Heard Around NAJDS: Today’s Inspired Jewish Ideas

by Deborah Fishman

I’m here at the North American Jewish Day School Conference, where shared experiences and new ideas are flying amidst over 600 participants. Here are just a few of those ideas I picked up today: in sessions, in the hallways, and of course from the inspired Jewish ideas at the ELI talks:

Give a block (yes, a physical block) to a group of students, faculty, or your board. Let them write down and/or visually represent their memories around a given topic (Pesach or Tu B’shevat, for instance). This activity gives and lets everyone explore their personal voice and creativity – no two blocks will be the same. (Nessa Rapoport and Tobi Kahn)

Use cool technology in the classroom. These are free!

  • Use Google apps for schools for google docs and other integrated tools.
  • Use wordle.net to visually represent the relative frequency (demonstrated by their size in the visual product) of different ideas in your mission statement, years’ worth of blog posts, or Jewish texts. In the session, we did this exercise about the concept of “21st Century Ideas” and our “big words” were: centered, technology, critical thinking and learning.
  • Use a back channel for students to take collective notes during class. Check out todaysmeet.com as a potential platform – and find this session backchannel at todaysmeet.com/atlanta1.
  • Have your students start blog-folios where they can document their growth as thinkers and writers – they will be motivated because they will know the world is watching. (Andrea Hernandez and Jon Mitzmacher)

Practice innovation – but here’s how it’s defined: When you address the “elephants in the room” by trying something that you or your particular school never tried before, even if it’s something simple and small. (Daniel Perla, Holly Cohen and Amy Katz)

Adopt a personal process of innovation: 1) Brainstorm ideas; 2) Review them later and see which you think are worth pursuing; 3) Run them by some trusted people in your network and get their feedback; 4) Build time into your schedule to work on implementing them. (Ari Segal)

Train future leaders: Develop up-and-coming heads of school and other school leaders through programs like mentorship (Betty Winn)

Practice self-determination – it’s a gift. As a minority, Jews have to make the decision to be active in defining our narrative, or we relegate that definition to others. (Kenneth Stein)

Be conscious that Judaism has always operated in an ecosystem – and of the decisions we have to make as to where we adapt to bring in external elements of that ecosystem and where we stay tethered to our tradition. (Lisa Colton)

Redefine what it’s all for: The Jewish tradition contains components of belief and practice that might seem like burdens to some. We need to redefine what is a burden to provide moments of intense fulfillment and a feeling of rootedness. (Michah Lapidus)

Looking forward to another inspirational day! If you are at the conference and have an inspired idea, I want to hear it – you can find me in person or on twitter at @deborahfishman.

Cross-posted to The Avi Chai Foundation Blog.