After a thorough tour of the multicultural and bilingual Kindergarten / Preschool operating out of the YMCA in Jerusalem, Phil and I were privileged to be able to have an extended period of dialogue with the Peace School’s director – Alexandra Klein-Franke. Alexandra expressed a real depth of knowledge drawing from her experience of working in multicultural environments, and contexts seeking to bring equality and tolerance.Phil and I listened as Alexandra explained the unique context in Jerusalem, and what – as a preschool – they aimed to achieve by welcoming and supporting the development of friendships among Jews, Christians and Muslims. So much thought had gone in to creating the culture where equality, multiculturalism and tolerance were practiced. Among all the dialogue about how to provide quality education and create a school where every child and family is truly valued, Phil and I were struck by a comment Alexandra made:
“You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
Every now and again, when we pause to think about establishing a quality and inclusive school for 3 to 18 year olds, it can become quite overwhelming – we are, after all, coming against 160 years of inequality and segregation in South Africa! It breaks our hearts to see the ongoing inequality, particularly in the education system, but we know that God has given us a different picture of what the future could look like. So what are we waiting for? Alexandra is correct, Phil and I aren’t obligated to complete the work of establishing equality and integration throughout the whole of society, but we are called to continue to draw near to God, to listen, to trust, and to take whatever next steps are required to establish the kind of school that God has given us a vision for in South Africa – we are not free to abandon that! On his return to South Africa, Phil did a bit more reading and discovered that the comment Alexandra made comes from the Talmud – one of the central texts of Judaism, and source of religious law. Reading Alexandra’s comment in context adds additional urgency:
“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
I would encourage you to read this quote again. Ask yourself, ask God – how does this speak in to your context? What is God asking of you at this moment? And what are you waiting for?