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December Newsletter

In accordance with Amendment 40 of the Communications Law, Pardes would like to confirm that you are receiving this mail after voluntarily providing Pardes with your email address.  As always, should at any time you wish to no longer receive information from Pardes via e-mail, you may use the unsubscribe button on the bottom of this mail or contact us directly via e-mail or phone. 
Dear Hevre,
We hope this newsletter finds you well and enjoying a much deserved winter vacation.

Back in Israel, we are reading and compiling the very positive feedback from the retreat participants (see article below). Those who could not make it were sorely missed.
Since the last newsletter, we have launched the new Pardes Educators Alumni Support Project website. While we are still fine-tuning the site, we hope you have taken the opportunity to explore all that it provides: updated job listings, announcements of faculty travel and other events of interest to alumni, educational opportunities (conferences, workshops, etc.), an archive of all our past newsletters, handouts and articles from the fall retreat, the forum (to which we hope you will begin to contribute), plus our soon-to-be-launched blog for teachers' reflections. While the website is available to the public, the forum and blog are only for our graduates and select faculty members.
Thanks to Debra Weiner-Solomont (and Joel Weiss) for the yeoman's job of getting the project off the ground.
We hope that this holiday of lights will allow you to return to school rested and again inspired to bring the light of Torah to your students.
Kol tuv,
Susan, Abby and Debra

The Pardes Educators Alumni Support Project is funded by a generous grant from the
Jim Joseph Foundation.

Dvar Torah by Rabbi Michael Hattin

Michael HattinThe Lights of Chanukah
The Gemara in Tractate Shabbat discusses the observance of Chanukah and details the laws concerning the kindling and placement of the lights: "It is a mitzvah to place the Chanukah lamp outside of one's door.  If one lives in an upper storey of a building then one should place the lamp near a window that faces the public thoroughfare..." (Shabbat 21b).  As Rashi in his commentary to the passage explains, these provisions are eminently practical in nature - they are meant to publicize to all the miracle of the small cruse of oil by which the Temple menorah was fueled for eight days. Therefore the Chanukah lights are to be placed outside of the door facing the public domain so that a passerby should see the kindled lights and remember.
The Gerrer Rebbe (R. Yehuda Aryeh Leb Alter of Gur, 19th century), however, sees the matter in more symbolic and spiritual terms.  As he explains in his monumental Torah commentary known as the Sefas Emes, the matter of the "door" or "opening" referred to in the above passage is really a metaphor for the receptivity of the heart. The doors of the heart, so to speak, can be closed so that one is insensitive, indifferent and apathetic, or else those doors can be flung open so that one is responsive and concerned. Often, he explains, even a tiny glimmer of light, a small spiritual awakening, is all that is needed to break down the barriers that cover the heart, so that a person can then open the proverbial door and let the light flood in. The provision to place the Chanukah lamp next to the door is thus also a powerful metaphor: we must try to create opportunities for spirituality and wisdom to triumph over the recalcitrant heart, so that we and those around us can ultimately be transformed.  It is for this reason, he suggests, that we refer to this holiday as "Chanukah", because the word not only refers to the rededication of the cleansed Temple and its rebuilt altar of ancient times, but also to the perennial rededication of the individual - whose heart had been unmoved - to the service of God.
As educators, perhaps we realize more than most the power of the idea to effect transformation.  In fact, we are in constant interaction with hearts that are sometimes interested and alert but often are less than attentive.  As the festival of Chanukah begins, let us rededicate ourselves anew to placing the lights outside of our doors, inspiring not only our own hearts but the hearts of those around us as well.

