experiments, instruments & measurement book

A Jewish Communal Professional’s Code of Ethics


by Jane Shapiro of Jane Shapiro Associates

Former Brandeis University professor Bernie Reisman passed away last week.  His work and vision were an inspiration to many Jewish professionals the world over, and in his memory we offer this piece…

A Jewish Communal Professional’s Code of Ethics

In my professional practice I will seek to:

Answer all phone calls within 24 hours.

Answer all letters within three days.

Make sure there are introductions at the start of all meetings and social occasions.

Make sure to summarize at the end of meetings, both what occurred and steps which are needed for follow-up.

Personally greet and help connect strangers who enter groups of which I am a part.

Give recognition to people for their special achievements as well as for their consistent and dependable performance.

Be diligent about monitoring my own ego and ways it gets in the way of my empowering others to grow and assume responsibility.

Seek to risk and be creative rather than to be conservative and cautious.

Do my homework in preparing for all meetings and programs in terms of a clear agenda, knowledge of the issues and the participants.

Be prompt and thorough in following up on all decisions arrives at in meetings where I am the professional.

Concentrate on learning and using people’s name.

Start and end meetings on time.

Demonstrate a commitment to pluralism in Jewish life with respect for the several religious denominations and other ways Jews identify with the community.

Be a “boundary crosser” someone who sees the “larger picture” and rises about parochial identifications to broader perspectives: beyond the department to the total agency; beyond the agency to the Jewish community, beyond denominational or ideological loyalties to concern for K’Lal Yisrael.

Concentrate on listening to people in an open and non-judgmental fashion.

Be attentive to my own psychological and physical well-being so that when I am at work I have available optimal physical and emotional energy.

Think of my Jewish communal organization not as another large, impersonal organization, but as a “surrogate family” highlighting warm and caring relationships.

Seek to create a culture in my Jewish organization which stresses active participation and collaboration among several elements of the organization: members, professional and other staff, and board members.

Finally, I am a role model. I am aware that I will have my greatest professional impact on the people with whom I work based on the caring and disciplined manner in which I conduct myself, both professionally and as a Jew.

-Bernard Reisman

What do you find most inspiring about this code of ethics?  What would you add?

What’s on Your Socks?

by Shaina Wasserman


At last month’s gathering of the Camp Connect group (see the original post here), representatives from Jewish Camps and congregations alike gathered to talk about many things – among them, their hopes, and questions, for the kids in their programs.  In the true spirit of Jewish camp, each group took a moment to write on paper socks what they would like to see for their campers/learners in the time they were not engaged in their space (i.e. the congregations’ hopes for kids during the summer, and the camps’ hopes for the kids during the school year).  Below is a list of what each group came up with – what would you add? 

Camp Directors’ Socks:

+ Sense of belonging year ‘round
+ New skill-set that will be engaged and valued by the congregation when the teen returns home
+ Connection to Israel and hunger for more experiences, info/knowledge
+ Partner organizations we can count on
+ Stay autonomous/an individual
+ Stay connected
+ Be the best version of themselves at home!
+ Leverage camp kids differently @ Hebrew School
+ Intense Jewish relationships – being  Jewish is not just something you have in common with others, but something you do together, choose experience.
+ Healthier risk taking through guidance and support when they return home
+ Love being Jewish
+ Proud to be Jewish
+ Cultural mentoring – that our kids come home and continue being mentored, continue living in values-based community
+ Openness to challenge – desire to grow Jewishly
+ A child should do something differently or more different –choice about something because of what s/he learned @ camp


Photo Credit: Genevive_Too

Congregational Teams Socks:

