What’s a “New Jew?”

– Message from Dr. Bruce Powell, Head of School

“New Jew” – our nickname.  Coined by wise students in our first class back in 2002.  Did they know how profound that name actually is?

Let me explain.

Human education has, over the past 5000 years, moved from the oral tradition, to the printed word, and now to the digital age.  While technology has accelerated the spread of information, it often slows or even obfuscates the spread of wisdom.

In January of 1942, the German leadership of the Third Reich held a meeting in a suburb of Berlin to plan the murder of every Jew on the European continent.  This meeting was benignly called the Wannsee Conference.  Many who attended the conference held M.D. or Ph.D. degrees from German universities.  Several lessons emerge:

  • First, one can hold a Ph.D. and be an S.O.B.
  • Second, these Germans possessed tremendous intellectual imagination, yet were horribly devoid of moral vision or ethical action.
  • Third, we learn that advancement in the world depends upon the power of the intellect; but the very existence of the world depends upon intellectual imagination and ethical action.  The two are inseparable.

A New Community Jewish High School education fuses the enormous power of contemporary advances and ideas of human civilization with the sacred obligation of humans to apply that knowledge to advance moral vision and ethical action.  The power of knowledge left untethered from ethics and morality is often dangerous; ethics and morality without knowledge is weak.

At NCJHS, knowledge must lead to both power and wisdom.  The two are inseparable.  This is what we mean by intellectual imagination and ethical action.  This combination in the context of 3000 years of Jewish tradition, history, culture, ideas, and religion, is what we call wisdom.

At NCJHS, students are taught that mathematical and scientific advances are to “promote the general welfare” of humanity; that powerful writing must serve the greater good and never devolve into demagoguery; that arts uplift the soul and explore human meaning; that Jewish text study has practical application in business and medical ethics; that from the study of history emerges wisdom for the future; and that world language study both connects us with the “other,” and transmits culture.

This is what we call education for the 21st century.  Those educated at NCJHS are what we call “New Jews”—leaders who are nuanced and thoughtful, knowledgeable and wise.   Leaders who are capable of succeeding in the unknown future because he/she is well versed in our history and our values.  Leaders who understand that intellectual imagination and ethical action are inseparable.

A student speaker at the graduation of our Class of 2009 is one of our “New Jews.”

He told the audience, “In a society where teenagers are often depicted as naturally cruel, selfish, exclusive, naïve and pessimistic, the noble creators of New Community Jewish High School set out to demonstrate to society that high school students had the capacity to exhibit care, inclusiveness, depth and hope in the present and future.  By learning about our rich and diverse traditions, we have the freedom to express our Judaism in new, innovative ways.

We stand on the shoulders of many former New Jews who, throughout the ages, redefined themselves through debate and action.  We can change the future and the present.

We embrace our role as the new generation of our people.
We will be innovators, integrating our Jewish values with technology.
We will be leaders of our people.
We will shake up the art world.
We are the next generation’s New Jews.”

Welcome to New Community Jewish High School.

Dr. Bruce Powell
Head of School