Just over one hundred years ago, on Sunday October 17th, 1920, Franz Rosenzwieg gave the convocation address at the opening of the Freie Judische Lehrhaus, in Frankfurt, Germany. In his speech, Rosenzweig described the central pillar of what might be called ‘the Lehrhaus method’: an institute for Jewish learning that would make “teachers into disciples and vice versa.” In Rosenzweig’s own words from that historic evening, Lehrhaus educators “come together here not as experts…” (Kern-Ulmer 207). Tamar Zaken, HaMaqom’s Chief Program Officer, calls this a ‘pedagogy of humility.’
A pedagogy of humility is at the heart of the Jewish wisdom tradition. Jewish mystics imagined that God ‘contracted’ (tzimtzum) to make room for creation. There is an ancient tradition that the Ten Commandments were given on Mt. Sinai, the shortest (= ‘most humble’) of the mountains in the region. Moses is recalled as the most humble of the Hebrew prophets. The prophet Micah (6:8) reminds us that, other than justice and loving-kindness, the only thing God seeks from us is humility. And the list goes on.
This Hanukkah, 100 years after the Frankfurt Lehrhaus was founded, and 82 years after it was shuttered by the Nazis, we at HaMaqom | The Place are once again rekindling the light of Lehrhaus here in the Bay Area. Just as the Menorah in the Jerusalem Temple was rekindled on Hanukkah all those years ago, so too we take time this Hanukkah to honor the Lehrhaus legacy and rededicate ourselves to its founding vision of placing humility at the center of the Jewish educational project.