Three Contemporary Affirmations drawn directly from our re-read of the chapter:
The Jewish community as a whole educates. School as well as camps, synagogues, youth groups, Israel experiences and Jewish community centers are the acculturating vibrant centers for this educational process.
Jane Susswein: I would add the adults in the congregation. I think we could do more to involve willing adults with our students, tutoring, telling stories, etc.
Sue Penn: School as well as camps, synagogues, youth groups, Israel experiences and Jewish community centers are the acculturating vibrant centers for this educational process.
Rabbi James Greene: Kaplan saw JCCs as a center point of Jewish life. More than just a “shul with a pool,” JCCs are the living room of the Jewish community. And, as more and more Jews come to Jewish living outside of the context of synagogue affiliation, the JCC will continue to be a home for Jewish expression, culture, and peoplehood. Around North America, vibrant Jewish life is happening at the J. From early learning centers that teach Jewish values to adult Talmud study, and from cultural performances and Jewish art exhibits to Shabbat dinners and holiday observances, you can have a complete and rich Jewish experience at the JCC that is unique from synagogue life. And, as more Jews are interested in engagement with Jewish life as opposed to purchasing a membership to Jewish institutions, JCCs will play an ever-increasing role as the central agency for Jewish living.
Jewish educators do indeed need to serve the whole Jewish family and not just the children in front of them in their educational environments.
Sue Penn: I think we need to engage the families in meaningful and relevant tradition and ritualism and not just serve them.We also need to bear in mind that educational environments are no longer limited by walls or structures but are infinite in their possible locations.
Rabbi Elyse Wechterman: I appreciate the recognition that Jewish learning, acculturation and meaning-making happen wherever Jews gather and “do” Jewish. We know that the best learning is both experiential and personally relevant and to define places where Jews and those who love them are engaged in personal Jewish experiences as loci for learning is to make explicit the opportunities for learning that are often overlooked. I would like to push your list a little further and include specifically family and home as “acculturating vibrant centers” for meaning-making as well . . . those of us who see ourselves as Jewish educators must find ways to empower, support, and provide resources to parents and family members to create organic, meaning-making experiences in and through their own homes.
Educators need to be living, growing Jews. They need to transmit and inspire based on their Jewish passions and convictions. The more educators have wrestled with how they belong, behave and believe Jewishly, the better they will be able to guide their students.
Rabbi Isaac Saposnik: When I used to interview potential camp staff members, one of the most common things they would tell me is that they didn’t “know” much about being Jewish. I always responded in the same way: “Are you Jewish? That’s all you need to know.” The best camp counselors and, I think, the best teachers are those who are willing to show kids that they always have more to learn. (Anyone who says they already have all the answers simply shouldn’t be trusted!) This openness to growth shows kids – and adults, for that matter – that you don’t have to be a professional Jew in order to be a committed Jew. The power of summer camp counselors is that campers want to be “just like them when they grow up.” This is all the more true if they can see some part of themselves, and their identity, in those staff members; counselors of color show campers of color that they belong, trans staff members pave the way for questioning kids and families, and rabbis with interfaith families show that being a committed Jew doesn’t have to happen to the exclusion of family members of other faiths. The same goes for the community outside the idyllic confines of summer camp; if we are to truly “transmit and inspire,” we need to be leaders that our followers can emulate. We have to be attainable, not unreachable; because, at the core, there are no “professional Jews,” there are just Jews. We are all educators.
Tara Saltzman: Opportunities for educators to experience and participate in personal & spiritual growth… as if they are (since they actually are) Jewish learners and god wrestlers whose heart muscles need as much stretching as their academic and professional skill muscles.
Dr. Carol Loveman Morris: In order for educators to learn, struggle and grow, institutions and the movement needs to support synagogues with this and synagogues need to value this enough to pay our teachers to learn.