experiments, instruments & measurement book

First International Dialog on the Israel Educator

7/24/14

By Cyd Weissman

I was fortunate to participate July 7-10 in the First International Dialog on the Israel Educator sponsored by WZO, the I Center and the Israeli Government. Jewish educators from around the world asked the question: What are effective ways to engage today’s learners with Israel? There was no debate that the times demand new ways of learning. The innovation group SIT led us through a creative process to create new ways of engaging to be presented to the Israeli government for possible funding.

What stood out for me? Meeting Jewish educators from around the world with common educational issues like: Parents care about Judaism, but the pressure for children to succeed in their secular studies pressures them. And then I heard what was not common: From France, Argentina, Brazil, and Spain I heard about the anti-Semitism that students are dealing with. “It’s not safe to say you are Jewish,” is a haunting comment. Ironically, one of the speakers the conference said, “We can’t teach Israel through the lens of conflict only.” Agreed, but it was a hard message to hold when all of us had to run to shelters.

A thought I’m taking away: We struggle to help learners connect to Israel. Yet, the world, as we see in the news, connects each and every Jew to Israel. This is a reality without choice. What does education look like that starts from this reality? From the painful events, from my own visceral experience, the whole subject right of Israel feels less far away, less hypothetical. On July 31 at 9:30 The Jewish Education Project is  inviting New York clergy and educators to our headquarters  to

Gather together with respect for our diversity, to hear and value one another in these difficult times.
To focus on the concrete things you can start to be doing for your community and your learners.

Hope to continue the dialogue

 

This note comes from organizers of the conference:
We know how difficult it is for those who are deeply connected to Israel to be out of the country during these terribly difficult times. We also know just how much you want to do something – anything – to be connected and, in these circumstances, to demonstrate your support for our right to defend ourselves. So we’re sending you this short guide as to how you might do that.

1. Stay informed. There is a huge amount of material available to keep you up to date on developments as well as a plethora of great background information. In addition to surfing the websites of Israel’s newspapers, check out the annotated list “Israel in Cyberspace” that we at the World Zionist Organization have compiled for your convenience.  One site that hasn’t yet made it on to that list is the regular digest of news being produced by the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) which you can subscribe to at: bicom@newsletter-bicom.org.uk.

2. Share what you know with others. The “Israel in Cyberspace” document mentioned above also includes sites that offer numerous suggestions for sharing information and organizing activities. Find materials you are comfortable with on one of these sites and organize people to stand at the entrance of a mall and give them out to people coming in. If you happen to be working in, or have connections with an educational institution – including summer camps – that engage teenagers and young adults, we recommend you check out educational materials already produced specifically in response to the current situation at makomisrael.org/current-affairs/the-gaza-conflict. The WZO is also in the process of preparing such materials. If you are interested in receiving them as soon as they are ready, contact us at wzoinfo@wzo.org.il.

3. Demonstrate public support. Organize a rally, hold a teach-in, help an organization that you are affiliated with run a community event, ask your rabbi to dedicate his/her sermon to Israel, organize a “Buy Israel Week,” organize a letter-writing campaign to national political leaders, find or initiate a Facebook page dedicated to supporting Israel, come up with a slogan and print a bumper sticker. Respond as well to any media bias you come across. Write a letter to the editor or an op-ed to set the record straight. Register any protest you might have with those responsible for unfair reports in broadcasting media.

4. Visit Israel. Our hearts break with every announcement of the latest casualty on our side even as we are sickened by the suffering of the innocents subjected to the horrors of war by Hamas, yet morale here is high as we know this is a battle that is just and must be fought. Still, we are buoyed by every visitor who arrives, every solidarity mission that is organized, and every program participant who chooses to remain here despite the incessant shelling. We need you here during these difficult times. Your presence strengthens our resolve, bolsters our spirits and contributes to our economy, which is also suffering terribly as a result of the conflict.

5. Help us help others. The World Zionist Organization has been organizing numerous efforts to alleviate the anxiety of those subjected to the worst shelling in the south. We’ve been bringing performers to their communities and taking children away to areas that are calmer for days of rest and relaxation. We’ve organized engaging programs in the Herzl Museum free of charge for those looking for an escape from the constant running into shelters. You can help us in providing days of fun for traumatized children by sending a check directly to the World Zionist Organization, P.O. Box 92, 91000 Jerusalem, Israel, or, for a tax-deductible donation in the United States, to the American Zionist Movement, indicating that the donation is for WZO war relief.

