Educators Are Real People Too

by David Bryfman Over the last few weeks, as sirens have filled our collective heads, and passion, compassion, and vitriol consumed our Facebook feeds there has been one tune that has been playing over and over in my head. The Last War (Ha Milchama Hachrona) sung by Yehoram Gaon, whose haunting chorus is: “I promise you - my little girl, that this will be the last war.”[1] Hamilchama Ha'achrona - Yehoram Gaon from David Bryfman on Vimeo. We have sung this song many times before, and can only imagine the countless number of parents who over time have cited lyrics similar to these to their children in many languages in all corners of the world. Once again these lyrics have failed us. My friends and colleagues, some here and some in Israel, have expressed almost every emotion … [Read more...]

The Case for Tzedakah in Jewish Education

by Saul Kaiserman Jewish education is an intrinsically optimistic endeavor. Our work as educators is predicated on the faith that we can inspire our students to personal growth. Further, we believe that by studying the past we can successfully prepare for an unknown future. We believe that compelling questions of value and meaning have shaped our communities since the days of the Bible. Our role as educators is not to pass along definitive answers to these questions, but rather to enable our learners to form reflective communities, guided by the decisions of previous generations while empowered to take responsibility for arriving at their own conclusions. I believe our classrooms and other places of learning must be the “laboratory” for the Jewish future, providing vital and distinctive … [Read more...]

Preparing Visionary Leadership for American Jewish Education

by Robert Chazan and Benjamin M. Jacobs Over the ages, Jews have relied on two kinds of leaders - the managerial and the visionary. The managers consisted of the elite of wealth and material achievement, who could steer Jewish communities through the quotidian difficulties that beset them. They developed their skills in the hurly-burly of daily life, mostly by dint of hard work and business or professional achievement. The visionaries, on the other hand, set the broader course for Jewish communities, orienting them toward objectives compatible with and demanded by core Jewish values. These visionary leaders prepared themselves through extensive study of both Written and Oral Torah and received certification of their expertise in the form of rabbinic ordination. The community depended on both … [Read more...]

A Leader Reads the Gyroscope

by Jonathan Cannon I once heard Michael Thompson, the renowned child psychologist and author of Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Lives of Boys, give a talk. Thompson’s audience: a group of day school administrators, including me. The job of being a Head of School, he said, was much worse than that of a child psychologist - for three reasons. First, people paid a child psychologist to listen to their troubles, and the Head of School typically did such grueling work without any special compensation. Second: When a family visited a psychologist, they had just 50 minutes; when time was up, the session ended. No such parameters existed, alas, for the Head of School. Third, there was an implicit understanding that the family needed help and the psychologist was there to help them. In schools, … [Read more...]

Communities of Practice: Where Commencement is Really a Beginning

by Karee Bilsky and Jill Abbey-Clark We held hands in a circle, reminiscent of our days at camp, and sang, “Lechi lach, on your journey I will bless you.” Sixteen Jewish Early Childhood Educators from around the country had just completed the fifteen-month Jewish Early Childhood Education Leadership Institute (JECELI). We had engaged in intensive Jewish learning, inquiry and reflective practice, leadership development, and community building. The incredible learning experience was over and we sang these words in the hopes that the journey was not over, but rather just beginning. The new task before us was to continue this meaningful experience by not only sharing our learning with our host institutions but also by deepening and strengthening the connections we had already formed. We were … [Read more...]

A JDS Graduation Speech

by Asher Weinstein When I first came to Rockwern Academy, I was 6. As a first grader, I did not have a strong perception of my own identity, either as a person or as a Jew. Now, as a 14 year old, graduating from eighth grade, I feel as if I do. Over these years, Rockwern Academy and its teachers all have helped me realize and mold my identity. Thanks specifically to my Hebrew and Judaic Studies teachers, I understand my background as a Jew and I have been able to formulate my own ideas about my Judaism. In addition, they taught me about complex moral and ethical dilemmas, and I think I am a better person for it. What constitutes a change in identity? I would say that, while you can alter your identity, the real challenge is unlocking it, finding out what you yourself truly think and feel, and … [Read more...]

31 Educators Receive Grinspoon Awards for Excellence in Jewish Education

31 Educators across North America have been selected to receive awards for Excellence in Jewish Education given by The Harold Grinspoon Foundation. The diverse group of recipients combine traditional and creative approaches to teaching including; integration of Jewish and secular studies, collaboration among generations, a focus on Jewish values, and individualized programs. The North American Awardees receive various opportunities: including mentorship, attendance at New CAJE in Los Angeles, local financial awards, a stipend of $3,600 for professional development and programmatic enhancement. Regional Awardees received $1,500, opportunities to publish upcoming best practices journal, and participation in a community of practice. North American Awardees: Elisheva Erlanger Beth Tfiloh Dahan … [Read more...]

Taking Jewish Education Out of the Box

Someone who thinks out of the box will not fare well in today’s yeshiva, but those are often our future leaders - the CEOs, entrepreneurs, and Jewish thought-leaders. by Maayan Jaffe According to the model of Western philosophy, a successful Jewish student would be one who masters the Talmud, the laws of Shabbat and kashrut, and the tales of the Midrash, says Rabbi Dovid Abenson. “Every institution craves the box child,” Abenson, founder and director of the Shaar Hatalmud online Jewish learning program, tells “The box child is a child that fits the mold.” Yet Abenson asks, if a student has not internalized a love and appreciation for knowledge, nor a faith and security in Judaism, “can we, as teachers, really call his education successful?” Abenson is one of several … [Read more...]