HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal

From the desk of Rebekah Farber, RAVSAK Chair

by Rebekah Farber Issue: Teaching Jewish History

Relational Judaism, Dr. Ron Wolfson states, “What really matters is that we care about the people we seek to engage. When we genuinely care about people, we will not only welcome them; we will listen to their stories, we will share ours, and we will join together to build a Jewish community that enriches our lives.” The recent RAVSAK/PARDES Day School Leadership Conference, in my home town of Los Angeles, was a wonderful example of just such connection, community and relationships. Attendees listened carefully, learned together, challenged each other, and deepened their relationships with each other as well as our network.

The goals of our conference were to provide value to our schools, make people feel connected with each other and with our mission and enable them to engage with RAVSAK as a basis for future contact. We listened to what people told us they wanted: more programming for lay leaders, specific tracks for small schools, deeper content knowledge in critical areas, and more opportunities for networking. In the smaller, more targeted conference this year, I believe we were able to do all of these things and do them well.

The power of learning at any age was also very much in evidence at the conference. One of the primary missions of Jewish community day schools is the creation of lifelong learners, and the conference was a perfect illustration of that value. Attendees came to the conference not solely as observers, but as active participants. They were eager to learn. People brought their learning into the corridors of the conference, onto social media, in the Reshatot, and to their dinner tables. They were clearly impacted by the learning opportunities they had at the conference, with new ideas to discuss and new contacts with whom to collaborate.

As Jewish community day school leaders, we want to support our students. But adults coming together to be enriched is also very empowering. The conference attendees—lay leaders and professionals—came for that empowerment. They came for practical advice and also for text study, for learning just for the sake of learning. It was very exciting to watch adult learners be mentally and spiritually intrigued. The same is true for the students in our schools: when they are mentally, spiritually and intellectually engaged, then the whole child is empowered and we are truly fulfilling our mission and the mission of our schools.

With almost 550 in attendance, our conference was a great success. It enriched our teachers, our professionals, our lay learners—and ultimately our students. May we grow from strength to strength and come together again in March of 2015 in Philadelphia to learn and be empowered again.

Chazak, chazak ve-nitchazek!


Rebekah Farber is chair of RAVSAK’s Board of Directors and co-founder of the New Community Jewish High School in West Hills, California. Rebekah would love to hear feedback on RAVSAK’s work and engage in conversations with the field about what is happening at our schools worldwide. You can email her at rebekah.farber@ravsak.org.

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Teaching Jewish History

Is Jewish history the linchpin to Jewish identity formation, the weak link in day school Jewish studies, or perhaps both? Jewish history provides students with critical links to their past and gives them the context for their own experiences. Discover insights in this field from senior scholars and educators, and find creative new initiatives being used by teachers in day schools today.

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