“Sunday school is more a kind of ritual or ceremony than an education for the answer to the question, ‘What is the meaning of my existence?’”
In this sermon of March 26, 1967, Rabbi Olan confronts the challenge of how to create a religious education system for children that equips them to grapple with the most fundamental questions of existence in a secular age when religious education for so many families is no more than a ritual.
I can relate to part of this sermon because I went to Sunday school at Temple Emanuel a few years after this sermon was delivered (1967) and I can vouch for the fact that, at that time, it was ritualistic at best. This may be due less to the Temple’s education program than to the culture at large – which was exactly Rabbi Olan’s point.
He contrasts religious education at that time with what it had been mere decades before: “Some of us still remember it as a reality when the last few pennies paid for the instruction of the will of God and there was none left for food.”
He concludes with an answer, but you may be surprised by how pessimistic it is.
*Written by Joshua F. Hirsch*