Right now, I’m in that stage of in between. The time when the boxes are multiplying faster than they’re being packed, when each item checked off the to do list is replaced threefold, and when every social interaction is yet another goodbye. It’s a lot more of going through the motions than finding actual meaning, which feels unfulfilling, and leaves me wanting more.
It’s easy to be cold. To be cut and dry. To postpone awkward conversations and emotional breakdowns in the hopes of being able to avoid them altogether. To literally be at a loss for words, and not want to hurt anyone or be hurt in the crossfire of tough, crushing decisions.
But easy isn’t who we are. No one chooses Jewish education because it’s an easy career path. We choose it because we thrive on the challenge, on the ambiguity, on the chaos of embracing our passion. We bring those gifts to our learners and to our pedagogy, and we also need to bring them to our personnel.Read More
And then, one night, the flames took over. Pillars of smoke and fire came from parks, and backyards, and it was only once I saw the extra busses heading for Mount Meron that I figured out that it was Lag B’Omer. As I’ve written about before, despite my near-constant Jewish educational pursuits, I was woefully ignorant of the Omer growing up, and that extends to its 33rd day. I’m assuming that I’m not alone in this, so below you’ll find my handy dandy list of fun facts, combined with ways to teach the Omer, all without accidentally committing arson.Read More
Just like how experiential education is at its best when it’s meaningfully and seamlessly integrated each and every day, rather than being intentionally held apart as a specific set of activities, so too is Israel education its most authentic when it’s actively linked to the rest of the Jewish education canon. Instead of having an Israel day, or touching on Israel during its specific unit and then relegating it to that requisite blue and white for one week, my goal is to explore ways to connect the larger Jewish calendar to Israel, giving us touch points throughout the year to connect with this integral facet of our overall Jewish experience.Read More
On a day to day basis, it’s way too easy for personal growth and edification to get pushed to the bottom of my to do list in favor of immediate needs and instant gratification. But when I set a goal, ideally a meaningful, time-bound, measurable mission that I can commit myself to for a period of time, I love jumping in with both feet. And sharing it publicly, seeing my progress, and applying it to my life makes it such a great way to continue my own Jewish learning and exploration.Read More
Teaching the ritual of the omer gives us a chance to engage our students in an ongoing aspect of Jewish tradition and personal practice.
With that, here are my top picks for how to teach the omer to otherwise uninitiated learners.Read More
Counting the omer is taking part in a process of spiritual reflection and refinement, taking a period of transition and turning it into a time of action.
As we gear up for this sacred time, I want to hear from you. Do you have an omer practice? Do you incorporate it into your teaching at all? And finally, will you join me?Read More
The years of adolescence can be many things - tear-filled, beautiful, dramatic, exhausting, hazy, defining. They are the time when individuals grow into who they’re going to be. When they can test out different facets of themselves, push their limits, and look both outward and inward to figure out where their authenticity lies. Of course, it can get messy. My own teen years were full of tears, of emotional toil that would make soap opera writers feel inferior, and massive amounts of awkwardness. But they were also the years that set me up for the life that I have today - they laid the foundation for my career as a Jewish educator, shaped the values that I seek in myself and others, and inspired me to prioritize teens in my professional practice and in my research. Which brings us to the question: what are Jewish teens looking for?Read More
There are certain things that, no matter what setting you work in, or age group you serve, or denomination you affiliate with, virtually all Jewish educators have in common. Things like the constant struggle of leftover bagels that proliferate throughout the year [we call it the Federation 15 in my office], the understanding that you didn’t sign up for a 9-to-5, and the insider humor that no one else quite gets. And more serious, meaningful things, like the love we have for our learners, the commitment we have to our missions, and the honor that we feel as we carry out our work.Read More
As Jewish educators, we serve the people who inspired the tongue-in-cheek joke of ‘2 Jews/3 opinions,’ so it’s no surprise that everyone [colleagues, bosses, students, parents, clergy, strangers] has strong feelings about how we should fulfill our missions as teachers and leaders. There are probably an infinite number of commandments that could be prescribed to the practice of education, but for the purpose of being concise and on-theme, I’m starting with this set of 10.Read More
When I think of the admonition to know before who I’m standing as an educator, I think about how important it is that my learners be treated as the complex, multifaceted individuals that they are. Rather than lumping them all together, or going in with a packaged lesson idea, or simply assuming that I know everything about them because they’re a group of teens from the suburbs, I need to actually get to know them, and to learn who I’m standing in front of. It’s the responsibility of us as educators to understand + connect with our learners on their level. Because knowing their details - their dreams, their struggles, the baggage they’re bringing with them - is the only way to truly reach them in meaningful, authentic ways.Read More
As Valentine’s Day comes around the corner, rather than weighing in on the debate about how [if at all] Jews should acknowledge the day (for the record, I’m in favor of any holiday centered around chocolate, but otherwise have no strong feelings), I wanted to reflect on some of the many reasons that I love Jewish education + being a Jewish educator. I’d love to hear from others - what keeps you going? Why do you love the work that we do?Read More
Jewish education needs to challenge and excite, to motivate and inspire. Sometimes it’s fun. But other times it’s so much more.Read More
I fully believe in the awesomeness of the honor and responsibility of connecting with learners at this formative stage of their Jewish and life journeys. As educators, it’s often hard to figure out the lines, the touch points, and the complexities of some of the most important conversations that we need to be having, and I hope that by providing a space to explore these topics, we can be empowered to be even better at our jobs.Read More
Personally, I’m constantly on the hunt for ‘shehecheyanu moments,’ times that I can make an extra effort to appreciate a new experience or a blessing that otherwise might have gone unnoticed. So many modern teachings on mindfulness and self care are about appreciation (KonMari method anyone?) and luckily, the Talmud itself gives us a lens through which to see it Jewishly.Read More
There’s the overabundance of really potentially awkward moments that I encounter as an educator.
Moments when I’m standing in front of a group that I know includes children whose families are administrators in the Trump White House, and those who were staffers under Obama [an occupational hazard of working in the Washington, DC area].
Moments when I’m called upon to make teens feel safe entering Jewish speakers in the wake of the Etz Chayim/Tree of Life shooting, while holding the multiple truths that some of them are passionate about gun control and others may not be.
I thought I was doing my students a favor by being a blank canvas on which they could try out different thoughts and beliefs, but really I was scared to articulate mine. I wanted my students to see me as a ‘together’ person, not as someone with internal contradictions, figuring it out alongside the rest of them.Read More
I'm coming out of five days of immersion in an alternative universe of Jewish learning. It's a place where rigorous text study, insider humor in the form of self-deprecating jokes, and a constant game of Jewish geography reign supreme. Where it would be really weird to roll your eyes at someone's passion for prayer, but not at all out of place to engage in an expansive conversation integrating Talmud, video games, and the #MeToo movement.Read More
For the uninitiated, Limmud is a celebration of Jewish learning and culture, which is meant to bring together the breadth and depth of the Jewish community for a shared learning experience. It started in the UK nearly 40 years ago, and has since expanded to have worldwide reach, with local communities around the world using the Limmud model of volunteer-driven Jewish experiential education to impact their populations. I’m going to the conference for the first time, representing the DC community, which is looking to launch our own first Limmud conference in the next year. But I’m also going to feed my soul.Read More
I’m assuming that I’m not the only one out there who doesn’t have the 10th of Tevet at the forefront of my Jewish consciousness, so I wanted to delve into it a little bit and to think about how we as Jewish educators can make this relatively minor remembrance day meaningful in a contemporary context. First, a quick refresher on the background of the day.Read More