Thursday, November 06, 2008

Get Paid to be Jewish? Part 2

Do you remember way back when, when I blogged about Moishe House, with a quote from the JTA:

"Say you’re a few years out of college, living with friends and working in a low-paying job for some do-good organization. You don’t go to synagogue but you miss the camaraderie of your college Hillel, and you like to invite people over for Shabbat meals.

"Imagine if someone was willing to pay you to keep doing it?"

Well, Ben Murane has thrown down on birthright NEXT's similar initiative on Hazon's Jews-n-food blog "The Jew and the Carrot," under the heading "Do We Need to Pay Birthright Alumni to Have Shabbat Dinner?"

"Once again, the organized Jewish community has decided to answer the droopy quality of Jewish life offerings with a marketing campaign and financial largess. I think NEXT’s money is mispent."

Now, what makes this such a tremendously worthy read is that the very first response to Ben's post is from none other than Birthright Israel NEXT Executive Director (and fellow blogger) Daniel Brenner:

" . . . we are proud that through small grants that we have been able to encourage over 600 people across the country to host meals in their homes. For a majority, it has been the first time in their life that they hosted a Shabbat meal. So far, 74.6% of those meals have been homecooked by many hands. Most people had 14 guests! We sponsored many vegan shabbats, raw food shabbats, organic shabbats, you name it. And good food is often not cheap — and not everyone has the luxury of being near a farmer’s market. And not everyone has the time or skill to cook!

"Could we do it for $15 per person? maybe so. But we felt that $25 per person would make for a special meal.

"By the way, we are also providing financial assistance for Birthright Israel alumni to attend the upcoming Hazon Food Conference. We do so because we have found that in these economic times, people in their twenties do not have alot of spare change to go to Jewish confereces."

But wait! Who is the next comment from?

"Don’t worry, Rabbi Brenner. I’m hosting plenty of birthright NEXT shabbat dinners at the apartment I share with Mr. Murane . . .

". . . The money isn’t an incentive for me to host a dinner. It’s an *enabler*. Big difference."
Read the whole fun debate, and then get yourself some excellent baby swag, at The Jew and the Carrot.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Job Posting: Executive Director of the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center

Adam Berman writes: the coming months, I will be leaving my position as Executive Director of Isabella Freedman. The past six years have been the most meaningful years of my life. Together with an exceptional board of directors and an amazing staff, we have recreated an institution that is bringing extraordinary gifts to the world. We have welcomed, nourished, taught, inspired and loved more than 30,000 visitors. We have provided -- and continue to provide -- Jewish programming that is cutting-edge and unique. By integrating environmental stewardship and spirituality with Judaism, we have connected thousands of young adults and children with Jewish tradition and community. And we are inspiring the New York metropolitan Jewish community to engage in environmental issues in ways that were not possible just a few years ago.

Being part of Isabella Freedman has enabled me to express who I am and my highest vision for the Jewish community in ways that I do not believe would have been possible at any other organization. My gratitude is infinite.

As a proud member of the board of IFJRC, I want to publicly offer my deepest gratitude for the phenomenal work Adam has done over the past six years. A full description of the position for Executive Director is posted on the Isabella Freedman website at: Please share this link with anyone whom you think may be appropriate for the position, or anyone who may be interested.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The High Cost of Jewish Life is on Everyone's Mind this Yom Kippur

This just in, from my friend Adam Dershowitz:

Of course, once again, Chabad was there first (well, to be fair, Larry David and HBO probably deserve the credit, but Chabad is making good use of it):

Join Chabad for High Holidays! from JAB MEDIA on Vimeo.

This clever little video, adaptable for the Chabad house near you, is the brainchild of Jewish Abstract Media. Kudos. And G'mar Chatima Tova.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Get trained to save the world

Two of our favorite organizations, Abraham's Vision and Jewish FundS for Social Justice (JFSJ) have launched innovative training programs this past month.

Through their Center for Transformative Education, Abraham's Vision is

"training students to work as facilitators of groups in conflict, utilizing methods created and designed by a foremost expert in the field, Wahat al-Salam/Neve Shalom’s School for Peace. Co-taught by an Israeli and Palestinian co-facilitator/co-educator team . . . this course will be offered in partnership with Columbia University’s Center for International Conflict Resolution (CICR) from January 2-10, 2009 and the University of San Francisco from Monday through Friday from January 12-23, 2009."

Visit their website for detailed course information and an online application for one of the 18 spots available in each of the two trainings.

