Deborah Fishman

Dec 112018
 

Over the past three years, Perlman Camp in Pennsylvania has brought their previously seasonal Jewish educator, Candice Goldstein, onto the camp’s year-round team, working with staff to ensure Jewish life is a focus throughout the year. She now plans for and supervises a team of summer staff including Cornerstone Fellows and members of the camp’s Perlman Leadership Council, a new fellowship for veteran staff who are empowered to share ownership for supporting the Jewish life at camp, which also helps with the camp’s staff retention. Through her role, Candice helps staff see themselves as Jewish educators and role models. Two media-savvy fellows created a promotional video focused around the core Jewish values which the camp has recently been working on solidifying and amplifying. In a powerful moment in the video talking about Tikkun Middot – Jewish values and moral compass – a camper who grew up as a competitive athlete talks about the power of camp in shaping his values and personal identity.

“At camp I was able to figure out who I was without wrestling. When I went to [college], I stopped playing sports competitively, and I had to do an identity check. I had to figure out who I was without my sport. I reverted to the kind of person that I was at camp. The person I was at camp was the person I wanted to be throughout my life. Camp has really taught me to be a more accepting person, and to accept myself for what I want and who I want to be.”

This is just one story from one of the eight camps that participated in the Hiddur program of the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC), which is concluding its pilot this year with funding from The AVI CHAI Foundation, Jim Joseph Foundation, and Maimonides Fund. The three-year Hiddur process incorporated coaching from exceptional, seasoned Jewish educators; formed a Hiddur “team” from each camp’s professional and lay leaders to ensure the entire camp community is represented and aligned; created a Community of Practice of all the participating camps to share experiences and amplify impact; and offered ignition grants to fund new Jewish initiatives at each camp as part of the process.

Why all this far-reaching activity, both within and between camp communities? The purpose of Hiddur is to create systemic enhancement of Jewish experiential education at each camp. This was achieved by helping each camp enhance their organization’s ability to transmit Jewish values, culture, and tradition, always in line with their camps’ missions, which reflect different Jewish educational priorities and represent the spectrum of Jewish life. FJC is now engaged in a process of evaluating the outcomes of the Hiddur pilot, and strategizing how to expand the learnings and resources of the first cohort – such as the power of coaching and of convening camps face-to-face – to reach more extensively and into a greater number of camps.

While many of the enhancements enacted by the camps were programmatic and staff-driven, sometimes it included rejuvenating the camp’s physical infrastructure towards this goal. Many alumni of Emma Kaufmann Camp in West Virginia have fond and profound memories of the camp amphitheater, the magical place where Shabbat experiences happen and a lifelong connection to Judaism is formed. Over decades of copious use, the amphitheater became worn.  So Rachael Speck, Associate Director, had an idea. Over 10 days in April, 2018, the camp conducted a “Tush Push,” encouraging alumni to donate to replace the amphitheater benches through a crowdsourced campaign which was driven by the camp’s alumni and staff rather than the administration. In an amazing moment of community engagement, stories and videos poured in about meaningful moments at the amphitheater – and with them, donations. In those ten days, the campaign exceeded the goal of $43,000 with gifts from over 370 donors.

In an article about the campaign, Rachael wrote, “How do we preserve Shabbat at camp? We take care of our sacred spaces.  We preserve them so we can ensure that the Shabbat experience is there for generations to come.  So that the camper who only gets Jewish at camp can have their first Friday night experience in the amphitheater be a defining moment in their Jewish journey.”

Hiddur Mitzvah refers to the concept of beautifying or enhancing a Jewish ritual by appealing to the senses – sounds, smells, tastes, textures, and colors. The Hiddur Initiative has enabled camps to apply all their senses toward reinvigorating Jewish learning and Jewish life, with a wide range of Jewish values as a focus, including spirituality; Hebrew Language; connections to Israel; marking Shabbat as sacred time, Tikkun Olam, personal ethics; Jewish Peoplehood; Nature and Environment, and more.