+ Know that your family @ home & @ synagogue wants to share in your joy of camp – your love of participating in Jewish life @ home will enhance the fun of being Jewish @ camp
+ Live Jewishly – Shabbat part of the week – part of their lives all year long. 
+ Relationship – being on a journey with your family – provide tools and resources for families over the summer. And into the homes, hear from kids’ perspectives how to share experiences with Jewish families; can’t take families along. I want to start keeping kosher… kid's really alone – communicating between camp & synagogue this week during the heat wave; representatives from camps, before camp, during camp & after camp sessions with parents.
+ Brainstorming with parents – how they bring the camp home – welcome back in fall – camp Shabbat dinner – not only kids but families – camp is a place where, also bring in perspectives from camp  families – private dinner out, to be invited
+ Bring youth group to camp – t-shirts from youth group to camp, skills that developed at camp would be valued. Need for communication – appreciation of gifts from both sides
+ Sessions with camp directors and parents 3-4 times a year
+ To feel as though being Jewish and being part of the Jewish community is something they cannot live without
+ How do we encourage our teens – especially to constantly ask: how will I take all of this home?
+ How are you going to create a personally meaningful experience? What do you like most about camp? What can we do at home during the off /season? What will you miss most about the temple? How can you make that part of your life this summer?
+ An awareness that they can bring ideas back to us and we will welcome them and give them opportunities to share them
+ Camp Shabbat dinner @ temple after the summer
+ How to share your experiences with your family?

How are these responses related?  Where are there differences?  What would you add to this list?

Saying Thank You – Today and Everyday

a message from the Coalition of Innovating Congregations

Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and we at the Jewish Education Project and the Coalition of Innovating Congregations are thankful for many things.  In recognition of that, and in honor of the Jewish tradition of giving thanks, we offer a Thanksgiving prayer from Rabbi Naomi Levy:

And here are a few additional resources on Thanksgiving and Jewish life which may interest you:

Thanksgiving and Sukkot” from the Lookstein Institute

“Is Thanksgiving Kosher?” by Rabbi Michael Broyde, from MyJewishLearning.com

“My Big Fat Jewish Thanksgiving” by Patricia Aranka Smith, from the Huffington Post

What are you thankful for?  How do you express thanks?  Share your thoughts and stories in the comments, or by contributing a post!

Living the Learning: A Reflection

by Lynn Lancaster, Forest Hills Jewish Center

Long day .  I had a High School family experience last night  that was amazing and a learning museum at the Voices of Liberty exhibit and then on the waterfront overlooking the statue of liberty. My day was filled with telling stories.  Living and learning was really good.  

It was so great to take Ron’s message from the summer and try it on for size.  I think that the day was very successful.  Listening to each others’ stories drove home the power of the experience.  I may not remember your name but I can tell you each person's story and match it to a face. I felt this power for myself.

I learned an enormous amount both from the day, and knowing the “ins and outs of what went into planning it.”  Judy, our lay leader host, opened her home to all of us. For me it was a win-win.


Marcy is inviting her daughters class for a Friday night Shabbat dinner in December and as an outcome of the conversation, she is openng up her home for a series of parent child cooking classes based around the holidays. She has an amazing kitchen, and as of this morning I have a “cooking savta” who we know is a talented cooking instructor. (She turned me down as a classroom savta, but this time I had the right ask.)  Visions of family stories surrounding food are dancing in my head. 

We have our first pj+ bookgroup at a schecter parents homes in two weeks.  I am thinking about what the connection might be.clearly it has to do with stories. 

For me it was also great having Jo at our event.  I think it helped my PLT feel more connected and it was a shared experience. 

Two eighth grade parents (they were involved with the H.S.) told me how powerful the experiential learning is.  Last week we were at the food pantry.

This week our students got to meet and talk to the doctor from Gaza who lost his daughters and now speaks out for peace. Fifth grade parents posted to facebook while we were on the battery.  Two parents who “could” not send their children e-mailed to find out when our next outside learning is.  

All very interesting.  The world is moving fast. I guess we need to learn to keep pace. 

It was wonderful to have the living and learning build in such a solid way from the summer.  Job well done!

What Is Jewish About Assessment?

by Jessica Goldstein, Professional Learning Team member at Community Synagogue of Rye


On October 26th, the CJL (Center for Jewish Learning at Community Synagogue of Rye) had our monthly professional development meeting.  The week prior, our PLT met to develop a plan to guide the meeting in order to best help our faculty develop effective assessment tools following the LOMED philosophy.  We briefly discussed the book What is Jewish About Butterflies (by Maxine Segal Handelman and Deborah L. Schein) and discovered out “hook,” the big idea for our learning – What is Jewish about assessment!