While the Abraham's Vision training doesn't directly incorporate any specific opportunities to make use of your new facilitation skills, the main purpose of the JFSJ training is to recruit new staff for their travel and service learning programs

"which provide opportunities for teams of college students, young adults, teens and families to participate in on-the-ground service in partnership with communities throughout the United States; to learn about relevant historical, social, and political issues through the lens of Jewish ethics and values; and to reflect on their own engagement in the world. Each program lasts between four and seven days, and is staffed by two or more Program Leaders.

". . . The training seminar to be held in the Gulf Coast, from Wednesday January 28-Sunday February 2, 2009. The seminar will comprise a hands-on service project, engagement with local community organizations, political education, social change education, textual engagement and personal leadership development. Program Leaders will staff at least two trips during the program leading year."

Detailed information , including instructions for how to apply, is available on their website (along with a number of other available positions and internships).

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Immediate Opening-- Full-Time Jewish Studies Teacher

For those who have not yet heard, the concept of "full-time teachers" has begun to expand beyond the walls of Central Synagogue in Manhattan. Here is a listing for such a position from Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn , New York.

Our growing and evolving Jewish education program needs a core teacher!

Congregation Beth Elohim, a dynamic Reform congregation in Park Slope, Brooklyn, seeks a full-time (Mon-Thurs and Shabbat morning) or 4-day a week (Mon, Tu, Thu, Shabbat morning) Jewish Studies teacher to join our supplementary and family Jewish Education program, called Yachad.

The core teacher is part of a creative team of Jewish educators who develop curriculum, teach elementary aged students Jewish studies, communicate with parents and families, and lead innovative Jewish holiday and Shabbat programs for our families, and have ample opportunities for professional development. To learn more about our program, go to

Qualified applicants have an interest in being involved in a vibrant, progressive Jewish community and educational program, a BA and experience working with children and families in formal or informal (camp, youth group) Jewish settings.

Please submit cover letter and resume to

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Family Israel Trip Mix 2008

I was forwarding this list to a friend, and thought, well, why not share it with everyone? Here's the tracks from the mix CD that was made for one congregation's family Israel trip. Most of these can be found on YouTube (although no guarantees that what you're watching is the actual video created by the band and not a "tribute" by an enthusiastic fan, as in the link for Idan Raichel's song below). Enjoy!

  1. Brachot Leshana Chadasha (Blessings for the New Year)

The Idan Raichel Project

  1. Kol Galgal (Voice of the Wheel)

Shotey HaNevu’a (The Fools of Prophecy)

  1. Salaam (Peace)

Sheva (Seven)

  1. Hebrew Man

Ehud Banai

  1. Midabrim Al Shalom (Speaking about Peace)


  1. Yihi’ye Tov (It Will be Good)

David Broza

  1. Ein Ani (No “I”)

Shotey HaNevu’a (The Fools of Prophecy)

  1. Lo Frayerim (We’re not Suckers)

HaDag Nahash (The Fish Snake)

  1. Shuvi El Beiti (Return to My Home)

The Idan Raichel Project

  1. Ahavtia (I Loved Her)

Shlomo Artzi

  1. Hi Kol Kach Yafah (She’s So Pretty)

Kaveret (Beehive) – a/ka “Poogy

  1. Fanan (Awesome, Dude)

HaDag Nahash (The Fish Snake)

  1. HaYom (Today)

Ehud Banai

  1. LeHavin Et HaMayim (To Understand the Water)

Ivri Lider

  1. Sigapo

Beit HaBubot (House of Dolls)

  1. Esther

Ehud Banai

  1. Tzlil Mehuvan (A Tuned Sound)

Tzlil Mehuvan

  1. Yaldutenu (Childhood)

Kaveret (Beehive) – a/ka “Poogy

Who will teach Religious School?

Last Spring, I participated in a panel convened by JESNA to discuss its recently released study of Educators in Jewish Schools.

The report confirmed what we had all already suspected - that just as Religious Schools are finally being taken seriously by the Jewish world, and as we are starting to see increased investment in their success, we are facing a teacher shortage. This may not sound like new news: After all, since at least as far back as the 60s we have heard that there are not enough qualified teachers to go around. What has changed is that now its becoming harder to find people who even WANT to teach in a Religious School (or a Day School), qualified or otherwise. JESNA cited all the reasons you would expect - low salaries, a general lack of respect for the position, and so on. Another segment of the panel presentation is posted here, in which I express my concerns about competition between institutions for a shrinking number of qualified professionals and note the trend towards individuals working as "home tutors" rather than school teachers.

