George Washington University Launches Experiential Education and Jewish Cultural Arts MA Program

Jewish cultural education has taken a bold new turn with the launch of the Experiential Education & Jewish Cultural Arts (EE/JCA) Master’s program at George Washington University in Washington, DC. The only program of its kind, EE/JCA’s intensive one-year curriculum exposes learners to the richness and complexity of Jewish cultural expression - its sounds, gestures, big ideas, and creative personalities - while providing a foundation in the theory and practice of experiential education. GW’s strong relationships with DC cultural institutions connect students with meaningful internships, allowing them to bring together their coursework and experiences in the field. The inaugural cohort is interning at local Jewish organizations including the DCJCC, the Jewish Food Experience, Hillel … [Read more...]

Nature is One of the 70 Languages of Torah

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By Dr Gabe Goldman “What’s Jewish about a Moose?” is the title of a program I offer that teaches about Jewish values, practices and beliefs through direct nature experiences. Recently I presented the “Moose Program” on Shabbat afternoon at a Conservative congregation in New Jersey. The 55 people who attended ranged in age from 2 to 90 years-old and were not typical “outdoor” types. In fact, as several admitted, their concept of “camping” would have to include a Holiday Inn! Nevertheless, over the course of the hour-long program, these confirmed suburbanites enthusiastically handled a variety of animal skins, bones, plants and tree barks as they learned about nature’s role in Judaism. They examined deer hides in various stages of being transformed into Torah parchment. They held an oak gall (a … [Read more...]

Using Group Norms in a School Setting

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[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...]

The Conflict Within: A New Look at Experiential Jewish Education

By Aron Wolgel [This is the sixth 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.] When Jewish experiences are constructed to be memorable and formative, the level of connection is heightened to produce Jewish identity. The focus on creating Jewish identity highlights the key point that Experiential Jewish Education (EJE) is different from educating through Jewish experiences. Growing up, my Jewish education was full of many enjoyable and memorable Jewish experiences, through a strong foundation in Jewish day school and many summers in Jewish sleep-away camp. Yet, my Jewish identity really began solidifying itself when my family moved to a city where there was no … [Read more...]

Costumes and Usernames: Simulations, Real and Virtual, in Experiential Jewish Education

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By Yael Steiner [This is the fifth 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.] Thinking back to my summers as a camper, my most vivid memories involve costumes. Counselors and units heads were constantly dressing up, turning ordinary activities like lunch into dramatic events of great historical significance. During an afternoon trip to Lake Chautauqua, our counselors transformed into British soldiers, patrolling the lake on motorboats and preventing us, the Ma’apilim (illegal immigrants) from entering Palestine. Each summer felt like a time warp to an era in Jewish history, brought to life through the creative and dramatic efforts of the staff. As a … [Read more...]

What Overachieving Young People Really Need to Hear

By Lily Lozovsky [This is the fourth 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.] For the last ten years, I have been on call for the existential crises and big questions facing overachieving young people. When we first met, they were teens on Jewish leadership programs I was running. We discussed great leaders, talked about values, social change, and the importance of taking action. Empowered and inspired, the teens returned home, excited to make a difference. These days, my conversations with alumni are quite different. I find myself sitting with students who are stressed out and frustrated. They are doing everything “right” yet find themselves craving meaning … [Read more...]

Contextualizing Experiential Jewish Education

Some idealists may argue that experiential education works equally well in any circumstance. I’m not one of them. By Gabi Spiewak [This is the third 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.] The emergence of any new field of study calls for immediate answers to basic questions. The Certificate Program at Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future has already insightfully addressed a number of them as they relate to Experiential Jewish Education. What is Experiential Jewish Education (EJE)? How does it work? and Why does it work? These are all questions that now benefit from a coherent framework and a syndicated language. The next fundamental … [Read more...]

Experiential Jewish Education: A Response to Pew

By Aaron Levi This is the second 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. Jack Wertheimer and Steven M. Cohen’s recently published articles in Mosaic argue that more Jewish education (specifically day school education) will result in increased Jewish endogamy and more Jewish babies, stating: “The gradient of engagement extends downward from the high of those who have attended day schools for nine or more years” and dwindles to those “who have received no Jewish education and who are correspondingly the least likely to be engaged in Jewish life” (p. 6). How do the Pew study and the Wertheimer-Cohen piece recast our ideal Jewish educational objectives, and how … [Read more...]