At Herzl Camp in Minnesota, the process coalesced around an epiphany amongst the staff that the central feature of Herzl’s approach to Judaism is its “culture of curiosity.” This understanding blossomed into a Pluralism Task Force which worked to define what pluralism means and how it shows up at Herzl, exemplifying the penchant for intellectual curiosity and asking “big questions.” New experiential forms of Jewish life and learning now include ways of experiencing Z’man kodesh, highly rated by campers last summer, ranging from traditional service to Torah stories and lessons on leadership and life to hikes and blessings for nature. “Some campers found meaning in learning how to wrap tefillin and appreciated the opportunity to choose and to try this traditional practice. Others appreciated praising nature’s wonders while being outside – listening to the leaves in the wind, smelling the dew-covered landscape, and seeing the natural beauty in which their summer camp is nestled,” wrote Liz Paige, Director of Jewish Education. Other innovative initiatives included introducing Storahtelling, which are skits and discussions about the weekly Torah portion, and a “livebrary,” to which staff contributed books that inspired their Jewish journeys, together with a short written overview. These initiatives further the desire to increase learning amongst camper and staff – all part of the “culture of curiosity,” which is not just a slogan, but also lived out experientially at camp.

We are excited to see the thoughtful ways in which the participating Hiddur camps have charted new paths to holistically express and live their Jewish mission and values. With the pilot concluding shortly, we look forward to seeing how it inspires the campers and the field more broadly.  Kol Hakavod to all the camps and the FJC for their vision and execution of this groundbreaking program.

Dec 102018
 

Working in a Jewish day school, you are surrounded by modern-day Maccabees whose heroic actions lead to miracles — big and small — all the time. During Chanukah, AVI CHAI and Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools are featuring stories from Jewish day schools of “Maccabee moments” when students, teachers, and leaders made a difference to surmount challenges, beat the odds, and valiantly further Jewish values and actions in our community. Together we will read them and say “Nes Gadol Haya PO!” Chag Urim Sameach!

A Maccabee Moment at Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy/Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School

The storm on November 15 brought with it many challenges for countless people in the Livingston community and surrounding areas.  At the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy/Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School, the school was presented with the challenge of how to keep their students safe and get their many students home, especially those who commute from further areas like East Brunswick, Springfield, Highland Park and Staten Island, as well as the local students from West Orange and Livingston.

While we initially thought that the students would merely be delayed in the building, they were served dinner and entertained with movies, open gym, and more.  As the night went on, it became clear that it would not be safe to let the buses, which arrived at the school late in the night, out onto the roads. Close to 100 students spent the night at the school.  Many faculty, administration, and staff remained in the building and devoted themselves throughout the night to protect, soothe, care for and engage the students. They applied their skills and common sense to selflessly support every single child’s needs. Older students intuitively came to look out for the younger students, reading them books, playing games with them, and more to ease their time during the impromptu sleepover.  The school caterer prepared dinner, snacks, breakfast and Friday lunch for students who were in the building.

Over 70 commuter high school students were hosted by scores of Livingston school families in the middle of the night on a moment’s notice, who provided the students warm, gracious and supportive hospitality. One host home even made a birthday party for one of the students!

The list of remarkable gestures of kindness and leadership showed that night goes on and on. JKHA and RKYHS were proud to see the way that the entire community came together to support one another during the trying night.

Submitted by Erica Rosenfeld, Alumni Coordinator and Communications Associate, Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy/Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School.

 

Maccabee Moments at RASG Hebrew Academy

 Posted by on December 7, 2018 at 12:33 pm  No Responses »  Tagged with: ,  Categories:
Dec 072018
 

Working in a Jewish day school, you are surrounded by modern-day Maccabees whose heroic actions lead to miracles — big and small — all the time. During Chanukah, AVI CHAI and Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools are featuring stories from Jewish day schools of “Maccabee moments” when students, teachers, and leaders made a difference to surmount challenges, beat the odds, and valiantly further Jewish values and actions in our community. Together we will read them and say “Nes Gadol Haya PO!” Chag Urim Sameach!

Maccabee Moments at Rabbi Alexander S. Gross Hebrew Academy in Miami, Florida

There are modern-day Maccabees living among us in Miami Beach.  Who are these special people? They are teachers, administrators and security personnel who served in the IDF.

