As more congregations experiment with new, dynamic, and engaging Jewish learning opportunities, Shinui: the Network for Innovation in Part-Time Jewish Education is sharing insight and innovative education models to help communities across the country. Earlier this week, Shinui launched a four-part webinar series on various stages of a congregation’s “change process,” designed to help and connect agencies, staff, educators, and other individuals across communities. Each webinar is led by innovators in different communities and focuses on a concrete element of the change process.
“This series of webinars is an access point for congregations and other educational institutions to share not only highlights and successes, but also practical insights and strategies for conducting large-scale changes,” says Anna Marx, Project Director of Shinui. “The congregational education experience has truly transformed from a generation ago, and we are intent on helping congregations and other organizations learn from each other – about both their innovations and the processes behind them. A guiding principle in our work is the theory of ‘collective impact,’ meaning large-scale change comes when we coordinate efforts and work together.”
The first webinar focused on Managing the Change Process. Future webinars will focus on real-time assessment and realignment, sustaining a culture of change in congregations, and the critical, first steps that often go into both assessing readiness and implementing change.
“The old narrative about ‘Hebrew School’ simply doesn’t apply anymore,” says Rabbi Phil Warmflash, Executive Director of Jewish Learning Venture in Philadelphia. “Organizations and congregations around the country have taken up the reigns to create innovative, engaging approaches to Jewish education. And talented educators are wrestling with how the learning experiences they offer can best support children and their families, and make a true difference in their lives. We believe that Shinui can help expand the scope of change and even raise the standards and practices of its implementation.”
Each Shinui learning agency – in Cleveland, Houston, Philadelphia, New York, and San Francisco – has a manche (coach) who works with local congregations and organizations to spark, nurture, and spread educational innovation. The team of manchim regularly shares the innovations occurring in their local communities with the four other Shinui communities. Now, that sharing will occur more broadly through the webinar series and other online resources.
As just two brief examples of new education models coming from Shinui communities, the Rimon Initiative at Philadelphia’s Temple Sholom is premised on offering students chugim (electives). One parent comments, “The students retain so much more because they focus on a few core areas for a longer period of time. And the fact that they can choose a chug makes for a more personal experience and gives the students a chance to explore a subject that they want to.”
In San Francisco, Shalom Explorers, now in its second year, has expanded to multiple sites in the Bay Area and is a vehicle for families to form neighborhood learning groups and choose from and customize individual lesson plans. An Explorer parent explains why this works: “Shalom Explorers provides parents with an amazing toolkit of resources to bring great lesson plans to life. We were able to select the activities and content that worked for our group of families, and the children were able to learn in fun and exciting ways – through drama, art projects, outdoor activities, and more.”
Other new education models integrate technology into the learning experience; deepen connections to Israel; teach Hebrew in more meaningful and relevant ways; and bring the camp experience into schools.
Adds Marx: “We’re seeing these changes in our Shinui communities, and now we’re inviting others to learn with us, to be a part of this change. Together, we’re building today’s narrative of part-time Jewish education.”
Click here to register for future Shinui webinars.