Here is my favorite section of the JESNA report:

Teen Labor. These are the 32% of Jews in Jewish work who first entered the sector through part time or summer jobs held during their high school and college years, and who have continued in Jewish sector work ever since. If we include those who left Jewish work for some period of time before returning, the majority (52%) of Jews working in our six Jewish communities started when they were in high school or college. Most of those who held jobs as teens were camp counselors (35% of all Jewish workers) and/or religious school teachers (27%) and/or youth group advisors (14%). Not many held internships (5%).

We regard this finding as especially significant. Camps, religious schools and youth groups are American Jewry’s primary gateway into Jewish sector work, providing Jewish communities with about half of their Jewish personnel. Although designed as educational venues to socialize children, these organizations have a substantial, perhaps unintended, consequence for American Jewish life through their role as employers of teenagers and young adults.

One idea that I'm increasingly hearing being floated is the creation of a Jewish "Teach For America," that would attract students just out of college to spend a year or two teaching in a Jewish school (Chabad, as usual, is ahead of the curve with their "roving rabbis" shlichut program, which places rabbinical students in various under served Jewish communities). While this idea is quite attractive, it would face a number of significant challenges (besides funding and organization) - most importantly, perhaps: Ensuring that the participants have not only a support network but also a peer network (teaching can be a lonely business, after all).

Monday, September 15, 2008

My favorite quotes: Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

For the first day of Religious School:

"I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving. We must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it, but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor."

Thanks to Offer and Bonnie Reuben Nissenbaum!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A heuristic for explaining how we work

Thanks to Sara Shapiro Plevin for forwarding this useful diagram, suitable for board meetings and conversations with funders.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

My favorite quotes: Kahlil Gibran

This is "On Children" from The Prophet, in honor of Jory:

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said,
"Speak to us of Children."

And he said:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
and though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and he bends you with his might that his arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies,
so he loves also the bow that is stable.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Being a full-time teacher, from a teacher's perspective

Amy Deutsch, one of the full-time teachers at Central Synagogue in NYC, writes:

"I have a picture that sits on my desk at work. It is of me and two of my coworkers wearing togas and talking animatedly about the Hasmonean revolt. You may wonder what I do for a living. I am a teacher.

"I work in an innovative educational program in New York City that employs religious school teachers on a full-time basis. Before I began my graduate studies, I was one of these teachers. When you are teaching full-time, you have the time to plan and use experiential educational techniques. In fact, we had the time to create a reenactment of the Hasmonean revolt—more often known as the story of Chanukah.

"The day began in the lobby, where we turned each fourth grader’s bedsheet into a toga. Then the “Greeks” attempted to convince the students of the superiority of Greek culture with an intricate slideshow pressuring them to assimilate. After the Greeks left the room, Judah Maccabee and his warriors arrived and helped the students fight assimilation. At the end of the day, Judah Maccabee and the Greek ruler got in a swordfight (somehow reminiscent of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader) and it seemed desperate, but ultimately Judah won, as he was strengthened by the students who started chanting the words of the Sh’ma.

"Though I was supposed to stay in character, I found myself incredulous at this moment. 120 fourth grade students were chanting the Sh’ma. Some of them had even added the hand motions we had taught them the year before. They were on their feet, filled with pride and passion for their Judaism. I realized then how blessed I was to help foster the development of Jewish identity in my students. It is a gift to be a teacher—and especially to be a teacher who gets to wear a toga."

Amy Deutsch is a current Wexner Fellow/Davidson Scholar. She is studying for a Master’s Degree in Jewish Education at the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Monday, February 11, 2008

My favorite quotes: Parker J. Palmer

This is, of course, from The Courage to Teach:

"We are now engaged in a crucial public conversation about educational reform, but a conversation is only as good as the questions it entertains . . .
  • The question we most commonly ask is the 'what' question - what subjects shall we teach?

  • When the conversation goes a bit deeper, we ask the 'how' question - what methods and techniques are required to teach well?

  • Occasionally, when it goes deeper still, we ask the 'why' question - for what purpose and to what ends do we teach?

  • But seldom, if ever, do we ask the 'who' question - who is the self that teaches? How does the quality of my selfhood form - or deform - the way I relate to my students, my subject, my colleague, my world? How can educational institutions sustain and deepen the selfhood from which good teaching comes?
"I have no quarrel with the what or how or why questions - except when they are posed as the only questions worth asking. All of them can yield important insights into teaching and learning. But none of them opens up the territory I want to explore . . . the inner landscape of the teaching self."

