Guest

Jan 152019
 

In 1997, The AVI CHAI Foundation began sponsoring day school leaders to attend one of two week-long summer institutes at The Principals Center, a division of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  Many of the 566 participants who have attended since then found the institute to be among the most transformative professional development experiences of their careers.

Beginning in 2013, the Foundation built upon the Harvard experience with a specific focus on helping leaders enhance their schools’ Jewish mission.  This involved adding several components to the program, including evening sessions at Harvard, coaching, check-ins throughout the following year, and networking with one’s cohort.  In advance of the application process that begins in early February, we will feature various alumni who will share their own stories and how this program helped them achieve their goals.  Hopefully, this will give those considering applying a taste of what’s possible within the context of this incredibly catalytic program.

This week, we hear from Yehuda Jeiger, Associate Principal at Bi-Cultural Hebrew Academy (formerly Bi-Cultural Day School) in Stamford, CT.

Yehuda Jeiger
Associate Principal, Judaic Studies
Bi-Cultural Hebrew Academy
AOL 2017

To be honest, when I started out as a middle school Judaics teacher, I dismissed Robert Fulgham’s 1990 poem “All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten.”  Clearly he missed all the wonderful and important things we teach 12-14 year olds, especially in Jewish day schools, when our middle schoolers are introduced to more sophisticated, engaging and adult ways of understanding their Judaism.  We analyze Tanach, start Torah she-be’al peh, and learn the details of Jewish history.  Kindergartners certainly don’t learn that!

But then my own children passed through kindergarten, and I became Associate Principal for Judaics of a pre K-8th day school.  Through those two experiences, I learned much more about Early Childhood education, and I started to identify and appreciate the “magic” of that phase of school.  To me, kindergarten teachers were masters of cross-curricular integrated learning, where, for instance, learning about Noah and the flood also meant learning about weather and rainbows, math and calendars.  Unlike our departmentalized approach in middle school, kindergartners enjoyed learning in a way that combined so many different perspectives, so many diverse aspects of life in a single unit!  I aspired to do something similar in our middle school, and figuring out how to do that was the project I took with me in 2017 to “Art and Craft of Leadership” (AOL), the Harvard summer program for educational leaders in their first 5 years.

Harvard group, AOL 2017

My primary goal was to develop a clear roadmap for this work.  Harvard’s incredible speakers on strategy and culture change gave me many concrete ideas, but they also helped me understand much more about myself as a leader.  I came to understand about varied leadership styles, and how it’s okay to use different styles – collaborative, authoritarian, etc. – as the occasion demands (to this day, I keep a laminated page on my desk as a constant reminder of this expanded leadership toolkit).  However, it was the evening sessions with my day school colleagues, led by Jonathan Cannon and Alanna Kotler of Educannon Consulting, which made all the difference. In my personal conversations with these leaders, I learned so much how to turn my dream into a reality: from designing initial small steps with one or two units, introducing it to faculty to secure their buy-in, and insuring early successes.

Let me share some examples.  All change starts with oneself, so I piloted a Science and Torah unit myself as part of our 7th Grade Jewish Studies curriculum, which went very well.  We built on that success by expanding first to History and Navi (Prophets) and then to other areas of Science and Torah.  I invited other teachers to do the same, and worked with them to come up with ideas.  Within the first year, we were able to have each Middle School teacher find at least one unit a year that involved cross curricular integration.  The most ambitious topic we tackled was with our 8th grade, discussing the Torah’s and science’s views of the origins of the universe and of life on earth.  We helped students identify and differentiate the goals of science and Torah, and they studied great Jewish thinkers, from Maimonides to Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, who worked to make these two realms consistent.  We wanted to show them that science could support the Torah and enhance our understanding of God and the world in which we live. As one student remarked to me, “I used to think it was science or Torah. Now I see it can be both.”  Or as another student put it, “I learned how lucky we are to get to learn both sides of the story.” If that’s not the goal of our integrated curriculum, I don’t know what is!

As I look back over what our school has achieved these last 19 months, I see that every step of the way, I was informed and supported by the Harvard program.  Whether consulting lecture notes or readings, reaching out to my day school cohort, or checking in regularly with Jonathan and Alanna – all these elements contributed to the great success of my project, and allowed me to grow immeasurably as a leader.  Even in little things, I learned a lot – such as greeting students every morning by name, which is the way Harvard leaders greeted us and which made us feel so good every morning before a hard day of learning and work.  Above all, I made close colleagues and friends for life, as our day school group’s daily WhatsApp chat attests – we share ideas, professional and personal successes and frustrations, and always lend one another support.  The Harvard program is a gift that literally keeps on giving!