6. Come home. If Aliyah has ever crossed your mind, now is the time to revisit the idea. Yes, the pursuit of peace is exhausting, but the sense of being at home, a home that is ours, is exhilarating – particularly in times such as these. In two weeks I will be celebrating 40 years of life in Israel. With all that living here entails, I can honestly say that there hasn’t been a single day – not even a single moment – when I regretted my decision to move here. Perhaps that is because the challenge of fashioning Israel as an exemplary society is every bit as invigorating for me today as it was when I first arrived, even as the need for safeguarding a homeland for the Jewish people continues to be a necessity.

A First Week of Camp: From an Adult’s Perspective

7/18/14

By Jessica Rothbart

We have all heard about the power of sending children to Jewish camp. Sadly for our summers as working adults, very few adults get to experience the magic except by reliving the memories. In many cases, parents have not had the experience of Jewish camp themselves. Some camps offer family camp, where the entire family gets to join, but it is often outside of the timeline of the typical camp sessions.

This first-person account chronicles a Chicago rabbi as he attends camp, in full swing, for a week. And not just any week, but his very first of Jewish summer camp – EVER. He offers a unique perspective on being a staff member and first time experiences. Spoiler alert: whether you’ve been to camp or not, you may end up daydreaming about camp after you read it. Click here to read the full post.

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Listening for Innovation

7/17/14

By Tamara Gropper

Being a parent requires many things.  For me, one of the most exciting things that parenting requires is also the most challenging – listening carefully to my children and believing deeply in their ideas no matter what path those ideas might lead them to follow through life.  It turns out that if I can do that consistently I may just be able to provide a key ingredient in raising an innovator. 

In his book, Creating Innovators, Tony Wagner explores what it takes to provide an atmosphere in which innovators and innovation can grow and thrive.  He profiles a number of individuals to see what elements of their life journey contributed to their ability to innovate from a young age.  Over and over again he finds that parents who really hear their children, who take the time to listen to and support their passions even when it means taking an unorthodox path to learning, significantly contribute to creating an environment of innovation for them.  The same can be said of the teachers and mentors with whom these young people engaged at various points in their development many of whom are innovators themselves.

So, what does innovation sound like to you?  Whose innovative voice have you heard this summer?  What gets in the way of hearing innovation when it’s expressed by our children, by our learners, by our colleagues? And what would it take to shift your response?

Learn more here!

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How do synagogue educators see these leadership challenges?

7/10/14

By Susan Ticker

Margolis compares navigating a Jewish day school to the behavior of a gyroscope, and the three directions in which it moves, as guiding principles for our work. While his three principles – organizational integrity, contextual complexity, and stakeholder pluralism – are listed in the essay as separate elements, working day school leaders must often navigate all three at once. This can result in our gyroscope being pulled in multiple directions simultaneously, and sometimes it means that our navigation systems are more likely to fall apart than to guide us safely to our destination. – Read the full article by clicking here.

When I read this, it raises the question: How do synagogue educators see these leadership challenges? How do they relate to your practice?

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Jewish Mothers’ Amulets – Not Enough

7/2/14

By Cyd Weissman

This week we are one in sadness. I heard people on the right, left and even the “I don’t even give a damn” spectrum, express sadness for the murders of three teenage boys hitchhiking home from school. A friend who almost never discusses Israel texted: “A silent prayer for Gilad, Naftali and Eyal.” At work we were told no posting on social media. When laughter was heard at work, it was followed by the awkward, “no laughter today please,” pause. No one spoke politics. Today we were all parents, siblings and cousins of three murdered Jewish teens.

In our ears we can hear their mothers’ voices that morning they left for school the last time: “Did you take your coat? Be careful, have a good day, love you.” These are the cadences of Jewish mothers.

Rabbi Henry Cohen taught that Jewish mothers used to say phrases like, “button up your coat,” or “eat another bowl of soup” as regularly as “good morning” because their children were sent into an unsafe world. Past the front door, a mother had no control of hoodlums, pogroms or conscriptions. So the extra dose was protection, an amulet, for a world cultured in seeking out Jews, the different ones, as targets for hatred.

In times of quiet, when Jews think they are just like their neighbors, a mother’s learned amulet, passed down from generation to generation, doesn’t go away.

Mothers call out:

“Don’t you think you’ll need a sweater?”
“Don’t go with strangers.”
“Call me when you get there.

Children hear these amulets and roll eyes:
“Don’t you think I know when I need a sweater without you telling me?”