Many thanks to Jo Kay for reminding me of this quote.

I'd only add three points. First, that Larry Hoffman asks this "who" question differently: "What would make you true to your calling?"

Second, that institutional transformation is ultimately about the transformation of individuals and their relationships with one another. Or another way - we can only change the world by changing our own behaviors.

And finally, that all this is predicated on the notion that people are not, in fact, interchangeable. Individual people actually make a difference.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Job Posting: Kesher Director and/or Director of Jewish Life

You have probably already heard that the Kesher model is being imported from Boston and Cambridge to NYC this coming year. Two institutions are giving it a try: The JCC of the Upper West Side and Jewish Community Project Downtown. Here's the job posting from JCP:

Jewish Community Project Downtown (JCP), a young, vibrant and rapidly growing organization in lower Manhattan, is looking for the right person to join our team as the Founding Director of our new after-school initiative and/or become our Director of Jewish Life. JCP is located in Lower Manhattan, NY.

Responsibilities of the Kesher Director (Part-time):
  • Hire, mentor and supervise teachers
  • Oversee and implement the PR and marketing for Kesher
  • Participate in leading and teaching classes and activities
  • Work in partnership with classroom teachers to adapt the Kesher curricula to JCP
  • Create lasting bonds with students and all families at JCP

Responsibilities of the Director of Jewish Life (Full-time):
    In addition to running the Kesher program, the Director of Jewish Life will:
  • Set a vision for Jewish life for JCP and the larger Jewish community of Lower Manhattan
  • Organize all family holiday programs – Hannukah, Purim, Passover, High Holy Days
  • Represent JCP and its Kesher program with pride and articulate its mission in the larger Jewish community
  • Work in partnership with JCP’s administrator to shape and oversee the budget and fiscal records
  • Create, design, and implement family education program

Qualifications of an ideal candidate
  • A Jewish educator with a drive for excellence and comfort working in an informal, dynamic, team setting
  • Strong organizational skills and excellent interpersonal skills
  • Has vision, confidence and a desire to grow professionally
  • Conversational and/or fluent in Modern, spoken Hebrew
  • Advanced Judaic knowledge
  • Advanced degree in Jewish Education, Education, Early Childhood Education or strong related field experience, perhaps even a current student looking for a long-term job opportunity
  • Enthusiasm for working in a non-denominational setting that welcomes diverse families
  • Minimum 2-5 years in the field with strong references

Contact: Rabbi Erica Gerson: 212-334-3522

Saturday, February 02, 2008

There is No "X" in Thanks

Well, it's the beginning of hiring season for the 2008-09 academic year. Last year, based upon my own experiences in conducting a job search, I posted a "few words of advice for those applying for an entry level position."

Rachel Brumberg, in her former capacity as Associate Director of Professional Development and Advancement at JESNA, developed this list of helpful hints for those who are ready to take on the challenge of applying for a, shall we say, "real job."

  1. When e-mailing a prospective employer, capitalize and use punctuation, at least to indicate that you know what proper grammar is.
  2. If you're thinking of using a word that can be substituted for tushie or is tushie-related, DON'T.
  3. Clearly identify the job for which you're applying, and be sure to read the job description fully.
  4. Use an e-mail name that makes sense to other people ( rather than using your nickname, a pet's name, or any kind of indication of your hobbies or sex life.
  5. Don't submit a multiple page resume if you're just graduating from college.
  6. Remember to spell check and grammar check.
  7. Please don't tell me you're a Friend of Jonny's (or Avraham's or Joy's or Howard's, or any Exec) if you're not.
  8. If you're going to contact an employer for a second time, please don't chastise them for not getting back to you; no one likes a whiner or someone who yells at them.
  9. Even if you're interviewing with a "casual" organization or company, maintain your own formality.
  10. Spell out abbreviations.
  11. Send only what the employer asks for - if they only want three references, please send only three. "The fatter your file, the slimmer your chance."
  12. Visit your Career Center and get their help - they're there for a reason!
  13. Research the organization and the position (if possible) before you interview.
  14. If you’re given a choice of text color in your e-mail program, use black.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Job Posting: Director of Jewish Identity Development

This just in from Congregation B’nai Yisrael of Armonk, New York:

"Nurturing Reform congregation in Armonk, New York seeks a Director of Jewish Identity Development to help us develop more collaborative, multi-generational and experientially based programs.

