Using Jewish Values to Respond to This Moment
Today, as we process the shock of the events at our nation’s capital, we struggle to find a message to share with our community. ShalomLearning’s Jewish values curriculum makes Judaism relevant to the lives of our students. It gives them texts and sources to draw from when making real-life decisions. But which of our seven values speaks the loudest at this moment? Which one will best guide us to move forward?
Teshuvah (Repentance), can we reflect on what occurred and turn it around? B’tzelem Elohim (Created in the Image of God), aren’t we all deserving of respect? Achrayut (Responsibility), it’s our responsibility to respect government law and civil authority. The values of Hakarat Hatov (Recognizing the Good), Koach Haddibur (Power of Words), and Shalom (Peace) can each guide our behavior in peaceful and challenging situations. However, it was the Gevurah (Strength) unit that resonated with us today as it teaches us how to use our inner strength.
Our fifth grade Gevurah unit teaches students about the role of courage in processing an argument, the art of compromise, practical ways for standing up for rights and points of view, and the skill of consensus building. All skills needed at this moment of history.
Therefore, we are sharing two activities from this unit that help students practice conflict resolution wrapped in our Jewish teaching. May these teachings guide us as we teach our children that we have the power to express our will within a democratic process with Jewish values to guide us.
Activity 1: Arguing the Right Way/Conflict Resolution
15 Minutes In-Person or Virtual
Tell students: Today, we will explore how to compromise, argue, and stand up for your ideas. We will look at some scenarios and find the piece of truth that each side possesses.
- When you argue with someone, do you usually feel that you are right and they are wrong? Do you ever feel like they could have a legitimate point of view too?
- The Hebrew word for argument is machloket מַחֲלוֹקֶת. But the root of the Hebrew word is chelek חֵלֶק, or part. Why do you think the root of the word machloket מַחֲלוֹקֶת is chelek חֵלֶק, part?
- Do you think that in an argument each person may have part of the truth?
- When you disagree with someone else, but you acknowledge that they have a chelek חֵלֶק of the truth as well, how does that change things?
- Sometimes when you acknowledge other people’s chelek חֵלֶק of the truth, the result is compromise, pesharah פְּשָׁרָה. Do you view compromise as a good result?
Activity 2: What Would You do? Machloket מַחֲלוֹקֶת Scenario
15 Minutes In-Person or Virtual
Role Play Fishbowl: You may use the following scenario or choose a scenario that you know the students are confronting or that is in the news. If you have never led a fishbowl before, see this site for a helpful description. https://www.facinghistory.org/resource-library/teaching-strategies/fishbowl (5.3.4 Fishbowl Strategy)
It is the first day of school. Elaina has been away the whole summer and is looking forward to seeing her best friend Jessica. When Elaina gets to school, she looks all over for Jessica and finally finds her talking to a new kid. Instead of running over to greet Elaina, Jessica keeps talking to the new kid for ten minutes before she finally goes over to greet Elaina. Elaina is mad. How could Jessica keep her waiting for so long when they haven’t seen each other for two whole months? She tells her friend Andrea that Jessica has really changed and Andrea should not be friends with her. Jessica finds out and gets angry with Elaina.
Have two students play the roles of Elaina and Jessica. First, have them role play an argument where they are not interested in seeing the other person’s chelek חֵלֶק of truth and care only about the truth of their position.
Choose two other students to role-play the same argument. This time, they must acknowledge the chelek חֵלֶק of truth in the other person’s position.
- Who made choices in this story?
- How could you defend Elaina’s choices?
- How could you defend Jessica’s choices?
- What other choices could they have made that may have avoided a fight?
- Was there a chelek חֵלֶק of truth for each side of this story?
- What would happen if Elaina and Jessica took the time and effort to understand the chelek חֵלֶק of truth in the other person’s argument? What would be the consequences of the argument?
- What would have happened to the friendship if they talked out why they were each upset?
- How can respecting another person’s point of view and trying to see their chelek חֵלֶק of truth help you in other arguments and situations?
Welcome to Our New CEO, Michael Feinstein
Please join me in welcoming our new CEO, Michael Feinstein.