Our school honored these heroes in a special day that we call Yom Tzahal Day. On this day, students and staff wore IDF clothing. We studied about Israel’s powerful and humanitarian army and recognized all who served with special certificates and awards. We shared an amazing PowerPoint that featured these modern-day Maccabees.  The photos included present employees, then soldiers, in their full army uniforms and gear. The students were amazed to see that there was life before school for these brave IDF soldiers.

We are so proud of our modern-day Maccabees and their service in Israel.

Submitted by Debra Hamburg, Elementary School Principal, Hebrew Academy Miami (RASG).

 

At the Hebrew Academy of Miami Beach, “Maccabee Moments” occur on a daily basis.  With Warriors being our mascot, our students cannot help but persevere through tough challenges.  The Academic Enhancement Program (AEP) supports students who present with mild learning differences, students who speak English as a second language, and students who enter our school after attending public school with little to no Judaic background.  The AEP teachers work every day with students in order to build their resilience and provide them with a solid educational background.

The AEP students oftentimes enter with a fear of failure but leave with a clear vision of the future. Many of our students come speaking a different langue and have little to no ability to speak English.  Most of them leave with an improved ability to communicate and advocate for themselves in English.  The students who come from public school are generally searching for something. We are able to spark the light within them and instill a love of Judaism.

We are so proud of all our Maccabees who have become our heroes!

Submitted by Jackie Smith, Director of Marketing & Communications, Hebrew Academy Miami (RASG).

 

A Maccabee Moment at The Leo Baeck Day School

 Posted by on December 7, 2018 at 10:10 am  No Responses »  Categories:
Dec 072018
 

Working in a Jewish day school, you are surrounded by modern-day Maccabees whose heroic actions lead to miracles — big and small — all the time. During Chanukah, AVI CHAI and Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools are featuring stories from Jewish day schools of “Maccabee moments” when students, teachers, and leaders made a difference to surmount challenges, beat the odds, and valiantly further Jewish values and actions in our community. Together we will read them and say “Nes Gadol Haya PO!” Chag Urim Sameach!

A Maccabee Moment at The Leo Baeck Day School in Toronto

The Leo Baeck Tikkun Project aims to inspire and empower students to advocate for positive social change, using specifically designed units that weave together social justice education and Jewish texts. Through this initiative, we hope to find ways, inside and outside of the classroom, for students to feel empowered to make a difference in our community.

Our Grade 1s kicked off their Tikkun project with an exploration of accessibility within our community, delving into the topics of disability, inclusion and acceptance. Students heard from community members like Luke Anderson, the founder of the StopGap Foundation, who shared some of the barriers he faces as a wheelchair user. They carried out audits of a local public library and of our own school, recording and scoring measures of accessibility. They followed up by writing letters to our Head of School and Board President, proposing ways to make our facilities more accessible.

One item they proposed was installing a StopGap ramp at the exterior entrance to our school’s chapel, a place where our students gather on a regular basis for religious services and a hub for our community events. Students noted that making this space more accessible to outside visitors would allow us to include individuals of all abilities and ages, accommodating users of wheelchairs, strollers and walkers. One practically-minded student realized that good ideas are not enough to be a changemaker: funds would be needed to actualize their social justice goals. The student went home and rolled the loose change in his house to donate towards the purchase of a StopGap ramp. This gift was matched by the Head of School and the new ramp was put in place over the summer. Ever since it was installed, we have watched with pride as the ramp has ushered in so many community members to our Chapel, adding to the inclusive atmosphere of our school.

Submitted by Iris Glaser, Director of Marketing and Communications, The Leo Baeck Day School.

 

Luke Anderson, the founder of StopGap Foundation, shared some of the barriers he faces in a wheelchair in the early stages of this exploration of accessibility.

Students then conducted audits of a local public library and of our school, recording and scoring measures of accessibility.

Students created braille signage for key areas like our washrooms and office to assist visitors with wayfinding.

