When I whinge to my more ‘normal’ friends about how I wish I was back in VCE, I am met with strange looks of concerned pity and “why are we friends with her again?”
In my defense, it’s not exactly the endless hours of studying, loss of social life and vitamin D deficiency that I yearn for, but rather, the connection, appreciation and accessibility to our Judaism. The silver platter on which we are handed all the tools to build our Jewish identities.
Having a meaningful connection to Judaism outside of Israel is hard. Maintaining that connection in a secular family is hard. Keeping an established connection throughout the distractions of VCE is hard. But embracing and strengthening that connection once you graduate is the hardest.
No longer reminded to wear white and blue on Yom Ha’Atzmaut, warned that the cafeteria will be closed on Tisha B’av, or having the GBH Minyan to attend on Friday nights, we are left to fend for ourselves in the ‘real world’. Without these constant reminders of why and how to connect, Judaism often gets pushed to the wayside. It becomes easier to let go than to hold on.
Since graduating, I have been privileged enough to have been offered a few more silver platters that have enabled me to remain involved, enthused and connected to the Jewish community and my personal Jewish identity. Silver platters that if you look for, aren’t too hard for any graduate to find. The first of these came in the form of the Friday night Zooz Minyan, a shule run by Jewish youth, for Jewish youth. Filled with the same warmth, spirituality and welcoming atmosphere of GBH, it was the first stepping-stone to what later formed the basis of my post VCE Judaism.
Fresh out of school or deep into their University studies, the Scopus initiated, Zooz organization offers a forum for Jewish youth to connect, learn, socialize and cultivate our Jewish identities. Through weekly meetings where events are planned, Jewish ideas learned and opinions shared, networks are established, community involvement is maintained and a constant acknowledgment and appreciation of Judaism is reestablished. We volunteer for community organizations, give back to schools and strive to enhance and deepen our understanding of what it means to be a young Jew in Melbourne society today. Zooz replaces the silver platter of Scopus and other Jewish day schools with a different kind of self-motivated silver platter; a means of connection aimed to fill the void left after graduation.
Fortunately for this little hardcore Scopus girl, my most recent silver platter gave me an opportunity to realize my post-graduation dream – year 10 camp version 2.0. As a madricha, I observed, learnt and discussed with staff and students and was once again reminded of the extreme lengths Scopus goes to promote informed decisions about each individual’s Judaic connection. We are encouraged not to conform to an ideology, but to critically challenge our beliefs and opinions, provided with a rare opportunity to engage with Israeli madrichim and are able to experience and celebrate the most beautiful aspects of Judaism in the most innovative and exciting way possible.
Reliving arguably the pinnacle of Scopus informal education woke me up to where the issue of connection to Judaism post-VCE really lies. Within ourselves.
My reaction to being given the opportunity to have a second run at what remains one of my most cherished Scopus memories was twofold. On the one hand it filled me with gratitude for the amazing school I was lucky enough to be a part of and a twinge of jealousy toward those yet to experience it, yet on the other I was frustrated immensely.
When questioned on the gaping hole that Jewish identity once filled, many graduates are quick to blame their schools for a lack of preparation for life after VCE. Perhaps it’s more difficult to see when immersed in the Scopus spirit and experience day in and day out, but camp version 2.0 confirmed for me that, at least at Scopus, we are provided with every pathway, opportunity and suggestion to maintain our Jewish connection after school. Indeed it is the theme of the entire camp – ‘Why Be Jewish?’ – and encompasses the entire reason behind the year 12 Shabbaton a few years later.
As graduates of any Jewish day school, we have the choice to either enhance or lose our connection to Judaism after graduation. Scopus left me with a desire to go and find my own silver platters and to ensure my Jewish connection remains relevant and an active part of my life.