King Solomon was known to have coined the expression, "Educate the child accordingly so that when he grows old, he will not leave." In other words, take advantage of the child's education as soon as possible.
In modern times, this admonition certainly applies to preschool, and it's something that my day care school, the Bilowit Learning Center, based in the Lomita-Torrance area, has always taken as a mission.
A few months ago I flew from Long Beach to Brooklyn. It was a long, sad and lonely trip. A few days earlier, my mother had turned 82 years old and was looking forward to a special birthday, when tragedy struck. A fire broke out in her home. Quickly, her life was taken by fire and smoke. No goodbyes or time to prepare for closure, just a cruel death.
My father survived the fire but lives daily with his memories. He now spends his time living a day or a week with different children and grandchildren. He recently came to California to join our family for the holidays. Even though the children and grandchildren were here something big was missing. Yes, our dear mother, the grandmother, was missed.
Recently, I was working at my school office planning a day of classes and interviews when I was notified of an incoming call from New York. It was my cousin, Shion, a hospital chaplain and a fine rabbi.
"Have you heard the news?" he asked.
I thought his voice sounded pensive and without waiting for an answer he went on to say, "There has been a fire, your mother didn't make it and your father is in the hospital."
Bubbie, my sweet grandmother, is a small woman, barely 5-feet tall. Her candelabra wasn't just a candleholder used for the Sabbath and Chanukah lights. It was a family symbol; a magnet that brought family and friends together.
"The world exists only because of the innocent breath of schoolchildren," attributed to Jewish sages, first century Talmud.
At least once a week, we hear reports of missing children. Some are found alive and others, tragically, dead.
I was especially proud to be a fourth-generation American Jew. I played a great game of baseball, enjoyed reading the Sunday funnies and celebrated American holidays. My mother's family was the complete opposite. They all came from Europe and had no appreciation for baseball or any American pastimes.
My sadness was not with the pope's noble gesture, but with the memories of the horrific name of Babi Yar.