WANTED: Pied Piper – Dead or Alive

Pied Piper of Hameln

By Creator:Augustin von Moersperg [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

by Rabbi Batsheva Appel
cross-posted on The Table

As we have turned our attention to our young people especially how to engage them in our communities and in Jewish life, repeatedly I have heard well-meaning lay-people and even some Jewish professionals say that the most important thing needed for the program is a “Pied Piper”. My immediate response each time is – no.

Why on earth would we want a Pied Piper? If we look at the story, the Pied Piper is:

  • Someone who lures children away from their parents
  • Someone who is willing to use children as pawns in his revenge on the townspeople for not being paid
  • Someone who treats children like the vermin he is paid to exterminate

Why would we deliberately look for someone just like that to work with our children?

We should instead look for:

  • Someone who can relate to children
  • Someone who is passionate about living a Jewish life and can transmit that
  • Someone who loves building community

If we don’t have anyone like that in our communities, then we should find someone who could fulfill all of these criteria and help cultivate them. We can arrange to have them mentored. We can encourage them to learn more about working with young people and learn more about Judaism. We can pay them appropriately [remember that the Pied Piper stole all of the children in Hameln because they refused to pay him for the work that he had done.]

We don’t need to wait for a Pied Piper to work with our youth. We don’t need to wait for the perfect person either. We do need to find individuals who can work with our young people now, even if we need to help them grow into the role.

Rabbi Batsheva Appel is the Associate Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in Tucson, Arizona.

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