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August, 2009

Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies Mail  

Pardes Educators Alumni Support Project August Newsletter


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The Jim Joseph Foundation
Pardes Educators Alumni Support Project Newsletter
August 2009  Elul 5769

Dear Hevre,
As the summer draws to an end, we hope that it was restful, enjoyable and re-invigorating.  For those of you who are about to start teaching again (or those in Atlanta who have already started), we want to wish you b'hatzlahah rabbah.  Do read through the newsletter for updates on important happenings of the alumni support project.  We want to call your attention particularly to the new on-line learning opportunities and the upcoming retreat. 
We want to remind you that you have access to all secure materials on the Lookstein website.  You will need a password that you can obtain from Debra.  You can sign up for the Lookjed and Mifgashim listserves for free.  There are interesting discussions, such as, the recent article on mentoring.  Links to these are on our website: http://pepalumni.pardes.org.il
We look forward to a wonderful new year working together with all of you. 
Kol tuv,
Pardes Educators Alumni Support Project staff:
Dr. Susan Wall, Abby Rosen Finkel, MA, Debra Weiner-Solomont, MSW

The Pardes Educators Alumni Support Project is funded by a generous grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation.
Dvar Torah - Sarah Margles   Cohort 3
Approaching Elul
Sarah MarglesI was recently at a Shabbat table where a lively conversation was taking place.  In the course of the conversation, one of the men at the table made a sexist comment - the subtle, unintentional kind.  The man, I'm sure, would say that he is not 'sexist', and I'm sure that he would be earnest in his statement.  Still, he made a comment that had that connotation. And I, the listener, said nothing.
I said nothing because I'm not supposed to embarrass another person in public.  I said nothing because it might have made him angry.  I said nothing because I was afraid.  I said nothing because I felt small.
But saying nothing meant that his comment went unchecked.  My feeling small and scared stopped me from living according to my values and the world around us was not made better in a moment when it could have been.
It was such an obstacle that landed Jonah into the belly of the fish.  In fact, it is our fears, our sense of powerlessness, smallness and self-doubt that limit all of us.  We are about to begin the process of examining a year's worth of moments of falling short.  We will account for the ways we were small, afraid and failed to act on our deepest values.  Yet this process of seeking forgiveness is quite unforgiving, as we beat our chests and berate ourselves, making ourselves even smaller.

In truth, we are most able to embrace change and make good choices when we feel capable and smart and courageous - when we feel big.  It is when we feel not-good-enough that we make mistakes, that we hurt others, that we fail to take action, that we find ourselves distanced from The Ever-Listening One.

This year, rather than diminishing our own worth, I invite us to set our sights on what it would really look like to live big, to embody our values and our vision for the world in the fullest way possible.  Let us show kavod to every person we encounter. Let us live in relationship with the Compassionate One and let us internalize what it means to be compassionate to ourselves and to those around us.

I invite us to name the things that keep us from reaching these sacred goals and to throw them in the river.  Let us not dwell on the mistakes of the past, asking only for forgiveness; let us also ask for the courage to move forward with open hearts.
May this season, and the new year that follows, be sweet for all of us.  May it be more joyous and transformative than we thought possible. 
Save the Date! PEP Alumni Fall Retreat
Save the date for the Fall retreat - October 29-November 1, 2009 - to be held on the grounds of Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr PA (right outside of Philadelphia).  Plans are well underway and it is shaping up to be a fantastic program with a special track for our more veteran alumni.  You will shortly receive the letter for registering.  Do R.S.V.P. as soon as possible, so that we can move forward with our planning. 
New On-Line Learning Opportunities

We are excited to announce several new text learning opportunities specifically for our PEP alumni.  This is an experimental program, based on input from several of you as to your interest in continued Pardes-style learning.  One course will be offered by Levi Cooper (the commentary of The NETZIV using Parshat hashavuah.)  This will start as an experimental unit through Genesis, but we hope there will be sufficient interest to continue throughout the year.
The second option, with Neima Novetsky, will be a short, limited piece on the Book of Jonah.  We hope to have the Book of Jonah materials on the website by the beginning of September, and the Netziv materials shortly after.  We will inform you as soon as the materials are available

Focus on Adam Tilove - Cohort 6

Adam Tilove
I have loved teaching from the first time I remember doing it, which was teaching my best friend to ride a bike in second grade.  Not only did it improve our lives - from being land locked to suddenly having the freedom to ride together to the local store to buy baseball cards and Hubba Bubba gum, but even as an eight year old, I remember a feeling of power and immortality.  My friend would never forget who taught him how to ride a bike.  I thought that every time he rode a bike for the rest of his life, he would think of me.

