By Cyd Weissman
By Shana Zionts
"I was like Esther when I had courage to stand up for others. One time a kid was being bullied and I said something."
These are the words of one student at Congregation Emanu-El (NYC) who has completed the values-based curriculum that was implemented in the third and fourth grades. Nina Loftspring, HUC Education Intern, recorded every 3rd and 4th grader responding to the following prompt: "I was like (character from Tanach) when I (character trait). One time (story about embodying that value)."
Now, Nina has data that provides insights into this year's learning, and which can help shape learning in years to come."By reviewing this footage, I'm able to see the scope of the year and can get a sense of what worked and what didn't," says Nina. For example, Nina noted that of the students in one fourth grade class, none mentioned women. "What does that tell us about the lessons? What needs to be changed so that the kids are seeing all of these characters as worthy of emulating?"
By doing noticing in this way, Nina is also taking a learner-centered approach. "In watching these videos and seeing how the kids respond to the prompt, I'm able to see what's important to them. If they all mention courage, for example, maybe this is a topic that's coming up for them right now, and the curriculum needs to be responsive."
Yasher koach to Nina on bringing noticing to life!
Shana Zionts is a Coalition Educator working with Temple Israel Center, Ansche Chesed, and Congregation Emanu-El (NYC).
Suri is the Associate Director of the Department of Congregational Learning at The Jewish Education Project where she works to spark, support and spread innovation in congregational education. Her work includes consulting to innovating congregations, building and supporting networks that connect participants to learn from and with one another and serves as a mentor to educators working in 21st century models.
Her dedication to a career in Jewish education began as a teenager and includes serving as Director of Professional Learning and Director of the Jewish Education Resource Center for SAJES, central agency for Jewish Education on Long Island where she directed the Morasha Teacher Preparation Program.
I love being a cheerleader for innovation! I love being in relationships and conversations with people who are really striving to make a difference in people's lives. I love that I get to challenge myself and learn new things every day. I love that I have the privilege of being a part of a rich Jewish tradition of spirituality, texts and learning AND also to plan for and work toward the Jewish Future! All in the company of amazing colleagues!
Suri is based out of Long Island and is a proud mother of three adult children and an avid Torah reader. She gardens, enjoys a good detective novel and enthusiastically cheers for the New York Yankees. You can contact Suri at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are always striving to create purposeful, useful communication with our congregants. When we know that their email in boxes are always full, how do we get our email subject line to stand out? Take out your smartphone and choose one subject line that grabs your attention. Why did it work? Was it about something you love, from a family member or friend, did it ask for an immediate response? Maximize the number of people who open your emails by following these simple steps taken from About.com:
Now it is time to practice! Click below for a PDF of emails inspired by the characters in our Torah. Happy Writing!
We would like to share this free upcoming event. Cyd Weissman, The Director of Innovation in Congregational Education at The Jewish Education Project, along with other visionary leaders will be a panel speaker!
The UJA-Federation of New York Himan Brown Charitable Trust Symposium Series
From Dues and Membership to Sustaining Communities of Purpose
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
9:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon
UJA-Federation of New York
130 East 59th Street
New York City
Space is limited.
A connected congregation is one that deeply understands the meaning of community, and works explicitly to build a strong, meaningful, and engaged Jewish community. It prioritizes relationships and shared values, and aligns all aspects of institutional management in service of the community.
-- Lisa Colton, founder of Darim Online
As our Jewish community advances and changes in response to the ever-evolving needs of its participants, we look to our synagogues for inspiration, connection, and shared purpose. Our congregations, however, are facing an important moment of self-determination and the need to align their purpose to the sacred as well as the strategic and sustainable. On May 29th, SYNERGY: UJA-Federation and Synagogues Together invites you and the leadership of your congregation or organization to take part in a groundbreaking conference. Join us as we:
Engage with visionary leaders to interpret current trends impacting synagogues:
If you are unable to come in person and are interested in participating through live stream, contact email@example.com and indicate your name, organization, position, and e-mail in order to receive a link to log in on the day of the conference. Feel free to forward along this conference information to others in your community who may be interested.
For more information or to request an assisted-listening device, contact Neely Grobani at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1.212.836.1202.
By Anna Marx
My Ordinary World
I was never very interested in “marketing.” It was a scary word I closely associated with something even worse – sales. The word “sales” still brings up images in my mind of Willy Loman and working tirelessly to convince people they need your product. The introvert in me still shudders thinking about it.
