Thursday, January 29, 2009

Goings On

As the economy tanks, the media is reporting a lot of scrambling in Jewish educational organizations. Some Jewish day schools are already feeling the economic situation, while others are expecting to next academic year, in the form of decreased enrollment and increased tuition subsidization requests. Some top Jewish education stories being talked about these days: Hebrew charter schools, broad tuition cuts, mergers, and "GED"-ing out.



Monday, January 26, 2009

Oznia: A Blog Of Israel Things

Written by high school students, for high school students, Oznia is a collective of young bloggers and activists, dedicated to gathering exciting, engaging and challenging nuggets about Israel and Zionism.

The name "Oznia" is Hebrew for "earbud" and expresses our goal of getting students "plugged in" to the amazing diversity and complexity of Israel.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Classroom Teaching looks at the relationship between Judaism and thinking skills.

This week, Classroom Teaching looks at the relationship between Judaism and thinking skills. Are we required to teach our students higher level thinking skills?

To hear or subscribe to the podcast, go to http://www.lookstein.org/podcasts/

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Israel in Gaza - educational resources

Both of these resources should be of interest to educators discussing Israel's "Cast Lead" campaign with students:

1. From Nachama Skolnik Moskowitz of the JEC in Cleveland

The JECC has posted to its website an Immediate Response Curriculum called, "Israel: Connecting with our Heads, Hands and Hearts (Gaza, 2009)." This is a guide that does not have easy or pat responses to share with our students, for as you know, the situation Israel finds itself in is complex. This Response Curriculum contains links to many resources so that teachers may find the ones that best help them educate themselves and then find ways to open the conversation with their students.

The curriculum may be found here: http://www.jecc.org/Curriculum/Response-Curriculum.htm or can be accessed by link from the JECC home page: http://www.jecc.org. We have discovered from past experience with our Response Curriculum that those who have trouble accessing the document are probably not using Internet Explorer ... so IE is the way to go. We have also learned that some people who have been to our website before are linking to an older version. If the Israel curriculum is not in the box at the very top of the page, just hit refresh and you’ll get the Gaza version.

Finally, in honor of the Inauguration on the 20th, you may find some materials in our Election 2008 curriculum to be helpful (also linked from the same webpage).Please feel free to forward this email to any listservs or educators who may find it of use.Our hearts and prayers are with Israel, as well as with all innocent civilians caught in the conflict.

Nachama Skolnik Moskowitz
Senior Director
Director of Curriculum Resources
Jewish Education Center of Cleveland


2. From Hillel Zaremba of CAMERA

As Israel continues ‘Operation Cast Lead,’ CAMERA has developed curricular materials for teachers who wish to engage their students about the conflict and the events and issues surrounding it. “FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) on Operation Cast Lead: A Teacher’s Guide” is filled with concise information as well as links to articles and videos, appropriate for students in grades 7-12.

The material addresses the following questions:
· Where and what is Gaza?
· What is Hamas?
· Is Hamas the legitimate government of Gaza?
· Where and what is Sderot?
· Who is responsible for starting the current round of fighting?
· What is Israel trying to achieve in Gaza?
· Is Israel reacting in a disproportionate manner?
· Who is responsible for civilian casualties among the Palestinians in Gaza?
· Is Israel allowing a humanitarian crisis to develop in Gaza?
· How is the fighting being covered by the media?

All the video material referenced in the FAQs is only accessible via the Internet so you must be connected to the Web to use it.
The material is accessible by clicking
http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=56&x_miscitem=22.

You may also wish to access our main Web site at www.camera.org as well as our blog “Snapshots” http://blog.camera.org/ for regular updates and analyses of the conflict and its coverage in the media.

Finally, for those wishing more historical background on the Arab-Israeli conflict, turn to Module 4 (“A Brief History of Modern Israel) on the “Eyes on Israel” curriculum CD which you should have already received.

Hillel Zaremba
Curriculum Coordinator
hillelz@camera.org

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A story from Gaza

I received this from a friend whose son is serving as an Israeli army chaplain with the troops in Gaza. I believe that it can be used in the classroom as a "current events" message, as a discussion of the laws of Shabbat or the laws of the kohen accompanying the troops to war (see Devarim 20:1-9) or as part of a Hebrew lesson.
The Hebrew story is followed by a slightly shorter English translation.
:הנה סיפור משבת האחרונה עם כניסת החיילים לעזה שסיפר לי הערב אחי שמשרת כרב צבאי בקבע
לאחר שבמשך יום השבת שהו קבוצת רבנים (כשלושה במספר), בבסיס מרוחק מה מהגבול, יחד עם מספר מאות חיילים שעמדו לקראת הכניסה הקרקעית, והעבירו את היום בשיעורים ושיחות חיזוק ועידוד, התלבטו הרבנים עם עליהם להצטרף לנסיעת החיילים מהבסיס אל החניון בו עמדו הכלים בשביל לעודד את רוחם עם היציאה

