The Lonely Crowd, By Chaim Heller, Head of School
The Lonely Crowd
In The Lonely Crowd, his classic book on alienation, David Reisman described the ways in which people in our society find friendships and connect. His message remains as true today as it was when he wrote it 60 years ago: Being part of a community is not a passive act. It requires desire and action. People who happen to come together are a crowd. People who desire to be together in common purpose transform into a community. People in that community can gain enormous benefits from the simple act of belonging: they are more benevolently conscious of others, more connected to a greater good, more helpful of others and more helped in return.
On the simplest level, community means people joining together in support of each other and to enjoy each other’s company. On a deeper level, it is by joining in community that we avoid being part of what Reisman called “the lonely crowd.” Perhaps that is why it is so important for us to consciously work towards community at SDJA. Beyond academic success for our students, we know we also need to inculcate lifelong habits of caring and community that will serve them well into the future. And like so much of what we do here, we can’t do it well without your active involvement. Opportunities for involvement abound at school.
Consider last night. 180 parents and community members came out on a weekday night to meet Capt. Derek Herrera, a war-wounded American military hero who is using Israeli technology to now be able to walk again. Consider today. Hundreds of parents came to school to the Chanukah bazaar to buy gifts and also to support our hard-working PTO parents who made the event so special. Consider the B’Yachad committee, a group of parent volunteers that have joined together to plan 36 Chanukah parties to be organized by 36 SDJA parents for other SDJA parents this December 8th. And weekly, dozens of SDJA families share Shabbat with each other, inviting friends they don’t know yet, or sharing in the joys of Jewish traditions with other families whose children undergo the same experiences at school.
This is only a small glimpse of what being part of our community can provide: shared experiences rooted in Jewish tradition, a sense of belonging and non-judgmental acceptance, a profound sense of the beauty and good in breaking bread with other families and the chance to be conscious of timeless traditions which can bring transcendence and great joy.
Sixty years ago, David Reisman defined communities as groups searching for a unique social character. Were he alive today, I think he would enjoy the character of the community of San Diego Jewish Academy. I know that I do.
Chag Sameach, Happy Thanksgiving!