Summer is just around the corner! As the rhythmic clock of the Hebrew School academic year winds down, ShalomLearning students are concluding with our seventh unit, Shalom. As many people know, the three most popular translations of Shalom are “hello,” “goodbye,” and “peace.” In the ShalomLearning Jewish values lessons, we take a deeper dive into the etymology via the word’s shoresh (root) which is shalem meaning “completeness.”
Our curriculum designers intentionally and brilliantly saved Shalom to be the final value of the year because there is a sense of peace in being complete. And of course, in Judaism we look towards the next question, “are we ever truly complete?” Part of our nature is to continue to grow and learn and strive to become the best authentic selves we can be. What we do in life, our actions (hopefully mitzvot) are of paramount importance, to strive for social justice and contribute to a better world (tikkun olam) but even higher, the zenith, the ultimate destiny is who we become. We grow in order to be. Where are we growing? What are we becoming? As I look back on the years with ShalomLearning, I am constantly amazed by our growth.
In 2011, founders Devin Schain and Andrew Rosenberg created our first cohort of seven students with one teacher (Rabbi Yakov Majeski) at one partner site in Bethesda, MD. We grew our team and resources to include a curriculum for grades 4-6. Incrementally we added on additional features and levels, expanding our Jewish communities of practice and commitment to pluralism and inclusiveness. The 2018-2019 enrollment consisted of 5128 students and 643 teachers at 98 partner schools. Collectively, if we look at our community as one and complete, this is the largest Hebrew School in the world!
This fall, you will notice we’ve expanded our offerings to include:
- Lessons (28 per grade) for eight different grades (K-7),
- More hands on training and mentorship for teachers with seven in person workshops this summer and additional webinars,
- A new iteration of learning prayer through gamification (ShalomLearning Escape Room 2.0), and
- Meaningful partnerships with over 120 synagogues across North America – both large and small of various affiliations.
We are committed to be more than just a provider. Rather we are partners with each congregation, helping every community make their educational independent visions a reality. I am so proud of what our learning community has accomplished. May you all continue to grow to be your best selves and enjoy the journey in striving for Shalom. “Summer lease hath all too short a date,” (Thank you Shakespeare!) and I look forward to starting anew in the fall as we continue to grow together.
Purim is just around the corner! Our 3-7th grade students are currently studying the core Jewish value of Hakarat Hatov, seeking joy and being grateful.
Hakarat Hatov is the quintessential Jewish value; as the name of Yehuda (Judah), is rooted in hodah – to give thanks. It is the essence of a meaningful Jewish experience. While one may have all the blessings of goodness (good health, wonderful family, and friends to name a few), without gratitude, one’s journey through life can’t capture the full meaning of appreciation. Giving thanks and finding ways to conveying gratitude is a profound key to happiness.
I am so grateful to be part of the transformation and growth of Jewish education here at ShalomLearning. We have the distinct joy of working on innovative projects, and kvelling over some recent successes. Working with Bible Raps, we are empowering our students to create their own original Jewish values rap songs at Temple Shalom in Succasunna, NJ, Temple Chaverim in Plainview, NY, and Main Line Reform Temple in Wynnewood, PA. We have plans to continue this program in the fall at other partner synagogues.
We are also pumped from the success of our first virtual escape room game. I’d like to give a big shout out to Ben, our eight-year old winner, from California, who shares his experience in this interview with Heidi Lovitz, our Director of Educational Programming
To prepare for the fall, we’re currently putting the final touches on the new and updated curriculum. We’re also announcing the six locations for in-person summer training opportunities for our ShalomLearning educators. I look forward to seeing many of you at one of these sites or one of the training webinars.
May your hunger for Jewish Learning continue to grow, and my prayer for us all is to continue cultivating an attitude of gratitude- hakarat hatov!
I hope everyone enjoyed Thanksgiving with family and friends. The holiday weekend brought so many opportunities to think of others, extending all the way to Giving Tuesday. Although ShalomLearning did not add to your inbox flurry of worthy organizations on Giving Tuesday, I hope you’ll consider adding ShalomLearning as one of your recipients.