Yehuda Jeiger at Harvard

In everything I do as an Associate Principal – from running meetings to planning curriculum and even greeting students – I look back on my Harvard experience as the model par excellence for how to be an effective educational leader.  It was a real privilege to be in the program; a lot of who I am today in 2019 goes back to that week in Cambridge.  There really is nothing like it.

New Year’s Intentions

 Posted by on January 8, 2019 at 11:19 am  No Responses »  Tagged with: ,  Categories:
Jan 082019
 

Tefilah (prayer) and tefilah education are central to a Jewish day school education. At the same time, it is a challenge to transmit the skills and the spiritual underpinning for tefilah to students as they move through different stages of intellectual and emotional development. To help meet this challenge, AVI CHAI funds The Pardes Institute’s Tefilah Education Initiative. In addition to an online databank of tefilah resources  and guidelines for schools entitled “Reimagining Tefilah Education” , Pardes faculty members provide intensive education and guidance to eight Jewish day schools around the US (four of which are in Boston, with support from the Combined Jewish Philanthropies) in developing and implementing their own tefilah goals. This reflection was written by Amy Gold, Head of the Epstein Hillel School in Marblehead, MA, following a three-day seminar of the Boston schools.

By: Amy Gold

January first brings New Year’s resolutions. Commercials on the radio, social media, and television implore us to commit to making the new year better. Eat healthfully, exercise more, spend less time on screens, achieve work/life balance – the list goes on and on. When you look up the word resolution, there are synonyms such as intention, aim, and plan. Though I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions, I do like the sentiment of being more intentional. The Hebrew word for intention is kavana and it often is associated with tefila (prayer). We talk about praying with kavana – with intention, sincerity, and reflection. I recently attended a seminar led by Pardes Institute with our Jewish Studies/Hebrew teachers on the topic of tefila education. We explored ways to make our students’ experience with tefila more meaningful while also giving them the skills and knowledge to feel comfortable in any setting across the spectrum of Jewish practice. We were gathered with fellow Jewish educators from local day schools including Maimonides, Rashi, and Metrowest. Though our schools differ in religious practice, we interestingly found many commonalities when speaking about the challenges and opportunities that teaching tefila presents. Pardes has established eight essential principles of tefila education and our schools were challenged to prioritize three. I’m pleased to share with you the goals we chose: 1) Students will acquire the ritual and liturgical skills to become active participants in tefila. 2) Students will engage with tefila as an important resource for personal growth, character development, and the fulfillment of emotional, psychological, and existential needs. 3) Students will approach tefila as a significant means of connecting to the Jewish people and creating community.

A particularly powerful aspect of the workshop was the opportunity to pause during the day for reflection and prayer. Each opportunity was outlined with a hachana (preparation) to help us transition into a more reflective mindset. Shacharit (morning service) was framed by an opportunity for gratefulness of things big and small. The brachot hashachar (morning blessings) remind us to affirm that which we might take for granted; clothing, freedom, physical and mental strength, energy, and the ability to see and hear the natural world around us – to name just a few. It’s important to acknowledge these gifts while we are feeling well physically and mentally. The preparation for mincha (afternoon service) was inspired by the prayer Ashrei, and it encouraged us to pause amidst our work and consider how to improve the rest of the day: What do I want to change or continue between now and the end of my day to feel happier/more content? How can I recharge to face the next few hours of work and family responsibilities at home positively? This can be a very powerful two minutes amidst our hectic schedules. Our evening preparation for maariv (evening service) focused on the idea of endings/beginnings. The maariv aravim prayer reminds us of the transition from day to night and light to darkness with stars in the sky. As the day closes, we can ask ourselves: What did I accomplish today? What will I begin with the next sunrise? How can I best prepare myself for an opportunity or challenge of tomorrow?

We lead very busy lives and it can feel next to impossible to slow ourselves down. It’s one of my greatest challenges; there is always one more email to answer/write, the ever-present to do list which greets me when my laptop boots up, and there is always an errand for my home life waiting. The practice of pausing to take just a few minutes to reflect and take stock during the day is incredibly powerful. After attending this workshop, I have been inspired to add some kavana (intention) to my morning, afternoon, and evening. I’ve changed a total of six minutes in my daily life and the effect has been ten times that. Whether the words come from traditional liturgy or from your heart, I hope these ideas will inspire you too. Wishing you health, joy, and fulfillment in 2019.

