Experiential Jewish Education: What We Are Doing To Grow It.

By Shuki Taylor [This is an introductory article to a series dedicated to experiential Jewish education that will be published over the coming weeks.] In recent years, the field of experiential Jewish education (EJE) has been subject to much attention. Many Jewish institutions have created new positions - or reframed existing ones - that focus on EJE. New master’s and certificate programs are being offered, and they attract a growing number of applicants. Opinions for and against the development of the field of EJE have been published - many of them on these pages - and many EJE-related achievements have been publically celebrated. Most recently, I was struck by the words of Dr. Daniel Pekarsky who so profoundly described experiential Jewish education as an opportunity “to ensure that … [Read more...]

Preventing Teacher Burnout

teacher burnout

By Shira Heller We’ve all known that teacher. He may be young or old, but his best teaching days are behind him. And that’s because he’s burnt out. Maybe he’s just lost his spark, and is going through his teaching days giving the same tired lessons in the same tired way. Or worse, maybe he’s become cynical - ready with a sarcastic comment to a student, and a stream of complaints in the teacher’s lounge. It’s no fun to be his student or his colleague because he sucks the life out of any room. He radiates negative energy, and it’s contagious. He might get fired, but he might stick around for years, making the days drag for the rest of us. … [Read more...]

All You Need is Love … And a Rubic, Part II

By Yael Silk What does a love of learning look like? Can you observe it in a classroom? What is unique about a love of Jewish learning? How might you measure this in a religious school setting? These are only some of the questions that educators and volunteers at the Temple David Weiger Religious School in Monroeville, PA grappled with as they worked on developing a range of student assessments this past year. After an unsuccessful search for existing student assessments that would meet the religious school’s needs, the Temple David team committed to designing original assessments with guidance and support from the Agency for Jewish Learning (AJL) in Pittsburgh. These efforts were an outgrowth of AJL work focusing on school improvement. In an eJewish Philanthropy article published in November … [Read more...]

What Does Israel Education Look Like NOW?

By Dan Finkel Jewish educational networks buzzed all summer with questions about how to handle returning to school in the wake of the conflict in Israel and Gaza this past summer. Educators are still looking for ways to process their own (often conflicted) thoughts and emotions, and continue to discuss what approach to take in handling these complex current events in school settings. I am no different - I spent the summer worrying about family, friends, and colleagues in Israel, sickened by violence, dismayed by the persistence of what feels like a hopeless cycle, and shocked by suddenly open displays of anti-Arab racism in Israel and anti-Semitism all over the world. I was also overwhelmed by the thought of helping faculty members, parents, and students learn something from these events once … [Read more...]

Talking About Israel with Our Students

To make Jewish schools safe spaces in which students can learn about Israel, teachers must establish explicit ground rules for conversations. These ground rules must honor a diversity of beliefs and allow students to participate in respectful dialogue. By Sivan Zakai and Jonah Hassenfeld Pencils are sharpened and backpacks are full. The start of this school year feels like any other: full of promise and possibilities for learning. This year, Jewish students return to school in the aftermath of the war in Gaza. This too is an opportunity - not only to talk with students about what’s been happening, but also to reevaluate how we teach about Israel in general. We propose three questions for schools to consider when (re)articulating an approach to Israel education. What do we want students … [Read more...]

A Third Approach – Alone with the Sources

By Aryeh Ben David Ten years ago - when I began talking about the need for bringing Jewish learning into our hearts - my colleagues referred to me as a flake. One generously called me - “The Fluffer Rebbe.” Five years ago - people started listening. Today - it seems that everyone has woken up to the need that Jewish Education is about more than the mind - it is about personal connection. But this personal connection conundrum has stymied Jewish Educators. When I ask them - how do they evoke the hearts and souls of their students - I hear the same worn-out clichés: I’m passionate about the subject We sing in class We go outside I invite them over for Shabbat meals We meet after class If these channels were really working, then Jewish Education would not be facing the … [Read more...]

Leading Cultural Change

By Jane Taubenfeld Cohen [Many school leaders believe that school culture just happens by itself - and they are absolutely correct in that notion. You really don’t have to do anything for your school to form its own unique atmosphere. So why bother leading cultural change all? Because doing so can prevent the type of culture that you don’t want in your school from emerging. Deliberately and conscientiously envisioning your school’s ideal culture is the key to ensuring that your school is a place where students love to learn, teachers love to teach, and everyone loves to grow. In this blog post, YU School Partnership’s Director of Capacity Building, Jane Taubenfeld Cohen, shows you how to use the coming school year to make that happen.] You are the leader and even if you are on vacation, the … [Read more...]

From “Experiential Education” to “Experience-Savvy Education”

From "Experiential Education" to "Experience-Savvy Education:" Changing Jewish Educational Discourse and Practice By Daniel Pekarsky The term experiential education is an obstacle to the pursuit of excellence in Jewish education. Here are three reasons why: First, it often leads to thoughtlessly devised practices organized around the idea that being plunked down in an interesting setting or being asked to engage in a hands-on activity will have a desirable and powerful educational impact; this is magical thinking. Second, the movement to encourage experiential education is too often intertwined with undervaluing the desirability of serious content learning, the acquisition of skills and dispositions, and the fostering of attitudes that encourage further learning. Third, and most … [Read more...]