ShalomLearning became a non-profit to better serve our partner congregations. Our goal is to support them and their staff to provide a meaningful Jewish education to their families. We are working together to create the next generations of strong, caring Jewish leaders.
While we have a pricing model, it doesn’t cover the true cost of creating the constantly evolving, engaging program we offer. In addition, we tout that money should never be a reason a religious school doesn’t adopt the ShalomLearning program. When budgets are short, we find donors, like you, to help cover the difference.
Please reach out to me to discuss giving opportunities or donate online today: www.shalomlearnig.org/donate
Shana Tova! I hope everyone had a wonderful summer. The school year is well underway for many and just getting started for others. We had a very busy summer here at ShalomLearning: training teachers (with now over 600 registered in our growing community of practice) and checking in with all of our partner sites (at almost 100 synagogues reaching 5000 students) to ensure everyone has the tools, resources, and support needed to be successful in and beyond the classroom.
We’re still glowing from the impact of our training sessions at NewCAJE in Hartford, and from our training days in Chicago, Davie, Rockville, and Los Angeles. We’ve heard wonderful feedback from these sessions as well from the webinars. We’re constantly impressed by the ideas and visions for the future of Jewish education shared in these workshops and are very proud of the growing supportive culture within the ShalomLearning community.
But don’t just follow my opinion. (I love the work that we do!) The Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, has just released the first study of its kind, evaluating the past two years of our program. It has been an incredibly exciting journey to innovate in Jewish Supplementary School Education (its what we do) – something long forgotten by much of the Jewish philanthropic world. Once upon a time, and not long ago, too many Jewish families dismissed Hebrew School as mediocre at best and inaccessible and irrelevant in their busy lives. We work tirelessly to ensure 21st century Jewish education doesn’t make the same mistakes of the last 50 years. But, you can access the full report online here.
I hope our curriculum’s value of “Teshuvah” is a growing term of relevance in yours lives as we are in the Ten “Days of Awe” between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. This is the time to reflect on how you can “return” to our best selves, your loved ones, and your Creator.
At ShalomLearning, we take this time to not only enter our own introspection, but also on how we can improve as an organization.
One of our team’s greatest strengths comes from listening to feedback and channeling that information to find ways to improve.
I look forward to another year of working together with all of you in the ShalomLearning community to continue to make Jewish education more accessible and engaging for everyone.
It’s hard to believe our school year is once again coming to a close. Most of our students have already begun our final unit, Shalom. Correct English translations for Shalom are “hello,” “goodbye,” and “peace.” However, looking deeper into the Shoresh (root) of the Hebrew word, its essence is “Shalem,” which means “completeness.”
The Jewish ideal of being at peace is to be compete. It is no accident that we’ve chosen this Jewish value as a great way to end the academic year. It’s reflective of the previous six values as it all ties into our greatest destiny as a people: to repair the world as partners with God and gain a sense of “completeness,” for both all of humanity and for the validation of our individual sense of who we are in this world. The things we do, the actions and mitzvot, are what has paramount importance in this world, not just inward reflection, and yet, it is WHO WE BECOME that ultimately matters in your journey through life.
Rabbi Tarfon used to say, “It is not your responsibility to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” (Pirkei Avot 2:16) Of course our work, this holy work of helping and healing and shining a Light unto the nations of the world, is never finished.
And yet, we keep on trying with all our might. We are instructed to “seek peace and pursue it.” And not just a casual “pursue,” like a hobby. No, the Hebrew word used in Tanach for pursue is rodeph which is like one doing battle or about to commit a murder. This is not a casual pursuit, andits not to do an evil act. But rather its opposite. By pursuing peace with such commitment, we are on a mission, we are focused and our desire is to help create a calmer, more peaceful world. This is a holy act and everyone with a proper Jewish values education knows this truth.
May you all have wonderful summers and pursue peace in all you do. If you are one of our ShalomLearning educators, I look forward to learning together with you over the summer at one of our professional development workshops. And if you are a student in the next academic year, may you live up to your infinite capacities to become aligned with your greatest destiny: complete and total peace within and the creation of better world filled with Shalom.