Tilling the Educational Soil

Joshua Runyan

A Talmudic story relates the power of forward-thinking combined with self-sacrifice: Choni HaMa’agal was walking down the road and saw a man planting a carob tree. “How long does it take for the tree to bear fruit?” he asked the man. The man replied that it would take 70 years.

“Are you certain that you will live another 70 years?” Choni asked the man.

The man’s response was a quintessentially Jewish one. He had seen carob trees already grown. “Just as my forefathers planted those for me,” he said, “so too I plant these for my children.”

Beyond planting trees, there’s plenty that we, joined together as a community, do without any promise of reward in the physical world. We raise children, but more importantly, we strive to educate them.

Reaching well past the carob tree marker of time, Baltimore’s own Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim — Talmudical Academy is turning 100, a milestone its founder, Rabbi Avraham Nachman Schwartz, might have been sure would come but of which he knew he would not see in a physical sense. That early investment of effort, nurtured in the years that followed by generations of families and teachers, has clearly borne fruit.

And as you’ll read in this week’s JT, a much-needed expansion of the school will bear even more.

“The legacy is what people are so proud of,” Rabbi Yaacov Cohen, the school’s executive director, said. “We have over 50 students documented who are third-generation TA, some students who are fourth generation.”

“That just doesn’t happen in other schools,” he continued. “You have families that are a part of the Baltimore community and just intricately woven into the history of TA, families that have watched us grow and flourish and have been a part of it.”

That’s all certainly true, but TA’s success as a community institution also speaks volumes on the potential of other schools and yet-to-be-founded institutions. It’s no secret that parts of Jewish Baltimore have, in the last few years, been experiencing a growth spurt fueled by the arrival of families from New York and elsewhere seeking a lower cost of living without skimping on educational excellence. TA is a major part of that story, but its example is a universal one.

“A Jewish education is the fundamental component of the future of the Jewish people,” explained Ari Krupp, a TA father and former chairman of its executive board. “It is our responsibility to give our children the best education possible.”

The fruits may take a generation to mature, but the trees TA and other institutions continue to plant here in Baltimore are changing the world.


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