experiments, instruments & measurement book

Building Community at Park Avenue Synagogue

1/15/15

Sarah Lipsey Brokman is an inspiring educator from Park Avenue Synagogue who actively participates in Titchadesh, a Coalition of Innovating Congregations Peer Network made up of Jewish educators who support innovative advancements in congregational learning. With the support of their peers, the Titchadesh network empowers young, dynamic professionals to experiment with fresh ideas and bring their visions to life. All of the educators in the Titchadesh network are full time educators in congregations.  This new staffing structure enables congregations to adapt new models of education – like fully engaging parents as well as children. Our network congregations now have a better capacity to launch programs that fulfill the hopes and dreams of their communities.  

 As the facilitator of Titchadesh, I have the pleasure of engaging regularly with these young leaders. Through our protocols and shared conversations, I witness the incredible work taking place at our participating sites. To widely share their successes, I recently asked participants to share their stories by submitting a blog post to InnovatingCongregations.org,  and I am so thrilled that Sarah heeded this call.

You will enjoy “meeting” Sarah in this post and you’ll gain a glimpse into the amazing model she and her colleagues have built. Here is her powerful story. 

– Suri Jacknis, Associate Director of The Coalition of Innovating Congregations

 

Building Community

By Sarah Lipsey Brokman with an introduction by Suri Jacknis

As a kid, I was lucky enough to grow up in a vibrant Jewish community.  I loved being in shul and spent many hours of my childhood feeling loved by my shul community.  One winter Shabbat, when I was nine years old, both of my parents went home separately after kiddush, thinking that the other parent had taken me home.  They arrived home twenty minutes later to realize that they had left me at synagogue.  My dad drove back in a panic, sure that I would be sitting outside of the building terrified that I had been left alone.  When he arrived, he couldn’t find me because I was inside playing hide and seek with all of my friends.  Since I was so comfortable at my shul, I hadn’t even noticed that my parents had left.  In the event that I had noticed my parents weren’t in the building anymore, there were a dozen other adults I could have gone to for help.  Being connected to this type of synagogue community is why I decided to become a Jewish educator.

Four years ago I began working at Park Avenue Synagogue (PAS) as one of the Assistant Directors in the Congregational School.  I walked into an environment of creative innovation and change at PAS, where the leadership challenged me to dream as big as possible.  I began to reflect on why I became a Jewish educator and I knew I needed to find a way to create that feeling of “home” for the families of PAS that I had for my home shul.  I envisioned a group of families with children in third and fourth grades who were looking for a deeper connection to both the PAS synagogue community and their own individual Jewish identities.  The goal would be to bring these families together to share their values, feelings and thoughts about raising Jewish families.  I decided to call this group, The Covenanting Group because, I wanted people to know that they were joining a group which honored their brit, their covenant, to their Jewish identities and to the PAS community.  I spent the summer reaching out to families and advertising to the whole community. By September, twelve families signed up.  Since I had already decided that I would have run the program with five families, this was a huge success!

The first Covenanting Group event took place in the sanctuary with Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove.  As Rabbi Cosgrove and I welcomed the group, a shiver of electricity ran through me.  The idea had come to fruition.  Rabbi Cosgrove asked each family to spread out in the sanctuary and discuss their goals for the year in The Covenanting Group.  The families all expressed one common value: community.  The group’s purpose became clear.  We spent the year learning together and creating a community within our already vibrant PAS community.

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As we began to plan for a second cohort of The Covenanting Group, I reflected back on the pilot group’s experience.  I realized that we needed to increase the time spent doing Jewish learning – so we partnered with ShalomLearning and made once-a-month online learning part of The Covenanting Group experience.  The communal programming was centered on Shabbat and holidays, a decision which helped our group connect to the Jewish calendar in a more meaningful way.  The biggest learning from that first year was the recognition that the group needed an immersive experience to culminate the year.

