Thursday, September 21, 2006

New Kivunim Homepage

Kivunim: New Directions has launched a new homepage to publicize their 2007-8 "gap year" program in Israel. Founded by Peter Geffen (who also founded Manhattan's Heschel School), the program is based in Israel but includes regular travel to other countries, including Russia, Morocco and India. Coursework includes daily study of Arabic, because (according to the site) "we believe that the future of Israel in the Middle East will be built only by increased engagement with and knowledge of the Islamic and Arab world." The program provides up to 30 college credits.

They also run a two-week teacher training program which includes along with Israel education over the summer, applications for which are also available online.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Should Supplementary Schools be located in DAY Schools?

Dr. Erica Brown, who is the scholar-in-residence for the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, posted the following question to the Lookjed discussion group this week:
What if we situated Hebrew schools in Jewish day schools and not in synagogues? Sounds preposterous? Never been done? All the more reason to give it some thought. Today, day schools in America are a fast-growing educational movement. People who never sent their kids to day schools are reconsidering, and synagogue movements that promoted public school education now have their own affiliate day schools. With all of the enhancements in recruitment, attendance and quality of day school education, there is a community educational orphan that we can no longer afford to neglect: congregational schools.
She goes on to write:
Instead of using weak teachers with little background in Hebrew schools, imagine having the elementary division of day schools using some of their finest teachers, resources and even day school students to participate in a much more content-rich program for public school students when the regular school day is done. Sure there are plenty of practical details to iron out, but many day schools use their facilities for Jewish camping in the summer or rent out auditoriums for community functions. Why not have the day school become the real educational center for the community at large?

You can read the entirety of her text, and the thread of responses, here.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: The Game

Wired News today reports on two new games based on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Global Conflicts: Palestine, scheduled for release in March 2007, puts you in the role of a Middle East journalist, while PeaceMaker, scheduled for release in December 2006, has you playing either the president of Palestine or Prime Minister of Israel.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Extreme Shul Makeover!

The JTA has posted seven articles on the movement towards independent minyanim, alternative synagogue models, and other experiments in community and prayer.

For a shul to prosper it must become more than a glorified bar mitzvah factory. To energize members and attract new ones, synagogues are turning to the personal trainers of the Jewish world, congregational makeover programs that aspire to help synagogues be all they can be. How successful are they?
The site is part of a huge discussion about new forms of prayer community being held across the Jewish blogsphere - for example, see this posting at on the question of the future role of rabbis in light of the independent minyanim movement, or this one at Mah Rabu on the "trichitza" model for pluralistic prayer.

100,000 Wikis in the Classroom

Wikispaces has announced that it is setting the goal of hosting 100,000 free, full-featured, wikis for K-12 classrooms:
These wikis are free, full-featured, can be public or private, and have no ads. The response to the more than 10,000 wikis we've given away so far has been incredible. Every day, we hear stories of students working together on their wikis in ways many teachers never imagined: collaborative essay writing, building study guides, sharing links and resources from across the web, and engaging in critical discussion. 100K is a big goal, and we need all the help we can get in spreading the word.
Friends, teachers, librarians, take a look! If you've ever wanted to experiement with a wiki in your program, this is a great opportunity.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Perfect Chanukah Gift for the On-The-Go Executive

Boing Boing reports:
"The Hannukit is a tiny, high-speed menorah made out of a piece of aluminum that you load with up to nine wooden matchsticks and set alight -- for people who like their holiday prayers fast."
You can order yours here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Cycling for Peace, Partnership, and Environmental Protection

Registration has opened for the Arava Institute/Hazon Israel Ride 2007, a multi-faith bicycle ride from Jerusalem to Eilat to support the two host organizations and their projects.

From their website:
Find out more information about the ride, read the details of what to expect, and get answers to all your questions. Learn about the organizations that the ride supports, sign up today, or sponsor a rider!

I'm hoping to organize a Mandel Institute contingent for the ride, but have not yet received the official go-ahead. Stay tuned!

Microsoft presents . . . School ?!?

Yes indeed. The School District of Philadelphia and Microsoft have joined together to open the "School of the Future." Even though I myself use Firefox, there's a whole host of reasons to be intrigued (and not just scared) by the initiatives at this school, including their attempts to be a green institution, their promotion of a clear educational vision, and their development of a curriculum built around leadership competencies.

Of course, there's also the danger that the students, carrying their laptops, will be mugged on the way home...

Monday, September 11, 2006

And now a word from the Elders of Zion...

The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute (JPPPI) has released its 3rd annual "assessment of the situation and dynamics of the Jewish people," which can be downloaded as a .pdf file here. The report makes a number of policy recommendations, most of which are in-line with the primarily conservative agenda of the organization, such as:
"Once a democratic decision is taken by Israel; its choices should be supported by the vast majority of Jewish People organizations and leaders, whatever their views may have been before that decision."
However, the report also encourages investment in the use of cyberspace for learning and community building and, even more importantly, the support of grassroots initiatives "as a main recommended strategy." They specifically recommend giving financial priority to youth group initiatives, providing training and support to "would-be initiators," and to "take care to respect and encourage the autonomy of grass roots activities." Yippie!

Some of the key points in their 2006 report include:
  • Israel is now the largest Jewish community in the world, with a population of 5,309,000. The United States has a population of 5,275,000 (although with the caveat that this does not include "non-Jewish members of Jewish households"); the rest of the world, combined: 2,501,000 Jews (primarily in France, Canada, Russia, the United Kingdom, or Argentina). As Dennis Ross writes:
    "If nothing else, this means that the future of the Jewish people is more clearly linked to the fate of Israel, and Israel’s character, values and security will matter even more to those who live in the Diaspora."
  • "As opposed to a previous attitude of generic condemnation of genocide," 2006 saw the beginnings of the "acknowledgement of the Shoah as a major event in European and world history," as demonstrated by (for example) the declaration of an International Day of Holocaust Remembrance by the United Nations, the establishment by most European countries of a European Day of Memory on January 27, and the opening of several "highly visible Shoah Memorials, notably a large one in Berlin."
  • 39% of American Jews use the Internet for Jewish purposes (although its not clear how many of these are referring to J-Date).

Sunday, September 10, 2006

oy!hoo Festival begins today

The 2006 oy!hoo Festival begins tonight in NYC, a week of concerts targeted mostly to Gen X and Y Jews and those who love them. Don't miss Jewzapalooza, a free all-day concert in Riverside Park next Sunday (the 17th). Wish I could be there with you!

Also, in conjunction with the festival will be a two-day conference (Sept. 12-13) that "will expose participants to the next wave of Jewish culture and allow them to engage in didactic discussions with today’s leading cultural visionaries."

Michael Moore to the Rescue . . . or not

Michael Moore failed to save the day when the projector broke during a screening of Borat, the new film from Sasha Baron Cohen according to this article from The Daily Transom. Best quote:
Sasha Baron Cohen had arrived for the Borat premiere on a cart pulled by six women and a tiny pony, each of them in yokes, the women all in shtetl chic.

Not the same Jerusalem Fellows

As of this September, the Mandel Leadership Institute (site in English) will allow for varied lengths of participation in the Jerusalem Fellows.
Applications will be considered for one-year fellowships, for two-year fellowships, and for multiphase fellowships in which the Fellow participates for an initial block of several months followed by two or more smaller blocks over the course of the following two years.
This is good news for anyone who is interested in the program but wouldn't have been able to commit to the two years that were previously required.