Corn Chowder and Sticky Experiential Jewish Education

Last Updated on Tuesday, 1 June 2010 01:08 Written by bryfy Tuesday, 1 June 2010 01:08

“There was my good friend Betsy and there was also Vera. The room was dark and we turned the benches over as we sat on the floor and said the prayers. I  fasted on Tisha B’Av but only when I was at camp. And then, when the fast was over, we ate corn chowder.”

This quote above was from Susan (not her real name) telling us about Tisha B’Av as a camper. Now a camp director, the Tisha B’Av that Susan described, as if it took place just last summer, actually occurred 45 years ago. As she retold the story her eyes closed, her voice quivered a bit and everyone else in the room was enraptured by her story.

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Cornerstone training. I was conducting a session about the “challenge” of  experiential Jewish education and an amazing thing happened. We had began by speaking about great Jewish experiences that we had. Those memories that really stick with us. One of the reasons that I offered that certain episodes in our life “stick” is because we had to go through some sort of challenging experience in order to have them consolidated within our own learning experience. I learn a new skill, I struggle with it, I finally work it out, eventually I might master it, then I reflect upon it – and I have learned. Professor Joseph Reimer at Brandeis University has also been doing some work around stickiness in Jewish education – there is definitely more that we can learn from the life’s broader disciplines.

But when Susan spoke something else happened. There was an emotion in the room. Not just the emotion that everyone felt for Susan as she recalled such a powerful memory. But an emotion that within this room, we all had the power to create these experiences – that would last with our campers, our students, our chanichim for 45 years and beyond.

What makes certain experiences stick and others fade?

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Evolution or Revolution?

Last Updated on Thursday, 6 May 2010 02:29 Written by bryfy Thursday, 6 May 2010 09:29

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to be part of a dynamic, if not “messy” discussion about Jewish education and Technology hosted by the Lippman Kanfer Institute at JESNA and The Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU.

I wanted to share some of my thoughts from yesterday’s event….

“I am very excited to be here today. I want to introduce you today to something that is going to change the way that we learn. It is so exciting that not only will it change the way we run our schools, but also has the capacity to change the way we live our lives. Now anyone can create information for others to see. We are no longer restricted to learning by ourselves at our desks with a book in hand. With this new technology teachers will be able to reach many more students than ever before. When new information is learned you won’t have to wait for a new book to be printed, you will be able to share it you’re your students immediately. If something changes or you make a mistake, you can just erase it and put up the new information for all to see. You can’t believe how much easier your life as a teacher will become – not just easier, but more effective and more influential. If knowledge is power, now you can share it with so many more people than ever before – we are truly living in a powerful time with endless possibilities.”

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Peoplehood, Shmeeplehood

Last Updated on Sunday, 21 March 2010 05:43 Written by bryfy Sunday, 21 March 2010 05:43

Last week I was fortunate enough to attend the very stimulating and high level Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Leader’s Assembly. The opportunity to meet and mix with colleagues old and new is always welcomed. This networking is the most important piece of many of these Jewish gatherings – and perhaps the topic for another blog post.

On Tuesday morning I was fortunate to be part of a session dedicated to looking at Learner Outcomes at Jewish Summer Camps – specifically asking the question of what a camper will learn in terms of their attitudes, knowledge and behaviors (what will they feel, know and do) as a result of spending a summer (or summers) at your camp. It’s a great question and one that any educational institution should continually be asking themselves. (special shout out to Rebecca and Adam!)

Well as luck would have it – I got stuck with the Jewish value of Jewish Peoplehood. My problems with Peoplehood stem from the fact that it never comes up as a real world on spell check. So, my first task was to not only analyze with camp directors and assistant directors what the learner outcomes of this overly used concept is, but to explain what it means – and thus began our discussions….

Before starting I should say that some of my best friends (colleagues and people I admire) are Jewish Peoplehood experts. (Melissa Zalkin Stollman, Yossi Abramovitz, Ezra Kopelowitz, Jewish Peoplehood HUB et al) And with that caveat I now have permission to offend everyone….

I want to share with you some of my insights from the session and see where it might take us:

  1. The term Jewish Peoplehood is overused and misunderstood in the Jewish world today because not enough time and energy has been spent trying to understand it. Let me rephrase that, a lot of people have been discussing Jewish Peoplehood for many years, and few have been able to successfully translate their theoretical and philosophical understandings of the term into practical and implementable strategies.
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