As you can imagine, the need for quality online education, teacher training, and innovative curriculum design in Jewish education has been unprecedented in 2020. Enrollment in ShalomLearning’s programs has doubled since last year and now exceeds 12,000 students. But as Rabbi Tarfon famously said in the Mishnah, “the day is short and the work is great.” Thanks to a generous grant we have brought in a new CEO to lead us through our next phase of growth.
Michael brings to ShalomLearning over 30 years of experience as a leader of entrepreneurial businesses and nonprofit organizations. Most recently, he served the Bender JCC of Greater Washington as Chief Executive Officer for 12 years. (Michael’s bio can be found here.)
Our founders, Devin Schain and Andrew Rosen had a vision to transform supplementary Jewish education for elementary school children to keep up with the advancements in education technology. When I joined ShalomLearning in 2014, our enrollment was 307 students and 15 teachers at 15 Congregational School partner sites in six states. Today our enrollment has grown to 12,696 students and 1,728 teachers, 236 partners in 37 states and 8 countries! None of this would have been possible without the transformational grants from The William Davidson Foundation, The William and Audrey Farber Family Foundation and the Terrie and Bradley Bloom Family; our amazing staff and board and partnerships and supporters like you. There are thousands of people involved in keeping ShalomLearning going these days, and I am eternally grateful for all of you!
It has been an honor and a privilege to lead ShalomLearning through this tremendous growth. I am excited to hand the CEO baton over to Michael to help us grow our capacity. I look forward to spending more time on teacher training, programming, writing and publishing and overall advocacy for our continued growth. We are in great hands with Michael as our new leader and I look forward to another fantastic year of growth and spreading the light of living meaningful lives steeped in Jewish values.
New Bikkur Cholim Lesson
Bikkur cholim בִּיקוּר חִוֹלים (visiting the sick) is a tangible and easy mitzvah מצְוָה for your students to learn about and practice. It is more relevant than ever as we continue to struggle with the effects of Covid-19. Everyone has been sick at one time or another and appreciated the extra attention and love of someone close to them during that time.
We, at ShalomLearning, created a free lesson for teachers to use in a virtual classroom with students ages 5-8 and their parents to explore this Jewish value. Together, the class will learn and share ways to help others feel better even when we are not able to visit in person.
The lesson begins with a social and emotional check in. It is important to connect with families and provide an opportunity for everyone to share feelings. Through observations and personalization, this lesson helps students explore their thoughts and emotions about visiting and helping those who are not feeling well and encourages empathy. We conclude that the ways we help will lead toward healing. Healing does not always mean that there is a cure; it can also be a healing of the spirit.
Throughout the lesson, students actively share things that help them feel better and create a Get Well Card Video to share with others to support their healing. The post lesson extensions are full of great ideas that families can do together to perform the mitzvah of bikkur cholim, even when we can’t visit in person.
ShalomLearning has created a version of this stand alone lesson for our Jewish families in the military. Distributed through our partnership with the JWB Jewish Chaplains Council, families on military bases throughout the world will receive this lesson to do together at home.
Refuah Shleima. May we all be blessed with healing and kind helpers.
Access this free lesson here: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/19xG-IlRNQNZlh4uaMDc_gi-dpj274WCMODEchwDcUFk/edit?usp=sharing
A New Program to Connect Family During Social Distancing
I am glad so many families in grades K-2 are enjoying the games and activities-based curriculum shared by ShalomLearning earlier this month called, “The Tribe.” I originally created this program for “tribe-size” gatherings of families before joining ShalomLearning’s Board of Directors. With the current pandemic, I modified the activities for individual family use at home.
COVID-19 has created an urgent need for physical distancing, making it more important than ever to connect socially with family and friends. I’m excited to share a new program for K-2 families to use at home: Living Jewish Values. This program creates an additional opportunity for families to “check-in” for virtual, intergenerational values exploration and storytelling visits regularly with grandparents, aunts, and uncles, cousins, and anyone else you care about who may be feeling isolated.
