Rabbi David Paskin, the Torah Tech Guy, meets with some of the finest Jewish leaders and educators each week on “Unmute” a live broadcast dedicated to exploring the best practices and finest examples of engaging digital Torah.
On Friday, June 18, Rabbi David met with ShalomLearning’s Heidi Lovitz. Watch the episode here
By Amanda Gipson, Jewish Education Facilitator at the US Naval Base in Rota, Spain
The Hebrew school here at at the US Navy Base in Rota, Spain began August 2020 and wrapped up this past April. A total of 12 students from Jewish families in 5 countries signed up thanks to support from JWB Jewish Chaplains Council, ShalomLearning, and PJ Library. The JWB Jewish Chaplains Council initiated making Jewish learning available to overseas Jewish families, PJ Library help spread the word, and ShalomLearning provided the curriculum and support needed for success.
When we started, most of the students had no knowledge of the alef-bet. Now they are all able to participate in Hebrew reading and know many common blessings. Families commented on the feeling of community that we were all able to create. I can’t over emphasize that the lesson materials on Jewish values created by the ShalomLearning team are excellent and so easy to use. They have a variety of lesson formats to choose from to keep things interesting and interactive with the kids.
As teachers-facilitators, Deborah Rios Rey and I were amazed and pleased at seeing how quickly kids learn these days. Neither of us are professional educators. We got involved in this program as lay leaders in our local community at our base in Rota, Spain. It is such a pleasure to be part of this project. We are excited for the fall when we will start school again, and are considering offering a shorter program over the summer for students close to being B´nei Mitzvah.
We are very grateful for the interest and support from the institutions that help make this happen.
Amanda Gipson currently serves as lay leader for the Jewish community at U.S. Naval Station Rota, Spain where she has lived for the past 12 years. Amanda holds a Master in Spanish Translation and Interpreting from the University of Texas Rio Grande. She completed a 20-year career in the U.S. Navy as a Navy Counselor before continuing her studies and switching careers to translator. She dedicates her free time to community growth and education and leads Hebrew school classes along with her partner Deborah Rios Rey in a special online course for children in military and diplomatic families located around Europe and Africa. They share their home with two cats, Laila and Eluli.
Marc Sender is a ShalomLearning Teacher at Am Yisrael, Northfield, IL and Congregation Beth Judea in Long Grove, IL
I started teaching ShalomLearning a few years ago at Am Yisrael in Northfield, IL. My Education Director, Charlie Sherman is always open to trying new ideas, so I wasn’t surprised when he presented this new curriculum to me.
From the first class, I could see the potential with the materials. The videos resonated with my students, and the lesson plans were ready to go. The kids in my class would get so wrapped up in some of the discussions, sometimes I had to make some tough choices – stop the conversation or determine which of the following activities I’d need to skip. As a teacher, it’s a “good problem” to face.
A few of my experiences with students really drove home the power and importance of the ShalomLearning curriculum. One memory that stands out occurred after a lesson where we learned about treating everybody like they are created B’tzelem Elohim (in God’s image). We watched a video about a school’s buddy bench. Sitting on the bench was used as a signal that the student was looking for friends with whom to play. Other students could then go over and invite the person on the bench to join them. The following week, two girls in my class were clearly excited to tell me something. These two fourth graders (yes, fourth graders!) loved the buddy bench idea so much that they pitched the idea to their elementary school’s principal. To this day, that school now has a buddy bench during recess, and the students in my class regularly check the bench to invite others in. It is that kind of instant connection to students everyday lives that make this values based curriculum so powerful.
This summer, ShalomLearning contacted me about a pilot mentorship program they’re offering this year. I was flattered to be offered a mentor role along with my wife, Shira. (Did I mention she’s a ShalomLearning teacher too?) Together, we assisted at the ShalomLearning Educator Conference in Florida this summer. The conference was great – not only because we were able to attach a mini-vacation onto the trip, but also because it prepared me to lead other trainings here in the Chicago area. Just the other week, Shira and I led a training day for almost 20 ShalomLearning educators in our region.
ShalomLearning’s partners and educators are always inspiring new ideas and ShalomLearning is receptive to feedback and innovation. It is great to be part of the team, and I can’t wait to see what they do next. I am excited to continue to learn and grow with such an amazing team of dedicated Jewish educators!