Thursday, November 14, 2013

My favorite quotes: Barnett R. Brickner

With all the talk about how the religious school is broken and in need of redemption, and how we need new models for, and approaches to, supplementary Jewish education, I appreciated discovering this quote from the CCAR Journal: The Reform Jewish Quarterly (#33):
“I do not think there is a rabbi in this Conference [the Central Conference of American Rabbis] who is satisfied with the Sunday school, who is not willing to subscribe his name to the fact that the Sunday school has been, as far as the purposes of Reform Judaism are concerned, a failure.” 
That's Rabbi Barnett R. Brickner writing in ... wait for it ... 1923!

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

My Full List of Torah Commentaries for Congregation Emanu-El

In my time at Emanu-El, I have contributed nearly thirty essays to our weekly commentary. These commentaries are written not only by the clergy and educational staff, but also our administrators. They vary widely in style, from academic scholarship to thoughtful homiletics to amusing retellings of the story from the point of view of one of the minor characters. In my own commentaries, I’ve often written about the educational programs at Emanu-El and how they attempt to make ancient wisdom relevant to our lives today.

I’m assembling here (after the jump) the full list of my commentaries, with a brief excerpt from each one.

This is my absolute favorite thing I’ve written, from my March 2012 Commentary on Parshat Tzav: “Jeremiah is not opposed to the pursuit of wisdom, strength or wealth, and neither should we be. Jeremiah tells us, if you must be driven by ego, then take pride in how you emulate God in your behavior. Don’t simply attain wisdom for its own sake, he says. Use your wisdom to bring about kindness. Use your strength in the pursuit of justice. And with your wealth, seek equity.”

You can subscribe to receive the weekly Torah commentary by email, and it is also available as an RSS Feed.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Vision-Driven Institutions: Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan

In 2007, I wrote on this blog about the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership in Israel. At the time, I expressed my skepticism about my ability to turn this into a regular feature, but here I am, just six short years later, with a description of another innovative institution, the Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan. I wrote this piece as part of my coursework for the executive doctoral program at the Davidson School of Education. This is not a comprehensive discussion of the institution, but a description of just one element of the program, and the institutional leader who created it.

Dr. Steven Lorch is the founding headmaster of the Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan, a K-8 Jewish Day School on the Upper West Side of Manhattan that is currently in its 18th year. I taught at Schechter Manhattan for three years. I loved its team-teaching approach (every class is led by two teachers, both fluent in Hebrew, who share responsibility for all areas of the curriculum), its constructivist philosophy, and its focus on menschlichkeit [kindness and empathy] as a core component of the institution. Yet, no aspect of my work there has influenced me more thoroughly than the experience of leading daily worship and teaching its tefilah [prayer] curriculum. At both Central Synagogue and Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York, the two institutions I have served since leaving Schechter Manhattan, I have attempted to adapt the Schechter prayer curriculum to suit the needs of a Reform Jewish supplementary school setting. This sketch focuses solely on this aspect of Dr. Lorch’s work: His role as the creator of the Schechter Manhattan tefilah curriculum.