Today’s headlines are a reminder that the world we live in is not so quiet and it is not always safe to be a Jew. Today we remember that we are all Jews, regardless of our political hankerings. Today we stand together in loss.
As my friend texted: a silent prayer for three teenagers who loved basketball, singing and baking, who walked out from their homes into an unsafe world and now have left this world.

And let me ask for a not so silent prayer: this feeling of oneness shared today will hover a little longer so we can work together to make the path beyond our children’s front door a little safer and a little more peaceful.

Hear together, today and tomorrow Rachelli Frankel as she spoke her last amulet to her son
at his funeral, “Rest in peace, my child.”

The Mother Ship is Launching

6/25/14

By Cyd Weissman

The work begins. For six months we’ve been working on The Jewish Education Project’s 2014-15 plans to support congregations and after school programs. I’ve documented the work of planning on this blog. Steps have included engaging funders, lay leaders, educators, clergy, parents and our own agency–we’ve called it listening to 500 Voices. Our Big and Ultimate work is to enable part time Jewish educational settings to create Jewish learning that moves to real life.

Our commitments to:
1) Build on success.
2) Push out the next frontier. Reality dictates we do our work with more limited resources. Here’s the Mother Ship (the plan for the year). Was it worth listening to 500 voices?

Goal 1) Expand & Deepen Educational Changes in the Coalition of Innovating Congregations:
• I*Express  - 21 Congregations (many new to the Coalition) will adapt & launch new models of part-time learning
• Peer Networks – 100 educators, teachers, clergy and lay leaders meeting in small groups throughout the year to “gain the wisdom in the room,” on innovation questions and needs
• Boot Camp  - Fall and Winter in person and online learning of Coalition resources and tools for new lay and or professional leaders in the Coalition
• In site-ful Journeys and Ambassadors – spring visits to pioneering places and with pioneering innovators who’ve created learning that impacts
• Private Consulting for sites who want to move at their own innovation pace and agenda can work with a Jewish Education Consultant privately

Goal 2) Document Success of Coalition to spread change in an Innovation Marketplace:
• Impact Now – Documents the stories 15 new models of Jewish part time education. The story includes written and video documentation of impact on the learner. We’ll test out how we can share that story in a Digital Innovation Marketplace
• Learner Outcomes – We’ll convene think tanks and tracking tools to help name and measure learner outcomes

Goal 3) Imagine new Jewish part time educational settings (non congregations):
• We’ll work with six communities across the country to hear the hopes and dreams of parents; build on children’s learning and interests to create new models of part time learning

We’re ready to launch. What do you think?

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Preparation Materials for Monday’s Call with Rabbi Shai Held

R. Shai Held

June 2014

 Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Call of Transcendence

There’s still time to sign up! The conference call will take place on Monday, June 23rd from 12-1 pm.

Self-Transcendence:

1)     The greatest beauty grows at the greatest distance from the ego (God in Search of Man, p. 404)

2)     A man entirely unconcerned with his self is dead; a man exclusively concerned with his self is a beast.   The child becomes human…by becoming sensitive to the interests of other selves.  Human is he who is concerned with other selves.  Man is a being that can never be self-sufficient, not only by what he must take in but also by what he must give out.  A stone is self-sufficient, man is self-surpassing… A vital requirement of human life is transitive concern, a regard for others, in addition to reflexive concern, an intense regard for self.  At first the other selves are considered as means to attain the fulfillment of [a person’s] own needs.  The shift from the animal to the human dimension takes place when, as a result of various events, such as observing other people’s suffering, falling in love or by being morally educated, he begins to acknowledge the other selves as ends, to respond to their needs even regardless of personal expediency (Man is Not Alone, pp. 137-139).

Wonder and Self-Transcendence:

3)     The soul is endowed with a sense of indebtedness, and wonder, awe, and fear unlock that sense of indebtedness. Wonder is the state of our being asked.

In spite of our pride, in spite of our acquisitiveness, we are driven by an awareness that something is asked of us; that we are asked to wonder, to revere, to think and to live in a way that is compatible with the grandeur and mystery of living.

What gives birth to religion is not intellectual curiosity but the fact and experience of our being asked (GSM, p. 112).

4)     How shall we ever reciprocate for breathing and thinking, for sight and hearing, for love and achievement? (Man is Not Alone, p. 39).