Amy Gold is Head of School at Epstein Hillel in Marblehead, MA.

Jan 072019
 

This is part one in a three-part blog series from The iCenter for Israel Education, sharing its approach to working closely with day schools and camps to create effective Israel education experiences for learners.

By Dvora Goodman and Aliza Goodman

Israel at Camp. Photo courtesy of The iCenter.

Many Jewish education initiatives introduce educators to new approaches, curriculum, methods of instruction, or other techniques to enrich education within their settings. While they all, in some way, often have a positive impact on an aspect of education, many of these initiatives are limited in scope. They might provide educators with a specific, ready-made curriculum and train them in its use. Or, an initiative might focus on training limited groups of educators on how to develop programming. But at The iCenter, which advances excellence in Israel education by serving as the North American hub and catalyst for shaping and strengthening the field, we offer a holistic approach.

Two initiatives, both entering their third year of implementation, exemplify this approach. The Jewish day school initiative (iNfuse, supported by The AVI CHAI Foundation) and the Jewish overnight summer camp initiative (Israel @ Camp, supported by The AVI CHAI Foundation and The Maimonides Fund) position us to take a birds-eye view of Israel education as we work with leadership teams and educators at schools and camps. Together, we explore everything the school or camp is doing around Israel education, while at the same time attending to specific elements as we look to experiment, deepen, and enrich these experiences. This holistic approach transcends the setting; it allows for long-lasting, systemic change within the organization, extending far beyond the school or camp’s participation in the initiative itself.

Our broad consideration of Israel education in their settings helps the schools and camps see new opportunities for integration and strengthening of Israel learning and connection. With this guidance, Israel becomes part of the holistic Jewish experience at a school and a camp, and is not isolated from the rest of the learning experiences. In a school, this may mean that Israel is extended beyond Hebrew language and Judaic studies classes into general studies and even beyond the classroom. For example, a science class exploring water-related issues has an opportunity to investigate the water challenges in Israel and consider how scientists have creatively come up with solutions for water shortage problems. In a camp setting, it may mean that Israel education is connected intentionally to the Jewish values that camp is promoting all summer long and not isolated only to a half-day Israel Day once per summer. A leadership camp for teenagers, for example, has the opportunity to look at models of leadership in Israel as they consider their own leadership development throughout the summer, including early pioneers who built the land and modern-day Israeli innovators and social entrepreneurs making a difference in the world.

A Process for Implementing a Holistic Approach
In both initiatives, the process is not linear; schools and camps come to the work from different places, for different reasons, and they may cycle through the elements in different ways. We always begin our work by getting a picture of what is currently being done in the school or camp. What are they already teaching? How does a child walk through the setting and experience Israel on a day to day basis? What are they doing outside of the formal programming time that engages learners with Israel? What kind of Israel experience are they already offering, and what sorts of opportunities begin to present themselves?

We also embark on a process with the school or camp to create a vision—an aspirational statement, a specific articulation that will guide educational decisions about Israel, create shared language among educators, and be readily translated into learning outcomes. In our next blog in this series, we will go into more detail around this part of the process, sharing examples of learning goals and demonstrating how those then help schools/camps make decisions about programs.

Seeing This Process in Action
As we work individually through this process, exciting opportunities begin to emerge that help the day schools and camps broaden beyond their original motivation for beginning the process with us. One school we worked with was looking to create a new curriculum for 6th-8th grade that combined teaching Israel history and Hebrew language as a way to improve Israel education at the school. Through iNfuse, they were encouraged to also articulate a broader vision and a set of learning goals and outcomes for Israel education. As they worked on this big picture project, they realized that their initial idea of building a new curriculum would not help them completely achieve their broader goals. For example, one of these goals focused on the vibrancy of the modern State of Israel and its contributions to the world, but there was no way to fit this into the framework of the curriculum they were building. With this in mind, and considering other opportunities that already exist in the school, they started looking at grade-wide retreats as a way to intentionally infuse Israel into the learning experiences of their students outside the classroom.

As another example, one camp we worked with was motivated to join the Israel @ Camp Intensive because it recently made its Israel trip mandatory for the oldest campers and was concerned about possible recruitment implications of this decision. We worked closely with camp leadership to examine opportunities for all campers to engage with Israel throughout the summer in an effort to build excitement around traveling to Israel. In working toward this goal, camp leadership realized it had to focus on multiple components of camp—including staff training and the camp environment—because each component was an opportunity to build a meaningful connection with Israel. The more that camp leadership examined different parts of the camp experience, the more committed they became to articulating a broader vision for the place of Israel at camp.

