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Jews at the Head of the Class

December 2013

Newsletter Article December 2013/January 2014

From the Desk of Rabbi Shira Stern

How do you know whether you've been successful in Jewish Education? When do we as parents, as teachers and as leaders of our community see a correlation between the planning and the programs and the final product: young Jews connected to their community?

I was thinking about that as I listened to five young people who spoke so movingly on a recent Shabbat to honor our newest 18-year members. They spoke about how we encourage them to question, to find their own inroads to Judaism. They reminded us why we plan special trips and “out-of-the-box” presentations. We heard them tell us that what we wanted to convey to them resonated in them years after they were first exposed to new ideas.

 

Those thoughts led me to realize that something extraordinary is happening at TRT; in fact, it is the best gauge to determine the effectiveness of our training over the years. Five graduates of our quality religious education have returned to become teachers themselves, moving to the front of the classroom. Collectively, their passion for Judaism and their compassion for their students is exemplary; individually, they have found different and unique paths to communicate what they want to teach.

 

Liza Manihan, nèe Kaufman, shares her gifts with her second graders, having been trained as a special ed teacher. She introduces them to biblical stories, helping them to be creative when translating those stories  into pictures, which are then documented in their own “personal Torahs.” She finds ways to draw out the best in each child, so their work reflects each child's personality

 

Kara Borshof, our newest teacher, helps her Kindergarteners and first graders navigate the rites and rituals of Shabbat and holidays.  Each item crafted for their Shabbat box has the imprint of her skills and their small hands. And as each of them learns how to ask Jewish questions, she finds the words they will understand as she answers.

 

Rachel Klein, our Temple Executive Director, has taught third grade and High School in past years. Now she teaches in our Monday Enrichment program. She has mastered the art of Harry Potter, and uses that beloved series to focus on Jewish Ethics. Magic can indeed be real.

 

Haley Dercher is our new Bar/Bat Mitzvah Exploration Guide, helping our incoming seventh graders to explore their own strengths and understanding of what it means to be Jewish through whatever medium they choose. She encourages them to articulate prayers or Jewish concepts through song, dance, visual arts or any activity they love. She is the facilitator, but they are the creative designers.

 

And to clarify the confusion of some fourth and fifth graders who came home talking about MR. Weber, our youngest son, Eytan, has been substitute-teaching in the upper grades when he's not teaching elsewhere, making me smile and cry at the same time.

 

So how do we gauge success at The Center for a Jewish Future? By looking at the present in our classrooms, knowing that we are building on the solid foundation of what - and how - we have taught in the past. If you would like to learn more about our curriculum and our methods, I would love to meet with you!

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