I’m by nature an optimistic person (I’m a Jewish educator, after all). But, there’s no doubt that when I consider the topics I’ve written about the outlook seems a little gloomy, and the word ‘kvetch’ comes to mind.
The process of change seems to tug along slower than a cruiser trying to glide through oil.
Even though I tell myself that what I’ve observed and written about is true and some would say it’s in the best interest of the Jewish community for me to point these things out, the overall vista is more than gray. “Kvetch” is still the word stubbornly sticking around.
Since the month before Rosh HaShanah is a time of introspection, I decided to get back to my optimistic core and write about a program that works as a model of collaboration on behalf of Jewish teens.
I recently spent time during our evening program with over 45 students in 11th and 12th grade who are making an incredibly serious commitment to the Jewish community. They are amazing, many will be our future leaders, and I owe it to them to talk about what they’re doing.
In partnership with the URJ, local synagogues, and a Jewish community high school, Jewish teens participate in a win-win situation.
Students work in their synagogues one day a week as classroom aides, and attend a second day (YES, a second day) taking classes which complement their experience and add to their repertoire of teaching techniques.
In the final year of the program, students take a freshman college course in Foundations of Education (child development, multiple intelligences, classroom dynamics, lesson planning…) plus a college level Bible course.
“Training Students to Become Jewish Educators” is an article I co-wrote which is relevant here and outlines only some of the benefits of the Education course.
In this arrangement, synagogues get the benefit of classroom assistants who are role models for their school, but not only as paid staff, but as students who are making a continued commitment to their own Jewish education.
Working to make this program successful are local Reform Jewish Educators, Rabbis of the reform synagogues, administrators and educators at the Jewish community high school, plus parents who encourage and support their teens in the program. When I think about this program, the word optimistic fills the space in my mind, as the word kvetch silently skulks off stage.