Kavanah that I wrote for the first Shabbat of Staff Training Week at URJ Eisner Camp in Great Barrington, MA. Hoping to be blogging more regularly throughout this summer after a very busy year of school, work and life. So thankful for the incredible people I have in my life.All the people that we saw [in the Land] are people of great size...and we looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them.
Come with me on a journey back through time.
You and I are part of the Israelite people. We have gotten out of Egyptian slavery. We are free. Slowly but surely, we are making our way to the Promised Land of Israel, the land God promised to our ancestors. Through all those years of slavery, we have waited, and now we are about to enter the Land.
But, we can't just walk into the Land. Yes, God will lead us, but we will have to fight for it. Moses tells us that we need to know more about the Land before we enter. God tells Moses to send people to spy out the Land, to sense its strength, how fortified the cities are, the nature of the people and armies we would encounter, and to figure out how difficult the battle will be. We all have so many questions.
But, God says not just shelach
, "send," but shelach-lecha
, "send for yourself
." Send the spies - for your own benefit, not Mine. It's as if God is saying, "Moses, your people have doubts. So, to be more confident, send people to take a look, to investigate, to learn and prepare. I am not asking for blind faith here; go and look for yourselves
So, Moses sends out spies - not just anyone, but tribal leaders. They complete their task, and then they return and give their report. "It is a good land," they say. "It flows with milk and honey, but the cities are large and fortified, the people are extraordinary fighters and gigantic. They are too powerful for us."
We become nervous. How can we do this? We have not finished training yet. What tools do we have to help us?
Let's pause and switch story lines for a moment.
Much like our text reads, so has been the path for many of us as we came to camp this summer. A new land. Unsure what lies ahead. Many of us have come from taking exams at university or return after working our "real jobs." Some of us are new, exploring the land, meeting the people, learning the culture. We see ourselves as grasshoppers amongst giants. Others are returning home, excited to reunite with old friends and meet new ones, taking on new roles and experiencing camp in new ways. We're not sure what adventures this summer will bring, and if we are prepared for new challenges with which we will face.
How often in our own lives do we shy away from challenges? They may be difficult. If we walk around, seeing ourselves as grasshoppers worried about the uncertainty that lies ahead, we will miss out on accomplishing the dreams and hopes we have for ourselves. We must lift our heads up, see the promise that lies ahead, and the excitement of the unknown. We can do great things.
Use staff training as an opportunity to become acquainted with the people and places that make camp the special place it is. Take advantage of the time you have to refine your skills (and learn new ones). And this summer: pick your head up. Don't be a grasshopper. Rather, be a Nachshon. Take that leap. Explore the land. Meet the people. Walk with purpose. Dream great dreams. Aim higher. Look for the little things that will lift you up. Be the person you can truly become.Adapted from Don't Be A Grasshopper by Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman in Text Messages: A Torah Commentary for Teens, edited by Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin. This is a new publication that I highly recommend for anyone that works with youth, or wants a fresh take on Torah which we can relate to our daily lives.
Last spring, I wrote about why I thought every classroom needed to include iPads for student learning.
Fast forward a year, and many downloaded apps, and I stand by my previous blog post.
I'll cut right to the chase. The Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR)
Press has released iT'filah: The Mishkan T'filah App
. I downloaded it on the first day it was available for a few different reasons:
1) I was curious about how it would be formatted, and what different technologies would be incorporated into the app. Not surprisingly, there are multiple surprises included! From the ability to navigate effortlessly through the e-Siddur, to the option to listen to selected prayers and blessings with a simple tap on the screen, I consider this a very successful first attempt.
2) Continuing from my last point, I then thought about how the app could be used in the educational setting. Whether in the classroom or sitting at home with a B'nai Mitzvah tutor, this hits a home run for many reasons. Our students (read: digital natives) are hard-wired to tap, scroll, search and record. They do it all day long, and they need to be doing more of this in the Jewish educational setting. Center-based learning opportunities? Check. Individual enrichment? Check. Smart-technology-based lesson ready? Check.
3) This is the first (of my knowledge) Reform-friendly siddur application for the iOS. There are a large number of apps that have been around for a while, but none of them connect to me like the book I pick-up when I enter the sanctuary on Friday nights. To be able to pray out of my iPad...is a thought I haven't had yet. But now I'm wondering: what will it feel like to be holding the digital device vs. an actual book? Will I find it enhancing my worship experience, or taking away from it? I don't want to distract others, but also am interested in providing an example that there are different ways to connect (pun intended) to the worship experience. Does an iPad belong in a sanctuary, even one that is using screens, a wide array of microphones and musical instruments? The iPad is all of these, but in a different case.