Research by Emory psychologists, Dr. Marshall Duke and Dr. Robyn Fivush, has shown that children raised with family stories that give them a sense of being part of something bigger–an “intergenerational sense of self”-show increased resilience, less anxiety, fewer behavior problems, higher self-esteem, greater family cohesiveness, and improved chances of good educational outcomes.
As my Grandma Rose used to say: “Use it in good health!”
Five Easy Steps to Get Started
- Let your family/friends know you want them to join you in “Living Jewish Values.” Contact a family member/friend to let them know about the program and the first value “Welcoming Guests.” Ask your relative/friend to think of a 2-3 minute family story to share about the value.
- Watch the video about the value with your child(ren) about an hour before the scheduled call with the storyteller.
- Discuss the video with your child(ren). Please follow your natural curiosity or use our provided prompts.
- Have the scheduled call with your family or friend and child(ren).
- Process the video call with your child(ren). Answer questions, provide additional background or reframing and discuss connections between family stories on the call and the video.
Get started today with this lesson about Welcoming Guests: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1Od-P4b4TjEj3M7LdJRFDCFgAIKNXmGCzRABVZvEWmmE/edit?usp=sharing
If you have questions or suggestions about this program, please be in touch with me at: Arinne@ToStrength.com.
iJEM: Jewish Education for Military Families
Rabbi Tracy Kaplowitz, Director of Operations JWB Jewish Chaplains Council®
Imagine life in the military. You enlist in California, train in Texas, get specialized training in Alabama, and then are transferred to a base in Germany. There, you meet your bashert (intended one), get married, and two years later, your first child is born on base in Alaska.
Throughout each of these moves, the Jewish military community was there for you. Jewish chaplains and lay leaders led Shabbat services on your training bases. When you married and again when your baby was named, a rabbi was flown in for the occasion. Now, stationed in North Dakota, your first-grader is ready for Hebrew school, but there is none.
This all-too-common scenario has been the accepted version of Jewish life in the U.S. military for many years. Although many Jewish chaplains and lay leaders create and sustain vibrant and engaged communities, Hebrew schools are a rarity in the military. Where they do exist, funding is scarce and doesn’t cover textbooks or workbooks, let alone teachers.
JWB Jewish Chaplains Council®, envisions a time when military families will have access to the same array of resources available in the Jewish world. Thanks to a partnership with ShalomLearning, this vision is becoming reality. Beginning in February, JWB and ShalomLearning launched the iJEM pilot, which brings Jewish education curricula to children in military families.
ShalomLearning offers Jewish education on three distinct platforms, and each one is currently being tested in military settings.
- Two Hebrew schools—one in Spain, the other in Virginia—are beloved by the children who are enrolled and their parents. Coming together each Sunday to learn Torah and explore their Jewish roots has long been a highlight of the week for these families. Yet, with neither a curriculum to follow nor materials to reinforce the students’ lessons at home, each school was limited in its impact. With the ShalomLearning blended curriculum, teachers are now selecting materials from a wide range of options, and students are logging in at home to bolster their classroom learning.
- In Japan, a virtual classroom, including students from Jewish families stationed on Army, Navy and Air Force installations throughout Japan, is about to launch. Although the students can’t meet each week in person, the first class is set for Sunday at 9 a.m. JST (Japan Standard Time)—and neither the kids nor their parents can wait!
- For four families with children of various ages on base in Washington State, travelling more than an hour to a Hebrew school each week is just not feasible. It is a commitment the families can’t meet consistently. However, homeschooling is another story. For these four families, the ShalomLearning online platform not only connects their children to their Jewish roots, history, and traditions, but also is empowering them to read the language of the Torah and the siddur.
With 10,000 Jewish service members—and their 15,000 family members—in the U.S. military, we know we are just beginning to scratch the surface of interest in Jewish learning within the armed forces. Building upon this pilot, we expect to expand slowly, bringing quality Jewish learning to Jewish children on more installations, in additional time zones, and in homes in and around military installations around the world. Within five years, we hope to offer all Jewish families throughout the military easy access to Jewish learning for their children—no matter where they happen to be stationed.
Share our vision, and help us bring Jewish education to every Jewish family in uniform.