Retreat Reunion-Looking Back and Moving Forward

Fall retreatFrom Thursday November 20th through Sunday, November 23rd, thirty-nine PEP alumni gathered at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, located in the foothills of the southern Berkshires. Despite the cold, participants enjoyed the opportunity for professional development (learning from colleagues, teachers, and guest speakers), sharing challenges and successes in the classroom, Torah lishma, a Pardes style Shabbat, and generally connecting with and meeting (new) colleagues and friends.
Thanks to the Jim Joseph Foundation, this was the first such retreat in years to encompass all graduates. The program was the product of input from many alumni, and several volunteered to coordinate various aspects of the weekend. We are grateful to all those who volunteered their time in planning or leading sessions, as well as to all those who participated.
Overall, feedback has been positive. One participant summarized what many others mentioned on their forms:

"...The workshops were great, the davening was intense, and the food was delicious...It was very strengthening and encouraging to once again be around people who take learning seriously and take prayer seriously. I don't have that kind of chevre where I live...the retreat was a true chizuk. I went back to work this morning re-energized..."
While most aspects of the retreat were extremely successful, the staff learned valuable lessons to incorporate into next year's retreat.  For example, we hope to further develop  professional tracks so as to better address the needs of our veteran graduates (as well as those of our newest alumni). Our outside guests added a great deal to the program, and we will try in the future to have them remain with us, as resource people, throughout the retreat. In addition, we are hoping to expand the program so as to allow for more formal and informal sharing opportunities as well as time to process the various sessions. These are only a few of the suggested changes.
We are currently making our reservations for next November. As soon as we have finalized the locale (which will be in the vicinity of a major airport with direct flights from all coasts), we will send you a "save the date" e-mail. We hope to see again those of you who joined us this year, those who missed the opportunity, as well as by then, our newest twelve graduates (from cohort 8). 

PEP Corner by Dr. Judy Markose

What's New in the Pardes Educators Program?

Gail Kirschner has launched a Pardes Educators Group on Facebook. The group is aimed at potential applicants and there will be a place for them to ask questions. Please join the group so that you can answer questions, add pictures, etc. And please make suggestions on how to make it interesting, friendly, and appealing to those future cohorts. Click here to join the group.

We're at the height of our recruitment for Cohort 10. We are encouraged by the interest for next September, but still need a larger pool of inquiries. Please take a minute to think of one friend or colleague that you would recommend to the Educators Program and send it to Gail
 From the Field

Matthew Lipman Cohort 6 Matthew Lipman (cohort 6), Charles E. Smith Upper School
The recent tragic events in Mumbai presented spiritual and emotional challenges for all of us as people, as Jews and as teachers. It is impossible to quantify tragedy or to say which of the hundreds of terrible events that take place in the world every day is the most important one.  However, there are certain events which speak to each of us or which speak to our students. I knew that I wanted to raise the issue with my students but I wasn't sure of the best way to do it. I was reading some articles about the Chabad shlichim on the Chabad website when I came across as an article by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman who writes a weekly "Ask the Rabbi" column.  Somebody asked him a question that struck me as both simple and complicated, but ultimately as one of the most beautiful questions that I had ever heard. It was written by a reader who had prayed for two days for the safe release of the Holzberg family.

"Where did all of the prayers go"?  he asked.
I opened up this question to my students.  I did this in classes ranging from 8th through 12th grade (although my 8th grade class is unusually mature.)  We brainstormed and wrote up all of the students' ideas on the board and discussed each one.  This question provoked a really meaningful discussion. Many of the students told me that they were thankful for having had the opportunity to do so.  Some of the students' ideas were so moving and inspiring that I emailed the author of the article and shared their reactions with him.  I read the students the email he sent me in reply.
We also read through Rabbi Freeman's article and discussed his response to the original question.

I would like to share one response from a student, which I found to be incredibly inspiring and showed me once again that my students teach me a great deal.
Towards the end of the discussion one 10th grader raised his hand and told us that we were all missing the point. It wasn't that the prayers for the Rabbi and his wife went unanswered. Those prayers were simply not as heartfelt as were the prayers of the rabbi and his wife. Their prayers were that their son should escape unharmed.  The prayers of the parents, in essence, trumped those of well-wishers throughout the world. "Like Harry Potter's parents?" asked another. "Yeah, kind of" responded the student.
Education Corner:
Carousel Brainstorming

At the retreat, Fayge Safran, from the Jewish New Teacher Project, used a technique called Carousel Brainstorming as a collaborative way to bring to the fore, beliefs our graduates hold about teaching. Several people commented that they liked the technique, so we decided to share it here. In general, Carousel Brainstorming can be used when you want to undercover your students' knowledge/beliefs (background knowledge probe), stimulate thinking, or assess what they have learned. It has the added benefit of actively engaging your students.
While there are different ways to do this, basically the activity consists of the following:

