Shana Tova! Our year is off to a great start here at ShalomLearning! We are so excited to launch another great year of learning, engaging discussion, and thoughtful questions in our classes and communities. Our numbers have grown significantly, and we welcome our new friends along with our old ones. We look forward to all the joys this year brings for our extended ShalomLearning family.
In our last academic year, ShalomLearning outperformed all of our goals: delivered quality Jewish education to over 2,500 students, trained over 250 educators, and strengthened partnerships with 50 congregations.
Thanks to your involvement, ShalomLearning’s programs continue to scale up at a very exciting pace. As of this writing, we have grown our synagogue partnerships yet another 40% for this current academic year, bringing our total synagogues partners to 73 in 21 different states, Canada, and Bermuda (and we’re still hearing from congregations that need our program)!
ShalomLearning’s deep commitment to professional development, easy to use virtual classroom tools, engaging Jewish values curriculum, and blended Hebrew programs create meaningful relationships between teachers, students, parents, and their Jewish communities.
I wish you a sweet and happy New Year with blessings of strong and vibrant learning communities deeply rooted in Jewish values.
L’Shana Tova U’Metukah!
Temple Judea in Fort Myers, FL was excited to start using the ShalomLearning program at their Hebrew school. Elizabeth Singer, the Director of Congregational Learning attended our Teacher Retreat in Davie in August, worked with her teachers to prepare for class, and looked forward to introducing the seven values to her students. While she was interested in the virtual classroom, she wasn’t planning to use it this year. Then came Hurricane Irma.
Due to damage from the storm, the community can’t use the synagogue for a while; therefore, Elizabeth reached out to ShalomLearning about using a virtual classroom to re-connect her community while their physical space is being rebuilt. We were happy to help, and so were others. Temple Israel in New York City also offered assistance. With several experienced virtual-classroom teachers, they invited Temple Judea’s educators to observe specific classes and benefit from their experiences. Now the families of Temple Judea will use ShalomLearning materials to engage the students even before their regular school re-opens.
If you know of another Jewish community impacted by Harvey or Irma who would benefit from an online curriculum (no ruined books!) or a virtual classroom, please let us know. We are willing to help anyone who needs it.
This year, the holiday of Shavuot comes just about on the heels of Memorial Day.
As this holiday often falls after the end of the Hebrew School year, many are unfamiliar with the holiday. You can get some basic background at Judaism 101.
It is traditional to read the biblical Book of Ruth on this holiday. To find out why, check out My Jewish Learning.
If you have never read the Book of Ruth, it is quite short and can be found at Jewish Virtual Library
If you are already familiar with the book, here is a new way to study the text: A Woman Who Doesn’t Quit
It is customary to eat dairy foods on Shavuot. Of course, like many Jewish traditions, there is more than one explanation. Aish.com offers up 7.
As the rabbi-in-residence at ShalomLearning, I get to do some pretty awesome things. Aside from writing these articles, I also get to see the inner-workings of an organization that cares deeply about its mission, its students, its educators, and most importantly, its community. One of the hardest things an organization has to do is internal reflection and decision making.
Recently, ShalomLearning decided to focus on partnering with congregational schools – to ensure their success and growth by providing curriculum and professional development that embraces technology. With 80 synagogue partners expected this fall, and an 82% retention rate, the program’s success in these communities is evident.
In addition, ShalomLearning offered an online program for students who don’t attend traditional congregational school programs because of geographical or other constraints. Many of the participants are US military family stationed abroad or in remote areas that lack a solid Jewish community. I was very honored when ShalomLearning leadership asked if my organization, Online Jewish Learning, would take over this program.
Online Jewish Learning has been providing one-on-one tutoring for ShalomLearning for the past few years, and in my role as Rabbi-in-Residence at ShalomLearning, I have made other countless connections in this community. Therefore, I can be confident that Online Jewish Learning will continue the same fantastic ShalomLearning program to these students this fall. I am so proud to be part of Jewish organizations that are working together, utilizing each other’s strengths to provide the best options for the greater community.
One of the most important parts of being a Jewish educator is creating experiences that meet families and students where they are. We understand there isn’t just one way into Jewish learning. People come from different backgrounds, lifestyles, affiliation, and skill base. Through the partnership of ShalomLearning and Online Jewish Learning, we’re able to provide an engaging Jewish education to a larger spectrum of families.
Thank you for letting us teach your students. The greatest honor a teacher can have is that their students teach them as well. We have learned a great deal from your students’ insights, questions, and discussions and look forward to another year of Jewish learning with you.
Passover is just 2 weeks away. As we edge closer to redemption, experiencing our celebration of freedom from slavery (with still so much work still to do), we are deep in the heart of our 6th core Jewish value, Koach HaDibbur, the power of words.
Words matter in Judaism.
When you hear a truth or a wisdom that resonates, deep inside your soul, it can carry you to be and do your best. Gathering a greater understanding of our destiny and purpose as a people is not easy to do in a few minutes. This week, I heard a wonderful teaching from Rabbi Irwin Kula in an email from our friends at CAJE in Miami. In this J-Insider video from 2009, Rabbi Kula summarizes the current context of Jewish education so very well,
“Jewish wisdom helps us become more evolved human beings.”
For thousands of years we have strove- and continue to strive- for ideal relationships with our fellow human and to be more compassionate. Paramount in this relationship is the clear instruction not to gossip (lashon hara). Yet, when it comes to ideas, there is a sense of obligation to share wisdom when one comes across it. Indeed the opposite of gossip, would be to share words that are filled with light.
As you will see in this month’s newsletter, we have scheduled our Summer Training Conferences where our educators will share experiences to help each other improve. The power of their words contain some of the most valuable lessons. With our growth, we are now holding two separate conferences to maximize participation.
Words can move and inspire. Below are my two favorite quotes from “non-Jewish” sources taught in our Koach Hadibbur unit. I could go on forever on how much these words mean to me, but they are so powerful, lets let the words speak for themselves. May you all have a Passover full of joy and wonder and powerful words at your seders!
Chag Pesach Sameach!
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
– Nelson Mandela
“We strive to go to the moon in this decade, and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
– John F. Kennedy