The Seder’s Four Elements of Creative Education

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As Jewish professionals, as educators, it is our job to immerse ourselves, deeply, in people’s lives, and strive to understand where Judaism most meaningfully intersects with their needs. by Maya Bernstein The Pesach Seder, perhaps the most popular of Jewish rituals, is a visceral and meaningful educational experience. Maybe this is why it has remained so widely celebrated within the Jewish community. As the professional Jewish community continues to struggle with the most effective ways to keep our tradition vibrant and alive, a task that demands tremendous creativity, we can learn a lot from the Seder itself. The Seder is a model of creative education, which elicits the kind of experiences and ideas critical for the constant renewal of Jewish life. Here are four core educational elements … [Read more...]

Text at the Core of Experiential Jewish Education

[This is the sixth, and last, in a series of articles highlighting the scope of best practices in experiential Jewish education.] by Judith Schiller Sometimes it takes a fall in the dirt to open up pages of text. Several years ago, as a convener of a Jewish educators’ training workshop focused on creating sacred community, I participated in a ropes course experience with a group of colleagues. Our final team initiative of the day was the Mohawk Walk - a series of foot cables strung between trees or poles, in a zig-zag pattern. Our goal was to traverse the lengths of the cables without falling off, with assistance coming only from the hands of our teammates. Two groups began at opposite ends of the zig-zagging cable. While my group struggled to help the person on the cable stay on balance … [Read more...]

The Journey of the Four Children

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[This is the fifth in a series of articles highlighting the scope of best practices in experiential Jewish education.] by Benji Berlow Many developmental psychologists have tracked different, but surprisingly similar stages of human development. While each of these developmental models focuses on a different life question (needs, values, self-identity), Fred Kofman suggests in his book Conscious Business that they all show a journey from unconscious (not even perceived) to impulsive (it is all about me) to conformist (herd mentality) to reflective (not satisfied with conventional thinking). … [Read more...]

Of Language and Peoplehood

by David Steiner As a kid at Habonim Camp Tavor, we used to sit in the dining hall after meals and play a game with our cups. As we would pass them from camper to camper, we would sing in Hebrew, “These objects pass quickly from hand to hand, and whoever gets it wrong is out of the game.” I only recently realized, despite my Hebrew fluency, the profundity of these words. The objects pass, in Hebrew - ovrim - from the same root (ayin, bet, reish) as the Hebrew word for our language - Ivrit. “And whoever gets it wrong is out of the game.” This has completely changed the way I think about Hebrew for Jewish education. We teach Hebrew to be in the game. In a previous era, supplementary schools divided their educational face time with students into religious school and Hebrew school. This … [Read more...]

Is Experiential Education Simply All Fun and Games?

[This is the fourth in a series of articles highlighting the scope of best practices in experiential Jewish education.] by Sara Smith The competitive edge of the sixteen participants was palpable on their third and final attempt to both complete the given task and beat the record they set on their previous attempts. The personalities in the group quickly emerged: the leaders, the followers, the challengers, and those who couldn't care less. On their final attempt, they began to think outside the box and question assumptions as they lay on the floor, using sweaters and around-the-neck nametags, pointing their toes and encouraging each other, to create the longest line possible with their bodies. To the casual observer and perhaps to the participants themselves, this was a fun and exciting way … [Read more...]

Exploring Art, Revealing Torah

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by Abigail Pickus While teaching at a Jewish school in Seattle during a four-year stint in the States, the London born and bred Nic Abery had an “aha” moment. For the first time, she experienced true collaboration between the secular and Judaic studies faculty. “In England, Judaic and secular studies are taught very separately. Sometimes the faculty even have separate staff rooms so they really don’t interact,” said Abery, a longtime educator with a museum background. “I felt that this is a massive injustice because our end goal for students should be to live holistically so that they see their Judaism and secular lives as part of a cohesive whole.” And so LooktoLearn was born. Abery, 38, who is back in the UK, launched this unique educational platform in 2009 that combines … [Read more...]