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.
Participants in ShalomLearning’s No Teacher Left Behind (an 8 week course in partnership with JETS) are learning about different online tools, and how they can used for Jewish education. Alissa Okrent, Religious School Principal at Temple Shalom, Succasunna, NJ used her new skills and her creativity to engage her students right away! Using Padlet, an online, collaborative, bulletin board, she created an activity where the seventh graders gained a deeper understanding and connection with tefillah.
She shared with us the following (and we’re including a picture so you feel like you know her):
One of my personal joys is helping my students feel our prayers are relevant today. My two foundations for this lesson were: Achrayut and nature. How can I integrate these two concepts into an activity that would engage my students, and help me to interact with each other and the learning?
I began with nature, choosing pictures that gave me a sense of “prayer meaning.” Seeing the “rock” could be an image of Gevurot; the sky aligned with God/Shema and the path felt like a connection to being in the present moment.
I asked, “What words describe this image?”, they typed in their words, and things started to appear on the screen. The lines, and arrows, and “web” effect was a total surprise to me!
Once each picture had words associations, I asked them, based on their understanding of the meaning of the prayers we had discussed, which prayer correlates to which image? There are no wrong answers. As I watched the words appear on the screen, I asked the group to create a poem which could be their prayer.
One of the students composed the poem and we all experienced our own moment of Achrayut; becoming a better version of ourselves.
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.