Shana Tova Letter
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.
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!
Notes of a 21st Century Jewish Dad – Teshuvah
I’m not only the luckiest guy in the world to have the greatest job in the world – working with the most talented educators in the world – but I’m also blessed to be a ShalomLearning parent with a third grader and a fifth grader, who are learning in our virtual classrooms this year on Sunday mornings. In the spirit of growing our community of parents, I thought I’d try my hand at a personal blog on how the ShalomLearning lessons are helping my family shape our Jewish sensibilities and helping us to live a better life.
Just a little note: as a writer, I’m changing the names of my wife and kids to protect their real identities. Also, from time to time I might incorporate stories and feedback from other parents into these characters and others, to give voice to the many ways ShalomLearning affects the lives of our children and families.
My plan is to write at least one blog post for each of ShalomLearning’s seven units. I hope you enjoy! Please feel free to write back or comment anytime, as I really care about how ShalomLearning is impacting your lives.
“You are beautiful when you are angry,” I told my wife Kristen. But this wasn’t worth fighting about. (Most arguments aren’t.) I took a breath and let it out, “Ok. I am sorry that I put the dishes in the wrong cabinet. I wasn’t paying attention.”
She rolled her eyes, as she caught the popping toast lefty, with psychic precision, the perfect amount of butter already cued up on the knife in her right hand “I know that you think that it is no big deal,” she buttered, “but these things matter…”
“You know what matters most at the end of one’s life?” I offered on top of the cutlery scratching as I recalled what I read last night, “The 5 F’s.”
“Are the first two, ‘first focus’ on what your wife tells you, for example… remember to put away the dishes in the right cabinet?” She chided me while I handed her the raspberry jelly and a separate knife, carefully keeping the jar contents as gluten free for her celiac.
“Not exactly…but family is close to the top. I read last night, that according to a wealth manager, they
are in the following order of importance: faith, family, friends, fitness and finance.
“Faith’s number one?” she threw me a nod, while pouring a cup of tea.
“Yeah, well one is…the loneliest number,” I replied
“Yes, but you’re not exactly Harry Neilson either…”
“I am not sure if he said the Shmah before bed every night”
Sunday morning. 8:59 am in our Brookline household. My eight-year old son, Jonah, is in the sun-soaked dining room facing a laptop, drawing on paper with crayons waiting for his third grade ShalomLearning class to start. And in the living room, my ten-year old daughter, Hannah is logging in through my wife’s imac, next to the freshly delivered toast and tea Kristen just brought her.
Both kids are in their pajamas. It is a lucky day today as Hannah’s travel soccer game isn’t until noon and Jonah’s drum lesson isn’t until 2. This is Luxury compared to usual schedule crazed fall weekends, no early morning sports games.
But the academics are well underway, as ShalomLearning had already dedicated the opening four weeks of lessons to the overarching topic of “Teshuvah.” Our kids are doing their Hebrew School at home this year: one hour, one day a week while meeting with their virtual communities of peers around the country; a schedule and a community that works in harmony with the common frantic schedule of a modern family.
9:03. “Kids are all set, “ I reported. “Still on the Teshuvah unit,” I told Kristen, meeting her back in the kitchen.
“Four lessons in four weeks spent on just the concept of “repentance?” Kristen asked, while baking gluten free, eggless muffins in the kitchen. We were discussing unit one of the ShalomLearning curriculum.
“How guilty do we want our kids to feel? Yom Kippur’s only one day, “ she joked.
“I know, huh. What is next? Confession booths?”
“I bet there’s an app for that,” Kristen didn’t miss a beat. Quick Google-check on my iphone by the coffee machine…”Yes there is and Catholics love it…five stars.”
“I wonder if I had that app if I would have liked Sunday school more when I was a kid?”
“It’s good for me that technology hadn’t caught up then, perhaps you wouldn’t have been so open to raise your kids in an intermarriage if your Sunday school had better resources and professional development.”
“You’re not going to quote the 2013 Pew study again?” she begged.
“Not enough coffee yet, don’t worry,” I assured.
Well it means that ShalomLearning has treated the concept of Teshuvah as one of the core values of Jewish Identity. Creating the groundwork for proper forgiveness and ultimately how we treat each other in this world is of paramount importance.
My eyes catch the bag of food and supplies that Kristen has created for “The Family Table” food drive to drop off at the synagogue (yes we are members of a shul too). I remember once again that it is the relationships that we create and the people that we help, that matters most in this life. I stir that thought into the cup of Joe, getting ready to walk through my children’s lessons again.
9:30. Teshuvah permeates our house these days on both sides of the equation, parents and children. The good news is that it is never too late to set things right and start again. “As long as they are still here,” I say to myself, passing my father’s picture by the piano.
So here’s the deal…turning ourselves around when we go astray and being our best selves is central to living a Jewish life. Teshuvah is a process that lasts a lifetime, and each day we begin anew. Each day, and moment to moment, we have a choice on how we behave.
I return to the kitchen, “So four lessons seems fair since this is going to take a whole lifetime to get it right for all of us.” Kristen looks up from her ipad and I give her a hug.
“You might need more than one lifetime in your case,” she hugs me back. “Just put the bowls on the right side of the cabinet.”
We’d love to hear from you! How is the ShalomLearning curriculum impacting your family? Let us know.