Will Your Kids Know Maimonides was Jewish?

A recent study shows the ignorance of our own people.

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Comments (28)

(28) Gittel, December 8, 2010 9:27 AM

Teach it in a song.

Adam Sandler's Chanukah song inspires Jewish pride by naming many famous Jewish people. Maybe adding a verse of historic Religious Jewish heroes would fill the gap. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1sf5yqZX-k

(27) Lenore, October 10, 2010 7:35 PM

Thank you! Perhaps we might confront our Hebrew after-school programs (not the Jewish Day Schools) which try to fit serious study in two to three hours per week? (And this is for the sadly small segment of Jews who belong to synagogues...) Much to consider! ie: time spent planning model seders vs. time invested in study about the seder - What do we really value?

(26) Anonymous, October 10, 2010 2:09 AM


I just want to say how funny I think it is that people think Steven King wrote Moby Dick. That's hilarious. If people can be that ignorant about history/literature/pop culture than I'm not surprised that people, Jewish people at that, don't know Maimonedes was Jewish. The fact of the matter is that many people don't know very much. And they don't even know that they don't know that much. And a high percentage of them don't even care. Sad but true.

(25) Joanne, October 10, 2010 12:28 AM

Jewish Education for Children and Adults

My synagogue, Cong Anshe Sholom in New Rochelle, NY, is offering a course for adults on Jewish History, along with other learning programs for adults and a free Religious School for children. Our aim is to reach out to the wider Jewish community as well as congregants.

(24) Michael Jarvis, October 8, 2010 3:22 PM

We are loosing 50% of our kids to intermarriage and the statistics ont he next generation will be worse.

We need to educate our children to be proud of being a Jew as well as teaching the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform to show greater respect for each other and have better relationchips. If we do not make these changes we are going to continuue to loose our children to intermarriage and our grandchildren to another religion.

(23) Joe, October 6, 2010 8:35 PM

Just some more thoughts

Rav Noah of blessed memory had it right. What you have to work with is a generation whose parents and grand parents already dismissed their heritage. They feel they know all about it, and hence do not need to look into it. This is only reinforced by the modern soundbyte culture and the feeling of false expertise that comes from repeating these soundbytes. Judaism and Jewish knowledge take real dedication and effort to embrace and study. The levels of pleasure come right into play. We have an intellectually lazy culture. While many realize the emptiness of it, they lack the push to make them move in a more productive direction, and their pre-conditioning disposes them to not look in the direction of Judaism. They need to be given a reason and an invitation to look deeper and encouragement to take baby steps. Study, for its own sake, needs to be seen as pleasurable. I remarked earlier that parents who value education, education in general, though this certainly applies to Jewish education in specific, pass on a love of learning to their kids. It is pleasurable to figure things out. The point is that it is pleasurable when it is something you care about and do not feel forced to do. You learn it because you love it. Almost all school systems, public and private, fail by making education dreadful, rote and passionless - memorization and not reasoning. Some people are fortunate enough to have had a few good teachers who pointed them in the right direction with the right encouragement. What they did always, was give someone something they found fascinating for its own sake. Kiruv should be aimed at college kids. They are away from the parents who rejected Judaism, and still young enough to see learning for its own sake as a possibility.The best thing that could be done is to open up as many Aish like chapters as possible on college campuses with large Jewish populations, and simply have good people reach out to the kids in a non-threatening manner.

(22) Anonymous, October 6, 2010 6:23 PM

advertise and offer a cd with information

(21) Joseph Lieberman, October 6, 2010 4:45 PM

Torah on TV

In Israel there is a cable TV station calles "Hitabroot" It is on 24 hours a day teaching Torah to secular Israelis in a very effective manner. I play the lottery and hope to purchase a TV channel so that the same can be done here in the US. Bringing the values and faith of Torah to Jewsih homes is the most effective way of reaching out to unaffiliated Jews. Joseph Lieberman

(20) shaima goldberg, October 6, 2010 5:22 AM

how to inform people

pass out fliers in the airport, grocery, or synagogs

(19) David, October 6, 2010 4:18 AM


Dear Rabbi, I have never seen you as exasperated as today on that specific question. However, it is, alas, quite understandable if eyes and ears have been kept open for all of these past decades. Prof. ALAN DERSHOWITZ, (may I assume we all know who he is?) about 14 years ago dedicated about 400 pages quite lucidly written in his book THE VANISHING AMERICAN JEW to this precise point. Jews are so caught up in catching up (pardon the pun) that we have let go off one trapeze before grabbing on to the next. Prof. Dershowitz identified our collective lack of knowledge about our own identity as THE major reason for our collective demise. AND incidentally, many of the conclusions or thesis therein, apply equally to Jews not only in the USA, but also in France, the UK, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, and even in Israel. So what are we to do ? Even the Jewish Agency under Nathen Sharansky is changing tacks away from "aliyah" to "peoplehood in the Diaspora" . Let´s hope it is not too little and too late.