We began our monthly meeting by asking participants (including the PLT members) to share a story about using an assessment.  Then we introduced the hook and linked assessment to Jewish values.  That lead us into our text study which examined the effectiveness of God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son as opposed to just God asking Abraham how much he believed in and valued God…the value of authentic formative activities instead of just paper –and-pencil summative tests.  Then we looked at why assessments are necessary and what information can be gained through them.  

The remainder of our meeting was spent in our peer mentoring groups looking at a powerful learning plan developed by our Coalition Educator, Shana Zionts.  She intentionally did not include noticing tools so the groups could work on creating effective assessment devices which could be used in several lessons, yet linked to these specific noticing targets as well.  We reconvened as a large group and shared several of our ideas.  Some of our ideas were to use bibliodrama, venn diagrams, text studies to identify values and examples of them, scavenger hunts (both actual and within text), creating a meal, a creative box, and filming a documentary. 

As a conclusion activity, one of our teachers demonstrated several ways to incorporate quick Smart Board activities as noticing tools.  Each part of this professional development was lead by one or two members of our PLT.  We are looking forward to developing appropriate and exciting noticing tools as part of our peer mentoring this year. 

What is Jewish about assessment?  How is your congregation developing noticing tools in education?

The Future of Temple Israel Great Neck; or, I Have Seen the Light

by Rabbi Seth Adelson of Temple Israel
originally posted in his blog “The Modern Rabbi”

I have seen the light.

In August, I attended a two-day institute with LOMED, a program run by The Jewish Education Project through which our Religious School is continuing the work of Re-Imagine. I was there with RS Director Rabbi Tracy Klirs, RS teacher Jennifer Khoda, and Beth Hagan Director Rachel Mathless.

The keynote speaker of this institute was Dr. Ron Wolfson, who is a professor of Jewish Education at American Jewish University in Los Angeles, and also one of the prime movers of Synagogue 3000, an organization that provides resources for synagogue transformation, so that synagogues can be equipped for current and future realities.

Dr. Wolfson’s message at this program was simple: the successful synagogue of the future is the one that builds relationships between people.  That Judaism should be “relational,” and that synagogues that fail to build relationships will never thrive.

The overarching message of the LOMED Summer Institute was as follows: when synagogues offer programming, the central question surrounding each programmatic offering and its success should be, “Did this program, or service, or class, or Shabbat dinner build relationships?”

Dr. Wolfson is the author of the book, The Spirituality of Welcoming (Jewish Lights, 2006), a book we all should read and perhaps commit to memory. In the introduction to the book, he notes that many synagogues (including Temple Israel) have the words, “Da lifnei mi atah omed” (“Know before whom you stand”) written above the Ark. He quips that it should be replaced by, “But we’ve always done it this way!”

Ladies and gentlemen, I have seen the light.  

I am convinced that today, when it’s getting harder and harder to get people in the door, when synagogue dues seem an almost outrageous luxury, when the fastest-growing religion in America is “nothing,” we cannot afford to do things exactly as we have always done them.  

We have to re-examine, re-evaluate, and re-envision everything that we do.

To that end, I am pleased to report four items:

1.  I am happy that I received the first evaluation since I have been here (now four years and change).  I am sorry, however, that this was the first one.  Evaluations of clergy and other senior staff should be conducted with far more regularity, and not just in advance of contract negotiation.  Evaluation of everything needs to be part of our culture.

2.  Related to this, in a matter of days every single member of the congregation will receive, for the first time, a survey form regarding the High Holidays.  This represents a huge step – not only will the feedback be useful to the clergy, the office, and the other professional staff, but even more so it will send the message to you that we want to listen to you, and we care about what you think.


3.  During Sukkot, we held the first meeting of the Nitzanim Family Connection, a pilot program for which we have received a $6K grant to bring together parents of Nitzanim / kindergarten children in our Religious School, to build connections between parents and give them the opportunities to discuss their Jewish experiences and the Jewish education of their children.  The first meeting was in my Sukkah, next door, and was by all accounts a resounding success.  

We hope that this will be a model for building those relationships throughout the Religious School experience, and not only that this cohort will continue to meet, but that a new cohort will begin with next year’s Nitzanim class, and onward and upward.