It's been quite an action-packed, busy transition from my brother's wedding to camp and back to school and work. Lots on my mind...and thankfully, I'll have some time during this time of reflection and introspection around the High Holy Days to get some of those thoughts out of my head and onto this blog. While the Red Sox are (painfully) slowly watching their season slip away, there are some interesting videos that came out over the past few weeks (along with a few classics) as we turn our attention to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I'm interested to know what you think about them. Which are your favorites? Enjoy - and Shanah Tovah U'metukah, a sweet and happy new year to all!
I'll come clean. I'm one of those people...kind of. I woke up at 4:30am to wait in line the first week to get my iPad 2, but the person in front of me got the last one the store had in stock that day. He got there at 4:15. Yup. So I had to wait another three weeks for mine to come in the mail, since I refused to repeat that experience. Now, in the bigger picture, this is not such a big deal. I had waited for the iPad 2 to come out rather than get the first generation, as I knew this one would come with a camera and all the other things the first one should have...which is also why I will never get a first generation Apple product again after my experience with the iPod. You get the picture. So I was excited, and I waited. On a cold, rainy Thursday afternoon in April, it arrived. Finally. And it was even better than I had hoped. (Side note: I must give my father props for not rolling his eyes throughout the entire process, and even pretending to be excited as I showed him all of the cool things my new *investment* could do. He can always count on me for a good story, although my bet is that he'll be more excited that he got a shout-out in this blog!)
For starters, the main reason I made the purchase was for school...both personally and professionally. I'm currently studying Jewish education, and I had been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to ditch my heavy laptop (and many of my textbooks) and start using my new iPad to take notes in class, check email and social media in between classes, and load a few of the available books
onto it so I only had to schlep around one bag instead of two. Success. It's awesome.(Dramatic statement alert)
For work/the classroom...I believe that the iPad is a much better option (in most cases) than a netbook. The educational apps that are available making learning come alive in a new way that is incredibly exciting. Whether it's using browsing the web or listening to music as part of a lesson, there are a myriad of uses for this hand-held device. Most importantly, is what the app store brings to your finger tips. Check out Jewish iPhone Community
, a blog that lists and reviews many of the Jewish applications available for the iOS platform (along with Android, Blackberry and others, too).
And finally...my thesis statement of this post: Behrman House
ROCKS. Every time I get an email from them, I do a little dance. This past week was no different. They just came out with ANOTHER amazing app for the iOS platform. You should check all of them out. Talk about incredible tools for center-based learning activities in the classroom, or a wonderful way for intergenerational learning at home/in the car/on the beach/wherever you go. They are trailblazing the way to connected Jewish educational experiences in the palm of your hand, and it's a market that has been (thus far) pretty boring until they came along.
Simply said, every single b'nai mitzvah student should have this app for both in-class and at-home engagement. From center-based learning options to personal review, iTorah Blessings
provides a unique opportunity for students, parents, educators and tutors to engage with the brachot in an interactive, fun and meaningful way. I find the auto-record feature to be particularly exciting, as it enables real-time feedback and analysis in a way that is extremely user-friendly. Behrman House has done it again, and as an educator who strives to strategically incorporate technology in my classrooms and programs, I sincerely appreciate their efforts in creating such solid products for us to help our digital natives connect to Jewish education in new and exciting ways.
Two weeks ago, I was teaching about zachor
(remembrance) and what the Mourner's Kaddish was all about. I broke out my iPad (which instantly earned me bonus points with my students), and showed them iComfort
, which teaches the traditions, rituals, blessings and prayers for the mourning process. We got to listen to (and record ourselves reciting) the Kaddish, and then learned about it. All on the iPad. Need to learn the four questions for your Pesach Seder? iMah Nishtanah
has you covered. Looking to brush up on the Sh'ma? Take iShma
for a spin...complete with flashcards!
Bottom line? Check Behrman House out, along with some of the other great products available for the iPad. These apps are interactive, fun and well designed. Now we just need some Jewish video games...
A few videos & links to spice up your seder...Chag Pesach Sameach!