 A Team Approach to Israel Education
A holistic approach works best when everyone sees themselves as responsible for Israel education. At  schools, the Jewish studies classes are often taught by Israeli faculty, perpetuating the implication that Israel is “owned” solely by Israeli staff and/or Jewish studies teachers. At camp, Israel education has historically been “owned” by the Israeli shlichim coming to camp every summer. Yet a more holistic approach to Israel education leads to a strong sense that Israel is something that we all care about, something that connects to so many aspects of our lives. At school, this means Israel should be integrated by all faculty in whatever way best suits their teaching styles and topic areas. At camps, we emphasize the importance of Israel education being a partnership between Israelis and North American staff, and we have seen success when camps emphasize and nurture this partnership. In both settings, the more that the educators actively engage with Israel themselves, the stronger and more enriched their personal connections are to Israel, and the better they are able to bring Israel into the lives of their learners.

We have more learnings to share from our work with day schools and camps. In part 2, we dive deeper into the process of setting goals, sharing examples of learning outcomes and demonstrating how they guide schools and camps in making programmatic decisions. In part 3, we explore what day schools and camps can learn from each other.

If you are interested in learning more, please visit https://www.theicenter.org/initiative/israel-camp-intensive or contact Aliza.

Jan 022019
 

In this post and its accompanying photos, Briana Holtzman and Teri McGuire from the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) reflect on the third seminar of the fourth cohort of the Yitro Leadership Program, which is funded by The AVI CHAI Foundation. The program works with associate and assistant camp directors, with the goals of strengthening their leadership skills, with emphasis on their identities as Jewish leaders, in order to enhance Jewish culture and experience at camp. The program creates a strong network of peers for continuing collaboration and learning. More information about the Yitro program can be found here.

By: Briana Holtzman and Teri McGuire

The third seminar of the Yitro IV cohort took place in and around Austin, Texas from December 10-12. The Yitro community gathered to reflect on the myriad of ways that the themes of perspective (hashkafa) and hospitality enhance the quality of their work as middle managers.

Throughout the seminar, our cohort of camp professionals learned from Artist in Residence: Sarit Wishnevski, explored Austin’s quirky side, and challenged each other to consider their multiple perspectives they hold vis-à-vis their roles in building and sustaining their communities.

Sarit, a personal chef for many years, is well versed in the art of food and hospitality. Fellows were invited to get involved, discussing how hospitality shows up in their work and each taking a part in cooking a part of one of the seminar’s meals. Fellows discussed hospitality as a well-rounded art form, one rooted in Jewish tradition, that can be experienced when engaging all five senses. Through Sarit’s approach to hospitality our Yitro community was able to think more about the aspects that make our communities more welcoming and engaging.

Taking advantage of Austin’s unique personality and culture sparked fellows to think about holy spaces, intentional and not. At Austin’s Cathedral of Junk, fellows noted how everyday objects, used and discarded materials, were given new life and purpose. This interactive piece of art provided a great entrée into speaking about the varieties of prospective people have and how so often we look at things one way and do not put in extra effort to see an opposing view or opinion. The Cathedral of Junk also speaks to the theme of hospitality as its artist, Vince, has created something that attracts many people to his home and has to think intentionally about how to do so, especially with neighbors who might not like the noise level – just like Jewish camp!

As the Yitro community deepens, more time is dedicated to developing learning agility among peers. The second day of our seminar was designed to have fellows learning from one another. Our fellows gain a great deal when they are engaging with one another and learning from the variety of perspectives and knowledge within the group. From sessions understanding each person’s leadership archetype to learning focused on the ways perspective can show up in our camp communities to mussar study, Yitro fellows grappled with their unique and essential roles.

CAJE-Miami: A Decade of Lessons Learned

 Posted by on December 10, 2018 at 9:11 am  No Responses »  Tagged with:  Categories:
Dec 102018
 

Cross-posted from eJewishPhilanthropy

By Valerie Mitrani and Julie Lambert

Affordability and sustainability. These are the two words we hear most often when talking about challenges facing Jewish day schools. Foundations have invested millions of dollars in multiple initiatives and programs on cost analysis, student recruitment, fundraising and leadership development to address these challenges.