This capstone experience was a retreat that occurred in April filled with learning, food and fun.  The adults were able to schmooze, while the kids played and intensified their already strong friendships.  During one activity, the families created a “values map” using strips of paper with 15 different Jewish values, which each family ordered according to the importance in their family’s life.  These conversations were by no means easy, but the buzz of immersive family learning was one I had never experienced before.  After the families finished working with their own values maps, each family shared their map with another family.  I watched as a major goal of The Covenanting Group came to life: families sharing their Jewish values with one another. Since we grappled with big questions of Jewish identity, values and meaning, the families were now able share their answers with each other, in hopes of inspiring more meaningful Jewish engagement as a community.

As I work with the 21 families in the third cohort of The Covenanting Group, I remember being a 9 year old child playing in shul.  Creating a space within the synagogue community to play, learn and connect is a necessary component of Jewish life.  As we look to find ways to keep Jews involved in synagogue and communal life, these connections are at the core.   Helping people connect to one another on a deep Jewish level is the most rewarding and important thing I have done thus far in my career.  This group is a vehicle for connection, a way for families to find “home” at PAS.

Uncovering the Torah of Technology – An ELI Talk

1/12/15

By Rabbi Michael Mellen

I am fascinated by the intersection of technology and spirituality and, at the same time, feel as though I am in my infancy exploring the space that these ideas occupy.  I’m struck by the ways in which so many people work to articulate an intersection of or co-existence of technology and spirituality, and that conversation is what swept me up for my ELI Talk.

For instance, I love the story Martin Buber shares in which “Before his death, Rabbi Zusya said “In the coming world, they will not ask me: ‘Why were you not Moses?’ They will ask me: ‘Why were you not Zusya?” It’s a well known and, some would say, a well worn vignette.  Nevertheless, it has implications for our relationship with technology.

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Click to watch the talk!

 

Kevin Kelly, author of the book What Technology Wants, explains that technology has a responsibility to increase the opportunity for individuals to live a life in which each person is fully herself. As I ask in the talk, what would Annie Leibovitz be without her camera or John Coltrane without his saxophone?  When we best interact with technology, technology supports each of us in living our potential. Like Zusya, we will each face the similar question and will each need to answer.  Technology provides ever more ways in which we can come closer to answering, “I lived truly as myself.”

I also struggle to make sense of the places where I see spirituality and technology so clearly connected. In the talk, I note patterns of connectedness of both our electronic world and the Jewish mystical map of interconnectedness. Still, it doesn’t stop there. As many of you know, light is understood as both particle and wave.  Strangely though, when light is measured as a wave, it behaves like a wave, but when measured as a particle it behaves differently – it behaves as a particle. Our serving as witness to light changes the behavior of the physical world.

Jewish mystical tradition also understands that like when measuring light, when we bear witness, we impact the outcome of life and living. Witnesses change the destiny of relationships when they affix names to a ketubah and impact divinity when bearing witness during Shema. When we serve as witness, we move from passive observer, simply reciting the words or watching a wedding, to active witness, changing the way the universe operates.

Our service as witness in the world asks us to hold both wave and particle or technology and spirituality when we observe. For, there are items in our world that are both spiritual and technological at the same time, just waiting for us to discover both – waiting for us to identify the technological or spiritual or, for the matter, the relational or political. The art of Van Gogh or the prose of Maya Angelou call us to see the artist’s craft and the magic of the art. A sailboat on a gently windswept lake or a child’s reflection in the myriad windows of a beautifully designed building ask us to see the majesty of the boat or building and of the beauty of creation in the same moment.

And perhaps this is where I am now – looking for ways into the conversation that are inherently one, yet can be seen differently depending on what I’m looking at. I hope that in the looking I am asked to step out of my head and into my heart at least some of the time.