Links & Resources
has great Passover resources, from recipes to communal events. The Greater Boston Jewish community is lucky to have such a great resource for all things Jewish. I must say...the guy who edits the site is pretty cool, too. Check them out!
Looking for fun facts, quizzes or interesting information? MyJewishLearning.com
has it all, and is a great resource for both home & work.
Behrman House Publishing
has been an important pioneer in the world of iApps for Jewish education. Released last year in time for your seder, iMah Nishtanah
provides a valuable teaching tool and resource for learning our favorite four questions. Great for at home and in the classroom...and your seder table, too!
AJWS is an amazing organization unto itself, and has created a number of resources to connect your seder to social justice education, awareness and action. Also, On1Foot.org
provides a wide variety of resources and texts and is definitely worth checking out.
[Side note] I'm not sure which is funner: the fact that someone actually created the above video, or that a few of my 7th grade students I taught on Sunday basically created the same (abridged) song in class when I gave them time to create their own Pesach parodies. I'm so proud.
Conclusion: this might be the weakest holiday when it comes to creative videos on the web. A few new videos came out during the past week, which I have posted first...followed by some of the better stuff that I dug up. Special thanks to JewishBoston
. Chag Sameach!
Today was the traditional "catch-up on all the sleep I missed" day upon returning home from an amazing and reJEWvinating five days in Dallas for NFTY Convention
and Youth Workers Conference
. Here are just a few of the thoughts that have been on my mind:The NFTY and URJ Staff who helped make everything happen this week deserve to be commended for successfully incorporating some incredible technology into the mainstream programming for participants and staff alike. From text-based surveys to Visual T'filah
, cell phones were used as tools to enhance programming and screens and videos were used to engage visual learners and participants in new ways. And...then there was the tweeting that was going on. Yes, you read that correctly. I said tweeting. NFTY did something that very few communities have been able to do to date: successfully engage a large group of teens in communicating via Twitter
. Not only was this done successfully, but it was also presented tastefully as an additional option to plug into the action and excitement that was going on at Convention. Teens were using hashtags like professionals by the second day, and it was evident fairly immediately that something special was taking place. While NFTY had a stream of tagged posts on the Convention live blog page
so anyone could plug in to the conversation, participants also had friends and family members following along from back home. Furthermore, there was an active practice of retweeting and commenting - clearly exciting to see your tweets broadcasted to other participants and followers!
Why do I think this is such a big deal? Because we now have hundreds of teens (and youth professionals, too!) who saw the value in how we can use Twitter to enhance our communities and extend the reach of our programs, relationships and conversations.
So...I must ask...if not now, when?! (Pirke Avot 1:2) Now
is the time for our communities and organizations to capitalize on this. Here are just a few easy next steps to consider:
- Include social media account information/links in marketing materials for programs and events, as well as in your email signature.
- Link your TYG and/or organizational Facebook pages to a Twitter account, so they cross-post and expand your reach!
- Include widgets on your websites, inviting readers to join the conversations happening on Facebook, Twitter, Flikr, etc...
- Encourage staff and lay leadership to post or tag to your organizational account while away at programs, events or conferences.
When exploring and implementing social media strategy for your organization, it's important to remember three key points:
- If you create it, maintain it.
- It takes a bit of time and effort to create a cultural shift when you implement consistent use of social media. Once people recognize the ability to receive information in those venues (and see that it is updated on a regular basis), your ability to extend your community to those areas will be established.
- Identify and implement your brand. Be sure to use similar logos, colors and vocabulary across your platforms (website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to uphold your institutional mission, goals, values and brand.
For a variety of cool tools, articles and examples of these thoughts in action, refer to one of my resources pages for a workshop I have led for a few different organizations during the past year
Again, kol ha'kavod
to everyone who made this happen. This was a true "lead by example" moment. I think the potential this little experiment showed is incredibly exciting
, and I'm looking forward to seeing how NFTY embraces and utilizes this as they transition their communication strategies and platforms in the months and years ahead!
