Posts in Personal Reflection
Making Transitions, Jewishly

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.

So, how does one move Jewishly?

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PSA: About Those Jewish Values...

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.

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Why Everyone Should Take on a Jewish Challenge

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.

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O.M.G. - Omer Challenge

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?

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10 Commitments of Jewish Educators

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.

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10 Commandments for Jewish Educators

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.

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Know Before Whom You Stand

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.

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Why I Love Jewish Education

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?

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Taking Off The Educator Mask

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.

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When A Jewish Educator Travels Part II

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.

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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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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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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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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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