Everything I Needed to Know to be a Jewish Experiential Educator I Learned at a Bruce Springsteen Concert

By Billy Planer I have learned much from my teachers, more from my colleagues, and the most from Bruce Springsteen me with a nod to Rabbi Chanina. I attended my first Bruce Springsteen concert in the early 1980’s and have easily been to over 100 since. Each show is a time of rejuvenation, rededication, recommitment to, and learning about, my craft, profession and calling - Jewish experiential education. Here are some of the main tenets about being a Jewish educator that I have learned by attending a Bruce Springsteen concert: You make up your mind; you choose the chance you take You ride to where the highway ends and the desert breaks Out on to an open road you ride until the day You learn to sleep at night with the price you pay The Price You Pay The beginning of a Springsteen concert … [Read more...]

Some Needed R & R: The Power of Relationships and Reflection in Cultivating Experiential Jewish Educators

By Mark S. Young and Dr. Jeff Kress There is a unique intersection between experiential Jewish education (EJE) and developing the human resources of our Jewish educational workforce. For the last five years, this intersection has been at the heart of our work. In our development of both EJE pre-service graduate programs and in-service programs for full-time professionals we have assiduously followed this guiding understanding: The core elements of EJE are relevant across contexts, settings, and media. This includes the professional development, itself. In acting on this premise, we have come to appreciate the power of some needed R & R (relationships and reflection) in the training of experiential Jewish educators. Our two signature programs of the Experiential Learning Initiative at The … [Read more...]

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


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


[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


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...]