5)     The more deeply we meditate, the more we realize that the question we ask is a question we are being asked; that man’s question about God is God’s question of man (GSM, p. 132)

 

God and Self-Transcendence:

6)     To the prophet, God does not reveal himself in an abstract absoluteness, but in a specific and unique way—in a personal and intimate relation to the world. God does simply command and expect obedience; He is also moved and affected by what happens in the world and he reacts accordingly. Events and human actions arouse in Him joy or sorrow, pleasure or wrath. He is not conceived as judging facts, so to speak, “objectively,” in detached impassibility. He reacts in an intimate and subjective manner, and thus determines the value of events. Quite obviously in the Biblical view, man’s deeds can move Him, affect Him, grieve Him, or, on the other hand, gladden and please Him. This notion that God can be intimately affected, that He possesses not merely intelligence and will, but also feeling and pathos, basically defines the prophetic consciousness of God (Between God and Man, pp. 116-117).

7)     The God of the philosophers is all indifference, too sublime to possess a heart or to cast a glance at our world (MNA, p. 244).

8)     Biblical religion begins with God addressing man, with His entering into covenant with man.  God is in need of man.  A Supreme Being, apathetic and indifferent to man, may denote an idea, but not the living God of Israel (The Prophets, vol. 2, p. 15).

9)     Implicit in Heschel is an interesting hierarchy: the God of Israel is all transitive concern, the human being is an alloy of transitive and reflexive concern (not to mention bald egocentrism and self-assertion), and the God of Aristotle is nothing but reflexive concern (or perhaps better: no concern at all). In the ways that matter most to Heschel, then, Aristotle’s God is less than a human being, not more (Shai Held, Abraham Joshua Heschel, pp. 140-141).

10)  To respond to God is, quite simply, to bring an end to callousness and indifference. It is in this context that Heschel’s polemic against what he considers the Hellenization of Jewish theology should be understood… Heschel deems the God of Aristotle, Philo, and Maimonides to be so transcendent and self-contained as to be altogether heartless and aloof. In a world of genocide and atomic devastation, a world in which human beings are heedless and uncaring, what good is such a God? In a world in which man is impervious to the suffering of his fellow, what could be more otiose than a God who is an Unmoved Mover? In what we might imagine as a perverse form of imitatio dei, according to Heschel an indifferent God can only yield an indifferent humanity. But the God of the prophets is entirely different, profoundly affected by the cries of the oppressed and downtrodden. The God of Israel is a God of pathos and concern, and to worship this God–really to worship this God–is to have our indifference shattered, and our stubborn selfishness torn to shreds (Shai Held, Abraham Joshua Heschel, p. 232).

Prayer:

11)   We do not step out of the world when we pray; we merely see the world in a different setting.  The self is not the hub, but the spoke of the revolving wheel.  In prayer we shift the center or living from self-consciousness to self-surrender.  God is the center toward which all forces tend.  He is the source, and we are the flowing of His force, the ebb and flow of His tides.

Prayer takes the mind out of the narrowness of self-interest, and enables us to see the world in the mirror of the holy.  For when we betake ourselves to the extreme opposite of the ego, we can behold a situation from the aspect of God (Man’s Quest for God, p. 7).

12)   What intrinsic connection is there between self-transcendence and the aspiration to bring God back into the world? For Heschel, I would suggest, human selfishness and divine immanence are at eternal loggerheads: an excess of self, the kind of self-centeredness that values only expediency and utilization, closes off one’s capacity to hear and respond to the call of the other (as well as of the Other). This is true both of individual lives, and of the collective life of humanity: the more focused we are on ourselves, the less porous we are, and thus, the less able to be penetrated by the word, will, and presence of God we render ourselves. Self-transcendence, in contrast, is a kind of tzimtzum, a self-contraction that allows the other (and the Other) to make a claim upon us. In the act of overcoming myself (in prayer or elsewhere), then, I create an empty space, as it were, in which the word of God can be heard and the presence of God can dwell. Thus, in transcending the self, the human being invites God’s return into his own life, and into the life of humanity as a whole… Overcoming oneself, then is a form of opening oneself. God dwells, the Kotzker famously taught, wherever we let God in (Shai Held, Abraham Joshua Heschel, pp. 227-228).

 

Second-Tier Leadership

6/18/14

By Anna Marx

This post is 3rd in a series on Accomplishments and Lessons Learned, a cumulative report demonstrating 5 years of evaluation and research about the Coalition of Innovating Congregations. The report is available online and for download at innovatingcongregations.org/all.

Moses’ father-in-law said to him,

The thing you are doing is not right; you will surely wear yourself out, and these people as well. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.

Exodus 18:17

We often think of change coming about with one charismatic leader. But the truth is, one person cannot do it alone; the task is too heavy. In the last five years, Coalition congregations have changed the way leadership works. They have added second tiers of leadership. They have empowered teacher-leaders to bring innovative learning to our families and brought collaborative teams of professional and lay leaders to create bold visions.

