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September 06, 2012 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-09-06

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September 6 • 2012

■ 34"., *.


Shaarey Zedek students get up close with the Torah with Rabbi Aaron Starr.

by about 40 schools nationwide, this
tool gauges current strengths and weak-
nesses to help align all the pieces.
When the pieces are together, says
Rochelle Rabeeya, PELIE educational
program manager, "folks are going
in the same direction, and they have
checks and balances to support each
other. When lay leadership is behind the
professionals, it makes a stronger work-
ing system. It's a systemic change pro-
gram that gets people talking together
about where they are and where they
want to go:'
Harvey Leven, AJE associate direc-
tor who oversees CSI 2, said, "It's a lot of
work, and the schools are quite enthu-
Take Paul Magy, past president
of Adat Shalom with an 11-year-old
daughter in the school. He heads the
shul's POD and starts each meeting the
third Tuesday of every month with a
lively nigun (wordless melody).
"I really like Jewish music and had
seen music used in other settings as a
way to get people to focus on the mat-
ter at hand," Magy said. "For branding
purposes, I found the melody for the
first line of the Shema. Its from the first
paragraph, vishinantam (you should
teach your children). We took a long
time on our mission statement and this
helps us remember."
Adat Shalom is trying to rethink how
it delivers Jewish knowledge. For exam-
ple, during Tu b'Shevat, kindergarteners
created trees using their own hands and,
while each was unique, they were dis-
played together to emphasize that they
are a community. Second-graders heard
Noah tell his rendition of the story of
the flood in person alongside his ark.
When classes start, classrooms will have
no chairs so teachers aren't just in front
of the classroom, which promotes some
of the excitement generated in a camp
experience, Magy says.
"I see great things at Adat Shalom
coming out of this difficult process —
amazing new initiatives and positive
outcomes': said Judy Loebl, POD facili-

tator for the shul.
Adat Shalom's POD of 25-30 people
also rethought the meaning of an educa-
tion director. After a national search,
the shul attracted Melissa Ser from
Jerusalem to be director of congrega-
tional education, signifying an emphasis
on lifelong learning.
"The light is turned on," said Magy,
whose wife, Leslie, is an active POD
member. "If Jewish education is not a
thing where you have to accomplish
everything by bar mitzvah, it's some-
what liberating."

The Professional Side
"The expectations on teachers are
great," AJE's Leven said. "They are
required to attend ongoing profession-
al development (20 hours per year)
over the three years and create lessons
in advance that are more experiential.
We have to have committed teachers to
make changes."
Lasday said, "There's a mixed
response from teachers; some are excit-
ed and are collaborating, others resent
the extra time (funding pays for the
extra hours). They need new, different
skill sets. Teaching is more experiential;
there's a revolution of how to be in the
"Teachers have gone from 'sages on
stages' to 'guides by the side:" Lasday
said. "Now everything you need to
know about Judaism can be found on
your iPhone." So, nearly all schools hold
seminars on technology. Most teachers
are expected to send home weekly or
biweekly emails to parents. And digital
portfolios chronicling student progress
on video are on the horizon.
"I am glad to be involved; I think
it's worthwhile, especially because we
are focusing on engaging students
and going where they are:' said Sheila
Shifter, a Temple Israel teacher. "Kids are
busier and busier; I see it with my own
At Temple Israel, students can attend
the school at several venues, includ-
ing Birmingham Groves High School,

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