Why I Give...Giving Tuesday for Jewish Educators

It’s getting to be that time of year. With a super early Thanksgiving, Giving Tuesday is right around the corner (November 27, 2018!), with Chanukah following, and, for many of us, the final weeks of our Annual Campaigns or fundraising years right around the corner after that. This is the season when, among many other things, people are asking for donations. And we’re getting asked - my inbox is currently full of requests from my various alma maters, every museum I’ve ever set foot in, and more organizations with a J in their titles than I know what to do with. It’s overwhelming, first of all, and it’s all too easy to opt out.

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Why Cemeteries Are My Favorite Educational Spaces

Dear Friends, I have a confession to make. When other educators talk about their favorite educational environments [campfires, Shabbat dinners, DIY escape rooms, not to mention classrooms] I tend to hang back because I’m pretty sure people will think my answer is crazy. But I’m ready to reveal all to you here:

I LOVE CEMETERIES AS EDUCATIONAL ENVIRONMENTS.

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How Do We Remember?

Visiting those parts of Europe still shrouded in the long shadow of the Holocaust means grappling with the issue of remembrance every step of the way. There are elements of the collective memory of the Jewish people - a visceral, cultural awareness that even if my personal memories don’t include certain events, they are nevertheless ingrained in me in a way that feels like a [hazy] memory.

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When They Come For The Jews - Pittsburgh Reflections

I was not ready to be standing in front of the synagogue where my great-grandfather once prayed when I received the news that a Jewish community that I called home for years was massacred in their own house of worship.

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When a Jewish Educator Travels

Next week, 30 + members of my extended family will be traveling to Berlin for the opening of a new museum exhibit that features our family. This has been in the works for a while - essentially, one of the people highlighted in this exhibition is my great-great uncle, and his whole branch of the family tree was planning on going for the launch of the exhibit. Luckily, we’ve remained incredibly close, and so my branch of the family tree decided to go as well. We’re taking off next week for a trip that’s part Holocaust memorial, part reunion, and all [anticipated] hilarity.

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Creating Rituals for Educational Impact

Rituals enable us to create community, develop shared meaning, and mark space and time as sacred and intentional. How can we as educators use Jewish + DIY rituals to create moments of impact?

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Judaism + Positive Psychology Part II

Positive Experiences - So much of what makes Judaism special for those of us who opt to actively integrate it into our lives are the visceral memories that rituals, songs, smells, and places bring up for us. I can be anywhere in the world but if I hear certain guitar chords I’m transported to youth group Shabbatonim, and when certain smells waft through the air I’m back at my childhood dinner table. Judaism, and the Jewish people, are more diverse than ever. While we can no longer assume that many formerly classic Jewish experiences are universal, we can create environments for our learners where their own formative, positive Jewish experiences can play out. How can we as educators make the experience of Jewish learning, education, and living a positive one that our learners will find value in?

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Advocacy + Activism + Jewish Teens

I believe that we’re missing a key piece of our mission as educators if we universally avoid tough issues and turn a blind eye to the realities facing our students, particularly high schoolers today. High school students are not the apathetic navel-gazers that so much of society stereotypes them as being. Rather, they’re ‘woke’ sophisticated thinkers, and they’re not waiting for our permission to take a stand on any and all issues. They’re jumping right in, on social media and in person, and we’re not doing them or ourselves any favors by leaving this reality outside of the purview of Jewish education.

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What is Your Vision of Success?

In the classic leadership book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey names Habit #2 as beginning with the end in mind. In order to know if we’ve been successful in our efforts, we need to envision what they are from the very beginning. And for educators, success is found in our students, and the impact that we’ve made on them through our work. So, today I invite you to join me in an exercise to identify the ideal outcomes for our learners so we can chart the course to success.