In Miami, we have participated in many of these national programs, but there is one other area in which we have invested significant resources and which remains at the forefront of our community’s priorities – the quality of teaching and learning in our schools. What is the point of sustainability and affordability if Jewish day schools aren’t at the forefront of education, providing learning environments that offer leading pedagogies and opportunities that meet the needs of our students and families?

Ten years ago, Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education (CAJE-Miami) professionals followed their hunch that the linchpin for high quality education isn’t the curriculum, the technology tools or the gorgeous campuses – it’s the teacher. Educational data and research supports this hypothesis: The single most important school-based factor impacting student learning is the teacher. The second most important factor is the principal.

Peter Senge writes in his work The Fifth Discipline “[S]mall, well-focused actions can sometimes produce significant, enduring improvements, if they’re in the right place. System thinkers refer to this principle as ‘leverage.’ Tackling a difficult problem is often a matter of seeing where the high leverage lies, a place which – with a minimum of effort – would lead to lasting, significant improvement.”

CAJE is the leveraging agent for high quality Jewish education in Miami. With a $500,000 grant from the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, ten years ago CAJE embarked on a journey to create and nurture a system where professional learning became the primary vehicle for instigating and sustaining school change focused on the quality of teaching and learning. We have gleaned a lot from this decade of work.

1. Go Slow at the Beginning

Author and educator Parker Palmer tells a story about a veteran heart surgeon teaching new surgeons a challenging procedure that they have only one minute to complete and during which time a patient’s life hangs in the balance. The surgeon’s advice: “Go slow at the beginning.”

When designing and implementing an educational initiative that will impact school culture, teacher practice, and the lives of countless students, it is important to slow down and intentionally design the process that will achieve the intended outcomes. Immediate impact and return on investment (ROI) often drives a rushed process and a “quick-to-implementation state” that does not yield long-term impact, nor address the challenge of changing the culture of institutions that is at the heart of this work. Just like a surgeon holds his patient’s life in his hands, educators hold tremendous responsibility for their students’ future in theirs.

2. Community Cannot Be Assumed

It takes intention and effort to build community – within each school, across a network of schools, and between the schools and CAJE. One of the first things we heard from teachers in the schools is that in some cases they did not even know the names of their colleagues across the hall. How would schools be expected to have open and honest conversations about student learning when professionals did not even have relationships amongst themselves?

All of the quality education initiatives we have designed and launched are a cohort model where schools designate leadership teams who come together for workshops and seminars facilitated by CAJE and expert consultants from the top organizations in the field. These leadership teams then replicate the cohort learning experience with their faculties in their respective schools.

3. DataDataData

The purpose of education is to build the learner’s knowledge and capacity. Therefore, any decisions in an educational environment MUST have the student at the center. What we now know about data-driven instruction and the role data plays in our lives and in our decisions should not stop at the school door.

If education is student-centered, teachers and school leaders must continuously collect and analyze student data and, taking it a step further – share this information with students to increase transparency in their learning process. The world our students live in is data-rich, so too, should their education be designed to maximize their talents and support their learning.

4. A Community of Jewish Educators Should Not Discuss Religious Practice

Yes, you read that correctly. One of our earliest “Aha! Moments” was when we realized the boys’ Yeshiva and the Reform day school were having powerful discussions centered on teacher practice and student learning. As Jewish educators, we often assume that what connects us is Jewish learning and practice. In fact, that can be a barrier to deeper conversations. By shifting the conversation from content to process, we are better able to leverage each other’s expertise and deepen collaborative relationships.

5. Outside Expertise is Criticalbut Building Internal Capacity is Essential

There is a critical role only an outside expert can play when it comes to moving systems. They introduce knowledge and skills and facilitate learning that builds capacity within schools to sustain change. However, once the expert leaves, the focus shifts to the role of those at the school level.

Critical to the success of any new initiative is taking the time to build capacity of all involved. Over the past 10 years, we have invested in all levels of the system by designing cohort learning models that include teachers, coaches and administrators who are responsible for setting the vision and the outcomes. Shared language and knowledge allows each school team to design and plan for experimental initiatives, starting small in singular classrooms and building out to the bigger system.

**********************

In a world full of options, we have a moral obligation as a Jewish community to ensure that Jewish day school students experience a high quality education. It takes a multi-pronged approach to achieve this goal, and we are proud of the model we have built in Miami. It is one that harnesses the collective knowledge of our community, leverages resources, and builds capacity to ensure success for all schools, educators and children within our network of schools.

