Monday, March 1, 2010

Why I chose Jewish Education as a career

Recently I was waiting for a plane and happened to be sitting with someone who, it turns out, holds a pretty high position in a government educational agency.  In the course of conversation I half-jokingly suggested that she use her influence to limit the number of high-stakes tests students are obligated to take.  Her answer, more or less was this:  'You know, don't you, that educators aren't running the system these days - business people are.'

Here are two articles you may enjoy reading:

  1. Business principles won't work for school reform, former supporter Ravitch says - This article has received a great deal of attention, for good reasons
  2. Where the Bar Ought to Be is an op-ed by Bob Herbert in which he describes Deborah Kenny, creator of charter schools in Harlem.  I am not necessarily a fan of charter schools, but I agree wholeheartedly with this statement she made:
I had five core things in mind for my kids, and that’s what I want for our students,” she said. “I wanted them to be wholesome in character. I wanted them to be compassionate and to see life as a responsibility to give something to the world. I wanted them to have a sophisticated intellect. I wanted them to be avid readers, the kind of person who always has trouble putting a book down. And I raised them to be independent thinkers, to lead reflective and meaningful lives.”
In most settings of Jewish learning we are not bound by the strictures of the general educational world.  We can set our own priorities.

  • What are the five core things you have in mind as what you want for your students?
  • Does the constituency (clergy, teachers, parents, kids) in your school share your core ideas?
  • What are you doing to support these ideas?
    • How does the curriculum in your school align to these ideas?
    • How does the structure of your school further them?
    • How does the staff nurture their development?
    • How are those other than students involved in supporting these ideas?
    • How can everyone involved do a better job?

Ki Tissa

Big Idea:

  • Some phrases from the Torah have become well-known, even to people who don't know their origin
Important Questions:
  • What words and phrases stand out for you when reading this parasha?  (i.e. 31:16-17; 32:9; 33:3; 33:5; 33:19; 34:6-7; 34:9; 34:20)
  • Why do you think you know these words and phrases?
Learning Activities:
  • Listen to this rendition of Adonai, Adonai, El rachum v'chanun and read the English translation of the words.  Why do you think this is part of the Yom Kippur service?
  • Why, in your opinion, are these same words part of a traditional Bat Mitzvah observance in the Italian tradition?
  • Read this article about Selichot in Jerusalem.  How does it relate to what we have been learning about?
  • How does a teen understand this parasha?  Here is a d'var Torah from a young person
  • What does it mean to "make Shabbat?"  Here is a short article you may want to read, from the Chief Rabbi Emeritus of the Great Synagogue in Sidney, Australia
  • I had never heard of David Kronemyer, and may never again, but in his blog he asks some interesting questions about the idea of Jews being am k'she oref - a stiff-necked people.
...exactly when did God find out the Jews were stiff-necked? Did he know it before the Golden Calf incident, or is he attributing this characteristic to them on the basis of the Golden Calf incident? While the text is unclear on this point, I think God’s use of the term “behold” at 32:9 means he just now is finding out. This raises the question, though, of whether God would have made the Jews his Chosen People, if he had known they were stiff-necked, before designating them as such.
What do you think?


  • Which of the ideas you studied in this parasha is most meaningful to you personally?  Be prepared to support your choice in a discussion
  • Create a visual representation of one of the segments in this week's parasha that expresses your feelings about it.
  • Write a short reflection of your reaction to this week's parasha