Like most English teachers, I entered the profession in the hope I could inspire others to love words on paper as much as I do. Once I entered the classroom, however, I discovered that there were other significantly more achievable goals. You could get students to care about learning how to write—they knew this skill was valuable. You could teach students how to analyze texts and parse language. You could even make them appreciate the beauty of certain Shakespearean plays. But you could not make them love books.
HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal
The articles in this issue represent the balance between the old and the new, sacred and profane embodied in Jewish history. The issue tells the story of the drive for innovation in modern education that has gained strength in recent decades. It features efforts to learn from, adopt and adapt innovative programs and pedagogies from the larger educational universe, even as authors advise caution, patience and planning around such changes.
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We Jews are a people committed to listening, as evidenced by our public declaration at Mount Sinai of Na’aseh Venishma, We will do and we will listen, our shared commitment to God. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks further illuminates: “[The word shema] is fundamentally untranslatable into English since it means so many things: to hear, to listen, to pay attention, to understand, to internalise, to respond, to obey… Judaism is a religion of listening. This is one of its most original contributions to civilisation.”
At the inauguration of its 60th anniversary, Hillel Day School of Metropolitan Detroit conducted a comprehensive curriculum audit of its Judaic studies program. At Hillel, the audit marked the necessary bridge between the school’s existing curricular challenges and our next chapter of innovation. It fueled the flames of innovation, linking that which exists with the aspirations of what could be.
Innovation has become the 614th commandment for Jewish day schools, a central part of their promotional lexicon and a key component in their educational planning. Schools are adopting innovative initiatives and approaches for two reasons. First, and most importantly, innovation enhances the educational experience, allowing schools to better prepare students for their futures while fulfilling organizational mission and vision.
Tell us your personal journey that led you to create your school.
Visionary programs of inclusion can be found in all kinds of Jewish schools. HaYidion asked the developer of one such program at the Beth Jacob Institute of Jerusalem, among the “Ivy League” schools of the chareidi world, to contribute this description of their pioneering work in the field.
By its very nature, spirituality is abstract, hard for students to grasp; we must find ways to make children experience spirituality so that they will relate to it, love it and view everyday events in a spiritual manner. I define spirituality with respect to children as connecting to God and themselves in a deep way by singing and learning about the tefillot. The goal of spirituality is cultivating in our students a positive and enriching kavanah, or intention, that facilitates a connection to God through tefillah.
Tefillah education is a vital part of Jewish education. Many schools work tirelessly on modeling proper tefillah for their students, hoping that they will pick up on good habits and develop a strong connection with Hashem. In YCQ, we are working on two major aspects of tefillah: the messages and knowledge one needs to have before engaging in tefillah, and the words and procedure of tefillah itself.
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