I don’t aim to be Polyanna and while, in my ELI Talk I name three potentially positive ways to seek connection between technology and spirituality, I don’t believe technology is all cake and roses for spirituality.  I absolutely and strongly advocate that we need to make sure we are present in our intersection with technology and that technology used well can allow each of us to fulfill our spiritual potential in our lives.  Now, I’m also struck by those moments in which wonder and mystery and pausing to witness allow us to experience the wholeness of the world and step back with a different understanding of technology and spirituality.

Originally posted at sinaiandsynapses.org

Synagogue Table for 22?

1/5/15

By Cyd Weissman

Mark and Ilene’s suburban home is a hearth reflecting their heart and values. A big kitchen flows into a living area with a fireplace and dining table that seats sixteen and announces, “We’re really glad you’re here.” dinner-table-636

Last night, Ilene and Mark hosted potluck dinner for us and eight couples. Common among the couples enjoying soy-gluten-meat-dairy-free food (allergic reactions avoided) were a lot of hyphenated last names. These friendships that have flourished over twenty years. We also share belonging (belonged – ok we’re the exception) to the same synagogue since our children were tots.

Over the past two decades, we’ve witnessed our collective 22 children grow to be adults, some now have their own children. I know the 22 well. Each of them, I report, without hesitation, are menches.

Speaking for myself, and then brazenly for the others at the dinner table – we joined the synagogue for our children to get a Jewish education. We didn’t know at the time, that memberships would lead to friendships with people who would be there for one another in sickness and death, for crises, like 9/11, and for personal traumas, like scary diagnoses. We knew the memberships gave us a place to sit for the High Holidays, but we didn’t know it would include a circle of friends who would dance at simchas and celebrate with songs and flowers.

Back in the 1990’s, optimism and delusion led us to believe, with the right guidance book in hand, and our own cleverness, we could conquer all we would face as parents. We didn’t realize how necessary it is to have adults actively in ours children’s lives to model values of striving and caring lives. Those 22 kids grew to be mensches, in some measure, because of the loving hand and ear these dinner guests give, to one another’s children.

The synagogue, like Ilene and Mark’s home, made space and time for us to really get to know each other and celebrate together. We engaged in learning that bound us with a shared language. Torah helped us express and develop our values in word and deed. We loaded  buses to march on Washington, packed food baskets and raised funds for those in need. 1377000001000-A01-MARCH-ON-WASHINGOTON-63-20

The synagogue was like a hearth reflecting a heart – values, enabling surviving and thriving as parents and citizens of the world. In short, when we raised a glass of wine last night, we were toasting a group that has lifted up each other’s families in the good and from the crud. We were toasting people who had encouraged and inspired one another to live more intentionally.

Last night, someone said to me, “Our children’s lives are so different than ours. What will synagogues look like for them?” I’m sorry to say, even though I face that question every day as a professional, I don’t have the answer.

What we know is,  our adult children live in a challenging, and possibly more challenging world than we ever could have imagined. All the technology in the universe won’t be enough to help them conquer what’s ahead for them personally or what’s churning on the globe.

One wish, we all hold for the 22 is that they will grow to have a long table of friends to lift them up and navigate our crazy-ass world so they can leave it a little better and they can find wisdom, comfort and laughter. Our wish is for them to inherit their Jewish story, to enrich them, and the world.Capture

What’s the chance? What will it take?

Work in Review 2014

12/31/14

By Cyd Weissman

I’m busy writing mid-year reports for funders – never a fun activity. Yet, I’ve learned forced reflection is a helpful thing. We are so busy doing our work, we don’t always stop and ask:

What did we accomplish? What did we learn? What’s next-adjust?