The Call to Adventure
So, I quite surprised myself when I signed up for a webinar on marketing and storytelling. I found myself enraptured by the presenter, Jonah Sachs, author of Winning the Story Wars. He spoke about a completely different kind of marketing than the stereotype in my head. He talked about “Empowerment Marketing” – inspiring audiences to improve the world through your stories. I immediately ran down the street to my local bookstore and ordered his book. I’ve always loved stories since I was a little girl listening to my grandmother tell me stories of her life and our family for hours.
Crossing the Threshold
A few chapters into Sachs’ book and I felt like a veil had been lifted. He spoke about two kinds of marketing: the broadcast marketing of my childhood, based on audiences’ anxieties, and empowerment marketing, based on audiences’ real values. Suddenly, everywhere I looked, I saw the broadcast advertisements and noticed how they were designed to incite negative feelings deep inside – Lysol commercials to scare me about how dangerous every surface of my house was to my daughter, Cover Girl commercials to make me feel badly about my skin. “Ha! Can’t scare me anymore!” I said. “I see through you!”
And then I started seeing empowerment marketing – that uses the hero’s journey – everywhere, too. Obama won his first campaign with empowerment (Yes We Can), while at the same time the Tea Party empowered conservatives who had had enough and wanted to see change (you can almost hear them saying “Yes We Can” too). Of course, the hero’s journey is everywhere in literature – Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Exodus. And it clicked when I went to see Les Mis that it, too, perfectly follows the Hero’s Journey (Valjean goes on a lifelong and difficult journey of morality and faith. Ultimately, he emerges the perfect hero, always choosing the seemingly impossible right choices).
Even though I saw these stories everywhere, Sachs’ message didn't fully sink in until one night in synagogue. Following Shabbat evening services, we were invited to listen to guest speakers from Eden House – a two-year program designed to help women escape the sex trade and transition into life. A graduate of the program spoke to us about her experience. She was kidnapped as a 12 year-old girl, forced into prostitution and drug addiction. She spent thirty years as a drug-addicted prostitute. Imprisoned more than 200 times, a nun came to her in jail and invited her to join a house where she would be loved and cared for and could, for the first time, build a life for herself. She refused. “That’s not for me. Look at me. I’m no one. I’m nothing.” The nun was persistent and finally convinced the young woman. She told us the story of the long, sometimes wonderful, sometimes unbelievably difficult two-year journey. Her life did not begin until she was 45 years old. And there she stood, right in front of me, an articulate, beautiful, strong, intelligent, African-American woman. I could not see a trace of the shell of a human being she once was, and yet, there she was. And today, she works for the program, doing outreach to other prostitutes, convincing them, “I survived and I emerged, and so can you.” I promise you, there was not a dry eye in the house.
So what does this have to do Sachs? This incredible woman told her real story to us and it followed the hero’s journey. Perfectly. The reluctant hero (“what’s so special about me?”), the persistent mentor, the long difficult journey, and the emergence as a real and true hero, one that we can all look to with great awe. Why does this story hit the heart? It’s not familiar to us. Do you know many prostitutes? I don’t. But, because she was the reluctant hero, because she was just a real and regular person to begin with, we can all see just a tiny bit of ourselves in her. And when we hear her unbelievable story, we can say, “She did it; she transformed. Maybe I can, too.”
The Road Back
And that is why we use the hero’s journey format to tell stories. Do all stories perfectly fit the template? Of course not. But in the very best stories, we can find the most important elements (a reluctant hero, a powerful mentor, a transformation that comes from great personal struggle). And if we tell the story with these elements, highlight them, tell the story in this particular order, we can give our audiences the same feeling. “She did it; she transformed. Maybe I can, too.” And that’s what we’re all about: transformation.
Another Call to Adventure
We are on a journey together. It’s not easy, no journey worth taking is. It’s new. It’s different. It’s uncomfortable. How do we find stories that “fit” the hero’s journey? Why should we anyway? Please, let me be the persistent mentor. Let your consultant be your mentor. Follow us. Come on this journey. Take your best stories and see which ones fit the elements of the hero’s journey. Start telling these stories. See which ones make your audience’s goosebumps pop up. Come with us. The treasure at the end is well worth the dragons we will slay along the way.
By Cyd Weissman
Our world is badly in need of solutions in so many spheres – economic, social and environmental to name just a few. The ability to dream up and spread these solutions lives or dies on the ability to tell great stories that inspire people to think differently. Nothing is more urgent than that right now.
