The more things change…

Hi Kehilat Gesher (Gesher community),

This is my blog. To give you a sense of my relationship to blogging (and thereby a clue to my age), it was while I was in college that the term “weblog” was coined. At the time, many adults (both young and old) were wondering why in the world anyone would want to read other people’s random thoughts. Even more puzzling was what kind of narcissist would think others would want to read their idle ramblings? Despite these questions, blogging quickly became both a personal and professional occupation for millions, and rapidly changed the face of journalism, PR, HR, and many other fields.

Roughly 6 years later social networking as we know it today appeared online as Myspace, Facebook, and other sites gained traction in 2003-2005. Today these modes of connecting and communicating have become second nature for many of us, available any time on devices we carry in our pockets. Our children, not just digital natives but socially networked natives, will be raised with these tools, along with whatever unpredictable new tools are on the horizon.

It isn’t shocking to note that technological advances create cultural shifts that change our lives at an ever-increasing pace, or to wonder what it will mean for our kids. Given our inability to predict the future, how do schools and parents move forward in the right direction? How can we offer our children the “right” tools and education?

We can see that Judaism has somehow moved through thousands of years of shifting cultures, geography, politics, philosophy, and technology with significant success. It is not alone, but it certainly stands out as a model that persistently and consistently succeeds at transmitting itself down through the generations despite changing circumstances.

Judaism is a time-tested source of wisdom, and I believe that anyone who is lucky enough to become literate in this system has the potential to live a life that is filled with meaning and connection. While there are many ways to reach this literacy, Jewish day school is particularly potent. As the rate of change in the world accelerates with technological advances, day schools will need to balance tradition and innovation with greater skill and flexibility. I envision schools at the cutting edge of educational research and theory, with resources and faculties that challenge our brightest and support those who need it. What separates these schools from their secular counterparts are deeply connected communities who celebrate and mourn together using meaningful rituals, and a system of ethics and values that frames education authentically.

Jewish learning is the foundation upon which this educational vision stands. It provides opportunities for all members of the community to study and grow together. It offers practice leading to expertise in all four of the “21st century skills.” These are skills upon which modern curricula such as the Common Core are based, but they have been core aspects of Jewish learning for many generations. They are:

  • Collaboration – Chevruta
  • Creativity – Midrash
  • Critical Thinking – Deep reading of Core Texts; Rabbinic discourse
  • Communication – Divrei Torah

An excellent Jewish education should provide students with both the skills to thrive in this quickly changing world and the moral compass to make it better.