This post was written in Starbucks during NFTY Youth Workers Conference 2011, and is cross-posted on the NFTY Convention/Youth Workers Conference Blog. Brett Lubarsky, MJEd Student | Hebrew College, Newton, MA Joshua Laurence, Dir. of Youth Programs | Temple Beth Am, Pinecrest, FL Seth Kroll, Youth Educator | Temple Shalom, Newton, MA
We spend a great deal of time talking about innovation, where we want to take our youth programs and what the next big ideas will be in the coming years. Having the opportunity to gather as a community of youth professionals to study, learn, dream, play (and eat!) creates a space for fresh ideas and creativity. The ruach
that has been present throughout this year’s NFTY Youth Workers Conference has been palpable, and many great things are coming from it. od lo giliti eych
: I have not yet discovered how. yovil oti haderech ule'an ani holech
: show me the way and where I am going.
(Naomi Shemer) Where are we?
While synagogue youth programs across the country come in different shapes, colors and sizes, there are a few constants. We strive to engage our teens in meaningful learning (both formal and experiential) opportunities, build community and offer multiple entry points for our teens as they discover and develop their Jewish identities and navigate their Jewish journeys. We must keep in mind while it’s important to plan for tomorrow, what’s happening today is just as (if not more) important. Where are we going?
With the advancement s in technology and communication tools, we look to incorporate new strategies in reaching our congregations, while developing programming and curriculum that integrates these new tools and speaks to a wide range of participants and students. The evolution and professionalization of the “youth worker” is exciting. Our programs are expanding and being held in multiple settings. How do we get there?
In the spirit of being in Texas, we’d like to suggest some BBQ… Beyond our comfort zones:
We each bring our individual talents, skill sets and passion to our jobs. The challenges of gaining new skills, pushing ourselves to think “outside the box” and integrating new approaches in our work are not easy ones. In order for our programs to grow and strengthen, we must embrace change while challenging ourselves to learn and adapt. Being innovative and creating systemic and cultural change is not always easy. http://bryfy.net http://visualtfilah.com Bridging the Gap:
The skills and strategies that we take away from professional development experiences such as YWC are invaluable. The various intensive workshops and elective sessions we participated in will enable us to bridge the gap from where we are (and have been for some time) and where we envision our teens and congregations being in the future. http://movingtraditions.org http://jpeoplehood.com Q & A:
After we all return to our home states and congregations, and get back to the grind, what new step will we take once our bags are unpacked? Do we know where to look for resources and support so we don’t always have to recreate the wheel? What will be our next actions that will take our programs from good to great? Lastly, what’s our preferred type of BBQ sauce?
Thanks for a great week. It starts now!
It's not really new. Non-profit organizations and interest groups have been using social media to get their message across for a few years now. Over the past two years, there have been some vastly creative pieces posted on YouTube, Vimeo, iTunes and even Facebook - many of which have gained "viral" status. Why? It's quite simple. They're catchy, related to popular culture and foster a connection between the viewer, their interests and the individual/organization/group that has created them. Some are pointed and a great example of effective outreach, which others are just plain fun. I have really enjoyed many that have been rolled out in time for Chanukah this year. Here are some of my favorites, from both this year and the past. Enjoy!Lights Ignite Change: A New Light (thanks to the fabulous tweets of Julie Silver)Behrman House: iChanukah
My remarks from the Shabbat Service honoring my six years as an Educator at Temple Beth Elohim. I had to squeeze them into five minutes or less. That may or may not have happened...
Shabbat Shalom. Tomorrow, Daniel and Noah will be called to the Torah and share words with us from Parashat Naso (the second portion in the Book of Numbers), which incorporates some of the Torah’s most challenging passages and one of its most beautiful ones – the Priestly Blessing. Commentators have been puzzled by the apparent power of the priests to bless the people. The idea that humans—even if they are biblical priests—have the power to compel God’s blessing, has frequently been questioned. Yet we often DO ask for a blessing from others; receiving the blessing of a person we respect or admire. Temple Beth Elohim has bestowed countless blessings upon me…
Treat no one lightly and think nothing is useless, of everyone has one’s moment and everything has its place. (Pirke Avot 4:3)
For six years, I have had the honor of serving you as a member of the Temple Beth Elohim Education Team. From Renaissance Educator to Youth Educator to Havayah Educator, my role has shifted as our community has grown and our programs have evolved. From establishing a youth agenda (which now engages over 300 students each year) for our congregation to designing and implementing innovative and highly successful Jewish service learning programs for our youth to building Havayah enrollment to nearly 100 students, we certainly have accomplished a great deal in a short period of time. All of these blessings can be counted.
