Thursday, November 29, 2018

What do we mean by "lifelong learning?"

A piece I wrote for Jewish Federation of North America's "Ideas in Jewish Education and Engagement" blog appeared on November 28. Entitled, "What do we mean by 'lifelong learning,' I describe two of our most successful (and explicable) programs here at Emanu-El and the big ideas about Jewish education that underscore them.

Here's the tl;dr take-aways:

  1. Our classes form a microcosm of Jewish community, where diverse opinions can be expressed and, through thoughtful reflection and mutual respect, our students learn to accept one another for who they are and what they believe, and empower one another to grow as individuals.
  2. We study ancient wisdom in the context of intergenerational relationships.
  3. Our teen leaders are role models, sharing their expertise and modeling their commitment to Jewish life.
  4. The teens are proud of their growth as leaders and of the connections they make with the younger kids. Many describe their work as “giving back” to the community 
  5. We publicly acknowledge and celebrate students who go “above and beyond” school attendance. 
  6. Children play a crucial role in shaping the lives of the rest of their families.
  7. For parents, coming to school-based family activities normalizes the experience of participating in synagogue life, making it easier to prioritize it over other ways to spend their time and to consider coming to another activity even without their own children. 

Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Story of Honi and the Carob Tree

Here's me telling the story of Honi and the Carob Tree at Temple Emanu-El last Friday night... a classic tale of miracles, transgenerational ethics, and chocolate substitutes. Enjoy! 

(Full Transcript after the jump)
n.b. Unfortunate drumming noise was apparently caused by a steam pipe; while it was broadcast loudly on the livestream we couldn't hear it during the service itself.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Talking with our children about tragic events

This is what I shared with the Religious School community at Temple Emanu-El after the events at Tree of Life Synagogue:

Dear School Families,

During Religious School on Sunday and Monday, we did not explicitly raise the tragic events at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh with our students. We know that every child is different, and each family must choose to handle the situation in its own way. Yet, we also know that many of our children have questions and fears that we, as their parents, want to address – not to mention our own, adult concerns.

I want to share with you the guidance I gave our faculty, which holds for parents as well:

  1. If the children bring up the topic, don’t shut it down. Listen attentively to what they have to say -- their concerns and their questions, their thoughts and feelings -- and let that drive the conversation.
  2. Try to answer questions factually without adding unnecessary details. Don’t assume that your questions and concerns are theirs.
  3. Reassure the children that Temple Emanu-El is a safe place; we are a sanctuary for all people seeking comfort and support. Here at Emanu-El, there are many adults who are looking out for them and who know exactly what to do to prevent emergencies of all types from happening. A good example is that when there is a fire drill, we all are trained to respond quickly and safely. There are other things that the kids don’t know about that we, the adults, are doing to keep them safe.
  4. Let them know that an important part of what it means to be Jewish is that when we hear about tragedy, we want to respond. That is why Emanu-El is participating in city-wide vigils (both to express our emotions and to demonstrate our solidarity) and why our Philanthropic Committee and Student Council are already talking about what we can do to help the people of the Tree of Life Community.
  5. Remind them that there are always many more people trying to be good than to do harm, of all religions, backgrounds, and nationalities. Unfortunately, it is so much easier to be destructive than to build, and bad news always gets the headlines – but remember, although there are some dangerous people in the world, nearly everyone you meet is a kind, generous, loving person like yourself.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

The Golden Age of Religious School Education

I wrote this article for the March-April 2018 edition of the Temple Emanu-El Bulletin.
The challenges of Jewish education are largely the same as they were more than a century ago, when the first generations of American Jews began attending supplementary schools. Forced by these challenges to be inventive and resourceful, the best educators integrated innovative approaches and cutting-edge practices. And yet, because we are in an era of unprecedented collaboration, I believe we are now in a “Golden Age” for religious schools.