1. Choose a number of subheadings within any category. For example, for Chanukah, topics could include (depending on the age you teach): sources, history/the story, lighting the Chanukiah, halachah, customs, etc. (Usually you want to limit the categories to 5 or 6 different ones, lest the activity become too repetitious.) Or, see alternative #1 below for using questions, as opposed to topic, to engender thinking.
2. Divide the class into small groups of 3-5, depending partly on how many categories you have, but no more than 5 to a group.  Give each group a large sheet of paper (with the topic recorded on the top) and a different color magic marker. (You can either give the sheet to the group seated around the table, or hang the sheets on the wall.)

3. Explain to the class that they will be given a topic and a limited amount of time. (This can be anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes depending on whether this is a background knowledge probe, a review of what they have learned, or a way to generate thinking.) Their task is to brainstorm together, writing down all the terms or ideas that they associate with that topic, using the color marker they have been given.

4. When the time is up, give each group another group's sheet (in rotation) or move to a different sheet on the wall - while holding on to the same colored marker. The members of the group should read what the other group/groups have written, and add on other terms or ideas that they have. (After a couple of rounds, you need to extend the time as it will become increasingly difficult to add new information.) Keep rotating the groups until each group has dealt with each topic.

 Be sure you think through what you will do at the end of the activity, as a follow-up to make the exercise more worthwhile. For example, Susan Rubel  (a reading consultant in Middletown, CT) shares the following:

"I like to go beyond the simple brainstorm and have the group who started with the sheet look it over when it returns to them, note all the other ideas that were added after it was passed around to the other groups, and then circle the three terms that they think are most essential, most important, or most fundamental to the topic at the top of their sheet. That way, they spend some time critically evaluating all the possible terms and topics and making decisions about which are most representative of or most closely associated with the given topic."

In any case, and especially if you are raising questions (see alternative #1), you want to allow for some reflection, categorizing, summarizing or sharing of main ideas. If you are using this as a background knowledge probe, you at least want - as you proceed to teach the topics - to tie what you do into the lists the students generated.
1. Rather than listing factual information, one can use questions as the topic headings, such as,  "Are their parallels between the Hanukkah story and our own experience as Jews in America?", "To what extent was the Hanukkah story one of Jew against Jew?",  "What was the miracle of Hanukkah?", etc. If so, rotations will need the maximal time for discussion.
2. You could ask one member of each group to remain behind as you rotate the groups.  This will allow him/her to explain/clarify if there are any questions regarding what the previous group wrote. (No one should remain behind more than one time.)
An application
A number of years ago, I observed  Jessica (Lissy) Trey (cohort 3) use a similar approach in her Tanakh classroom.  She had asked students to raise questions regarding a Biblical text. She chose a number of their questions and put them on large sheets around the room, beneath the textual quotes.  Students moved from sheet to sheet, entering their own thoughts/answers to the questions their classmates had raised. This was used as a lead-in to studying some of the commentaries.
 Focus on Elizabeth Corlin (Cohort 5)

Elizabeth Corlin Cohort 5Hi, my name is Elizabeth Corlin and I'm in my third year of teaching at the Adelson Educational Campus in snowy Las Vegas.  Indeed, the winter with its freezing temperatures and horrific winds are something nobody mentions when you move here.  But, I have to say that Fall and Spring makes up for the Summer and Winter.

When I first announced that I was moving to Las Vegas, I was met with "Are there Jews in Vegas?" and "Seriously?!"  I was even asked once if the school was in a casino.  But, two and a half years into my adventure I can honestly say that I'm having fun.  This really was an opportunity unlike any other. While our school was technically founded in 1982, it has recently undergone a complete overhaul, replete with a brand new campus. This "new start" has opened the door for us [the teachers] to think outside the box. At my school, you rarely hear, "well this is how we've always done it"  Rather you hear, "let's try this" and "I have an idea."  In the beginning, I found this a little daunting (and sometimes I still do) but I am very proud to say that everyday I am helping to build a community and a school from the ground up.