Reflection

1. More engaged with less resource.
Since July, the number of educational leaders engaged in the Coalition of Innovating Congregations has doubled-now 100 congregations are actively engaged in their questions around “How do we imagine Jewish leaning that matters in people’s lives?” The Coalition in NY participates in the following programs:

a. Peer Networks: meeting at least six times a year to address self-identified innovation questions
Thank you Suri Jacknis for your leadership

b. I*Express: launching educational pilots within 12 months by adapting new models of education created by educational pioneers
Thank you Rabbi Jen Goldsmith for your leadership

c. Private consulting for innovation needs; webinars; Innovation Boot Camp and In-SITE-ful Journeys (visits to innovation sites)
Thank you Rabbi Michael Mellen, Ellen Rank, Jessica Rothbart, and Susan Ticker for your leadership

This year, we have less staff and funding to support the tough task of re-imagining education. We’ve learned: leaders are propelled by their own needs to make change and benefit from small groups for emotional support and problem solving. Peer networks benefit from facilitation by well trained staff.

What we don’t know: With more self-directed innovation work, less financial and outside professional support, and with increased peer support, at what rate/to what degree will changes in the educational system occur?

2. Harnessing the internet to strengthen impact

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Duh: No congregation can do this innovation work alone. The wisdom of each program needs to be shared. So we’ve started documenting the powerful stories of places that have truly re-imagined education. We are working with 12 congregations to capture their stories. What we don’t know is how best to tell the story on line so people are inspired to learn more and to act. We do know people want “little bites,” meaning easy access and quick to implement.

The innovation stories will be accompanied by demonstration of “learner impact and value.” We’ve started parent focus groups to hear: What do parents hope for? What impact do parents see in their children from the innovative learning? By spring, we’ll hear more than 100 parents’ stories.

In the spring we’ll do more testing of documentation work online. Does it spark and spread innovation? How can we do it effectively? Thank you Micheal Mellen, Leah Kopperman, Faigy Gilder, Anna Marx from Shinui, and Catherine Schwartz from NYU for your leadership.

3. Jewish learning Opportunities in non-congregational settings

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With a generous grant from the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life we entered a new arena: non-congregational settings. Jewish learning is not just for synagogue members. The educational landscape is changing right under our feet. One size of education fits no one.

This grant enabled us to work with a JCC; a cultural center, a Chabad center, a synagogue offering non membership education, and a parent run co-op for children who attend Hebrew Charter Schools. In a charter school, children learn Hebrew and Israeli culture and history, but cannot engage in religious education because of church state separation. These programs therefore offer the “Judaism” component to kids who speak Hebrew and are connected to Israel.

Each of these sites has engaged parents in “hopes and dreams” conversations. The innovation work is not beginning with “what do we as leaders want for students,” but beginning with the energy and desires of parents. Parents engagement from day one, we believe will bring about greater imagination and impact. This assumption will be tested as we move forward. We are seeing there is great opportunity in these alternative settings. For example, the JCC and cultural centers are prime for experiential-hands on learning. Thank you Rabbi Dena Klein and Tamara Gropper for leading this work.

Review.
We’ve done a lot of work. We set up new systems and processes and taken on new challenges. This hard and inspiring work is possible because of a remarkable team that “jumps in and figure it out.” I appreciate the leadership of The Jewish Education Project for creating a place that always asks: What might we?

What did we learn?
What’s next?

The story of Jewish Education is unfolding. May we be blessed to slow down and reflect in June 2015 and write to our funders:
What we accomplished, what we learned, what’s next.

What voice would you give to the Chanukah story?

12/16/14

By Rabbi Jennifer Goldsmith

This week many of our consultants were given the chance to read verses from Shabbat on Chanukah and create their own modern midrash, giving voice to either a person or object whose point of view we do not otherwise hear. See some of our creations below and add your own!

MenorahFrom the point of view of the Lamp: The Greeks knocked us over and broke so many things in the Great Hall of the Temple. They left me on the ground, thinking me dead and useless. When Judah Maccabee entered, I was lovingly sat upright and the small cruse of oil was placed in my oil holder. Brighter, brighter – hope it lasts.

From the point of view of the Calendar: On the 25th day of Kislev commence the days of Hanukkah. The calendar asks: Why am I mentioned first? The Torah responds, because just as the calendar was the first commandment God gave the Israelites when they left Egypt, so, too, the rabbis start with the calendar as the first command.