לאחר התדינות ביניהם הוחלט - בהססנות מה - להצטרף
הרבנים הביאו עמם ספר תורה מתוך כוונה לארגן תפילת מנחה, וכאשר רצו לרדת מהאוטובוס, אחי ביקש ממאן דהו להעביר אליו את הספר (כדי להקליש את בעיית ההעברה לתוך כרמלית), ואולם לאחר שירד מהאוטובוס וחכה למטה זמן מה והספר בושש לבוא, הסתכל חזרה פנימה וראה כי החיילים מעבירים את הספר מיד ליד מתחבקים עמו ואינם מרפים. לאחר מכן, עמדו יחד שניים מהרבנים, כאשר קבוצת חיילים ניגשת אליהם (הם בלטו בשטח כרבנים מזוקנים האחד אוחז ספר תורה בידו, והשני עטור בטלית) ובקשו לקבל מהם ברכה. היות וחלוקת ברכות אינה חלק רגיל משגרת יומו, סיפרו לחיילים כי יברך אותם בברכה אותה הוא מברך את בניו כל ליל שבת. לתדהמתו התחילו לגשת אליו כעוד ועוד חיילים, עד שהכמות היתה גדולה כל כך (לדבריו ברובם חבר'ה מסורתיים, הביינישים שבין החיילים פחות התענינו בברכתם), ולא יכלו יותר לתת ברכות אישיות. פרשו את הטלית, כבשמחת תורה, מעל ראש הנאספים ובירכו את הציבור בבת אחת

כמה מהלוחמים נגשו אליהם ואמרו להם בהתרגשות כי נוכחותם הרבנית במקום מחזקת אותם ונותנת להם כוח, ואחד אף הוסיף כי ברכתם חשובה ומשמעותית עבורו יותר מכל השיחות המקצועיות ששמעו לקראת ההכנה למבצע

עם השקיעה, כאשר התחילו טורי החיילים לצעוד בשיירה רגלית אל תוך הרצועה, נעמדו הרבנים ליד נקודת היציאה עם ספר התורה בידם, וזעקו לעבר החיילים העוברים לידם מילות עידוד וברכה (ה' עמכם, יברככם ה', ודברים נוספים בהשראת דברי הרמב"ם על הפחד במלחמה), החיילים מצדם חלפו על פניהם ונשקו לספר התורה שבידם
!אשריכם ישראל
אחי בקש לשמוע את דעתי על הסיפור מבחינת הלכות שבת, שכן היום הם קיבלו נזיפה מהרב החטיבתי על כך שהורו לעצמם
היתר להביא עמם ספר תורה לנסיעה שכל כולה בעייתית בעיניו מהחל ועד כלה (הוא לא קיבל, למשל, את טענתם כי יש להשוות את נסיעתם להצטרפותו של הבעל ליולדת הנוסעת בשבת לבית החולים).לאור דברי הרב הפיקודי אחי הרגיש נקיפות מצפון, שכן על אף שידע בבירור כי נהג בהתאם להשקפתו של הרב הצבאי הראשי הרב רונצקי,לא היה בטוח שנהג כשורה.חיזקתי את ידיו ואמרתי לו בלי לגמגם שלדעתי הסיפור כולו מרגש והינו בעיני קידוש ה' גדול
?האם מישהו סבור אחרת
השלמה קטנה לסיפור: כשדיברנו שוב אתמול, אחי סיפר כי אותו רב בכיר שהתנגד למעשה, דחה את הטענה כי בכך חיזקו את
ידי החיילים, באומרו ש"חיילי צה"ל חזקים מספיק והם לא צריכים שתחזקו אותם".בהמשך לכך סיפר אחי, כי פגש ביום ראשון בבסיס, את השליש החטיבתי במילואים, אותו הכיר מהסדיר, והתפתחה ביניהם שיחה

