Experiential Jewish Education: Back to the Future

by Dr. Gil Graff Recently, I attended the annual conference of the Network for Research in Jewish Education, in Los Angeles. There, I participated in a session on principles of experiential education articulated by John Dewey in the first half of the twentieth century as applied to Jewish learning in contemporary settings of Jewish education. The presentation included a look at some project-based learning experiences at schools, anchored in “a Dewey-inspired perspective.” Several weeks later, I came across a piece authored in 1925 by Dr. David de Sola Pool, spiritual leader of the Spanish and Portuguese Congregation, Shearith Israel (in New York), in the pages of The Jewish Forum. Titled “Can Our Jewish Schools Be Made to Teach?” the article encouraged project-based experiential education. … [Read more...]

Cutting-Edge Consumer Marketing Meets the Middle-Income Tuition Crisis Challenge


by Dr. Harry Bloom and Daniel Perla Is your Jewish day school contemplating middle-income programming? Based on our review of middle-income programs currently in the field, our advice is to design a plan that: Promotes new and retained enrollment Encourages nearly universal submission by middle-income families of household income data Benefits a specific middle-income segment Inspires families to become positive ambassadors for the school to new and existing families You might do well to consider middle-income tuition programs the way consumer marketing companies think about new product launches. Consumer products companies, such as Harry Bloom’s alma mater, Procter & Gamble (he worked there in brand management before joining the day school world), implement a disciplined … [Read more...]

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...]