Each generation must struggle to make sense of its legacy. What we call Jewish identity is, quite simply, the result of that struggle. This has been the case for the majority of the world’s Jews since the Enlightenment.
My involvement with Jewish philanthropy has been something of a second life for me, and I was privileged to acquire a real Jewish education late in life. Today I hope that others, old and young, may have the same opportunity.
I was born into an Orthodox Jewish home, with an adequate religious education in an Orthodox Cheder; and so I was not exposed to the broader, cultural aspects of Judaism. Where could one go, I wondered, to learn about all this, about a history so rich with achievement and intellect? The answer, sadly, was nowhere. There were no courses in schools or universities, nor was there a single literary source available, not even the Encyclopedia Judaica.
This led to the launching of the substantial Posen Library project and to the founding of the Posen Foundation. I believe that the next generation of Jews, striving and intelligent, deserves an opportunity to claim its birthright: a Jewish education. How do we start to provide that for the millions of Jewish students who might seek it?
We must start, I believe, by providing more educational opportunities, and that is something the Posen Foundation has supported for over a decade. We started by offering the first ever courses in Judaism as Culture for university students in North America, Israel, and Europe and have progressed to a great variety of educational projects.
We know that the future depends on transmitting the love of Jewish knowledge to the next generation. How to do that are both a riddle, and a challenge.