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(Original publish date, April 23rd, 2012)

The other day I spent $100,000 (ok, so I spend it over the last nine years on tuition) for my son to learn four words. And I was glad to do so.

Let me start at the beginning… last week was Yom Hashoah and The Rashi School, where my son attends, had invited a Survivor to speak. The children all assembled in the Beit Midrash: Six students read a prayer and lit six yartzeit candles, two students gave a brief reading, and the guest was introduced by a teacher.

As the guest stood up to talk, he appeared overwhelmed. He said to the children in a thin voice “You are the future,”—and then fell silent. He was pale and non-responsive, although he remained standing. A few adults helped him to sit down. The school nurse was called as was 911. The children were asked to leave the Beit Midrash, which they did very quietly and calmly.

Lying on a gurney, leaving for the hospital, our humble guest said in a soft but firm voice, “I am sorry that I did this to the children.”

Sorry?, I kept repeating in my head. Sorry? I didn’t get it. What was he sorry about? Sorry for the all-too-brief speech? Sorry that he required attention? Sorry that he may have upset some of the kids?

The seventh-grade class, my son later explained to me, was moved by the Survivor’s four words and they had a lengthy conversation after the assembly. What did “you are the future” mean to them? They understood the great responsibility to always remember. They grasped that they are the future leaders of our shuls. The future leaders in our communities. The future leaders of great businesses. The future leaders of our country. The future leaders of our Jewish people.

As a parent of two day school students, I’m reminded on a regular basis that not only are my children receiving a best-in-class education, but they are also learning what it means to be a Jew and how to handle the attendant responsibilities. My wife and I are blessed that their day schools provide enrichment to their lives every day. Now our kids also know that they are the future. May our future leaders—my kids and yours—take us from strength to strength!

B’Kavod,

Jim