השליש שמשמש באזרחות כחשב כלכלי במסגרת מקצועית כלשהי, הרצה לאחי על המימד הכלכלי של הוצאות הצבא השונות, והזכיר דרך אגב כדוגמא, כי את מערכת הרבנות הצבאית קשה להצדיק מבחינה כלכלית. ואולם, מיד לאחר מכן, הפטיר שגם על נקודה זו יש מקום לד. השליש סיפר, שלקראת יציאת החיילים לתוך הרצועה, הוא הסתובב בין החיילים ושוחח עמם על תחושותיהם לקראת המבצע, וכמה מהחיילים סיפרו לו על כך שזמן קצר לפני כן, עבר במקום רב צבאי עם ספר תורה, שחיזק ועודד את רוחם. השליש סיים את הסיפור, אותו הביא בתור ראיה לאפשרות לתרגם את תרומתה של הרבנות הצבאית להצלחת
המבצעית של הפעולה מתוך נקודת מבט כלכלית חילונית, ושאל בתמימות עם אחי יודע במקרה על מי מדובר
Kiddush Hashem
This evening, my brother, who serves as a career military rabbi, told me the following story, which took place this past Shabbat, when the IDF entered Gaza.
He was one of three rabbis who spent Shabbat on a base not too far away from the border, together with a few hundred soldiers who were preparing for the ground incursion. After spending the day delivering shiurim and motivational speeches, the rabbis wondered if they should perhaps travel with the soldiers from the base to the staging location, in order to boost the soldiers' morale. They deliberated and finally decided – with some hesitation – to go along with the soldiers. Hoping to arrange a minchah prayer service, the rabbis took a Sefer Torah with them. When it was time to get off the bus, my brother asked someone to pass the Torah to him (in order to mitigate the halachic issue of bringing something into a karmelit). However, when he got off the bus, the Torah stayed behind. He looked back into the bus and saw that the soldiers were passing the Torah from hand to hand. Each soldier took the opportunity to embrace it tightly.
Afterwards, a group of soldiers approached two of the rabbis. (The bearded rabbis stood out; one was holding the Sefer Torah, and the other was wearing his talit.) The soldiers asked the rabbis for a blessing. Since giving blessings isn't included in a military rabbi's standard job description, my brother told the soldiers that he would recite the blessing he uses for his sons on Leil Shabbat. To his amazement, more and more soldiers began approaching him. (According to him, most of them were traditional – i.e. not outwardly observant. The bnei yeshivot seemed less interested in receiving a blessing from the rabbis). Soon, so many soldiers had amassed that the rabbis could no longer give personal blessings. Instead, they spread out a talit – as is customary on Simchat Torah – over the crowd's heads and blessed everyone in unison.
With great emotion, several soldiers exclaimed that the rabbis' presence gave them strength and boosted their spirits. One soldier even added that the rabbis' blessing was more significant and meaningful for him than all the training sessions he had heard in the period leading up to the operation.
As the sun began to set, the long infantry columns set out towards the Strip. Meanwhile, the rabbis stood near the crossing with the Sefer Torah in their hands and called out words of encouragement and blessing to the soldiers. ("May Hashem be with you," "may Hashem bless you," and other phrases inspired by the Rambam's writings on fear during a battle.) The soldiers, in turn, kissed the Sefer Torah as they marched along.
Ashreichem Yisrael! (How fortunate are you, O Israel!)
My brother wanted to hear what I thought about the story, in terms of the Shabbat laws. He and his colleagues had been reprimanded by the brigade rabbi for permitting themselves to take the Sefer Torah with them. In fact, he claimed that the entire trip was problematic. (For instance, he rejected their argument that they were in a similar position to a husband who travels with his wife to the hospital on Shabbat when she is about to give birth in order to give her emotional support.) The commanding rabbi's words caused my brother to second guess himself. Although he was confident that he had acted in accordance with the world view of IDF Chief Rabbi Rav Ronsky, he wasn't sure if he had acted properly. I immediately assured him that in my opinion, his behavior constitutes an incredible Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of Hashem's Name).
How could anyone disagree?
(Thanks to Ariella Gold of Nof Ayalon for providing the English translation)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Bloom's Taxonomy in the Judaic studies classroom

Classroom Teaching is back after a short Chanukah break!

This week Mark Smilowitz discusses higher level thinking skills. For students to be fully engaged in learning, they need to be challenged with tasks that go beyond remembering and explaining. This episode reviews the six thinking skills of Benjamin Bloom's Taxonomy and suggests ways of using them in the Judaic studies classroom in order to nurture higher level thinking.

Visit www.lookstein.org/podcasts/ to listen or subscribe.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

More prayers for Israeli soldiers and civilians

In a recent blog post I suggested that prayer for the wellbeing of Israeli soldiers should be included in Jewish schools and classrooms at this time. As the missile attacks on Israel's southern cities continue and with the Israeli army now engaged in a ground operation in Gaza, there is all the more reason for prayer.

Yediot Aharonot reports that the call for prayer crosses all politicaland ideological boundaries in Israel, ranging from the Eidah Haredit (the "ultra-Orthodox") whose leaders have issued a statement calling for reciting tehillim to the Masorati rabbinate who have penned a Mi-she-berakh prayer specific to this occasion.