(18) David S. Levine, October 5, 2010 11:31 PM

Public (Government) Schools

One the one hand Jewish community leaders decry the lack of knowledge of our religion and our special history and on the other they have a religious devotion to the separation of Church and State as manifested by no aid of any kind to religious education other than a one hour per week "released time" program in New York City. These are contradictory goals and policies. Someone in the Leadership has to be an outlier and support government aid to non-government schools such as Day Schools and yeshivas and begin a discussion of rethought of policy advocacy. Oliver Wendell Holmes spoke of things everyone knew was true but nobody had the fortitude to state. What Rabbi Solomon said in this webcast was a good beginning but it must go on from there. However, based on the people Jewish voters support and elect in the districts in which Jewish people reside, these things everybody knows it true will not be said by those who need to say them.

(17) Anonymous, October 5, 2010 7:43 PM

Seriously? Remember, plenty of us are not raised (or live) in a super observant community. And I remember that article on day schools, but just couldn't condense my comments to make them fit the space that day. I'm so annoyed. Yes, in observant communities no problem. You'd have to have your head under a rock to not know lots, (with all the opportunities). But where we're on our own, with the blind leading the blind, and zero brain capacity is assumed in children (by others), it's crazy to think there's a chance to learn much in one or more life times. We have to be master researchers. I suggest that perhaps this site encourage all Jewish centers, shuls, rabbis, to make this and the other GREAT sites (& books) COMMON KNOWLEDGE. I've learned a lot here, and thru Partners in Torah. I suggest this site, or someone, make classes more available, by great teachers, that start with the same information as a prospective convert gets. Ever notice they know more than most Jews? My husband and I (both Jews by birth), learned a lot in such a class. (It was all that was available within an hour of our area.) I suggest kids get the same, an overview, to start. My kids (super bright & curious) went to Sunday school. They heard the story of Genesis and learned the sounds of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet for EACH of the FIVE YEARS. How sad. For children and parents to be interested, real education must exist. My oldest just began at a new charter school. It teaches Hebrew 45min/day. Unlike in Sunday schools here, this teacher can speak and write Hebrew. In 2 weeks everyone learned the sounds, then some vocabulary, are now speaking some basic conversation in Hebrew. We discovered Hebrew cursive writing exist. It's only been 1 MONTH now. For Jewish history and religion, we read and practice at home, with our children. We have good books, (had to really hunt) for the rare ones written for young people with a brain. They've been good for us too.

(16) David Tzvi, October 5, 2010 6:54 PM

What to do?

For families with young children, the parents must show the same enthusiasm for their heritage as they do for a Red Sox-Yankees world series...know the players, know the stats, know the strategies, know the history of the rivalry. And, become shabbat observant and use the shabbat table like a locker room pep talk. Older children exist in a world of over-stimulation: Internet, texting, cell phones, learning to drive. So join them in texting, sending internet one-liners, Tweeting, and links to stimulating articles on moral character and traditions found on the young adult sites like Aish.com and Chabad.org. Your kids want to be just like you; to emulate your character. They prove this by disagreeing with every thing you say. They want you to stand up for what you believe and will thank you later for it. Only the "sex" talk is more dreaded than opening your heart to the "religion" talk. Just as you demonstrate great caring and concern for their welfare with the "sex" talk, do the same by being free to discuss your most closely held beliefs about G-d, the world He created, and our place in His world. Will they listen? Well they won't tell you if they heard any of it. But listen carefully over time and you will come to understand how much it is appreciated, valued, and repeated. I know this from personal experience with my own daughter. Hatzlacha Tov.

(15) Joe, October 5, 2010 5:30 PM

Excellent question!