Over the course of three years I have taught Grades 1-10 and think that I have finally settled on middle school.  In our school, students have one period a day of Judaics.  My struggles have primarily been with fitting everything into 42 minutes a day.  During my first two years, I focused on building a foundation with my students and teaching them the basics. I am now starting to be able to branch out and explore deeper, more complex issues. I love to use technology, history and music (primarily classic rock) to supplement my lessons and love how my students have started to do the same in their assignments. One of my personal favorites was this Chanukah, when my seventh and eighth graders created a Living History Museum based on our study of the Book of Maccabees.

During my time at Pardes, I often struggled with the fact that I did not fit the image of what I thought a Judaics teacher should look like.  I believed that I wasn't observant enough, I didn't dress the part, and I didn't grow up in a day school environment - so how could I ever successfully teach in one?  I am thankful that I found a place where I can recreate for myself the image of what a Judaics teacher should look like!

Elizabeth would love to keep in touch.
Resources and Educational Opportunities

An article in the December 7th issue of the New York Jewish Week focused on the large number of Day Schools that have dropped their affiliation with the Conservative movement in favor of the Community Day School network. The educational site- Mifgashim has had an interesting discussion on the nature of community schools that we suggest you read.

*Tichon Winter Learning Seminars-from Coast to Coast. East Coast, February 1-2, 2009, West Coast, February 5, 2009.  For more information contact Noam Zion.

*Isra-Connect, an innovative distance learning program has been launched in an attempt to connect Israel and Diaspora students.  For more information contact Yitzchak Schwartz.

*Revadim offers an on-line resource for learning/teaching Talmud.

*Torah from JTS-weekly commentaries on Parshat Hashavua available on their website.

*Educational discounts up to 25% available through Borders Books.
Job Listings

Camp Yavneh, Northwood, NH is seeking Judaic Studies teachers. The teaching staff teaches three formal classes per day and at other times creates informal Jewish educational opportunities for our campers. Teachers can come for either one session (4 weeks) or the entire summer.  For more information about this position and others available, please contact Debbie Sussman.

New Orleans Jewish Day School has openings for elementary school Judaic studies teachers for the 2009/2010 school year.  For more information please contact Dr. Bob Berk.

The Job Listing section of the website is updated as we hear about new job openings. Please check the PEP Alumni website on a regular basis. If you know of a job opening, please let Debra know.

Call for Papers

Jewish Educational Leadership invites articles for the Spring 2009 issue focusing on Active Learning.
Click here for more information on the types of articles and guidelines for writers or contact Zvi Grumet.  Submissions will be accepted until February 15, 2009. 

Help Us Help You

 *As you change your email address, home address, family status, etc. please update us so that we can continue to be in touch.

*PEP is updating it's PR material and is looking for high resolution photos of alumni in the classroom; teaching and /or with groups of students.  Please send your photos to Debra.

*We are looking for a limited number of videos of classes that you are teaching, for our teaching puposes.  Please contact Susan to learn more about how to proceed and the financial compensation available.

*Please refer any interested novice Judaic studies teachers in your school to us for the Summer Curriculum Workshop.  The flyer and application can be found on the home page of our website.
Alumni Update

Jill Rosenfeld Baker
(Cohort 1) on the loss of her Father.  May she be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Mazel Tovs:
Adam Tilove (Cohort 6) and Marni Thompson (Pardes, 06-07) on the birth of a son, Naftali Amichai.
Amanda Pogany (Cohort 2) and Aaron Bisman (Pardes, 01) on the birth of a son, Asher Reuben.
Eric Zaff (Cohort 1) and Jillian on the birth of a son, Joshua Ezra.
Ali Feldman Gutfreund (Cohort 1) and Yoram on the birth of a daughter, Shira Raya.

Read about our alumni:
Marc Baker
(Cohort 1), Jill Rosenfeld Baker (Cohort 1) and family were featured in The Jewish Journal of Boston.

Adam Tilove (cohort 6) took his 8th grade on an unusual field trip which was featured in The Forward.
We are sorry if we missed something. Please help us by sending in your news!