Parashat Mikketz and Professional Development

I was of two minds about my TJF fellowship at Adath Israel synagogue as my year began. On the one hand, I was eager to do more than teach in a classroom setting. I wanted to put my newly-minted MA in Religious Education to work. I wanted to take the educational theories and the ideas about educational culture and use…

A New Kind of Song

Think back to a favorite memory of a Jewish experience. Maybe you grew up Jewish and remember a yearly Passover Seder with your family. Maybe your first encounter with Judaism was a recent Shabbat service. Maybe your child came home from summer camp excited about the friends she made. Now, think about what gave that experience the meaning to imprint…

What I Dream / מה אני חולמת

בחודש יולי, החברים של בית כנסת ”שולם,“ שבוא אני מתמחה כרבה, יסעו  לישראל. לעת עתה, יש ארבעים חברי קהילה שנרשמו לנסיעה. אם חמישה אנשים נוספים ירשמו, תהיה לי הזדמנות ללוות אותם למסע. הקבוצה תתחלק לשני אוטובוסים, ואני אלווה את האוטובוס השני כמדריכת הטיול. אז, עכשיו אני חולמת על כל מה שאלמד את אנשי הקהילה שלי, אם תהיה לי הזדמנות לנסוע…

Creating Space to be Real

A Chassidic story tells the tale of a man named Zusya who lies on his deathbed, crying. His students come to comfort him and ask why he is crying. Zusya says to them, “I am afraid.” His students reply that he should not be afraid because he has been a pious man, a devoted student, and a caring person. Zusya…

Honoring Our Elders as They Age

How old is the oldest person you know? A bizarre question, I will grant that, but I mean it in earnest. We live in a rapidly aging society in which people over the age of 65 constitute the fastest growing demographic. Looking even closer at this cohort, the balance is tipped toward those over 85, as Rabbi Richard Address suggested…

Service Learning Builds Character

Service-learning is more than an academic exercise designed to link experience and education. It is an ethical exercise intended to build character. Service-learning assumes a sacred dimension when doing good work is also understood as doing God’s work, when the moral and the spiritual domains converge. In order to assess the impact of a service-learning project for rabbinical students now…

Leading from Within

As Jewish professionals, we strive to infuse our leadership styles with Jewish wisdom. But, with so many texts, both written and living, and with pressure to help our organizations find success, what does it mean to lead Jewishly in real life? Throughout my service-learning experiences, I have searched for an answer to this question. As a fellow, I have made…

Continuing the Conversation

Interfaith dialogue can be tricky in two ways. In everything we say and in everything we don’t. To put it another way, should we focus on what we have in common and attempt to build bonds based on our similarities? Or do we focus on what divides us and attempt to navigate those aspects of our traditions that stand in…

A Season of Change

There is something fresh and wondrous about the fall here in Ohio. We get lovely tree color, the oppressive humidity is finally blown away by a cool breeze, and with all the kids back in the rhythm of school, there is a kind of humming excitement in the air. It’s no wonder that Sukkot, the holiday where we spend the…

For You Were Strangers in the Land of Egypt

Turning on one’s television and watching the news for a few minutes is enough to get acquainted with the tragic situation in Syria. More than 200,000 people have been killed. More than three million (!) have escaped the atrocities of a multi-front war and are simply trying to seek refuge, mainly in Europe, where they are not welcome. Thousands, among…

Give Tisha B’Av a Chance

Overlooked, minimized, and often disregarded, Tisha B’Av is a holy day that many modern Jews struggle to connect with and choose to ignore. Tisha B’Av, the Ninth of the Hebrew month of Av, commemorates multiple tragedies faced by the Jewish people and focuses on the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem thousands of years ago. Jews who observe Tisha B’Av…

Back to Back: Kristallnacht and Veterans Day

When I spent my first year of seminary in Jerusalem, one of the things that I came to truly appreciate about Israel and Israelis was the fact that Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day) was immediately and purposely preceded by Yom HaZikaron (Day of Remembrance), a day when Israelis pause to honor and recall their fallen heroes who have perished in the…

Why I Am, and Will Always Be, a Holocaust Educator

Mission Statement: The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education educates about the Holocaust, remembers its victims and acts on its lessons. Through innovative programs and partnerships, CHHE challenges injustice, inhumanity and prejudice, and fosters understanding, inclusion and engaged citizenship. Resources include traveling and permanent exhibits, teacher trainings, and innovative programs. Holocaust education has been seen for many years as the…

The (Student) Rabbi

Once upon a summer fellowship, I opted for an office over worship In service of the Jewish families, in a cubicle on the JCC’s second floor. While I sat at an aged desktop, suddenly a coworker had made a quick stop As to ask me to provide a service or maybe something more. “I suppose I can help you,” I…

Entering the Land of Jewish Educational Technology

Vayyomer Adonay el Avram, “Lekh lekha meartsekha umimmoladtekha umibbet avikha el harets asher areka.” God said to Abram (not yet called Abraham), “Go forth from your land, from your birthplace, and from the house of your father to a land which I shall show you” (Genesis 12:1). In other words, leave everything you know behind and follow Me. In a…

What Does Justice Look Like? Addressing the Roots and the Symptoms

I recently spent a rare evening watching a reality television show called “Undercover Boss.” The premise is this: CEOs of companies go undercover as regular employees and see the dark or uplifting side of their corporations. Each episode concludes with a heartfelt interaction between the CEO and someone he or she had covertly worked with as part of the show,…

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Fostering a Real Relationship with Israel

Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh (Shevuot 39a)

“Every member of the Jewish people is responsible for one another.”

When it comes to educating the next generation of students, it is equally important to share facts and information and to help foster a real connection with the material being taught. Another challenge lies in sharing the complexity of Israel in a manner simple enough to leave the students with a better sense of understanding and appreciation for their homeland. Learn how one TJF Fellow sweetened a lesson on Israeli government and showed students how they can have a say in Israel’s future.

Interfaith and Intrafaith

What happens when interfaith communities sit around one table? One church has purchased a building that had previously been in legal limbo between a tenant and landlord, and so sits vacant, troubling the surrounding community. Another faith group is looking to establish a food pantry to serve the same part of town. They have the funding and volunteers to handle the interior carpentry, refrigeration, and so forth, but are having trouble finding a location with a landlord they could work with.

How Good It Is to Sit Together

According to the 2013 American Psychological Association’s “Stress in America” Survey, the stress levels that teenagers report during the academic year are far higher than what is believed to be healthy. Alongside this, 37% of adolescent women and 23% of adolescent men report feeling depressed due to stress. What is as alarming is that about half of these teens indicate they are unsure of how to manage their stress and are struggling to find ways to cope. As educators, we must give our students the tools they require in order to succeed in their daily lives. As Jewish educators, in particular, we should offer tools specifically grounded in Judaism and furthermore help students integrate this Jewish guidance throughout their lives.

Tending a Tree by Letting It Blossom

May is here, and high school graduation is approaching. Soon these young people will go off to college. A verse from the Torah on its surface is about harvesting fruit, but it can teach us something about the purpose of these college years.

“When you enter the land and plant any tree for food you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden for you, not to be eaten. In the fourth year all its fruit shall be set aside for jubilation before the Eternal; and only in the fifth year may you use its fruit — that its yield to you may be increased: I the Eternal am your God.” (Leviticus 19:23-25)

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