The benefit of the CAJE-Miami model is that the work of learning is never complete and with this networked approach, we can continue to bring our schools together to learn and apply the latest research-based knowledge in education to benefit all schools in our network. Most recently, CAJE-Miami in partnership with the Avi Chai Foundation and with support from the Greater Miami Jewish Federation and local funders, has been designing and implementing #JBlendMiami which introduces and builds school capacity around blended and personalized learning. This initiative is an outgrowth of the previous decade of work in which we built a system that takes into account the above 5 lessons.

As we read in Pirkei Avot, “Lo alecha hamlacha ligmorv’lo atah ben chorin l’hivatel mimena” it is not our obligation to complete the work but we are not permitted to desist from it. CAJE, in partnership with the network of Jewish day schools in Miami, will continue to strive for the best in teaching and learning – collaboratively as a collective commitment to excellence in Jewish Education.

Valerie Mitrani is Director of Day School Strategy and Initiatives at CAJE.

Julie Lambert is Associate Director of Congregational Innovation for URJ and CAJE Sr. Education Consultant.

 

Oct 252018
 

Rabbi Levingston (left) at CIE Workshop in Atlanta

How does your school find and utilize materials for Israel education?

One of the goals of the Center for Israel Education (CIE) is to serve as a clearinghouse for best practices in Israel education by providing access to primary and secondary sources through the production and dissemination of innovative curricula and programming.

In service of this goal, for the past 17 years CIE has offered an Educator Enrichment Workshop on Modern Israel, with funding from AVI CHAI. Currently, the Workshop is a five-day opportunity for educators and educational leaders to deepen their understanding of Israel’s history, politics, economy and culture, while cultivating participants’ skills in classroom application and best practices. Each day is filled with content, curriculum development sessions, and time for reflecting and processing ideas culled. Over the course of the workshop, participants receive a wide array of tools for curriculum development and teaching which they take back to their schools, relevant for grades 2-12.

Last summer’s participants are now hard at work implementing the tools and materials they received in Jewish day school classrooms across the country. We checked in with Rabbi Judd Kruger Levingston of Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy (to see a previous post from Sharon Eretz, Frankel Jewish Academy, visit here, and for a post from Rabbi Reuven Travis of Atlanta Jewish Academy, visit here).

Rabbi Judd Kruger Levingston, Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy

When did you attend the Workshop?
Summer 2016

What subject do you teach in your school?
Jewish Studies

What resources from the Workshop have you used in your work in your school, and how?
The weekly chronology of Israel-related events/milestones; the story of the song “Hatikvah”; material on songs of Israel and changing musical tastes.

How has your students’ experience changed since your participation in the Workshop?

They are more aware of world antisemitism and of Israeli culture beyond falafel and the hora. They become interested in Israeli music, art and architecture in different decades. They also have a more nuanced view of the complexities of Israeli society beyond the Ashkenazic-Sephardic binary view.

Please share a story or stories about how your experience at the workshop has benefitted your work at school or changed how you teach Israel education.
In my tenth grade Jewish studies class, we look at different ethnic groups within Israel, beyond Ashkenazim and Sephardim.  In my eighth grade Jewish studies class, students take up independent projects after studying the origins of “Hatikva.” They choose a topic of interest in the arts or politics, or they choose a particular person to study. They undertake research to develop expertise around their chosen topic or to develop a well-rounded biography called “Hero Israel!”

Oct 242018
 

How does your school find and utilize materials for Israel education?

At the CIE Workshop in Atlanta.

One of the goals of the Center for Israel Education (CIE) is to serve as a clearinghouse for best practices in Israel education by providing access to primary and secondary sources through the production and dissemination of innovative curricula and programming.

In service of this goal, for the past 17 years CIE has offered an Educator Enrichment Workshop on Modern Israel, with funding from AVI CHAI. Currently, the Workshop is a five-day opportunity for educators and educational leaders to deepen their understanding of Israel’s history, politics, economy and culture, while cultivating participants’ skills in classroom application and best practices. Each day is filled with content, curriculum development sessions, and time for reflecting and processing ideas culled. Over the course of the workshop, participants receive a wide array of tools for curriculum development and teaching which they take back to their schools, relevant for grades 2-12.

Last summer’s participants are now hard at work implementing the tools and materials they received in Jewish day school classrooms across the country. We checked in with Rabbi Reuven Travis of Atlanta Jewish Academy (to see a previous post from Sharon Eretz, Frankel Jewish Academy, visit here and from Rabbi Judd Kruger Levingston, Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, visit here).

