Beyond Masks: Emerging Understandings for Relational Engagement

In the backdrop of a global pandemic, social and racial inequalities, lives turned indoors and interactions made virtual, our most precious commodity and the beating heart of education relationships are being challenged.


We are distant from each other.

Building trust is harder than ever and we’re losing some of our most meaningful venues and spaces for forming and cultivating community.

And, while necessary for protecting ourselves and others, covering our faces with masks challenges the most basic form of human communication: face-to-face interaction.

When M²: The Institute for Experiential Jewish Education first launched its Relational Engagement Circle two years ago, it sought to develop a pedagogical approach to relational work. Such an approach would help educators understand the nature of relational encounters and apply them professionally.

Motivated and passionate relational educators emerged from a year-long exploration of critical themes: self and community; the values that animate us and the structures that bind us. These educators formed new understandings that they tested in the field, subsequently documenting their work in a series of essays. These essays have now been collected into a new publication, Relationships at the Center: Practitioner Research on Relational Engagement, exposing the challenges and successes and the insights and experiences of new approaches to relational learning.

To launch this publication and explore the most pressing questions we must contend with today, M² along with the graduates of the first Relational Engagement Circle invite you to join “Beyond Masks: A Relational Learning Symposium” on November 23, 2020.

In light of COVID-19 and other major educational and social challenges, the symposium will introduce new paradigms for Relational Engagement during a time of unprecedented disruption. Through a series of workshops and conversations, we will explore the role educators and leaders each play in relational encounters, and how pandemics, racial inequality, and virtual programming impact the quality of our relationships.

Featured themes include maintaining authentic connections during a pandemic; how work can change if we centered relationships as the work; the possibilities of building community one small group at a time, and exploring how our impact is enhanced by expanding the range of our character within relational encounters.

The publication and symposium feature graduates of M²’s inaugural Relational Engagement Circle:

Rabbi Julia Appel, Director of Innovation Training and Curriculum at Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership; Rabbi Yisroel Bernath, Spiritual director at Chabad of NDG, Montreal; Rabbi David Burstein, Rabbi/Educator at Congregation Beth Adam in Cincinnati, Ohio; Rabbi Noah Cheses, Rabbi of the Young Israel of Sharon; Rachel Gildiner, Executive Director, Gather DC; Annie G. K. Glickman, Development Officer, Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City, Rabbi David Glickman, Senior Rabbi, Congregation Beth Shalom, KS, Rachel Clark Happel, Director of K-12 Learning, Temple Beth Shalom in Needham, MA, Rabbi Andy Kastner, Vice President, Jewish Life at CJP, Boston, MA; Saul Korin, Director of Donor Engagement and Philanthropy, Mittleman Jewish Community Center and Portland Jewish Academy in Portland, Oregon; Danielle Kranjec, Senior Jewish Educator at Hillel Jewish University Center of Pittsburgh; Rabbi Sari Laufer, Director of Congregational Engagement at Stephen Wise Temple in Los Angeles; Arya Marvazy, Managing Director, JQ International; Rabbi Bethie Miller, Founder, Sanctuary, Larchmont, NY; Rabbi Ari Rockoff, Executive Vice President, Religious Zionists of America-Mizrachi; Rabbi Ilana Schachter, Associate Rabbi at Temple Sinai of Roslyn; Alan Scher, Associate Executive Director for Program at the 14th Street Y; Wendy Verba, Managing Director of Community Impact at the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund; Rabbi Alex Weissman, Rabbi at Congregation Agudas Achim in Attleboro, MA and Rabbinic Organizer at T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

See the full schedule and register here

M²: The Institute for Experiential Jewish Education helps educators and organizations design meaningful educational experiences. Our mission is to promote a proud and inspired community of Jewish educators who possess the personal and professional capacities to help learners find meaning and relevance in Jewish life. Read more