 

A Maccabee Moment at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

 Posted by on December 6, 2018 at 10:49 am  No Responses »  Tagged with: ,  Categories:
Dec 062018
 

Working in a Jewish day school, you are surrounded by modern-day Maccabees whose heroic actions lead to miracles — big and small — all the time. During Chanukah, AVI CHAI and Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools are featuring stories from Jewish day schools of “Maccabee moments” when students, teachers, and leaders made a difference to surmount challenges, beat the odds, and valiantly further Jewish values and actions in our community. Together we will read them and say “Nes Gadol Haya PO!” Chag Urim Sameach!

A Maccabee Moment at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Maryland

On Monday, November 5, thirteen of CESJDS High School students visited the Shriver Elementary School in Silver Spring, just two miles from the Upper School campus. The School is a Title 1 school in which 85% of the students live below the poverty line of $25,000 for a family of four. Our students worked with the teachers during their visit, played games with the students during recess, and helped some of them write sentences about the Statue of Liberty. Our students were very engaged during their visit, loved working with the little ones and are eager to go back to volunteer.

The Shriver School is holding a Toy Drive to help guarantee that every child in the school (970 students from two years old – 5th grade) will get a holiday gift this year, something their parents cannot generally afford. CESJDS is promoting the toy drive to students, parents, and other community members to help support our low-income neighbors. This initiative supports the school’s value of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, and educating our children about the value of giving to others less fortunate.

Submitted by Laurie Ehrlich, Director, Marketing & Communications, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School.

A Maccabee Moment at RASG Hebrew Academy

 Posted by on December 6, 2018 at 9:27 am  No Responses »  Tagged with: ,  Categories:
Dec 062018
 

Working in a Jewish day school, you are surrounded by modern-day Maccabees whose heroic actions lead to miracles — big and small — all the time. During Chanukah, AVI CHAI and Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools are featuring stories from Jewish day schools of “Maccabee moments” when students, teachers, and leaders made a difference to surmount challenges, beat the odds, and valiantly further Jewish values and actions in our community. Together we will read them and say “Nes Gadol Haya PO!” Chag Urim Sameach!

A Maccabee Moment at Rabbi Alexander S. Gross Hebrew Academy in Miami, Florida

As our entire High School was gearing up in excitement to go to New York for our annual school-wide retreat, administrators had requested a final list of students who had not registered yet. We were surprised to see the name of one of our 9th-grade students and decided to approach her about why she did not register. It seemed odd because the entire 9th-grade class had already registered. When we discovered her reasoning it warmed my heart. The student did not make a fuss about it, but she had made up her mind.

One of her classmates is in the process of applying for US citizenship, and she had known about this and suspected that her friend would not be able to fly up to New York. When asked why she was not joining the rest of the school, her swift response left us very proud. “I decided that I will not join the school, and I will stay with my friend who will be staying back.” When asked more about this she said, “I would not want to be in her position, being one of the only students not joining, and I decided to be a good friend and stay back with her, so at the least, she would know, I too, missed the school trip.” As an educator, when we see self-sacrifice and true friendship like this, it warms our hearts and puts a smile on our faces to know that our students embody the traits of our heroic Maccabees.

Submitted by Rabbi Aharon Assaraf, Assistant Principal, Hebrew Academy High School (RASG).

 

A Maccabee Moment at The Leo Baeck Day School

 Posted by on December 5, 2018 at 11:35 am  No Responses »  Tagged with: ,  Categories:
Dec 052018
 

Working in a Jewish day school, you are surrounded by modern-day Maccabees whose heroic actions lead to miracles — big and small — all the time. During Chanukah, AVI CHAI and Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools are featuring stories from Jewish day schools of “Maccabee moments” when students, teachers, and leaders made a difference to surmount challenges, beat the odds, and valiantly further Jewish values and actions in our community. Together we will read them and say “Nes Gadol Haya PO!” Chag Urim Sameach!

A Maccabee Moment at The Leo Baeck Day School in Toronto

Grade 5s spread awareness about World Diabetes Day

The question of how to impart a Tikkun Olam mindset is something that we grown-ups spend a lot of time discussing, planning and administering to at The Leo Baeck Day School. It’s especially meaningful when a social justice initiative arises from the students themselves, or from a particular family committed to making a difference. With two campuses on either end of our sprawling city, it’s a miracle of synchronicity when two almost identical community initiatives occur simultaneously.

