What’s Innovative and Explosively Creative? Standards

By Sarah Lefton

Folks may fret about how Jewish education needs to evolve to capture the attention of today’s families, but in fact, it has: online. (At BimBam, we’re biased, we’ve made almost 400 videos teaching everything from “What’s Jewish about Giving,” to “Who was Reish Lakish,” to “why Jews shouldn’t use the phrase Old Testament.”)

A couple of years ago, I went to Hadar’s 10th Anniversary Shabbaton in New Jersey, and picked up a free copy of their publication Standards for Fluency in Jewish Text and Practice, created in partnership with New York’s Beit Rabban Day School. It’s a book that contains an ambitious, even magical, list of what 8th grade graduates of Jewish day schools “should” know.

Spoiler alert: most adults don’t know these things. The significance of the Biblical phrase “na va-nad.” Who Og was. What it means to talk about “a paradigmatic Rashi.”

I was gripped by this book because it laid out – very simply – the things that Hadar and Beit Rabban educators think I should know, as a person literate in Jewish texts. I welcomed their opinion, because the curriculum that I’ve seen from other groups – the denominations, the independent institutes – has been more focused on breadth; Judaism 101 curricula have to encompass not just textual literacy but also historical and ritual overviews.

And yet, right away, I wanted to upgrade this book. How much stronger might Jewish literacy be if we not only had magical curricula like this, but we also had super-engaging resources that helped us find and easily digest it at school or at home?

The result is four experimental short videos inspired by the book: with our partners at Hadar and Beit Rabban, we chose four Standards, and made simple animations from them, voiced by Hadar faculty Rabbi Tali Adler and enhanced with visual and musical interpretations by the BimBam team.

Additionally, I used the book to steer an hour-long storyboarding workshop at The Brandeis School’s 2018 Ethical Creativity Institute. The room crackled with energy as 30 educators brought their creative explanatory and midrash-making skills to the work of planning another 15 Standards episodes. Much Torah was created that day, we only want for the funding to bring those ready-to animate episodes to life.

We invite you to watch the four episodes, premiering today at BimBam.com and Hadar, and share them with your K-8 students. We hope you talk about why someone in Israel, or Illinois, might care about the expression “na va-nad.” And we invite you to embrace the idea of standards, with a creative spirit.

Watch all four episodes at bimbam.com/hadar

Sarah Lefton is Founder and Creative Director at BimBam.