The Future’s so Bright…

January 20, 2015

Joel Lurie Grishaver

bright futureThis is a look at the future of the Synagogue School based on its contemporary present, rather than based on a twenty-year-old reality. A presumptive truth: The major issues of the viability of the Synagogue School lie not with the word “school.” Education will not vanish.

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The CHUTZPAH IMPERATIVE: a Book Review

November 14, 2014

Joel Grishaver

Joel Lurie GrishaverPart One

Jon Landau, famously wrote, “I saw rock and roll future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” I would like to say, “I have read the future of Jewish Thought and his name is Rabbi Edward Feinstein.”

Feinstein, Rabbi Edward. The Chutzpah Imperative, Empowering Today’s Jews for a Life that Matters. Woodstock, Vermont. Jewish Lights. 2014.

The book begins, “We don’t ask enough of our Judaism…This is a Judaism of warm, ethnic sentimentality that demands very little of us and in returns offers little spiritual wisdom.” It ends, “If a new generation is to join this ancient tradition, they will join only for a message that is vital, significant, and timely. Chutzpah is that message. As the Talmud teaches, the task is great, the stakes are exceedingly high—not only the future of the Jewish people, but also the survival of humanity…But at this moment, our Judaism asks a great deal of us.”

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Was it Really That Bad?

October 17, 2014

Joel Grishaver

classroom teacherA few weeks ago I wrote a blog entry “Redemption or a Service Industry,” One of my friends just hated it. It talked about the gap between Jewish educators’ seeing Jewish education as a “redemptive enterprise” while many parents see it as a “service industry.” It ended by saying, “In today’s Jewish world everyone needs to negotiate except the Prime Minister of Israel.” It tried to say that most parents try to renegotiate the school programs we offer in favor of the unique assembly of elective programs in which their child engages. I expected flack on my Zionist challenge. It didn’t come. Instead I got an e-mail from a hot new Jewish educator who saw it as a personal attack.

I said, “In social media where everyone gets a vote and an opinion, people learn to have it their way.” The educator responded. “And what’s wrong with ‘everyone gets a vote’? If what you offer is substandard and not engaging, then people will walk… What’s new about that?” I responded, “What’s wrong is ‘everything is a matter of a vote.’ it comes with no obligation.” The comeback was “What is the value of obligation? It’s a lovely word but I don’t know what you mean by it or why it’s good. Why should I feel obligated to something if it sucks? Obligation and choice are not mutually exclusive.”

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Redemption or a Service Industry

September 5, 2014

ballroom dancingThis started as a phone call. As part of the redefinition of Torah Aura Productions, I now spend three days a week calling educational leaders. I am speaking to a Director of Education. In a response to a simple “How are you?” I get, “Today is one of those times when ‘Service Industry’ seems to be winning. You know what I mean? I didn’t, but I listened.

“Most of us when we go into Jewish education think we are entering a redemptive process. We really believe that our work will make for a better world. That vision get wipes out when we deal with parents who believe that we are actually working for a local service industry.”

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When First Base is as Good as a Home Run

August 20, 2014

Joel Lurie Grishaver

engageIt all started with the word “engagement.” As soon as it was on the table—we began adopting a policy that less can be much more. Engagement as a behavior is little more than eye contact.

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The History of American Hebrew Teaching—How We Got Here

April 7, 2014

Joel Lurie Grishaver

Shandeh School and Talmud Torah

history of HebrewFrom the mid-twenties forward, there were three kinds of Jewish education for most American Jews. Two were dominant and most were somewhere in between. There was the Sunday School (immato et xians) started by Rebecca Graetz. There was the Talmud Torah, a three day a week after school and Sunday community school, championed by Samson S. Benderly. And there were increasing compromises between the two made because of suburban needs. Remember the suburbs always win.

Over simply, Reform kids went once a week, and got “religion” in what Benderly called the “Shandeh” School. Conservative kids went three to five times a week and graduated after Bar and the occasional Bat Mitzvah into Hebrew High Schools. The Talmud Torah schools (the communal ones) also had a network of community camps—both camps and schools were focused on Zionism. Reform and Conservative camps came along, too. So did their focus on Zionism.

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I Wanna Start a Fad

March 25, 2014

Joel Lurie Grishaver

There are a lot of places to look for what is hot in Jewish Education. You can look at JEDLAB and JED21. You can listen to the gate keepers. You can examine the sessions done at education conferences. You can read Educational Leadership and other secular models. You can be part of a conversation of friends. There are lots of ways to look at the new stuff, to think about it, to figure out your own adaption, and to take it out for a spin.

So here is what I know. Experiential Education. Fad! Project Based Learning. Fad! Mastery Learning! Not so much. Design Thinking. Not Yet. The Flipped Classroom. Silence. Hebrew Through Movement. Trending!

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