4.  A final thing: on Shabbat mornings, one rabbi is now in the back of the sanctuary, and this has been not only a tremendous learning process for me (since the view from the back is quite different than the view from the bimah), but I think that this has also helped to change the tone of the sanctuary environment. I try to greet every single person that enters the sanctuary for tefillot / prayer. Many have told me that they appreciate this.


To conclude, I strongly suggest that you buy Dr. Wolfson's book and read it. I have already purchased copies to give to members of the Ritual Committee and the Membership Committee.  Furthermore, I am now in communication with Dr. Wolfson, and I hope that we will be able to bring him to Temple Israel as a scholar-in-residence and board-training weekend in May, so that he can bring this message to a much wider audience within our community.  I am hoping that a few more of us will see the light, so that we can make Temple Israel the community that we all want and need it to be for the future.

(Originally delivered at Temple Israel‘s semi-annual congregational meeting, November 7, 2011.)

Engaging Others in Sharing Their Stories


Shaina Wasserman, Project Manager of Congregational Learning

Storytelling is at the core of our Jewish tradition.  It is also at the core of our work as innovators.  At LOMED Living & Learning we are focusing on building relationships and creating connections through storytelling.  

How do we encourage others to share their stories?  
How do we create a safe space?  

In addition to the valuable strategies are are exploring at Living & Learning, we want to share with you a guide for how to create social connections among parents.  Below are 3 links to a sample of how to engage parents in telling their stories. 

Please share your successes with these tools on the blog.

Guide to Engaging Connnectors
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Sample Script for a Connecting Conversation
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Texts for Hopes and Dreams
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Welcoming Community, Welcoming Shabbat

by Rabbi Helayne Shalhevet, Temple Beth Emeth


image credit: Nutmeg Designs

It’s the difference between sharing a Shabbat Service with a roomful of strangers and a roomful of friends.  Prior to the service, there is much prep for a rabbi to do – is my sermon ready, is my cue sheet intact, have the Cantor and I prepared adequately?  But the more important prep comes when the first congregant walks through the door.  

Since hearing Ron Wolfson speak at our Summer Institute, I have made it my practice to be there when congregants walk through the door on Friday nights, to wish each of them a Shabbat Shalom myself.  Standing with the usher who is already tasked with greeting arriving congregants, I welcome worshipers as they arrive. Greeting each individual, I get a sense for what the past week has held.  Now when I ask for names for the Mi Shebeirach, when we say our prayer for peace, or when we rejoice with Yis’m’chu, I know who is in the congregation that evening; who needs some extra rejoicing or a contemplative prayer for peace.  In addition, during the Hakafah, every single congregant receives a hug, a kiss, or a handshake from me.  Sure it takes some extra time, so we sing some extra songs, but these practices ensure that I am not the unreachable rabbi on the bimah, and the congregation a faraway entity for me, but rather that we are individuals in relationship with one another who have come together to celebrate Shabbat.  


How is your congregation welcoming congregants on Shabbat?

How else can we build relationships from week to week?

Camp is a Place Where …

by Susan Ticker


A few days ago in the NY office of The Jewish Education Project, something special happened. In partnership with FJC (the Foundation for Jewish Camp),  20 leaders from the world of Jewish overnight camps met with 20 leaders from the synagogue world. Rabbis, educators, and lay leaders, youth directors and teachers, camp directors and development staff, rookies and veterans, explored ways to collaborate to create a seamless experience for children and families on their year-round journeys.

When they introduced themselves to one another, they shared what camp means to them. Here’s how they finished the sentence “Camp is a place where… ”

  • Campers can become their best selves
  • You can try out a new role for yourself
  • Staff and campers can be challenged
  • Magic happens
  • Friendships are fast and forever
  • Everyone there learns something about themselves 
  • We have experiences in concepts of Jewish living 
  • The ideal becomes real 
  • Children can feel comfortable in their own skin 
  • Building a Jewish life is actualized 
  • Everybody knows your name 
  • There is joy 
  • My son can'’t wait to get back to 
  • Campers learn both how to be independent and part of community 
  • You grow and learn new things 
  • Learning is living 
  • Lives are changed 
  • You can be a CIT (Counselor-in-training) and grow up to be a Jewish educator 
  • Time slows down and growth speeds up 
  • There is possibility and fun 
  • We can let love win 
  • A camper becomes a counselor and learns to become a father even when he doesn'’t know it
  • You have a home away from home

