Professor Michael Roseneck gave up his US citizenship when he immigrated to Israel in 1956 and spoke only Hebrew with his pupils so that he could properly train them to use the language.
“He stripped himself of his American identity in order to properly teach the youth of Israel,” his daughter Shuli Rosenak Isaacs recalled as she addressed The Rabbi Sacks Legacy conference on the remembrance of the late British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks that took place in Jerusalem last Thursday.
She was part of a panel moderated by Rabbi Dr. Daniel Rose titled “Building a Civilization: Gen Z to Gen Alpha in Israel and Around the World.”
Rose asked Isaacs, the principal of the middle school at Tehilla-Evelina de Rothschild Secondary School for girls in the old city of Jerusalem, how students in her classroom have differed from previous generations and how can we prepare our girls for the next stage of life.
Young generations can't express themselves as well
Following in her father’s footsteps, Isaacs first insisted on only speaking in Hebrew to a primarily English-speaking audience. As she told them, the most striking difference she sees between generations is the lack of high language.
“They can’t find high words to describe their feelings and emotions and they don’t know any other language and that causes some of the problems of using very low and very shallow language, and I am worried about it.”
In disagreement with Isaacs’s philosophy on strictly speaking Hebrew during the panel was Rabbi Dani Segal, co-director of the Shalom Hartman Institute and HaMidrasha at Oranim’s Beit Midrash for New Israeli Rabbis, who spoke about the Anglo heritage of educators in Israel.
“I don’t think it’s random at all that many educators come from an Anglo background, I think it has to say a lot about your role as Jews in another country. And I think that the education system in Israel has benefited greatly. From caring Jews, they came from other places with different ideas, the different language plays a very, very major role.”
Rav Dani argues that it's much more than the issue of high language but like Isaacs says there’s a lack of personal relationships because of the way this generation is taught how to communicate.
“Many people in Israel, they’re looking for [personal relationships] and it has a lot to do with where I teach today. But they don’t know how to communicate. They weren’t taught how.”
“Many people in Israel, they’re looking for [personal relationships] ... but they don’t know how to communicate. They weren’t taught how.”Rabbi Dani Segal
With a lack of expression comes the inability to expand their inner worlds and connection to Torah. They take hold of “I” and lose the “We” that Rabbi Sacks preached,” Isaacs explained in an interview with the Post.
Rabbi Sacks famously talks about the “I” mentality versus the “we” mentality in various of his books and teachings.
In his last published book before his death, Morality, Sacks writes, “The over-emphasis on ‘I’ and the loss of ‘We’ leaves us isolated and vulnerable. It is not good to be alone.”
Isaacs explains that this generation’s entire life is a lonely one with our worlds in our phones. There is a constant “I” and that is what must change.