"In order to help our children and parents “see the world through Jewish eyes,” our Director will work with the rabbis, cantor and community to design and implement ongoing identity-building experiences. Our director should be an individual with vision, a sense of community, someone who is comfortable playing a leadership role, who has excellent organizational and communication skills. Our director will be responsible for developing and implementing our identity programs and Hebrew programs, planning and teaching our family shabbat experience, the hiring and supervising of faculty, as well as the planning and monitoring of the program budget.

"Summer camp experience is helpful, but not required. Knowledge of Judaism and a love of Jews is a must."

For more information, contact Rabbi Seth Limmer.

Thursday, January 10, 2008 year in Jerusalem (if you're 18)?

Following on the heels of the development of Kivunim and the expansion of the Year Course programs from Young Judea, The Alexander Muss Institute (best known for its High School program) has developed a new "gap year" program in Israel.

Called "SIACH" (Hebrew for "discussion," and also a mnemonic for study, Israel, academic, community, head and heart), it is an pluralist program based in Jerusalem (at Beit Shmuel) for high school graduates. On the agenda are weekly trips and outings, volunteering, professional internships, intensive Hebrew language study, interactions with Israel peers, and participation in Israeli cultural events. Here's how they distinguish themselves in their publicity:

"The gap year programs in Israel can, for the most part, be divided into 3 general categories: Jewish learning programs (i.e. yeshivas and seminaries), Israel experience programs, and university programs. SIACH is unique in that it combines the best of all three: Jewish learning on hot topics of interests to students, a multifaceted Israel experience by the experts in Israel education and the opportunity to earn nearly a year of college credit.

Furthermore, because SIACH is not affiliated with any particular movement students are not pushed to adopt a pre-determined ideology or life-style but rather to find their own path and chart their own course."

Participants are able to earn college credit under the auspices of Baltimore Hebrew University. Now in the middle of its first year (of around 20 participants), they are now accepting applications for the 2008-09 academic year.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Visit Israel without leaving your chair!

Thanks to Caren Levine, this press release is x-posted from jlearn2.0. You can read a little more about it, and see some photos, in the most recent issue of 2life magazine (December 2007 - The Hanukah Issue).

I'm having trouble keeping up with my first life, but perhaps you'll find me trying to find my way around as Think Witherspoon this Sunday in Second Life.

* * * * * * * *

This January, join us in Israel for an exceptional launch party.

SL Israel, the first complete virtual Israel, to launch January 13th in Second Life

In one of Second Life’s newest developments, its residents are now just a click away from being able to teleport into and experience the entire length and breadth of Israel.

This event in Second Life, an internet based 3-d virtual world with more than 11 million residents, marks the first time that a Second Life island will be dedicated in its entirety towards Israel.

To celebrate its inauguration SL Israel will have two parties on January 13th at 10 AM and at 7 PM PST [Note from Saul: That's this coming Sunday at 1 PM and 10 PM EST. Presumably we can expect more Israelis will be at the one in the afternoon].

Israel is a country that is at once very dynamic yet rooted in its history. SL Israel reflects these qualities as well. It features on the one hand the holy sites of all three major monotheistic religions, including the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Dome of the Rock.

At the same time, as a very modern and colorful country, SL Israel made sure to include such sites as the Tel Aviv promenade and Opera House, the Eilat underwater observatory, and the Machane Yehuda outdoor market.

The purpose of SL Israel is to present a complete and comprehensive Israel experience, both for the experienced sightseer and for the first time visitor. It aims to convey a variety of experiences about what Israel is all about, and to present the country in its complexity and diversity. SL has many residents who come from Israel, Jews from all over the world, and people from all over the globe who are interested or curious to learn more about Israel.

SL Israel offers them alike the opportunity to meet one another, to learn about each other’s heritage, and together to travel around a country that is both ancient and very modern.

For additional information:

Contact in SL; Hagibor Shepherd or Beth Odets

E- Mail:

Who we are: SL Israel is the initiative of Chaim Landau, assisted by Beth Brown.

Chaim (SL Israel founder) recently completed a Legacy Heritage Fellowship at the European Union of Jewish Students and currently studied at the Pardes Institute.

Beth (SL Israel Building/ Design manager), built the first Synagogue in SL, in 2006, which has grown into a full Jewish neighborhood in SL .

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Why would a nice kid like yourself want to be a Jewish Educator?