What does being at camp mean to you?  Please add your answer to “Camp is a place where…”

Learning Begins with a Question

by Rabbi Daniel Gropper, Community Synagogue of Rye


Image credit: schaver.com

The following is an excerpt from the Rosh Hashanah 5772 sermon given by our Coalition colleague, Rabbi Daniel Gropper.  Download and read the entire text below.  

How is your congregation listening to learners questions, responding, and continuing the learning along with them?

…Consider other ways we respond to our kids and the implications of those answers.  One is to respond with an invisible instant omniscience and quick piety. It occurs during the earliest years. Why is the sky blue? God. Why are babies born? God. Why did grandpa die?  Why was there an earthquake? God. There was a Sunday school teacher who used God to explain almost any question. Once she asked the children “What is a small, brown furry animal who hides acorns during the winter months?” An eager child raises his hand and says, “I know the answer is God but it sure sounds like a squirrel.” The child has caught on. It is bad theology that uses God as a short-cut and it cuts off real questions.

            Or we answer in a way that is honest but not necessarily truthful.  Consider a fictional girl.  Let’s call her Lisa.  When Lisa prayed for a doll for Chanukah and didn't receive it, she asked her teacher if God hears prayers and if God answers them. The teacher dutifully said, “God, indeed hears and answers prayers.” “But,” says Lisa, “God didn't answer my prayers.” “Yes He did” said the teacher, “He said, 'no'.” That terse theology will shut up Lisa.  Not only does it perpetuate a false rabbinic theology, it will harm Lisa the rest of her spiritual life. Years later, when Lisa’s mother lies dying in the hospital, she will pray for her recovery, or maybe she won’t pray at all, because either she had a lousy childhood experience with prayer or no one showed her that prayer could be more than just reading words form a book.  Her mother will die. Did God say, “no”?  And if so, was it because of something she had done or something that her mother had done? The early answers in the formative years form building blocks out of which Lisa’s religious credulity is shaped. There is a short line that leads to the answer about praying for a doll for Chanukah and the trauma of the Holocaust. The answers we give early have an afterlife of their own. Flippant answers can create the ominous silence of disbelief.

            How would I have answered Lisa?  I would have first told her it’s a great question and then would have said, “I don’t know, let’s look for some different answers together, try a few on and see what you like best.”  In searching I might remind her that God is not a cosmic butler, there to attend to our every whim and desire.  I might explore with her the Hebrew word for prayer, l’hitpalel, which means, to judge yourself, to hold up a mirror, to ask the same question God asked Adam in the Garden, “ayekah?  Where are you?”  How are you doing?  Are you being honest with yourself?  I might show her that the same word l’hitpalel also contains the root pheleh meaning wonders; that another purpose of prayer is to make us more aware of our surroundings so that we might recognize the wonders of God’s creation and come to see our role in tending to God’s garden.   I might expose her to the limits that the Rabbis of the Talmud put on acceptable prayer by saying that, for example, a pregnant woman cannot pray that her child be male or female, that to do so is to utter a tefillah shav — a vain and blasphemous petition and that praying and wishing are two very different things.

            Depending on Lisa’s age, we might talk about the rabbinic reality principle that reminds us how nature is morally neutral.  I might show her that remarkable Talmudic discussion that asks: Suppose a man steals a measure of wheat and sows it in his own field. “It would be right that the wheat not grow. After all, it is stolen seed. But the rabbis conclude “Olam k’minhago noheg — nature pursues its own course.  Suppose a man has intercourse with his neighbor's wife?  It would be right that she should not conceive. But Olam k’minhago noheg, nature pursues its own course (Avodah Zarah 54b).  This introduces a theology that our young should learn now, not “later.”  If we don’t answer our children, even with “I don’t know let’s look together,” they will stop asking and say religion has no purpose or will go looking to other faiths for the answers…

Rosh Hashanah 5772 – Learning Begins with a Question
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