Let's take for granted that ignorant parents will not educate their kids. A mother or a father who has no connection to any academic subject will see no value in it, and pass on a sense of its worthlessness to their children. As someone in the sciences, I see the end result of public and private education come into my university every semester. Kids, who have parents who value education, value education. They are the minority. In general, two generations of boob tube soundbytes, and those who are comfortable with that as a substitute for learning, have produced the knowledge base and critical thinking skills, in most people, of a brain damaged oyster. They see a college degree only as a step to getting some sort of job and that only matters in as much that they have one. None the less, everybody thinks they are some sort of an expert, when the reality is that they could not manage basic algebra. They will still pontificate as if their ignorant opinions men something though. Religiously, this is a double whammy. The ohh so ignorant Jewish kid already thinks he knows all about it. Since parents and public schools won't do the job, it falls on third party organizations like Aish to do the heavy lifting. The only answer is for people with actual knowledge of Judaism to reach out to their fellows. Show them something they do not know about. Be inviting. Do not start with a guilt trip or even the goal of getting them to take on mitzvot. Just simply start with feeding them, being friendly and that they leave each encounter knowing at least one more thing about their heritage than they did when thy came in. In time, that will build up and create a desire to know more in many. Then, they will teach their kids. It falls on the Orthodox community to do kiruv like it has never imagined doing.

(14) Anonymous, October 5, 2010 4:40 PM

Where are you send your children to school?

Of couse, if the parents don't provide a jewish education for there children, chances are they will hear about Spiderman is but they will not know about the Rambam.

(13) Nava, October 5, 2010 4:27 PM

Jewish Calendar

The survey indicated whether people knew world religions. There own and outside of their own. The push to know about other religions besides your own, in hopes of creating peace. The average person is not a scholar. Nor get into scholarly writings. To follow the Jewish calendar is teaching your kids and yourself the basics of Judaism. It's where to start and to grow from there. Kabbalah helps to personalize it, you receive from God a living word. It's not about text book knowledge that can puff oneself up, but implementing God's word as a conversation God vs his people. Words to live by. God is with us. Getting excited being Jewish. People will start asking what's new or what have you been doing, and you then have your own pulpit. People are drawn to happy people. They want to know the secrets of your happiness. It's catchy and it will spur others on to seek deeper into the mysteries of God. Where to start: Follow the Jewish Calendar and get into Kabbalah to make it come alive for you.

(12) Gedalyah, October 5, 2010 2:41 PM

Parents! Read to your kids!

Yes! Just read to your kids before they go to bed! First, it's quality time for the family and they will enjoy it. Then they will want to copy you - they will want to read. So you must have a library ready for them. And here you leave the tit-bits of information you want them to discover for themselves - besides having read some of it to them already. Have fun!

(11) Marvin Karp, October 5, 2010 1:49 PM

Hunger for knowledge precedes the seeking of it.

My understanding is that the desire for knowledge precedes the actual act of assuming knowledge, just as hunger for food usually precedes the seeking out of food. What we bring to the table needs to be addressed first and foremost. For us as Jews to continue to be involved intellectually as well as spiritually-and this would be true for all people-we need to somehow work towards creating an environment that stimulate on a continual basis the hunger for learning. Similarly, the classroom teacher needs to induce through the classroom environment-and that environment starts with the authentic attitude of teacher as exemplar-the hunger for knowledge and the joy of its pursuit.

(10) dovid, October 5, 2010 1:36 PM

I was taught in Romania in public school that Maimonides was a neo-Aristotelian Greek philosopher who lived in Egypt.

Today I know better.

(9) Doron C. from Israel, October 5, 2010 11:38 AM


It is a sad case for North American and very secular Jews that they don't know very simple and basic facts about their own religion. I think it has to do with the parents that if/when they "do their part" and send the kids off to Hebrew school and when they learn what Shabbat is or a part of Gemara and the parents don't know and or don't care then the message that they get its, What do we need this for? its outdated etc. etc. Now most of N/A Jews are trying to be more a part of their non-Jewish surroundings so where do most of the people and/or kids learn from? Answer: TV. and to a lesser extent movies and video games. I strongly believe that Aish or a least a very strong organization should put a Jewish television Channel on the American/North American market and advertise it very strongly in the Jewish community and other places where unaffiliated Jews are as well. This way if they might just get something out of TV other than mindless "entertainment". Just a thought! Also on a semi-related note the "spoon feed" Judaism that most NA Rabbis/places and to a lesser extend Aish teaches Jews about may have worked in the past. But The time is short and the task very great. You need to get some strong Rabbis speaking/teaching in order to get through to the nation. In other words you need to create a little fear and urgency in order to connect to Jews that are otherwise dreaming as to what life as a Jew is all about!! If someone is living the "American Dream" and is so comfortable in life with Chris/Christine as their partner. What incentive do they or would they have about connecting to their source which is Judaism and Torah. Do 80% of the Jews out there KNOW WHAT THEY ARE LIVING FOR? or WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THEIR LIVES???