I learned much from my teachers, more from my colleagues and most from my students. (Babylonian Talmud Ta’anit 7a)
While our programs have evolved, so too have I. I was an eager 21-year-old, entering the field of Jewish education, excited to be joining a community who had a passion for innovation, creativity and engagement. I have been extremely fortunate to be able to learn from the best of the best. Our lay leadership, Clergy and professional staff at TBE are second to none, and for that, I am forever grateful.
A few thank yous…to people who deserve recognition (while I only have a few moments to do so) and have shared their blessings with me…
To my colleagues on the TBE Education Team – my partners in crime, my confidants, my inspiration, my role models. Having had the opportunity to work with you has truly been a blessing.
We work hard, and play harder. It is a blessing to be able to wake up in the morning and look forward to going to work and spending time with the people you work with. It’s been one amazing magical mystery tour! :)
To Rachel – who taught me what Havayah (experience) really means.
To Cindi, Susan, and Paul – your support and guidance have helped shape me into the Educator and person I am today. It has been a blessing to partner with you in all of the work we do for our community.
To Dave, Judy, Jean Carlos, Sandy, Kristine and the rest of our administrative and maintenance teams – you have always been there to make sure everything happens the way it’s supposed to – regardless of how absurd the request is or what time of day (or night!) it needs to happen. Your friendship has meant a great deal to me, and it has been an honor working with you.
To Rabbis Joel Sisenwine and Rachel Saphire and Cantor Jodi Sufrin – I learn something new from each of you every day. Your love, passion and commitment to every member of our community is unparalleled. From planning programs to kicking back and watching the Celtics game, your support, friendship and love continue to carry me throughout my journey.
I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with amazing teens, and have been able to share my passion for Jewish education and identity through social action, athletics, text study, camping, popular culture, leadership development…just to name a few! I constantly brag to my colleagues in the field about how amazing our teens are at TBE, and it’s a fact. We truly have a kehilah kedoshah (holy community), which has helped me grow as both a professional as well as a member of our community. To my BELYites, Jew Men, TELEM tikkun olam all-stars, Chai Five athletes, JAWS actors, film makers, Madrichim, Shabbaton-goers, campers, students…THANK YOU. You’re incredible.
And finally, to my family, friends, mentors and colleagues. You’re always there, looking out for me. No matter what. I can’t thank you enough. I am blessed.
Say not, when I have leisure I will study; for you may never have leisure. (Pirkei Avot 2:4)
Many of you know that I have been taking classes part time at Hebrew College, working toward my personal goals. As our programs have grown, so has my passion for Jewish education. While it’s been a bitter sweet process to transition to the next steps in my Jewish journey, I am extremely excited and will take a little Beth Elohim with me wherever I go to study, teach and grow.
Six years. As a wise Rabbi once said, “Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha Olam, WOW.”
A brief final story to share with you:
It was Friday afternoon. We were getting ready for our first J-Connect Shabbaton, excited to spend Shabbat with our juniors and seniors. Matt Stern called me into his office, and asked me for my opinion on a few songs he was considering integrating into our programming that weekend. He clicked play. My heart skipped a beat. I had the CD that this song was on, but I had never listened to it. Not sure why…I just hadn’t.
Turn To You – Dan Nichols
You give meaning to my days to my struggles and my ways
When I’m lost and empty, then I turn to you
In the stillness of the night, when the darkness kills the light
When I no longer see, then I turn to you
In the press of the crowd or when I’m walkin’ alone
Somehow I feel found ‘cause with you I know there’s hope
I don’t ask for an easy life or one free from any strife
But I learn from it all when I turn to you
There’s no giving in to fear if you’re with me in spirit
I can feel your strength, when I turn to you
In the press of the crowd or when I’m walkin’ alone
Somehow I feel found ‘cause with you I know there’s hope
And you dry up all my tears, dispel any fears
You’re there to guide me throughout the years
I can rise above it all, find myself standing tall
Sustained by your love…
When I turn to you, when I turn to you
This is our synagogue. This is Temple Beth Elohim. While I may be standing here with a little less hair under my kippah than I had six years ago, I am full of pride, humility and love. I am who I am today because of all of you. Thank you for all you do for the Jewish people – and for me. I’m looking forward to all that lies ahead. And, yes…due to popular demand, I will be posting this on Facebook later.
Todah rabah – thank you. Shabbat Shalom.