Where did they find the oil? For the Greeks found all the other oil. This cruse of oil was hidden among the Greek statues, for no one would think to look there. A soldier among the Greeks had seen one priest with the oil and taking it for his own had hidden it and was then reassigned. The miracle was in the hiding, in the finding and in the light.

dreidelFrom the point of view of Hallel: Halleluyah! Sing out praises to God for the miracle of Chanukah—for the Hassidim who stood up for Jewish culture and tradition in the face of assimilation. Praise God! For all the individual acts of courage of women and men who dared to be different. May their spirit of courage keep the flame of those who support diversity in our day alive. Amen! Selah.

From the point of view of the High Priest: When I looked at the devastation surrounding me in the Bet HaMikdash I wondered- how can I fail forward? How can we memorialize all the death and destruction to make this moment feel triumphant for posterity? We can light the menorah. the light will bring inspiration and help take away the darkness and bad memories. We can institute the saying of Hallel in gratitude to the Almighty and our brave fighters. Lastly, we need to record and memorialize our triumphs- like The Battle of Emmaus, in which our few men used guerilla warfare to triumph over the mighty Syrian Greek army. (That Battle is still studied at West Point as a perfect example of guerilla warfare!!)

From the point of view of the lamp:
“Hey…it is so dark in here. Oh wait…I think I am about to be lit…”
“…really? That is all you have? This isn’t going to last the night!”
“Hey you…over there…did you get any oil?”
“No!”
“Wait…so it is all my problem? I have to light up this whole place? We better get use to the dark…”

Shabbat 21b
What is [the reason of] Hanukkah? For our Rabbis taught: On the twenty-fifth of Kislev [commence] the days of Hanukkah, which are eight on which a lamentation for the dead and fasting are forbidden. For when the Greeks entered the Temple, they defiled all the oils therein, and when the Hasmonean dynasty prevailed against and defeated them, they made search and found only one cruse of oil which lay with the seal of the High Priest, but which contained sufficient for one day’s lighting only; yet a miracle was wrought therein and they lit [the lamp] therewith for eight days. The following year these [days] were appointed a Festival with [the recital of] Hallel and thanksgiving.

Activity: Take a minute to read through the text. Then create, a short (2-5) sentence modern midrash from the point of view of someone or something unexpected in the text. (For example: the point of view of the oil.)
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Rational Reasons to Value Judaism

12/11/14

By Fred Claar

There are many things to teach about Judaism. Most common are history, holidays, Israel, Holocaust, Hebrew decoding, and prayer. All being taught is good, but none of them are rational reasons to value Judaism.Star_of_David.svg

If Jewish students reaching Bat/Bar Mitzvah could articulate what makes Judaism special and unique, Judaism might become a much more highly valued part of their identity.

The question today’s Jewish students ask is not “How to be Jewish” and not “How to create a Jewish identity”. Rather, they ask, “Why be Jewish” or “Why take being Jewish seriously”. These last two questions often have not been answered.

Most non-orthodox Jews today have a Jewish home experience limited to only several days of involvement per year. That is another vitally important topic in Jewish education. Bringing Judaism into non-orthodox homes is essential to properly educate Jewish students. That important topic is beyond these short remarks, and it is a much more formidable challenge than what I am highlighting here.

No Jewish student should be allowed to graduate from school until they can articulate several unique aspects of Judaism that are special and rational to all of mankind. Below are several of many to make my point and to be food for thought within the entire Jewish teaching community.

hebrewWe focus on this world. Our Torah is quiet on the hereafter. Judaism believes in an afterlife, but it is not emphasized. Judaism focuses on this life. Repair this world.

We struggle with God. Abraham and Moses argued with God. Jacob wrestled with God. Israel = struggle with God. Some religions require surrender or faith. There can be satisfaction in growth through struggle.

We elevate critics into our scripture. Our prophets severely criticize Jews for not being good enough. We are the only religion to include critics in our Bible.