I'm not exactly breaking a news story when I share my concerns about the dearth of qualified Jewish educators, from heads of day schools to religious school teachers. Back in 2003, in a report on recruitment and retention for JESNA, Paul Flexner and Sandra Gold wrote:

"...There is a chronic shortage of Jewish educators at every level and in every setting. Schools, camps, and youth programs are constantly seeking staff, ranging from entry-level teachers, counselors, and advisors to the senior personnel necessary to administer institutions and programs. In an open society with few barriers for Jews, not enough young people are choosing to become Jewish educators, and not enough of those who make this choice stay with Jewish education as a lifelong career."

A positive spin on this situation could look as follows: Since there aren't enough qualified Jewish educators to go around, those who ARE qualified are going to be in greater demand. This will result in greater competition among institutions to hire those individuals. Increased competition will drive up salaries and benefit packages for Jewish educators, and those individuals will command greater respect from their colleagues in the clergy and from their lay leaders. As Jewish education becomes a more viable career path, some number of years from now we could expect to see people who otherwise would have gone into other careers instead becoming the new generation of Jewish educational leadership.

In their article in the Fall 2007 issue of Jewish Education News, Richard D. Solomon, Elaine C. Solomon, and Hana Bor observe that there are "many excellent programs designed to train candidates to become skilled Jewish teachers, administrators and leaders," and they list a dozen different academic programs around the country for this purpose. In their analysis, the challenge is to build a career ladder that will attract people into the field in the first place and provide them with step-by-step opportunities to advance in their careers (if you are a teen reading this, this is the real-world version of "leveling up"). They offer the following graphic organizer depicting "a seven stage ladder of career development for Jewish supplementary and day school teachers:"

As part of the Lookstein Center's ongoing series on "creative solutions to educational challenges," the Lookjed list recently posted Richard D. Solomon's expansion of this idea, in which he provides detailed suggestions for how each of the stages in the ladder might be organized. For example, Solomon distinguishes between the madrich/a "student aide" of stage 1, the "student teacher" of stage 2, and the "co-teacher" of stage 3 as follows:

"...The madrich or madricha is an 8th, 9th or 10th grader who is trained to serve as a paid teaching assistant and role model . . . During the 11th grade selected madrichim take course work in Judaics [and] pedagogy . . . These madrichim will be paid additionally to receive this instruction and can earn college credit for successfully completing the course requirements.

". . . At the end of the 11th grade, a select group of madrichim will be invited to become paid student teachers . . . [they] now be observing, reflecting and doing some small group teaching in the classroom of a trained mentor teacher [with the goal of acquiring such skills as lesson planning, managing student behavior, and communicating with parents].

". . . During the second semester of the 12th grade, if deemed successful, the student teacher will be invited to take on the role of a co-teacher . . . at the beginning of the second semester, the co-teacher and the mentor teacher will be engaged in co-planning. co-instructing and co- reflecting upon their learning activities. They may be engaged in team teaching where they alternate instructing the whole class, or they divide the class into small learning groups which each one directs. Upon successful completion of this stage, the co-teacher should receive a teaching certificate from the sponsoring institution . . . indicating that this teacher candidate has meet the requirements to teach specific courses at a supplemental school while attending college."

Clearly, Solomon is advocating here for the kind of systemic change that would require a partnership between schools, central agencies, academic institutions, and funders. Which is, of course, terrific, so kudos to him.

I'd suggest that we throw a few additional ideas into the mix:

  • allow for greater fluidity between religious schools, day schools, summer camps, and so on - each providing a valid route by which individuals - especially high school students - can learn the skills necessary to become Jewish educators.
  • build our youth programs to give greater leadership responsibility to the teens themselves, empowering them to take ownership for the success and failures of their events and activities.
  • look at these rungs as important stages for individuals entering the field at any age: Just because a teacher is a 2nd year rabbinical student doesn't necessarily mean that they are going to be a more competent teacher than an 11th grader. Let's look at this ladder as a potential guide for the training of any new faculty.
  • think about the additional roles, alongside teaching and mentoring, that could be played by individuals at the higher rungs of this ladder, so that they can hold full-time positions. These could include family education, running youth groups, teaching adult education classes, administrative work.
  • extend this ladder so that as people become mentor teachers, there are in turn being mentored to become school administrators. To this end, require our school leadership to provide such mentoring as one of their key job responsibilities.

As always, I welcome your feedback and thoughts about any of the ideas presented here.