While that may not be true, the feelings of excitement and passion I feel for teaching are still just as poignant today as they were then.  Today, I teach kids about Judaism
(6th and 8th grade), helping them form their beliefs and values for the rest of their lives.  It is an awesome and humbling task, but one I find endlessly joyous and rejuvenating.
I am currently the chair of Jewish Studies and Hebrew at the Rodeph Sholom Middle School in Manhattan.  I am lucky to have an administration that trusts and respects my interpretation of the school's mission and vision.  When I come up with crazy ideas, like taking the 8th graders to hear renowned (or infamous) atheist Christopher Hitchens debate Rabbi David Wolpe on the existence and value of God, I find my school receptive and enthusiastic.  I thrive in the open-minded and fearless way Reform Judaism struggles with issues of faith, God, and Israel.
I also love the opportunity to teach to the whole child through art, music, and discussion.  We talk about our weaknesses and insecurities in a safe and honest way.  We encourage each others secret talents, and we talk about what success and pressure mean in school.  In other words, we get into all the essential things that don't make it on the academic curriculum assessed by the ERB and SAT.
As head of Jewish Studies and Hebrew, I am constantly asking myself, "Why?"  Why do we need to know Hebrew?  Why study Gemarah?  Why pray?  Will this lesson make these student better Jews and better people, or am I teaching them facts and skills that will be forgotten as soon as they know they are done being assessed?  I try to make Judaism as relevant and meaningful as possible so that Judaism becomes a living, evolving, and personal ethical system rather than a series of dogmas and/or customs they don't understand.  While I have not succeeded in exciting every student about their Judaism, I was thrilled to have been chosen to deliver the 8th grade commencement speech.  Truly, having one's students ask to hear MORE from you is the most trustworthy award one can receive.
A great deal of my recent success and growth I owe to Machon Pardes.  I met my wife, Marni, at Pardes and so I consider our 9 month old son Naftali to be 100 percent Pardesnik.  The fact that I have enough subject knowledge to teach middle school I certainly owe to Pardes, having been a kindergarten teacher before my two years in the Pardes Educators Program.  My participation in the Day School Leadership Training Institute this past summer was at the recommendation of the Alumni Support Project.  I want to thank all of my teachers, as well as Rav Landes, David Bernstein, Susan Wall and Gail Kirschner for their untiring efforts.  My gratitude goes to the fellows of cohort 6 for supporting me, believing in me, and giving me knowledge and ideas to become the teacher I am today. 

Education Corner: Another Activator...5 Word Brainstorm
By Dr. Susan Wall 
In previous issues, the education corner featured Word Splash (June 2008), ChalkTalk (November 2008) and Carousel Brainstorming (December 2008), all of which can be used as activators.  Activators, as the name implies, are activities that get the students' minds engaged in accessing prior knowledge.  We know from the research on learning that students can take in new information much more efficiently and meaningfully if they are able to connect the new learning to what they already know.  An analogy would be scattering seeds in land that has been well prepared for planting, versus simply throwing the seeds on the ground.   
How does this activator work?  Hand out five slips of paper to each student in the class.  Ask them to write down five words or phrases that come to mind when they think of the topic raised.  The topic should be sufficiently rich that it doesn't engender the same five responses.  For example, if you asked about Sukkot you would probably get a very limited range of responses.  Topics such as prayer, Israel, holiness, Jewish identity, the Biblical period, etc. are more likely to engender a wider range of responses - which is what you want for this activity.
After the students have completed the individual assignment, put them into groups of two to four students and ask them to share what they came up with.  They should start by discarding any duplicates.  Each person can explain why he chose to write what he did.  If it is appropriate, they can then categorize the terms.  Finally, they should chose either three terms/phrases or three categories and share those with the entire class. . 
These can then be posted on a chart in the room to be revisited as you teach the unit.
Make sure to try the assignment yourself first.  If you can only think of a few terms (and you are worried that everyone will come up with the same terms) it isn't a worthwhile exercise.   Remember the idea is to expand the students' thinking.

Adapted from, 'Five Words-Three Words' in Activators by Saphier and Haley (Research for Better Teaching, 1993).
PEP Update: Welcome to Our Colleagues Entering the Field
 Cohort 8
Graduates of Cohort 8 are beginning their first year of teaching in Community, Orthodox and Conservative day schools in Atlanta, Boca Raton, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Las Vegas, New York and Palo Alto.

