Geoffrey Canada is an inspiring educator and activist. If you watch 60 Minutes, listen to This American Life on the radio, or pay attention to American Express commercials, you’ve heard of Canada’s brainchild, the Harlem Children’s Zone, which seeks to use the educational system to “break the cycle of generational poverty” in a small neighborhood in New York. What makes Geoffrey Canada’s vision unique and revolutionary is that he doesn’t focus on helping families break out of poverty. Rather, he accepts that it is almost impossible to pull young and poor parents out of the cycle, but that the chain of poverty can be broken if resources are poured into children. The Harlem Children’s Zone is a cradle-to-college program that starts working with mothers before their children are even born, and works with children from birth through pre-school, elementary school, middle school, high school, and college. Geoffrey Canada believes that the key to a neighborhood’s redemption is its children.
This week is a special Shabbat, called Shabbat HaGadol, a special day that always falls on the Shabbat immediately preceding Pesach. To mark the occasion we read a special haftarah, an excerpt from the book of Malachi. The haftarah parallels the story of redemption from Egypt with a narrative about Messianic redemption, but it’s the final verses that really reminded me of Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone.