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.