought on education throughout the United States and around the world.

Charlotte Craven, the mayor of Camarillo, Calif., poses with Rabbi Aryeh Lang, who directs Chabad of Camarillo, at an Education and Sharing Day 2021 proclamation ceremony on the grounds of Gan Camarillo, a local preschool under the auspices of the Chabad center.

“There is a concern about the learning loss that children are experiencing due to the remote nature of education this year,” Dr. Ashley Berner, director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy and an associate professor at Johns Hopkins School of Education told “Not only in this country but worldwide there is a learning loss, particularly for low-income children, that may endure for a generation.”


State Leaders Give Tribute to the Rebbe

Reflecting on the urgency the pandemic has brought to re-energizing and promoting education, governors from Minnesota to Texas and from California to New Hampshire proclaimed Education and Sharing Day in their respective states. Recognizing that the pandemic has “disrupted the continuity and traditional models of education across our nation and around the world,” wrote Hawaii Gov. David Ige in his state’s proclamation, “has yielded opportunities for educators to adopt new teaching and learning methods, skills and technologies and focus on character development, self-empowerment and well-being of self and community.” At the same time governors such as Delaware’s John C. Carney have urged local citizens to “reach out to those within your communities and work to create a better, brighter and more hopeful future for us all,” as the Delaware state Education Day proclamation stated.


A Global Initiative to Become Givers

On house and senate floors in state capitols, elected officials paid tribute to the Rebbe’s teachings and vision and rededicated themselves and their constituencies to the ideals of morality, ethics and charity. In the Arkansas House of Representatives, charity boxes and accompanying cards had been placed on each representative’s desk.

The charity boxes—known as ARKs for the acronym of “Acts of Random Kindness” or “Acts of Routine Kindness”—also graced the desks in the Texas House of Representatives, part of a global initiative to train people to be givers.

“There is perhaps no greater way of observing Education and Sharing Day than by making giving a habit in our everyday lives,” said Texas House Speaker Pro Tempore Joe Moody, “thereby transforming acts of random kindness into acts of routine kindness.”

“The card is in recognition of Rabbi Menachem Schneerson—who’s affectionately known as the Rebbe—the most influential rabbi in modern history,” said Arkansas Rep. Carlton Wing. “It is his work that has spanned the globe and affected the lives of many.”

“The Rebbe emphasized that the building of character with moral and ethical values as the foundation of a true education is essential,” Wing added. “It accentuates the importance of teaching principled and just behavior and personal responsibility for the betterment of society.”

Idaho Gov. Brad Little (center) poses with Rabbi Mendel Lifshitz (second from right) who directs Chabad of Idaho, as well as several local community members at the signing ceremony of the State of Idaho’s Education and Sharing Day Proclamation on March 24, 2021. (Credit: Dan Berger)

“The Governors of the state of Arkansas have been very supportive of this campaign,” said Rabbi Pinchus Ciment, who directs Lubavitch of Arkansas. “This year, the State Senate and House have joined as well to further promote this day. As awareness has grown, appreciation for the importance of this issue continues to gain more support.”

“Pointing students to the beliefs and systems that call us to something greater than the self is really important,” said Berner of Johns Hopkins. “It’s impossible to avoid ethics, because we answer ethical questions in our every behavior, and it’s impossible to construct a school without referencing some type of moral values.”


Building Character, One City at a Time

Education Day isn’t limited to state capitals and the federal government. In scores of cities across the United States—both large and small—mayors, city councils, county commissioners and town supervisors put pen to paper to promote education and sharing on the Rebbe’s date of birth.

In El Paso, Texas, Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Levi Greenberg emphasized the need to teach young people kindness and unity, recalling in particular the horrific shooting that took place in his hometown in 2019.

“Less than two years ago, El Paso experienced one of the worst mass shootings in our nation’s history, caused by a young man consumed with hatred. We strive to be an example of how to respond to such evil by increasing light and encouraging unity among all people,” Greenberg told “Education and Sharing Day emphasizes our ability and obligation to nurture compassion, empathy and love in our young ones.”

In Vacaville, Calif., Rabbi Chaim Zaklos, who directs Chabad of Solano County, said the day is a reminder of the tremendous and ongoing affect the Rebbe continues to have on the city.

“The Rebbe’s clarion call is the driving force behind countless social, educational and religious efforts that have changed our community,” said Zaklos. “It is only appropriate that on his birthday all of us—rabbis, teachers, local leaders and community members—rededicate ourselves to the Rebbe’s vision of transforming the world for the better—one child at a time, one community at a time, and one city at a time.”


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