Rabbi Reuben Travis, Atlanta Jewish Academy:

When did you attend the Workshop?
2008 and again in 2016 with a team of four colleagues.

What subject do you teach in your school?
Judaics (Chumash, Halakha, Zionism, Shoah, Israel advocacy) and General Studies (African-American History)

What resources from the Workshop have you used in your work in your school, and how?
Various videos as well as many, many articles from the CIE website and archives in my Zionsim and Shoah classes. The quality of these resources is excellent, and having them in a “central clearing house” just makes it so much easier to find and access such important materials.

How has your students’ experience changed since your participation in the Workshop?
The biggest plus has been the many original documents I can find via CIE. Using primary source documents is so critical to teaching history courses such as my classes on Zionism and the Shoah. I have made particular use of the Arab primary source documents in teaching Zionism so that students have a better understanding of both sides of the events during the founding of the State.

How has participating in the Workshop benefited you in your professional development as an educator?
I have benefited from the personal ties I developed with the CIE staff. I feel that I can always turn to them for help and guidance. Rich in particular was so very helpful when I was first development my course on Zionism.

The curriculum for Rabbi Travis’s course can be accessed via this link.

Oct 232018
 

How does your school find and utilize materials for Israel education?

CIE Workshop, Atlanta

One of the goals of the Center for Israel Education (CIE) is to serve as a clearinghouse for best practices in Israel education by providing access to primary and secondary sources through the production and dissemination of innovative curricula and programming.

In service of this goal, for the past 17 years CIE has offered an Educator Enrichment Workshop on Modern Israel, with funding from AVI CHAI. Currently, the Workshop is a five-day opportunity for educators and educational leaders to deepen their understanding of Israel’s history, politics, economy and culture, while cultivating participants’ skills in classroom application and best practices. Each day is filled with content, curriculum development sessions, and time for reflecting and processing ideas culled. Over the course of the workshop, participants receive a wide array of tools for curriculum development and teaching which they take back to their schools, relevant for grades 2-12.

Last summer’s participants are now hard at work implementing the tools and materials they received in Jewish day school classrooms across the country. We checked in with Sharon Eretz, an educator at Frankel Jewish Academy of Metropolitan Detroit, to see how she has been translating the content to her teaching for the benefit of her students. (To see subsequent posts from Rabbi Reuven Travis of Atlanta Jewish Academy, visit here and from Rabbi Judd Kruger Levingston, Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, visit here).

Sharon Eretz, Frankel Jewish Academy of Metropolitan Detroit:

When did you attend the Workshop?
Summer of 2017, and then again Summer of 2018 from June 24-28, 2018 in Atlanta

What subject do you teach in your school?
History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Holocaust Studies, Jewish History, Israel Leadership

What resources from the Workshop have you used in your work in your school, and how?
I use Rich Walter’s material on the different Zionist factions, Dr. Tal Grinfas-David’s information on the historical development of Modern Hebrew, and a lot of resources from the general sessions which provide a lot of good background information.  I follow up with my own research (as any good student should).  Due to the nature of the information aligning so closely to my own courses, I use all the resources that we are given permissions for.  This information is extremely helpful.

Please share a story or stories about how your experience at the workshop has benefitted your work at school or changed how you teach Israel education.
Just this past week, I was teaching about the Churchill White Paper of 1922. Ken Stein’s introduction to this primary source, along with the source itself, followed by Arab/Jewish response to this policy, is a complete package to present to students (it is available here).  My students and I went over the material together, and follow it with informed discussions reflecting on the material provided by CIE.

How has your students’ experience changed since your participation in the Workshop?
I have become a better teacher, a more informed teacher, a more passionate teacher – and this directly impacts my students.

Sep 202018
 

AVI CHAI invests heavily in developing day school leaders, to strengthen their ability to improve the experience of their students. Sometimes that work happens outside the normal school framework, as the case of our guest blogger, Rabbi Fred Elias, middle school principal and school rabbi at the Solomon Schechter of Bergen County, shows. In a message to his school community, Rabbi Elias exhibits the resilience – and vulnerability – we know to be among the core skills leaders must possess to effectively lead their schools. Rabbi Elias is not at Schechter this school year as he works to regain his strength from an illness. Still, his words inspire us, his school community, and the Jewish day school field.

