experiments, instruments & measurement book

Register Now for Coalition Peer Groups 2015-2016!

Posted by Catherine Schwartz in Uncategorized

We’ve added two new additional Peer Groups and extended the Registration deadline!

Congregational educators, please take advantage of a free opportunity for high-quality professional learning and connecting to other innovators. You can sign up for Coalition Peer Groups until Friday, September 11th. Check out the full appendix of Coalition Peer Groups for 2015-2016.

Register HERE!

Radical Empathy

Posted by Catherine Schwartz in Uncategorized

by Rabbi Lynnda Targan, June 29, 2015

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself (Leviticus 19:18)


The question posed by Dr. David Bryman, the Chief Innovation Officer at The Jewish Education Project for the recent Jewish Futures Conference was, “What would happen if we embraced empathy as the core value of our time?”

It’s a stellar question that has its roots firmly implanted in solid Jewish Tradition. One of the most recognized commandments our Torah teaches is, “Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18) As teachers, educators and clergy members we are fundamentally committed to loving our students and congregants from the outset. We chose to be Jewish educators because deep in our nishamot we’ve committed to embracing the concept of empathy for others. As we teach, preach, commiserate and celebrate with our communities in times of sorrow and celebration and lift our students out of the miasma of disconnection and into the heart of the Jewish community, we are guided into sacred service through the concept of empathy. But how are we able to sustain this ideal of loving “the other,” of being perennially and perpetually empathetic if we don’t love ourselves first—if we don’t have empathy for our own nishamot?

Rabbi Hillel teaches, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, who am I? And if not now, when?” (Avot 1:14) So, what does it mean to be for “yourself” first, for each of us to love ourselves, to be empathetic to our personal internal forces that sustain and motivate us into holy action on behalf of others?

We are blessed to have many Jewish insights at our disposal to help us with the moral imperative to love ourselves. First, know that we are created betzelem elohim (Genesis 1:27), in the image of God, and God is gracious and good. How then can we be otherwise? Our mere existence signifies the fulfillment of God’s design for fruitfulness in the world. Rabbi Abraham Twersky writes that because we exist, there is light in the constellation of the cosmos. God wants us to be lit up by the joy of our unique existence and desires that we bring our exceptional light into the world.

For each of us, loving ourselves enough to ignite sparks in the universe becomes a personal journey and a moral imperative that precedes an empathetic response to the other. Whatever the vehicle, be it therapy, silence, meditation, prayer, performance of mitzvot, the development of a midot refinement practice or the cultivation of an inner climate of gratitude, the path to self-love must be nurtured before empathy ensues. “And if not now, when?”



My Virtual Journey into Online Learning: Week 2

Posted by Jessica Rothbart in Uncategorized

May 15, 2015

“The growing access to knowledge, information, people, and tools that our students are getting demands a shift in how we think about the work they do in school” – Will Richardson – The Steep Unlearning Curve

It’s been fun – and challenging – learning online how to use online technology to look at ways learners can demonstrate what they have learned. Here are a few highlights from Week 2:


Online Buddy

I have “met” about 8 educators who are participating in the course. Each of us has uploaded a photo and a brief description of ourselves.

I chose an online buddy, and, as directed, asked a question about something the buddy posted that interested me. I had seen that she lived in NJ for a while. Being a NJ native, I asked her about that. Turns out we have taught in the same school. A nice, personal connection J.


My take-away from this experience:

When doing an online class, be sure each person has an online buddy.

Always model what you want the learners to do. Our facilitator, Smadar, had asked each of us a question based on what we wrote in our introduction. Then she asked us each to write to someone in the same way.


Creating a Virtual Bulletin Board and a Social Poster

As part of the class, we each put stickies on a virtual bulletin board, indicating our favorite places to travel. Similarly, using a social poster we voted on which type of learning students should be exposed to: Face-to-face; Synchronous; “Collaborative” Asynchronous; or Self-paced Asynchronous. We then explored how to create a virtual bulletin board and a social poster. Part of our assignment this week was to create a bulletin board and/or a social poster. You can see my first attempts at a bulletin board at http://linoit.com/users/erank/canvases/Peer%20Consultancy%20Groups and at a social poster at http://checkthis.com/9iib.


My take-away from this experience:

Again, it is essential to model how to use and how to create a tool.

On a practical level, I learned how to make a bulletin board using linoit.com and how to make a social poster on checkthis.com. I think they will be two very useful tools. I have already shared the information about linoit.com with a congregation as another way of getting teen input.


I’m thrilled with how much I have learned in just two short weeks and am excited to keep learning as I enter Week 3.


Posted by Ben Alpert in Uncategorized

Rational Reasons to Value Judaism

Rational Reasons to Value Judaism
Posted by Ben Alpert in Uncategorized


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

Visrael: Innovation in Israel Education through Video
Posted by Ben Alpert in Uncategorized


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…

Posted by Ben Alpert in Uncategorized


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!

Walking Through a Mezzuzah

Walking Through a Mezzuzah
Posted by Ben Alpert in Uncategorized


By Rabbi Michael Mellen

Text tells us to: “Write these words upon the doorposts of your house.” The words, not just a scroll confined to a small box upon a doorpost, but words scrolling over doorposts, visible as you walk through from room to room or from inside to outside.

Walking Through a Mezzuzah

Imagine the words of the mezuzah scroll,
lovingly written on the doorposts of your house.
Words visible, scrolling like vines over the entryways into each room,
words like trees come to life, creating a pathway, brief as it may be,
through holy words as you move from room to room,
from inside your home, your space,
into the rumble of the world
and back again,
words reminding
and welcoming.

interwoven with the words of the mezuzah,
sit those teachings,
those texts and memories and loves and power
that carry you in life, that remind you
of who you are
of what you hope to be in the world…
tattoos of powerful, necessary memory.

Imagine walking through your values,
your dreams,
and the fire of v’ahavta,
of loving the spirit of the world,
of all your strength and might, walking through the quiet of LISTEN,
Shema, your ears attuned to God’s love and whispering, God’s spirit
mirchefet al p’nai tahom, hovering over the depths,
waiting patiently for your voice to find its way in the world,
to find it’s way in your home,
your voice in relationship with God, with work, with the mundane of life
and the holy.

Your voice calling out in silence,
in great gasps,
in even breaths of sorrow or joy,
of snow or sand or peeling thunder,
giving way to the rush of the presence,
of wings sheltering you, and me,
under the pathways of words twined together,
the words of generations and my words, your words,
our words on the doorposts,
speaking of days past
and to come
and today.


Teen Engagement

Posted by Ben Alpert in Uncategorized


Video about teen engagement at Temple Sharray Tefila. Thank you to Hope Chernak for sharing!

Powerful Planning

Powerful Planning
Posted by Ben Alpert in Uncategorized


By Ellen Rank

How do you go about planning and structuring a meeting? How do you design and then share the agenda? What are the components of a meeting that support innovative thinking and experimentation?
If you search online for “planning meeting agenda,” you will find hundreds of thousands of entries on how to plan and structure a meeting. The Coalition of Innovating Congregations, however, uses and believes in the power of a specific meeting structure. To plan an effective meeting, you must, to quote Steven Covey, “Begin with the end in mind.” That is, you start with your goal. Your agenda must include opportunities for relationship/team building, learning, discussion, reflection, and planning for the future that are all in alignment with or in service of your goal.

Planning a meeting that engages all participants is just one of the leadership tools that will be shared at Coalition Leadership Boot Camp, August 26th at The Jewish Education Project. Check out this great opportunity to learn about tools and resources for designing innovative and powerful learning experiences.




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