Judaism is Resting on Your Shoulders. No Pressure…

By Jessica Downey This weekend thousands of teenagers will pour into Atlanta from across the country both to B’nai Brith Youth Organization (BBYO) International and the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) conventions (BBYO here and NFTY here). They will arrive at hotels and throw themselves into arms belonging to people they know from camp, conclaves, Israel tours and social justice trips. They will laugh, sing, pray, flirt, learn, socialize and skip programs together. They will be told that they are the future leaders of their movements. They may even be told that they are the future of Judaism. No pressure, right? As the director of a supplementary school, I get calls from different parents that generally say the same thing: “Susie Student can’t come to Hebrew school today … [Read more...]

Using Group Norms in a School Setting


[This is the final piece in a series of articles written by participants and alumni of the YU Certificate Program in Experiential Jewish Education (EJE), highlighting EJE related ideas and practices.] By Sarah Gordon When working with groups of student leaders, educators often jump right into event planning or skills training, hesitating to first set aside valuable time to focus on community-building and group dynamics. This year, I decided to dedicate time to discussing “group norms” with the student leaders at Ma’ayanot and to implement group expectation discussions modeled on those that I experienced with my cohort of the Yeshiva University Certificate Program in Experiential Jewish Education. When students have the opportunity to share expectations of how their group should work … [Read more...]

Try it, Mikey! Why Teachers Shouldn’t Give Up on DI


By Melanie Eisen Do you remember the Life Cereal commercials from a few decades ago, starring little Mikey - the notoriously picky eater? If you do, then you’ll probably remember the famous line his brothers say when he tries the cereal, “He likes it! Hey, Mikey!” Mikey’s family was convinced he wouldn’t like it, but he tried it and to everyone’s shock … he liked it! Of course this was a commercial. Mikey had to like the cereal so that others would buy it for their picky eaters at home. Nevertheless, the message that Mikey tried something new still resonates with me. What would have happened if he didn’t like it? What would happen if I bought a box, gave it to my own children and they didn’t like it? I would have kept trying different kinds of cereal until I found the one they liked. Or I … [Read more...]

Montreal Takes Communal Day School Capacity Building to the Next Level

By Dr. Harry Bloom The good news: Jewish day schools remain an extremely good investment. Knowledgeable community leaders understand the high return that Jewish day schools provide by graduating Jewishly literate, passionate, proud, highly educated, socially conscious Jews. Thus they make great efforts to support Jewish day schools. That support has traditionally taken the form of per capita funding or financial grants for tuition support programs. Recently, however, large communities have been matching funds from national foundations, including The AVI CHAI Foundation and the Jim Joseph Foundation, to engage day school support organizations - such as PEJE, the YU School Partnership, and the Jewish New Teachers Project - to offer communal capacity-building programming to their schools. Such … [Read more...]

At P’tach Lo II: Putting Essential Questions into Practice

By Rabbi Zac Kamenetz (Johnson) Last May, I wrote an article advocating for the inclusion of essential questions (EQs) at the center of experiential Jewish education as a means of creating purpose-driven, creative and fun programs. As BBYO’s Jewish Enrichment Team has refined the focus and reach of its educational framework - now known as ‘Kivun’ - we have created a set of EQs for our own teen membership. By integrating these questions into various points of our programming - chapter meetings, regional conventions and summer immersive experiences - our members will come closer to fulfilling our mission of having more meaningful, Jewish experiences together. Built upon Kivun’s three core outcomes - Identify, Connect and Improve - the questions below and others will shortly be piloted in the … [Read more...]

Boundary Crossers: Adult Jewish Learning Summit Explores Collaboration

By Judy Mars Kupchan and Dr. Bernice Lerner In a spirit of exploring opportunities for collaboration and learning, nineteen providers of adult Jewish learning gathered recently in Newton, MA. Co-sponsored by Hebrew College and the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning, the Summit for Leaders in Adult Jewish Learning opened a long-overdue conversation about how to advance the place of adult learning in today’s Jewish communal landscape. Forty leaders crossed the boundaries of their own silos to consider common challenges, learn from respected faculty, and discuss the role of adult learning in building our Jewish future. Veteran organizations represented by Drisha Institute, Rohr Jewish Learning Institute, Hebrew College’s School of Adult Learning, Florence Melton School of Adult … [Read more...]

The Lippman School and The Northern Cheyenne Nation – a Paradigm-shifting Educational Partnership

By Sam Chestnut and Rabbi Lee Moore What do the Jewish community of Akron, Ohio and The Northern Cheyenne have in common? We each struggle with how to transmit our cultural heritage - and a sense of peoplehood - to our young people. When Jewish students from The Lippman School visit the Northern Cheyenne Nation in their homeland, they witness a people determined to remain in the land that is sacred to them. Northern Cheyenne prophets and leaders built a great nation there, have survived genocide and persecution, and are beginning to thrive again - seemingly against all odds. Sound familiar? When Northern Cheyenne students visit the Jewish community of Akron, they learn about the ways in which a people in diaspora have developed mechanisms to maintain cultural identity, and yet continue to … [Read more...]

Kohelet Foundation Launches New School

The Kohelet Foundation announces the creation of the Yeshiva Lab School (YLS). Rooted in a constructivist model of education, YLS hopes to advance the Jewish day school field by employing replicable, empirically supported and developmentally appropriate methods of pedagogy. To meet the needs of the growing Orthodox community, this school will also be the first philosophically Modern Orthodox elementary school in the Philadelphia area. … [Read more...]