… THAT WE ALL HAVE OUR BURNING BUSH. For each of us, there was something that called us to this place (synagogue, Jewishness, to educate our kids, etc). And now that we’re here, we need to be inspired to be the best people, the best Jews we can be. Although we share common values and purpose and shared experiences, we’re all different. Together we must strive for connections for ourselves, with each other and with God—to create community.
… IN LIFELONG JEWISH LEARNING. It is the Education Director’s role to inspire a love for Jewish learning in all age groups and from all starting points – from the Shema to studying Mishna. As educators we should recognize that a passion for Judaism can be expressed in many ways in addition to prayer and study of traditional texts.
… WE NEED TO BE POSITIVE JEWISH ROLE MODELS. Practice what you preach. Set the example and others will follow. People need to feel a sense of belonging to a community that highlights reciprocal responsibility. We are responsible toward one another.
… THAT OUR SCHOOLS NEED TO HAVE HIGH EXPECTATIONS. It’s important for schools to have values, standards, goals, and objectives, but we also have to be clear that our schools are inclusive of everyone, regardless of their abilities or resources.
… THAT RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS AND SYNAGOGUE LIFE SHOULD BE INTERTWINED. Our schools should be interactive and connected with other temple constituents, such as the Brotherhood and Sisterhood, the Social Action Committee and other groups. The entire congregation has a stake in raising our children Jewish. A community activity such as the Brotherhood making latkes for the school creates experiential memories and bonds us closer together.
… THE EDUCATION DIRECTOR SHOULD BE A MEMBERSHIP MAGNET. Unaffiliated young families often commit to synagogue membership once their children reach school age. The education director is often the Face and Voice of the synagogue, the first contact a prospective new member may have with the community. We need to set the tone for a welcoming, engaging and attractive environment.
… LEARNING CAN BE SOMETIMES FUN, BUT IT MUST ALWAYS BE ENDURING. There is a constant temptation and pressure to make learning fun, but we can’t fall into the trap of making this the most important element. Giving kindergarten children a Rosh Hashanah coloring book is not a lesson plan. Classroom time needs to encourage critical thinking skills, emotional intelligence and be relevant to students’ everyday lives. History and holidays must be taught in context. Not just the story, but what it means for them now – and how it connects them to the past and links them to the future.
… JUDAISM SHOULD BE OUR LIFELONG COMPASS. Our programming needs to reflect the attitudes, knowledge and behaviors we want our children to express when they are 18 year olds, going out into the world on their own. Judaism can be their moral guide. Students need to learn that they too can make a difference, and that the future of Judaism is in part, theirs to create.
… WE NEED TO PRODUCE THE NEXT GENERATION OF MENSCHES. If I meet you in 50 years and discover you still remember our classroom Tu B’Shevat seder and know 14 different melodies for “Adon Olam,” I will be thrilled. But if I see that you are not a mensch, I will feel like I have failed you. More than anything, character education must be one of our top priorities. Our schools need to push the Jewish value that “Nice Guys Finish First.”