Parents send their children to Jewish day schools in order to instill in them a strong Jewish identity. The theory is that, through the teaching of Jewish subjects, they will achieve an understanding of Jewish tradition, an internalization of Jewish values and a sense of Jewish pride.
For decades, we have all assumed that this works. But what if there’s a better way?
At JEIC, we believe that assumptions should be challenged in pursuit of our goals.
And through the challenging of these assumptions, we want to encourage a shift in our educational practices – a shift that will help us to bridge the gap between Jewish day school graduates’ knowledge – their understanding of concepts and memorization of facts, and their connection – the belief that Torah has a relevant and meaningful role to play in their lives.
Effectively transmitting Judaism through Jewish day schools in North America is a challenge, but by working together to disrupt old notions of what constitutes a good Jewish education, we believe we can find a solution.
We must charge forward, discovering different ways of learning, connecting to and growing with our students. It is during this collaborative exploration that we, our students – and generations of students to come - will be able to realize authentic meaningful Jewish lives post-graduation.
It is a journey that requires deep thought, and a reevaluation of the ideas we once thought of as absolute. In order to design a genuinely inspired Jewish future, we must all be willing to be open-minded to conceptual and actionable change brought about by collaborative ideas. It is a journey we must embark upon together.
To begin, we must first identify the areas in which we can improve.
We believe that delivering sustainable Judaism through Jewish day schools requires all of us to take a collaborative look at our current practices and clearly evaluate the results we achieve. We must then ask: what are some new educational paradigms that may achieve a different result? Specifically, how can we help bring about our desired goal of instilling personal connections to Torah in Jewish students?
To re-evaluate current practices used at Jewish day schools across North America, it is crucial to take a closer look at four key components of education:
- Teacher Development. We must explore the different methods of faculty training and examine whether they are effective. We also need to understand how this affects our most valuable assets – the teachers themselves.
- “Classroom” Dynamic. Amidst all the innovation and change over the last 70 years the classroom as a learning environment has stayed more or less the same. To bring about a change in results, we need to entertain the idea of thinking outside, quite literally, the classroom box. How should the classroom be designed,in physical lay out and human interaction, to be the most effective teaching mechanism?
- The Holistic Student. To teach students effectively, they must be thought of not just as vessels for receiving information, but as individual people with their own emotions, problems, psychological schema, and unique motivations. How can teachers best address this?
- The Institution as a Whole. This includes all constituencies – students, teachers, parents, funders, outside influencers and the school administration. What role does each of these groups play in the school? The interplay between and among these constituencies will have a huge impact on every part of the institution, and it should be considered carefully.
Through the intensive breakdown of these four core categories, we can effectively review Jewish day schools through a holistic lens, recognizing the interconnectivity of each of these components on multiple levels.
By analyzing each of these fundamental educational components, strategically working in partnership with one another and welcoming radical, innovative ideas, we can pursue a transformative shift in our Jewish day school systems.