By collecting what we call “tracking data,” we have been able to learn that congregations have expanded their leadership teams over time (read the full report innovatingcongregations.org/resources/second-tier-leadership/). On average, these teams have doubled in size. Our educators know that the task is too heavy. They are not doing it alone anymore.

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Empowering Young People to Change the World: How Surrounding People with a Culture of Innovation Leads to Amazing Results

6/10/14

By Suri Jacknis

My colleague Sara Shapiro Plevan just highlighted this article in her posting yesterday on JEDLAB… and when Sara posts, I pay attention. This is an article about an 11 year old girl, Lily Born, who notices that her grandfather was spilling his drinks due to his Parkinson’s disease and committed herself to inventing a cup that would be age appropriate (not a sippy cup) that would be virtually “spill-proof.” Notably, this 11-year old girl grew up in a household with a culture of experimentation (her father is an inventor and plays an important supporting role in this story). When Lily identified this problem she immediately felt that she could come up with something that could solve this problem. In the article, Lily speaks about her many failures in order to get a successful design out of the right materials. She succeeded in the creation of the Kangaroo cup, a cup with multiple legs for maximum stability, with a bottom that does not touch the table (so no need for coasters!) Now she is on a quest through kickstarter to crowd-source her cups so that she can pay for ‘tooling up’ the plastic factory to mass-produce her them.

This story is so inspirational on so many levels. Talk about empowering young people and people of any age to feel that they can see a problem and keep working toward a solution. It is also a story about identifying resources, especially other people who can collaborate and offer their perspectives, ideas and suggestions in order to help refine a solution. This story also highlights the role of marketing in order to help your ideas reach a wider audience through crowd-sourcing.

Sara also points out that this story is ultimately a story about the key value of honoring one’s parents and grandparents. Lily loves and honors her grandfather and wants him to be able to drink his beverages with dignity. She also honors her father’s tradition of invention and asks for his support to refine her idea and connect her to others who can help. It is so special to be able to connect the ‘drive to invent’ to a core Jewish value of tikkun olam… making the world a better place both for your own dear ones as well as for the broader community.

We can expect Lily to continue to invent now that she feels empowered to be able to change the word through inspiration, collaboration and hard work. It is so great that she has received such positive reinforcement and appreciation at her young age. As educators, our power of encouragement can not be over-estimated in its influence to have long-term impact on learners and indeed, to contribute to changing the world.

A few years ago, I challenged one of my classes by asking them to think about what they might want to invent to change the world: Some of the examples that they mentioned included have talking clothes labels for the blind to help them know the color and style of the clothing in their closets, a house that had appliances and environmental controls that respond to voice commands for people that have trouble walking or touching or are visually impaired and would have difficulty setting the thermostat or oven temperature. I remember being “blown away” by the students’ level of awareness and sensitivity in identifying what may be difficult for people with different challenges. I remember being even more “blown away” by the ideas/inventions that kids had for ways to deal with these challenges.

Imagine the power that we all have as educators to cultivate supportive cultures of experimentation that empower our young people to change the world.

Relationships, Relationships, Relationships

6/9/14

By Anna Marx

This post is 2nd in a series on Accomplishments and Lessons Learned, a cumulative report demonstrating 5 years of evaluation and research about the Coalition of Innovating Congregations. The report is available online and for download at innovatingcongregations.org/all.

We hear a lot about the lifelong impact Jewish overnight camp has on our children. All things being equal, we’d like all of our kids to go to camp. But many of us struggle to recruit greater numbers of families to choose Jewish overnight camp. In order to learn more, we sent surveys to all parents in our Camp Connect congregations to learn about their decisions around camp (read the full report innovatingcongregations.org/resources/camp-connect/).

One thing rang true and clear from the surveys: Relationships Matter. It’s about the kids’ relationships and the parents’ relationships. Many of the parents that responded to the survey reported that it was important that their kids had friends or relatives to go to camp with. Parents also said that they highly valued camp recommendations from their friends.

So can the congregation have an impact if it’s about the families’ relationships? Yes! Congregations can build relationships among children and their parents at young ages so that when they are ready to go away to camp, they can go as a familiar group. Congregations can also pay close attention to relationships that exist and emerge among parents. By targeting groups of friends, congregations can more effectively recruit for camp, instead of one by one.

Look out for the next post in this series: “Second-Tier Leadership.”

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