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
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
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
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