Dear Schechter Faculty and Staff:

One of the most difficult yet empowering moments this year is the fact that I really had the opportunity to take the aseret y’mei teshuvah (10 days of repentance) personally. Normally at this time of year, I have been busily making sure the Schechter students learned about doing kapparot with coins. Even more likely, I am already thinking about Sukkot and working with all of you, my treasured colleagues, on thinking about how each student will participate in Hoshanot, Hallel, and the Sukkah party and experience the feeling of Hoshanah Rabbah, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah (as they get ready to go to shul) and everything else that just comes up. Or in my pulpit days, I was reflecting and refining sermons for the holiday season. Somewhere in between, I built my Sukkah.

I took the task of building my Sukkah very seriously, and it brought out a quality of mine that this year I have been really thinking about: the ability to ask for help. When I built my Sukkah, I never asked for help. The building of the Sukkah generally was not very difficult (by the third year, I finally decided to look at the directions and save myself hours of time). The difficult or the fun part for the observer was to watch me by myself put up an 8×12 piece of skach (bamboo mat) on top of the Sukkah. Minute after minute would pass as the bamboo fell through the Sukkah as I would attempt to throw it from one side of Sukkah to the other. By the time the experience was over (and yes, eventually I would accomplish it), I was covered by acorns, previous year’s decorations that managed to survive, and dirt. Even still, I had that pride of “I put up the Sukkah!” Much like the Chevy Chase character in National Lampoon, I would eagerly await my children’s expression to see the Sukkah up when they came home.

This year, it was a different story. Though I am feeling stronger and stronger, building a Sukkah on my own was not going to happen. I needed to ask for help. This wasn’t easy for me. After all, this Sukkah was “my baby.” Yet, this time that I have gained for self-reflection taught me that asking for help even if it is “my baby” not only is OK, but it actually makes you feel more accomplished. Imagine this group of five boys, including two from Schechter, who (in their words) would likely have been playing Fortnite on just another Sunday morning instead, decided to help their community member build a Sukkah. Given the directions, it was a little shaky at first (literally) but five minutes in, they had a plan and in the shortest time ever (by far), my Sukkah was put up. As for the rolling of the skach (bamboo mat that goes on top), it turns out when more than one person does it, it can be done in 30 seconds. Who knew?!?! And additionally, as it turns out, my children had the same expression of awe and excitement when it was done with help in 30 minutes instead of 300 minutes.

A second lesson I explored over the aseret y’mei teshuvah (which may seem to be a contradiction to the above but it is really not) is also seizing the opportunity to be a risk-taker. This past Shabbat, they were looking for a prayer leader for Musaf (additional prayer service that is special for the Sabbath and other holidays). They tapped my friend in the next seat over (who also happens to be my across-the-street neighbor) and he turned to me and said, “Why don’t you do it?” At first, I said nothing and then after a moment, I said, “Sure, I will do it.” When I walked toward the bimah, I could see the look of shock on many people’s faces. “Will I be able to carry the Torah?” “Will I be able to lead a 200-person filled sanctuary in prayer?” I wasn’t so sure myself, but the answer as it turned out is yes! I got all the special insertions right for the special readings of the day (Shabbat Shuvah) and then in a heart-warming moment I will never forget, my son joined me on the bimah to lead the final prayers together. As I stood there with him, I reflected on 45 days earlier when I barely could walk into my house and now here I was (having walked to synagogue) leading the congregation in prayer. After services, several people wished me well; one particular person made it a point to thank me for leading her in prayer, modeling perseverance, and being so brave to take the risk.

So as I reflected over these last 10 days, I realized I have made a career of helping students feel like the most important things that they can do are to ask for help and be a risk-taker, and yet I myself am one of the most hesitant to do either when it comes to my own needs. I have spent the last 10 days, but really the last two months, learning the incredible value of these two ideas: asking for help and simultaneously being a risk taker. I am not fully there yet as there is more work to be done, but I am getting closer. It turns out that asking for help and being a risk-taker are not contradictions; in fact, they can work hand in hand. Even while either can be a thorn in your side, it turns out that you can rise above the thorns and, as the expression goes, experiences can come up smelling like roses.

Nineteenth century French novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr wrote in his A Tour Around My Garden, “some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.”

May this year be a year that comes up roses for us, but may the thorns we experience lift us to greater growth in smelling the roses that we want for ourselves, our family and friends, our community, and the greater community.

Gmar Hatima Tovah, May we all be inscribed for Good.

Rabbi Fred Elias