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Making Tefillah Meaningful - Top 6 Tips for Prayer Education

I recognize that for many of us, the expectations of tefillah education are enormous, and overwhelming. We need to find ways to teach the skills deemed necessary for a b’nai mitzvah service to be considered successful, to build relationships between our students and content that is at once age-old and expected to be personally relevant, and often there’s a musical component, all thrown together with learners who are figuring out what all of this means. Ideally, we want tefillah to be more than a performance - more than the rote memorization and mumbling of sounds that don’t translate for our learners in any kind of comprehensible way. Prayer is something deeply personal, yet in Judaism it takes on a uniquely collective nature. In order to meet the needs of the individual and the community, here are my top tips for answering the question of…

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My Jew Years Resolutions Reflections Part 3 - Action

Three weeks into Elul and we're finally up to the ACTION component of the Jew Year's Resolutions process. This year in particular, I've so appreciated having the designated time of Elul to set intentions before jumping straight into action. Too often, I find that my to do lists and packed schedules mean that I go from action to action without pausing to take a breath and think about the why behind the what. It's way too easy for me to act, and Elul is the perfect antidote to that in that it offers the time and space to get ready, spiritually, mentally, and even physically, before the chagim. 

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My Jew Years Resolutions Reflections Part 2 - Reflection

This week is REFLECTION.

After I prepared last week and set the space, I jumped into the questions. First, I focused on the positive by reflecting on my greatest achievements from the past year. This year has truly been an amazing one for me, full of growth and movement. Work-wise, the things I've been the most proud of have been building my professional portfolio and skill set, having my concept paper approved so that I'm one step closer to the completion of my doctorate, and the leadership roles I've been able to take on. Beyond that, this year has been all about healthy living for me, and I consider my new healthy lifestyle to be a huge achievement, particularly when thinking back to where I was a year ago. Physical and mental health have been a priority, and for me that means giving the relationships that matter to me first billing and reserving my time for the things and people that bring joy and added value to my life.

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My Jew Years Resolutions Reflections Part I - Preparation

My Elul PREPARATION:

First, I unplugged. I went outside, and in a rare move, left my phone and earbuds at home. I walked around my neighborhood, breathing in the damp post-rain smell, feeling the heat of the August sun, and listening to the sounds around me. My outside time is usually spent racing from place to place, with a phone call or a podcast in progress, so disconnecting was amazing for getting me into the headspace to be reflective.

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My Jew Years Resolutions Workbook

I hope that you'll join me in committing to personal Jewish growth this year. I'll be sharing my Jew Years Resolutions next week, and I invite you to do so as well. If you're interested in a spiritual hevruta/accountability buddy, simply fill out your name and email address and I'll be in touch with you to set up check in times throughout the year so we can hold each other accountable to our goals. This will give you 1:1 access to me, and exclusive gifts/resources/materials, all meant to help you achieve your dreams in 5779. 

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Setting Up For Success

As the start of the new academic and Jewish year gets closer, I've been thinking a lot about the ways that we as educators can set ourselves up for success. The start of the new year brings with it the promise of renewal and change, and the chance to make choices that will further enable us to be our best selves moving forward. By taking steps to prepare in advance, we can ensure a strong start to the new year, and a foundation that we can build on to enable ourselves and our learners to flourish moving forward.

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Educational Choices

As educators, the content that we curate for our learners gives us tremendous power to shape their minds and ultimately to influence their understandings of the world. It's an awesome responsibility, and one that I know we don't take lightly.

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Judaism on Vacation

Rather than limiting my 'Jewish travel' to trips to Israel or other 'classic' Jewish destinations, I love to find the connections in quirky and offbeat locations. I'd like to pass that on to the rest of you with these tips for bringing Jewish content to your travels. 

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Why You Need Your Own Study Practice

Jewish educator confession: sometimes we spend so much time creating experiences for others that our own practices and growth are pushed to the side and neglected. It's way too easy for incredible, passionate educators to get burnt out because they don't take care of their own Jewish needs. Taking on this project, while time consuming, was also a great gift, because it gave me a Jewish outlet that was completely my own, separate from the study that I did to create source sheets for work or to find new materials for my students. 

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Judaism + Positive Psychology

The brainchild of Martin Seligman, positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life the most worth living, emphasizing the factors that contribute to a well-lived and fulfilling life. Positive psychology has been shown to produce improvements in well-being and to lower depression levels when applied. So as Jewish educators, with the mission of bringing value-add to the lives of our learners, how can we integrate positive psychology principles into our work in such a way that allows Judaism to be the vehicle for wellness and happiness?

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