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
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
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
For the uninitiated, hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) is a Danish concept meaning a mood of coziness and comfortable contentment, which is credited with being the core reason that the Danes are regularly ranked among the happiest people in the world. It’s how the Scandinavian people get through their long, dark winters, by cultivating wonderful, family-focused in-home practices. And I’m positing that it’s why Chanukah, our own winter family holiday, has garnered such mass appeal. Yes, it’s the Jewish answer to Christmas tree FOMO, and, as a reminder, the commemoration of an ancient miracle/victory of nationalism, but it’s also a time of togetherness, comfort, and simple pleasures.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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?Read More
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?Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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…Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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?Read More