We are looking forward to greeting the seventeen incoming students of Cohort 10.  This is our largest cohort ever.
Please recommend us to your friends or colleagues and encourage them to visit the Pardes website 
to learn more about the Pardes Educators Program.  We are now beginning to recruit students for Cohort 11, as well as for our Mechinah program.

Tisha B'av Program in Memory of Ben and Marla
Approximately five hundred people attended the Tisha B'Av program at Pardes in memory of Marla Bennet (Cohort 2) and Ben Blutstein (Cohort 3) of the Educators Program, as well as in memory of  former Pardes student Sarah Duker and  her fiance, Matt Eisenfeld.  Click here to read Rav Landes' remarks. 

Educational Resources and Opportunities
1. Sarah Margles (Cohort 3) set up the site, on1foot while working for American Jewish World Service.  This is an online database of Jewish social justice texts.
2. The Beurei Hatefila Institute was established in order to encourage the study of the words of the Siddur as a Jewish text, in day schools and to assist educators who are developing courses on Tefila.
3. The Open Siddur Project is in the process of developing  an application to build a siddur.
4.The Gemara Berura  project has been piloting "Hascholas Hagemara", a new curriculum prototype currently being used in select schools.

5. Legacy Heritage Fund Smart Board Project is pleased to announce the availability of the Smart Board Jewish Educational Database  to teachers and educators throughout the Jewish educational world. Click here to learn more.
6. For those using Hebrew word processing on a MAC computer, Shifra Kaufman  (Cohort 8) recommends downloading a free word processing program called NeoOffice . She finds it works much better for bilingual than Word for Mac and Pages (Mac's word processor).   
Summer Curriculum Workshop: Report
SCW 2009 group shot
Twenty-six novice teachers participated in our summer curriculum workshop, seventeen of whom were PEP alumni.  The seminar included professional development workshops, time to work on individual curricular units, sharing sessions and trips.

In the words of one graduate:
I can't emphasize enough how important this workshop was for me...being here has not only re-energized me, it's also made me feel so much more confident and so much more prepared.  I felt proud of what I was able to accomplish because of the help of my mentor and peers.  I re-connected to what I love about teaching and Jewish education - and I'd honestly thought I'd lost that connection.  

Website, Forum and Blog 

The PEP Alumni Support
Website has been reworked, with a greater emphasis on sharing curricular materials.  New pages have been added from the Summer Curriculum Workshop with unit plans for Elementary, Middle and High School, as well as handouts used during the workshops.  Please send Debra your own units and activities for posting. 
The forum and blog are accessible only to our alumni.  You do need a gmail account in order to have access.  If you are having trouble getting onto either of these please let Debra know.  Lisa Bodziner (Cohort 7) will continue to blog as a second year teacher, to be joined by one or more first year teachers.  We will keep you posted.
Alumni Updates
Condolences to Scott Kaplan (Cohort 7) on the loss of his father, Mark Kaplan.
May he and his family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
Mazal Tovs:
Ron Einhorn (Cohort 6) on his recent marriage to Heidi Vexler. 
Benny Levy (Cohort 7) and Sarah Rubisnon ( Cohort 9) on their upcoming marriage on Sunday, August 23rd. 
Eliana Seltzer (Cohort 5) and Joel, on the birth of a daughter, Ayelet Martha. 
Yael Krieger (Cohort 8) on her engagement to Joshua Laden.
Stef Jadd  (Cohort 8) and Matt Susnow (Pardes '06-'07) on their recent marriage.
Micha Levin  (Cohort 8) and Nechama on the birth of son. 
Professional News:
Tamar Rabinowitz
(Cohort 1) co-directed the Pardes Educators Summer Curriculum Workshop with Susan Wall.  Tamar is moving to San Francisco, where she will be teaching part-time at the High School of the Bay.
Gayle Adler (Cohort 4) is moving to Denver, CO where she will assume the postion as a Judaic Studies teacher at the Rocky Mountain Day School.
Keren Romm (Cohort 5) has moved to Toronto, Canada where she will teach, as well as serve as Co-Director of Student Activities for Jewish programming at the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto, Kimel Family Education Centre.
Adam Tilove (Cohort 3), was the recipient of a 2009 Grinspoon-Steinhardt Award for Excellence in Jewish Education. 
Thanks to everyone for sending us updated contact information.  Please keep us posted about changes of address (home, email) moving jobs etc. 
We are sorry if we missed something. Please help us by sending in your news!

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