The announcement from the Eidah Haredit calls on the community to recite tehillim and to include va-aneinu in Shemonah Esreh since aside from the specific request for rain (which Israel needs right now), va-aneinu includes a request for general issues. If va-aneinu is not readily available in your siddur, you can find it at http://he.wikisource.org/wiki/%D7%95%D7%A2%D7%A0%D7%A0%D7%95 or http://www.new.katif.net/news.php?table=city_news&page=3615

The Yediot Aharonot article also has a tefillah that they say was put together by Rav Mordechai Eliyahu.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Teachers make a difference II

In this NY Times article, "Troublesome Student Makes Good, and Honors Disciplinarian" we see, yet again, that the right teacher can save a student.

Teachers make a difference I

In this New Yorker article, Malcolm Gladwell discusses how to figure out who is going to be a good teacher. But first he shares some information on how important good teachers are:

<<
Eric Hanushek, an economist at Stanford, estimates that the students of a very bad teacher will learn, on average, half a year’s worth of material in one school year. The students in the class of a very good teacher will learn a year and a half’s worth of material. That difference amounts to a year’s worth of learning in a single year. Teacher effects dwarf school effects: your child is actually better off in a “bad” school with an excellent teacher than in an excellent school with a bad teacher. Teacher effects are also much stronger than class-size effects. You’d have to cut the average class almost in half to get the same boost that you’d get if you switched from an average teacher to a teacher in the eighty-fifth percentile. And remember that a good teacher costs as much as an average one, whereas halving class size would require that you build twice as many classrooms and hire twice as many teachers.
>>

A worthwhile read.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Lookjed's Tenth anniversary

This past year I have posted a number of Lookjed "classic" conversations as part of a celebration of ten years of Lookjed discussions. Lookjed is now officially celebrating its tenth anniversary - the first invitation to join Lookjed was sent out at the end of 1998, and the inaugural mailing appeared at the beginning of January 1999 (for a variety of reasons, the volume numbers now change at the beginning of the academic year). For those of you who wax nostalgic about this kind of thing, you can access the first month of mailings in the listserv archives at
http://listserv.os.biu.ac.il/cgi-bin/wa?A1=ind9901&L=LOOKJED

Over the years I have received quite a bit of feedback and constructive comments (you are always welcome to share your thoughts by writing to me or by posting at http://www.lookstein.org/comment_post.php ). One response that sticks in my mind was the individual who responded angrily to my postings about Israel, in response to the intifada that began on Rosh haShanah 2000. My correspondent wrote that he had signed up to the list to receive information and participate in conversations about Jewish education, not politics. In response I told him that I believed that Israel should be part of the curriculum in every Jewish school today, and that during a time of war it was the responsibility of every Jewish educator to be knowledgeable about what was taking place there. Every classroom, every school and every community are different from one another, but when Jewish soldiers are taking up arms to defend the Jewish state, it is something that should be discussed in Jewish schools around the world.

I am sure that you are all aware of the ongoing rockets and missiles that have been directed at Israeli cities and villages, and the Israeli army's response to those attacks. Aside from reading the online Israeli newspapers, here are some other resources that may be of interest/assistance to the Jewish educator -

http://www.dailyalert.org/
The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs puts out a daily newsletter that links to Israel related news stories in online publications around the world. You can subscribe to it at http://list-dailyalert.org/daily-sub.html

http://www.jewishagency.org/JewishAgency/English/Jewish+Education/Compelling+Content/Eye+on+Israel/Current+Issues/
The Jewish Agency has a "current issues" page that has updated information and materials on Israel related topics

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1051593.html
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1230456531523&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FPrinter
The Jerusalem Post and Haaretz have both reported that the Israeli army has opened a front in the online battle for public opinion by launching a YouTube channel with reports about the current military operation in Gaza

According to this Jerusalem Post article, the battle for public opinion is going on in the United States
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1230733120038&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123066366430243153.html
James Taranto, writing in the online Wall Street Journal, contrasts between what goes on in hospitals in Gaza and in Israel during these tense times, and argues that the press makes more of the opposition to Israel's Gaza operation than is really there (the first two pieces in the column).

Whether or not a teacher feels it appropriate to introduce a classroom discussion of Israel's political aims in this battle, showing concern for the soldiers who are putting their lives on the line in defense of the Jewish State is certainly appropriate.
If you do not have ready access to the tefillah le-shlom hayyelei tzahal, it appears at http://tinyurl.com/tzahal or http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/tfila/tfilot-2.htm#3

Shalom