The importance of Jewish education: Grade 12 student speaks to UJA Federation

Emily Martell (Courtesy UJA Federation of Greater Toronto)

Emily Martell delivered this speech at the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s 2018 campaign launch.

Hi. My name is Emily, and I am a Grade 12 student at TanenbaumCHAT.


I want to talk to you about a topic that is extremely important to me, and one that I know is so important to many of you in the audience and in our community.


Jewish education.


While I have been in the Jewish education system for most of my life, there were a few years before high school when I attended public school.


Even though it wasn’t the only reason, the cost of tuition played a role in my family’s decision to put me in the public school system.


Fortunately, I went to a great public school that was strong academically and where I built friendships that are very meaningful to me.


But, there is just something about a Jewish education that is extremely special.

I think one of the greatest values of a Jewish education, whether it’s through a day school or supplementary school, is that it goes such a long way toward instilling a love of Jewish life.


But beyond that, it leads to a desire to become active in Jewish life and in helping to strengthen the Jewish community.


Jewish education has meant so much in my life and in shaping the person I want to be. It has helped push me along a path that has led to so many other amazing experiences.


Last year I participated in a high school internship program with kids from around the world, that prepared us for the challenges we might face regarding Israel in college, and in our communities. It taught us how to encourage positive dialogue and how to become leaders in educating people about Israel and the Jewish community.


This past April, i had a life-changing journey with march of the living, a two-week intensive experience that takes grade 11 and 12 students to Nazi concentration camps in Poland and then on to Israel, to see how we have thrived as a people following the atrocities of the Holocaust.


Without the experience of my Jewish education, it is likely that I would never have become so engaged in the community.


I might not have chosen to dedicate my summers to working with youth at synagogues, or to working at Jewish summer camps, which i know have such a powerful impact on kids and their desire to stay involved and connected to their roots.


Just this week I have seen the imapct that your support of UJA has had on making Jewish education possible for so many families.


When I started in Grade 9, the total enrollment for my grade was 250 students. Last year, it dropped to only 190.


This year, as I embark on my last year in the Jewish education system, iI am so thrilled to see nearly 300 grade 9 students roaming the halls of TanenbaumCHAT.


It is truly a blessing to know that so many kids will be able to share the same kinds of experiences that I have benefited from and that they will be getting a first-class Jewish and general studies education.


So, on behalf of all students in the Jewish education system, I want to thank all of you for your support.


Thank you and enjoy the rest of your night!