Being Partners in Education

As the director of education at TOR, I frequently ask myself, “Are we accomplishing what we are setting out to do here?” That inevitably leads me to reflect on the thought, “What are we trying to do here?” As I’ve mentioned in previous postings, the teachers and I have spent time discussing our goals as educators at Or Rishon. We’ve come up with core values that we feel are essential in creating Awesome Jews. We’ve asked for feedback from parents as to how we are doing and how we might improve. Interestingly, I find that when I ask for feedback, I rarely get responses. I think the lack of response indicates one of three things: a) we are doing awesome here and no adjustments are needed, b) we are just too busy to sit and think about it and provide our thoughts or c) we aren’t sure what we want, or we have trouble articulating what we want our children to get out of their formal Jewish education.

Over the past several weeks, I have been spending a great deal of time reading about different Jewish curricula and different theories of education – specifically with regard to Jewish education. I have learned a great deal and the material has created great topics for further discussion. What is abundantly clear is that many of us have very specific views of the purpose and role of the supplementary religious school (what we have at TOR). Others have a general idea, based on what they experienced as a child. Still others have no idea what the curriculum should be. All of these voices are valuable in the greater conversation of “what are we trying to do here?” In order to be successful in whatever we set out to do, we must all be working together toward common goals.

We are partners in this endeavor. It is only when we work together, families and temple school, that we can create positive experiences and educate our children. With that being said, I need your help. Over the next few months and years, I would like to take the time to deliberately evaluate our educational program. I would like to craft and build a curriculum that makes sense for us. Something that is in line with our purpose as Temple Or Rishon. Doing this requires the thoughtful participation of teachers, parents, other members of our community, the Rabbi, and myself. I  hope that many of you will want to be a part of this great project.

One small way that you can participate is by simply providing feedback. I know it can be dangerous to ask for feedback – sometimes you hear things you don’t want to hear! So, I will place a couple of parameters on the feedback I request.

First – Please email me directly. Direct emails help me to compile information in a way that allows me to access it and use it to better our program. Also, I much prefer to hear your feedback directly, and not as an overheard conversation via my office door. 🙂

Second – Please be as specific as possible and provide an example not only of what you have observed, but also an example of what you think it should look like (if it is a negative item). When I receive feedback like “the lesson isn’t engaging,” I don’t necessarily know what “engaging” looks like to you. Help me to understand what it is that you are looking for.

Third – Please be open to the responses that I provide. One thing that I have learned in the past 2 years is that Jewish religious education doesn’t look like traditional public education. And it shouldn’t. We aren’t simply trying to stuff our kids with information and expect them to be able to immediately use it. Teaching kids to “be Jewish” takes a lot more than drilling Hebrew prayers and memorizing blessings. It is tapping into feelings and emotions. So, I ask that you be open-minded about the fact that sometimes it’s okay if things look different than you are used to.

In any case, I need your help. We are in this together and I need my parents to commit to helping TOR build a school program that meets the goals that we set out for our children. If you want to be a part of this AWESOMENESS (it’s a real word, I promise), please let me know!

++++++++++ Announcements ++++++++++

Wednesday, March 1st @ 6:30pm – Hebrew School (no Confirmation Class this week)

Friday, March 3rd

  • @10am – Gan K’tan – we’ll be learning about Purim! Great fun!
  • @ 6:45pm – Family Shabbat, featuring the 6th grade class

Sunday, March 5th (it’s a busy day this Sunday!)

  • @9am – Religious School
  • @10am – Men’s Club Bagel Breakfast – Dads, come join the fun!
  • @10:30am – Special program for our 7th grade classClick Here for the flier. There will be a parent element as well. This program is something we bring in every year for our 7th grade class. It teaches them about healthy relationships. The parent element helps parents to see the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship in their teens.
  • @12pm – Purim Spiel Practice
  • @12pm to 4:30pm – Mah Jongg Tournament

Wednesday, March 8th @6:30pm – Hebrew School and Teen OR – Teen OR and Confirmation Class will participate in the Pioneer Jewish Cemeteries of the Gold Rush program. Please note this is a change in date for Teen OR for March. We will not have Teen OR on March 15th.

Special Announcement for our 8th Graders – Registration is still open for the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Overnighter on April 8th. This is a super cool event exclusively for 8th graders. You get to spend the night on the beach boardwalk with a bunch of Bay Area NFTY friends. Click Here to register.

Purim is Coming!

  • Mishloach Manot – These are the wonderful Purim gift boxes that are given to friends and family for the holiday. We are offering a congregational mitzvah again this year. Every member family will receive a box, and for only $36 you can sponsor the entire congregation! This is a wonderful and easy mitzvah to participate in – please call the office today to sign up! And don’t forget to pick up your family’s box between March 8th and 14th.
  • March 11th at 5:45 – Purim Spiel and Dinner – Our pirates have been practicing hard to prepare a fantastic spiel for you! Plan to attend the festive meal and stay for the play! Click here for the Evite to RSVP.
  • March 12th from 10am to 12pm – Annual Purim Carnival – Awesome games, prizes, bounce-house, food, fun! $12 per child.

TOR Annual Meeting is March 19th at 10:30am – This is a very important meeting for our congregation. Please plan to attend.

License to Party Annual Gala – March 25th at 6:30pm – It would be so fun to have a big group of our school parents at this party. It is going have great food and friends! Please plan on attending! Cost is $36 per person. Call the temple office for ticket information.

++++++++++ Religious School Update ++++++++++

The month of February has been designated as Jewish Disability and Inclusion Awareness Month. On Sunday, as part of our celebration, our students participated in various activities designed to inform them about different abilities that individuals possess. So, in addition to their instruction in Hebrew, each class learned a little about disabilities and different abilities.

PreK/Kindergarten – Our littlest learners read wonderful stories about people with different disabilities. They learned the sign language sign for “I love you” and made a lovely framed artwork to take home.

1st and 2nd Grade – Efrat’s class participated in various stations around the classroom where they got to experience what it is like to have impaired vision, to not be able to use their hands fully, and to not be able to hear clearly.

3rd Grade – Our third grade class participated in a group activity where they had to build a structure out of straws. The challenge was that each member of the group was assigned a different disability that impaired their participation. They had to find ways to work together, through the different abilities, to complete the project.

4th through 7th grade – Our older students watched a film called Praying with Lior. This is a documentary about a young boy with down syndrome who is preparing for his bar mitzvah. Before and after the film, we discussed what it means to be “made in the image of G-d” and how Lior’s experience was different from a “typical” child. If you have a 4th through 7th grader, I encourage you to ask them about the film.