We are a people and a religion. All Jews are connected. We speak out for others. Some religions are silent on destruction of coreligionists or easily kill other coreligionists. Religion alone could be private, but Judaism is a connected peoplehood.

Our view of human nature. We are born neutral, neither good nor bad. There is a tug of war between our Yatzer Tov (good impulses) & Yatzer Hara (bad impulses). It is normal to have bad thoughts. It is our actions, not our thoughts, which are most important to Judaism.

The five concepts, plus others, very briefly outlined above do not suffice as Jewish education. They are important steps in answering questions about the value of Judaism to any individual, whether Jewish or not.

Visrael: Innovation in Israel Education through Video

12/5/14

By Amy Schilit Benarroch & Noa Mofaz with an introduction by Suri Jacknis

Hi, everyone. As facilitator of some Coalition Peer Groups, I have been working with the Long Island Family Learning Network to explore ways that we can connect our families to the Israel of today. Network participants have shared stories of a great “disconnect with Israel” among their constituent families and have been searching for new ways to go beyond associations of danger, war and violence or camels, desert and pioneers to make modern Israel accessible, relevant and real to this generation. I am fortunate to have gotten to know Amy Schilit Benarroch, one of the two partners in the Visrael project, through her participation in one of our other Coalition Networks for Full Time educators. Amy is a very thoughtful and creative educator with a special passion for Israel. When she shared this special project with me, I knew that it is something so needed and valuable. Please feel free to reach out to Amy or Noa for more information and to let us know your reactions and suggestions. -Suri Jacknis

It’s hard to talk to American kids about Israel. Recently, American children hear about Israel through the lens of the news, through violence and tragedy. Death and war cannot be the only story about Israel. We have to do a better job to teach children about the Israel many of us know and love. To our children, the story of Israel should of music and food and entrepreneurship and kibbutzim living and more.

So we developed Visrael, a video-based curriculum to teach Israel to 21st century learners here in America. As an Israeli video artist and an American Jewish educator, we knew there were opportunities to innovate in the way children learn about Israel. Our program features a mix of stop-motion animation and live action documentary to create positive connections with Israel for children living in the diaspora. mm

Fifteen years ago, Dr. Avraham Kadar, changed learning in public schools by producing short videos on a variety of topics through his program, BrainPOP. Inspired by BrainPop, which is used in tens of thousands of public and private schools across the country, we set out to create a “Jewish version.” Our goals are to revolutionize the way Israel is taught in day schools, congregations, camps and homes.

Not only do children love to watch videos in class, but research also shows that animation and narration enhance comprehension and memory. According to an SEG Research report funded by BrainPop, “Multimedia learning is most effective when the learner can apply their newly acquired knowledge and receive feedback.” In that spirit, we’ve also created tools for educators including teacher’s manual, worksheets, creative activities and flashcards.

In classrooms and congregations, teachers can integrate Visrael into formal units that focus on Israel. For families, it can be used as a tool for children to learn about Israel with their parents. And at camps, Visrael can serve as a unique, informal way to inspire and assist all Israel-focused activities. Daphna and Gilad

Building Visrael has been an exciting journey thus far. We have just begun to scratch the surface in sharing this innovative programming with American students. We hope you’ll take this journey with us. Please visit visraelschool.com for more information and to get in touch with us. Bahai Garden

Noa Mofaz and Amy Schilit Benarroch are co-directors of Visrael, a video-based Israel education curriculum for students living in the diaspora. Noa is an Israeli-based video artist and Amy is a NYC-based Jewish educator.