On November 14th, one grade at each campus decided to mark World Diabetes Day with special activities that raised awareness about diabetes. The Grade 5s at our South Campus decided it was important to deepen their knowledge and help educate fellow students about a disease that impacts billions of people worldwide. Their enthusiasm motivated a Grade 5 family to donate blue shirts celebrating World Diabetes Day to our school community. On the same date, at our North Campus, Grade 1 students welcomed the parents of a classmate with Type 1 diabetes into their classroom for a presentation about diabetes, gaining a better understanding of what it’s like for their friend to live with this condition.

Grade 1 students learn how their classmate lives with Type 1 diabetes

We’re proud of the spirit of empathy and inclusion that inspired our students and families to take action of their own accord.

Submitted by Iris Glaser, Director of Marketing and Communications, The Leo Baeck Day School.

A Maccabee Moment at SSDS-Las Vegas

 Posted by on December 5, 2018 at 9:32 am  No Responses »  Tagged with: ,  Categories:
Dec 052018
 

Working in a Jewish day school, you are surrounded by modern-day Maccabees whose heroic actions lead to miracles — big and small — all the time. During Chanukah, AVI CHAI and Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools are featuring stories from Jewish day schools of “Maccabee moments” when students, teachers, and leaders made a difference to surmount challenges, beat the odds, and valiantly further Jewish values and actions in our community. Together we will read them and say “Nes Gadol Haya PO!” Chag Urim Sameach!

A Maccabee Moment at Solomon Schechter Day School of Las Vegas, Nevada

Every day, our director of curriculum and instruction, Sue Slocum, greets each and every child being dropped off at carpool with a hug and encouraging words. Last year, Sue underwent two surgeries on her brain and still struggles from time to time, though she will deny that there is ever anything wrong. Each morning, she comes in to meet with “her” children, doing remediation, counseling, and enrichment. It is never in her mind to not give every ounce of energy for the sake of these children. Those of us who work closely with Sue know that not every day is as easy as she pretends it is, and yet it is rare that she is ever out. She has devoted her life to education and the past seven years to our school. Nobody better reflects the spirit of SSDS-Las Vegas than Sue Slocum, a modern-day Maccabee.

Submitted by Stan Beiner, Head of School, Solomon Schechter Day School of Las Vegas.

A Maccabee Moment at RASG Hebrew Academy

 Posted by on December 4, 2018 at 10:39 am  No Responses »  Tagged with: ,  Categories:
Dec 042018
 

Working in a Jewish day school, you are surrounded by modern-day Maccabees whose heroic actions lead to miracles — big and small — all the time. During Chanukah, AVI CHAI and Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools are featuring stories from Jewish day schools of “Maccabee moments” when students, teachers, and leaders made a difference to surmount challenges, beat the odds, and valiantly further Jewish values and actions in our community. Together we will read them and say “Nes Gadol Haya PO!” Chag Urim Sameach!

A Maccabee Moment at Rabbi Alexander S. Gross Hebrew Academy in Miami, Florida

Our high school students all came together after the Parkland shooting in solidarity with our Florida neighbors. It was a time that really hit close to home and made a serious impression on all of us. The students rallied together and decided that we needed to do something as a school. They themselves created a long-sleeve tee-shirt saying “Douglas Strong” and Hebrew Academy and sold them to the entire student body. Every single student in the school purchased a shirt and all proceeds went to the Chabad of Parkland. We then had an assembly with Meadow Pollack’s father on speakerphone (because he was at the White House and could not come) telling kids the importance of voting and gun control. We lit a candle for each of the victims and had student speakers that created their own pieces that were read aloud during the assembly. They were from the heart and extremely moving pieces. We had a moment of silence as well. This was all student-initiated and student-run. It was a proud moment for me as an assistant principal of The Hebrew Academy High School.

Submitted by Dr. Dara Lieber, Assistant Principal, Hebrew Academy High School (RASG).