(8) Michal Evenari, October 5, 2010 10:31 AM

People don't know Maimonides was Jewish...

When we speak about "Deed and creed" like Rabbi Blech does so exellently in "Pathways", that for Christians the Creed is very important and for Jews the doing comes in the first place. That is one of the reasons, people have no idea about Maimonides. That can be changed. Already in schools children should learn, what we believe and the 13 principles of Rambam are very good for that. I know many Non Jews who are not so interested in a kosher knife or how is hafrashat Challah made, but very much about: "What happens after we die, and does it matter, wether we live good or are bad to others, what kind of Mashiach are Jews waiting for. Then we must come to Maimonides. I think, his belief, and the words he so perfectly express it tells them a lot about this great Jewish teacher...

(7) Alan Drake Tyree, October 5, 2010 1:52 AM

Don't give up!

My ears are open to you Mrs. Kurtin. I'm sure there is still a lot I need to learn about basic Judaism. If you don't have any advice, then do you have any Jewish book suggestions? Please don't retire. As I recall "America's rabbi", rabbi Daniel Lapin say, there is not a single word in the Hebrew language for retire. Please don't give up. This world needs you, and other people like you. I know I do. By the way, I'm a Noahide want to be Orthodox Jew.

(6) Daniel, October 4, 2010 5:06 PM

Build The Temple and They Will Come

All the programs in world of Judaism CANNOT make up for the fact that with each passing generation we move farther away from the days of the Beit HaMiqdash, and Torah Law as decided by the Sanhedrin.

(5) Alan S., October 4, 2010 8:57 AM

Brings to mind the famous quote by Albert Einstein: "Two things are infinite... the Universe and human stupidity. And I'm not sure about the Universe."

(4) Beverly Kurtin, October 4, 2010 3:50 AM

Glad you asked

I have asked various "machers" in shuls if I could spend some time teaching basic Judaism. The answer has been "no." I've spent much of my life learning what we believe in and what we don't believe. Missionaries to the Jews make out like bandits taking advantage of the dearth of knowledge that most Jewish people have concerning Judaism. I ask some basic questions of those people and they DO NOT KNOW that we never needed a blood sacrifice for deliberate sins. They don't know that we call our bible the Tenach. Totally zero knowledge. I've asked where they can find the book of Hebrews. They don't know that it is in the Christian testament. I've spoken in Christian churches and asked them to turn to the book of Hezekiah. They flip pages and eventually give up. Of course, he was a king of Judah. Jews think that Ahab was an Arab, etc. The PROBLEM is that too many shuls teach kids what they need to become bar or bat mitzvahs. Once they go through the ceremony OUT THEY GO. No further education is offered or given and THAT should be an outrage. I and others like me are willing to teach for FREE, but they do not want us. So I say to hell with it; I have other things to do other than try to force people to do what they should do. Such is life. I'm a certified stroke peer visitor, HIPPA threw a wrench into that program. I'm a crisis interventionist and suicide prevention counselor, but the line was shut down. I'll soon be 70 and will put all of my experience aside and retire, putting all of my experience and flush it all down the facility.

(3) Anonymous, October 4, 2010 3:25 AM

Pew Poll

The basic's need to be taught while they are sitting in the pew. Don't count on people to take a class, search the internet, buy a book, or go to religious school.

(2) Anonymous, October 3, 2010 7:54 PM

Parents need to show interest in Jewish learning and share with their kids.

I really feel Jewish education begins at home. When parents show interest in Jewish learning (or any learning) and share it with their kids from an early age whether a story, a tape, an article or even a 1 minute video (ie. Jewish Pathways) it developes a good family habit and a healthy respect , if not an interest in knowlege, in the children. There are so many good sources available nowadays. Just don't leave all the educating up to the schools.

(1) SusanE, October 3, 2010 6:45 PM

I Took that Test.

I Took that test Rabbi, and I knew who Maimonides was. And I also knew Joseph Smith and Martin Luther, and the Middle Eastern Holidays. I also know how those religions and men interact with the world. It's important to know. Of course! Who wouldn't want to learn these things? The Jews the Mormons and the Athiests were the most knowledgeable about religion in general on that test. Not surprising is it? My opinion about bringing Jews to Torah, and learning about their Heritage and their ancestors and their Holidays, is simple. JUST WELCOME THEM! With open arms! Without judgement. Welcome them just exactly as they are today. No matter how far they have strayed, no matter what their current views about religion or Judaism are. Bend your strictness to see where they have come from in their life, and incorporate that into your welcome. Abraham opened his tent on all sides.


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