One Educator’s Response…

12/4/14

By Tamara Gropper

Yesterday morning, I began my day by reading Nancy Parkes’s piece, One Educator’s Response…On the Findings of the Pew Report and the Jewish Future. I have had the honor of being one of those working with Nancy as her Jewish Education Project consultant through her many years of innovation at Temple Israel Center of White Plains. Nancy succeeds in changing the conversation about Jewish learning within her congregation and without. She seeks out and accepts opportunities to get out the message about what’s possible in supplementary Jewish education when the right resources are allocated to it. In naming key supports needed to create successful, sustainable innovation – collaboration, consulting, mentoring, more educators in the field, and real partnership between clergy, lay leadership and educators – she once again raises her voice for the rest of us. What do you hear in her words? Which of these key supports would make the difference for you?

 Read full article here!

The NEXT Program’s Boot Camp for New Teachers (and those with minimal formal training)

12/2/14

By Rabbi Erin Hirsh, Director

Too many new (and new-ish) supplementary school teachers wake up in the middle of the night worrying about setting up a classroom, planning for the first day, organizing lessons, using textbooks and keeping everything engaging. These dedicated teachers invest time and energy in their classes every week. Unfortunately, some lack formal training in education and working with children. We can remedy that by providing effective and targeted professional learning opportunities for them. Whatever support the Jewish community gives these teachers, the impact on children in supplementary schools will be tenfold.

If the first step to becoming an excellent supplementary school teacher is that enthusiasm and dedication, the NEXT step is surely substantive professional learning. Gratz College’s NEXT program is designed to fulfill that role. The content of our on campus and online professional learning classes includes ongoing education about pedagogical practices, Jewish content, ones’ own Jewish identity, and the needs and desires of ones’ students.

The NEXT Program’s Boot Camp for New Teachers (and those with minimal formal training) is a class specifically designed to address the challenges of supplementary school teachers without a formal background in education. The Boot Camp is a self-paced online class that we now offer year-round for supplementary school teachers. The class features 8 two hour modules on topics including: child development; multiple intelligences; special needs; instructional learning strategies, classroom management and kehillah (community) building. Syllabus, unit and lesson planning are covered in depth. In the fall, the Boot Camp will be expanded to include a module on higher order thinking and questioning and discussion skills. Participants are invited to join an online Community of Practice following the course.

The NEXT program is funded by the generosity of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. All NEXT classes are free to teachers in Philadelphia, but teachers everywhere are welcome to take the classes for a modest fee. The Boot Camp tuition is $150. The need for high quality professional learning online is growing and NEXT’s response has been heard so loudly and clearly that central agencies and federations in Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Hartford, Miami, Milwaukee and the Greater Palm Beaches are now partnering with us to bring our online classes to teachers in those areas at subsidized rates.

Check out their facebook page here.

A Request from the Grieving Widows & Families

11/21/14

Our hearts are heavy with the images of praying rabbis wrapped in talitot and tefillin being slaughtered in an Israel synagogue. As we enter Shabbat, the words of their families can help lead us to healing and hope. Below is a letter from the Levin, Goldberg, Kupinksy, and Twersky families:

A request from the grieving widows and families:

From the depth of our broken hearts and with tears over the murder of the holy victims, the heads of our families, we turn to our brothers and sisters, every Jew, wherever you are, and request that we all join together as one, to bring heavenly mercy upon us. Therefore, let us accept upon ourselves to increase our love and brotherhood with each other, between each of us, between different groups, and between different communities.

We request that each person endeavors this Friday afternoon before Shabbat Parshat Toldot to sanctify this Shabbat (Erev Rosh Chodesh Kislev) as a day of causeless love, a day on which we all refrain from talking about our differences and grievances against others, and refrain from any slander or evil gossip.

Through this may there be a great merit for the souls of the fathers of our families who were slaughtered for the sanctity of God.

May God look down from above, and see our grief, and wipe away our tears, and proclaim ‘enough with the suffering!’, and may we merit to see the arrival of the Messiah, may it happen speedily in our days, Amen.

Chaya Levin, and family
Brayna Goldberg, and family
Yakova Kupinsky, and family
Basha Twersky, and family

Translated by Rabbi Pini Dunner, Young Israel of North Beverly Hills

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