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November 05, 1993 - Image 23

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-11-05

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Whizin Institute Offers
Ideas For Family Education

Education The Goal
In New Partnerships

LESLEY PEARL STAFF WRITER

LESLEY PEARL STAFF WRITER

C hildren always make for
a good story.
So when Ron Wolf-
son told the tale of his
son at 7 years old taking the
parsley off his restaurant-din-
ner entree and dipping it in
water, a room of educators —
many of them parents —
laughed.
However, they all seemed to
realize the deeper message.
Mr. Wolfson wasn't just telling
a story. He was illustrating
how a Jewish ritual from
Passover had meshed into his
young son's life.
In an era of reinvigorated
energies directed toward Jew-
ish education, buzzwords like
family programming, retreats,
experience and continuity
abound.
The question
on the collective
mind of Jewish
educators seems
to be, "If what we
have done in the
past did not work,
what does? And
how do we do it?"
More than 150
educators and com-
munal workers got
practical answers to
those questions Oct.
27-28 when Mr. Wolf-
son and the staff of
the Whizin Institute
for Jewish Family Life
at the University of Ju-
daism conducted seminars
here in "A Journey in Family
Education."
The two-day workshop,
sponsored by Jewish Experi-
ences For Families and the
Agency for Jewish Education,
was offered to congregations
and agencies attending in
teams.
Each team was asked to
consist of, at least, a rabbi, to
act as the support and ap-
proval of a new vision; educa-
tional director, as the
professional; teacher, as the
individual on the front line;
and lay leader, as helping to
provide an audience. Reform
and Conservative congrega-
tions were represented along
with staff from Jewish Fami-
ly Service and the Jewish
Community Center.
The 10.5 hour time com-
mitment included speakers,
workshops and "team time" —
three 45-minute sessions for
teams to regroup and meet
with their peers, like all Con-
servative synagogues togeth-

er with a facilitator, and de-
termine goals and practical
plans.
"Family education is not
carpooling, it's not parents kib-
itzing while they watch their
children perform in a model
seder. We need to engage fam-
ilies," Mr. Wolfson said. "Par-
ents seem to be reacting
positively to our new efforts.
They're coming to our pro-
grams. But the key is to make
sure they are well designed
and marketed."
The first example began
when the theme music for
"Mission Impossible" led offa
group activity. A "save-the-
rain forest" assignment was
given and teams —
a c t -

- - ,

ing
as
families — decided to-
gether whether or not to ac-
cept the challenge. Banners
were created using crayons
and color coding to express
sentiments about the im-
pending adventure — orange
for excitement, multicolored
for confusion. While some
groups were obviously artisti-
cally inclined, yet in turmoil
about the mission, others sim-
ply read statements like "Send
Ellen."
Issues discussed were
"could one family make a dif-
ference?" and "what did each
of us get out of the message?"

The two-day
workshop was for
local "teams."

The activity centered
around the previous week's
Torah portion, Lech Lecha,
where it is written "God fur-
ther said to Abraham, 'As for
you, you shall keep my
covenant, you and your off-
spring to come, throughout the

ages.' "
Vicky Kelman, Whizin staff
consultant, explained how this
project has been used in a
northern California family
havurah called "Family
Room." The model has been
borrowed from a Catholic fam-
ily concept.
"This is for groups of fami-
lies meeting in informal ways.
It's interactive, inter-genera-
tional and creates a new kind
of dialogue and conversation.
This is an opportunity for fain- -
ily interaction, Jewish-cen-
tered conversation," Ms.
Kelman said.
Prior to second-day work-
shops, which of-
fered such titles
as "Jak-in-the-
Box: Jewish Ac-
tivity Kits,"
"Mostly Jewish
Families" and
"Step By Step
— The Build-
ing Blocks for
Jewish Life,"
parents who
have benefit-
ted locally
from Jewish
Experiences
For Fami-
lies activi-
ties spoke out.
Vicky Kelman
Because
talks
about
JEFF offers
family retreats.
community
programming
and congrega-
tional assistance focusing on
family education, Mr. Wolfson
believes Detroit's educational
community already has an
edge on most of the country.
Long-term, pragmatic ad-
vice was given in workshops
such as "Family Rituals Keep
Pace with P.A.C.E." led by
Whizin staff member Jo Kay.
P.A.C.E. — Parent and
Child Education — was de-
veloped 15 years ago in Long
Island, N.Y., and has since
been replicated throughout the
country.
The concept is a year-long
curriculum to "help families
strengthen identity through
discussion, understanding and
supporting rituals," Ms. Kay
said.
Families of a targeted grade
are asked to attend program-
ming twice each month. One
time they will be involved in
parallel learning — studying
the same topic as their chil-
dren. The next time will be a
SOLUTIONS page 25

T

he mantra among Jewish
professionals in their
quest for continuity in-
cludes inreach and work-
ing together.
A first step toward such an
understanding was taken Oct.
27 when employees of the
Agency for Jewish Education
and the Jewish Community
Center joined together for a
morning of study.
The group will meet six times
during the year with various
leaders and educators. The hope
is to send all employees who
have committed to the program
to Israel together.
Avraham Infeld, chairman of
the Melitz Centers for Jewish
Zionist Education based in
Jerusalem, led about 20 com-
munal workers in a look at the
different approaches of educa-
tors Hillel and Shamai.
He said he believed the pro-
gram was important because
Jewish learning is an inherent
part of being Jewish, and not
limited to children.
"I once asked my father what
the minimum was that a Jew
had to know. He said, 'More
than he did yesterday.' This is
a life-long enterprise," Mr. In-
feld said.

"No single Jew is
alleviated of the
responsibility to be
an educator."

foot, were discussed. (Hillel re-
sponded, "What is hateful to
you, do not to your neighbor.
That is the whole Torah, while
the rest is the commentary
thereof; go and learn it.")
In opposition, Shamai was al-
ways completely truthful —
painfully so at times.
"There are three important
lessons to anyone in education
here. There are times when an
educator has to know when to
have faith in himself, there are
times to trust a pupil and there
are times to demand of the
pupil to prove himself," Mr. In-
feld said. "Knowing the differ-
ence is key."
Doug Bloom, a member of
the JCCenter board of directors,
said the morning session was
"an opportunity to share re-
sources and to help us all put
Jewish content into our pro-
gramming."
Mr. Infeld added, "I've been
trying to go to JCCenters for
years and help them do educa-
tion. There has been a fear that
they cannot do it. You need to
form partnerships, to facilitate
discussions and informal pro-
grams.
"Educators have to realize
they need to build upon the
foundations of their agencies.
There is no place more helpful
in provoking questions than a
JCCenter. Teachers need to dis-
cover that and work together.
No one has all the talents to en-
sure continuity. We're replac-
ing mommy, daddy, the ghetto
all at once." ❑

Avraham Infeld

"Jewish education does not
belong to the Agency for Jewish
Education, the Federation or
the Jewish Community Center.
In the Bible we are command-
ed to appoint police and judges.
Nowhere does it say to appoint
teachers and educators — yet
education is central to Jewish
life. This is because no single
Jew is alleviated of the respon-
sibility to be a Jewish educator.
If this applies to each Jew, then
it also applies to each agency."
Mr. Infeld discussed three
Talmud passages and the ed-
ucational approach taken by the
differing educators of the time.
He asked participants to note
differences greater than strict-
ness and leniency and if the
teachers always behaved the
same.
Stories, such as an eager con-
vert asking Hillel to teach him
Torah while standing on one

Happy Simchah!

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23

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