How are we doing in the Story Wars of Congregational Education? Until we craft a new story that is on the tip of everyone’s tongue we can’t break down the limitations of imagination. Without imagination, without lifting our eyes and hearing what’s possible, we’re in mitzrayim - a narrow place.
You can’t just tell a new story. You have to earn one. In New York we are earning a new story: one life at a time. So at our Yachdav yearly Gathering of the Coalition of Innovating Congregations, in May, at the City Winery, each of the fifty congregations who have created new models of Jewish education are telling the story of one person or one family whose life has changed because of the powerful educational and communal experiences they have had.
We’re telling the story in a way that sticks. Anna Marx, the media and marketing project director for our department, gave us a template for story telling used by the experts in story changing. The template, known as the hero’s journey, is regularly used in literature, and advertising to show struggle and triumph. That’s the key, to tell the story so the reader can experience the lows and highs too.
Try it with your team. What’s the struggle and the triumph? What’s enabled it? And this is a story about changing people’s lives now. We don’t know where a child or family will be in five or ten years. At least I’m going to humbly say I don’t. But we can say over six months or a year, we know someone well enough, we’ve been involved deeply enough to say we’ve invited them on an adventure, supported them and watched them grow so that they are richer than when it all started. That’s a story we are achieving. That’s the way to win the Story Wars.
See the detailed instruction template for how to tell your heroes journey to prepare for Yachdav on May 9th:
By Jessica DeGrado and Miriam Brosseau
Noticing is a central piece of the practice of the Coalition of Innovating Congregations. We build it in into our work, and use noticing tools and targets to help us improve our teaching and the experience of our learners.
Noticing has recently taken center stage in the general education world as well, with a new award-winning book by Miriam Sherin on noticing in mathematics.
In the foreword to the book Deborah Ball, dean of the School of Education at the University of Michigan, explains the importance of teacher noticing as a central practice of teaching that makes it learnable. She writes, “This book opens and unpacks this construct, tracing its foundations and scope and displaying insights garnered from studies of teacher noticing. It offers both language and frameworks for making more precise the study of teaching practice and the resources needed for its skillful enactment.”
by Pamela Barkley, Temple Beth Abraham
The following is reprinted with permission from our upcoming March Bulletin:
“I feel thankful this morning because …..I have so many nice Hebrew School friends.”
“I feel thankful this morning because …..last night I learned a lot about other people that I didn’t know as well before”
“I feel thankful this morning because …..I slept in a place with Torahs in it”
“I feel thankful this morning because …..I am here with friends spending time together.”
“I feel thankful this morning because …..I got to have fun with my grade.”
I could go on and on and on. Because each of the anonymous answers to “I feel thankful this morning because…” was genuine and heartfelt . All of these were written by 5th graders the morning of their shul-in. For those of you who don’t know, for about 10 years now we have invited the 5th grade to come to Temple on a Saturday night and sleep over. We start with havdalah, we play games, we eat lots of junk food, we watch movies, we hang out. And most of all, we form a community. There is one for the 6th grade as well and while all shul-ins tend to be fun, I must admit this past 5th grade one was in a class by itself.
Some of you may have heard about this new program we pioneered in the 5th grade this year. There are many components to it, but I am going to focus on one in particular. Since September, parents and children been coming to Temple on a monthly basis to learn and celebrate together. Sometimes this has been done during regular school hours, and we have parents and children working with one another. Other times, we have invited entire families to celebrate Sukkot in our sukkah, or Shabbat dinner on Friday night. What has become very clear is that by coming together frequently, and intentionally focusing on building relationships, we have in fact accomplished our goal of the 5th grade truly feeling like one, big family. And that is why this particular 5th grade shul-in was so special.
We always do a good job of helping the kids interact with kids who they don’t already know from school. But with this 5th grade, it was as if we didn’t even have to say anything – the kids themselves already were friends with one another across school district lines. They were already a cohesive group. They came primed to have fun with one another, accept one another, and take part in all that was offered. I have to say it was pretty magical. This 5th grade made me feel as if I was truly amongst a kehillah kedosha, a holy community.
I am eagerly looking forward to seeing what this amazing group of young men and women accomplish the rest of this year. They will soon be running a Yom Haatzmaut (Israeli Independence day) program for the entire K-4 school. They are going to take their enthusiasm, their newfound love of Israel, their incredible ability to work as a team, and help younger students learn about this important Jewish holiday. I cannot wait to see what they come up with!
Pam Barkley is the Director of Education at Temple Beth Abraham in Tarrytown, NY. She is often described as the girl with a loud voice and curly hair!