HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal


From the Desk of Susan Weintrob, RAVSAK President

by Susan Weintrob Issue: The Arts in Jewish Education

The Talmud asks the question, מי חכם? “Who is wise?” and answers: “The person who can see into the future.” But who among us is a seer? Who can foretell what tomorrow will bring?

We live in a time of epochal change, but none of us can truly know what lies ahead; we can only imagine. As parents, educators, and leaders in the Jewish community, however, we must understand the rhythm of change and always try to steer our schools wisely through seas of challenges and opportunities.

One of RAVSAK’s goals is to anticipate trends and help Jewish community day and high schools prepare for the future. All too often, we become swamped with day to day stresses and activities, and lose the ability to “see into the future.” RAVSAK aims to help us acquire that far-seeing wisdom. Our recent energizing Houston conference focused on the big issues, the big questions, and the big picture. Right now, the RAVSAK staff and Executive Committee are planning the 2009 conference in San Francisco which will take us in a new direction: for the first time, the conference will include an innovative full day of workshops for teachers and staff, where they can learn about best practices and build a network for future professional interchanges. For all schools, this is a valuable addition; for the smaller schools in our network, where there is limited funding for professional development, it is priceless.

Project SuLaM is an example of RAVSAK’s support of professional development is one of its key components. SuLaM II is in its second year, returning to New York City for the study of Jewish texts, history and liturgy. SuLaMites from both cohorts joined together at the Houston Conference for a very successful Tu B’Shvat seder. SuLaM III is already in the planning stages. Anyone interested in participating in this unique and in-depth program of professional preparation and enrichment should contact Elliott Rabin at the RAVSAK office for more information.

Another new RAVSAK program is “Re/Presenting the Jewish Past.” The Network for the Teaching of Jewish History, the AVI CHAI Foundation, and The Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development are collaborating with RAVSAK to offer this program this summer at NYU. This new initiative includes consultation and mentoring, bringing together leading scholars of Jewish history with current teachers to transform the teaching of Jewish history in schools across the spectrum of Jewish observance.

RAVSAK’s inclusion of the North American Association of Jewish High Schools under our umbrella has allowed us to cooperate in another unique venture: eleven teams of high schoolers recently competed in mock trials at a Moot Beit Din, held at the Tannenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto. Larger and better than ever, the program provided a challenging educational opportunity and lots of great socialization.

As RAVSAK grows to include our Canadian counterparts, we are also reaching out beyond North America. We look to a future that will include schools from Great Britain, Germany, Mexico, and South America within our network, enriching us in new ways and allowing us to share resources for the betterment of our Jewish future.

As I leave the Hannah Senesh Community Day School in New York and assume the headship of the Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School in the San Francisco Bay Area, it is immensely gratifying to me to know that the resources of RAVSAK are available regardless of my coastal location. While I am not yet wise enough to see the future, I know that RAVSAK will be there for me—as it is for you—to assure that the future will be full of opportunities which I can meet knowledgeably and with confidence.

I wish all of you a successful conclusion to your school year and to a well deserved vacation. ♦

Susan Weintrob is the President of RAVSAK and the Head of School at the Hannah Senesh Community Day School in Brooklyn, NY. Susan can be reached at sweintrob@hannahsenesh.org

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The Arts in Jewish Education

With innovation recognized as a premium for all education, the arts need to be taken more seriously, plumbed for pedagogy and curriculum, and integrated into the classroom across the curriculum. The arts represent distinct disciplines with their own histories and methods. For Jewish studies, they offer a vehicle for student interpretation, a different entry point into Jewish text and tradition.

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