Friday, November 4, 2011

Relational Judaism over programmatic Judaism

Ron Wolfson challenged the New York Coalition of Innovating Congregations to prioritize Relational Judaism over programmatic Judaism at our Summer Institute.

A sampling of what has been happening since:

A Rabbi in Westchester, wrote a personal email to each family in his congregation before Rosh Hashana.

One Rabbi told his congregation, gather ten people in your home, anything you want to learn, we'll help you make it happen.

A Rabbi on Long Island says she greets every congregant personally every Shabbat learning who is having challenge and who is ready to rejoice.

What are the educators up to?

One hundred educators from the Coalition of Innovating Congregations are gathering in 9 homes across the New York region over the next weeks.

Nine teachers/directors of education/lay leaders are home hosting learning for the professional learning team of their congregation and are welcomeing teams from two additional congregations.

The hosts are supported with baby sitting, ordered food, a cleaning service and/or rented chairs (whatever they need) to make it, as Ron said, "catered and waitered," making it as easy as possible for the host.

If belonging and relationshps are our goals, we know a home can be a setting to facilitate connections in a way a classroom just can't. We know many of our congregations have home gathering or learning to their models of education. (Community Synagogue of Rye has something very cool going on right now ).

A home sets a tone of welcome that is unique. Some people on our planning team were very reluctant to try this at home. But we said we'd be transparent about all the challenges and hestitations.

So we are taking a leap to explore learning in the home context. What are the challenges/opportunities? Just the logistics could make you slink back to the classroom.

How to order food, set up and all that is one thing. Hey, we are not slinking.

The core of the learning also has to be synergistic with a home setting.
To get ready, we have a facebook page that we hope is pre connecting and helping with some pre learning for all participants. We've checked in to see who is allergic to what. We've also asked for the successes of learners. What have you already done to increase belonging? New learning is built on existing success.

When we are together in the homes we will be focusing on how to evoke learners' stories and practice sacred listening.

Our stories connect us to each other and to the Jewish people. Each challenge, joy, each question and insight in 2011 truly has a natural counterpoint in the literature of our people. As educators we need to facilitate the connection. That is different work that "covering this week's Torah portion."

Our text study for the professional learning teams comes from the new Machzor from the Conservative Movement.

Once the Gerer Rebbe, may his memory protect us, decided to question one of his disciples: 'How is Moshe Yaakov doing?'

The disciple didn't know.

"What!' shouted the Rebbe, "You don't know?

You pray under the same roof, you study the same texts, you serve the same G-d you sing the same songs and yet you dare to tell me that you don't know whether Moshe Yaakov is in good health, whether he needs help, advice, or comforting?"

Here lies the very essence of our way of life:

every person must share in the life of others, and not leave them to themselves, either in sorrow or in joy.

Elie Weisel

Our text study also comes

`From the newest publication of ASCD

Creating the Opportunity to Learn (Moving from Research to Practice to Close the Achievement Gap-the study primarily focused on minority students)

A. Wade Boykin and Pedro Noguera

Teacher-student relationship quality (known as TSRQ) …was shown that across k-12 continuum students are more positively responsive when teachers display genuine caring and support for them yet are still demanding and have high expectations. The importance of this factor is underscored by the finding that high TSRQ in kindergarten continues to have a positive effect on academic performance as far out as 8th grade. In addition, there is more evidence to support the benefits of TSRQ than there is to support any other factor reviewed in this book (inter-subjectivity and information processing quality)).What’s more TSRQ and engagement appear to mutually influence each other. Not only does high TSRQ lead to greater student engagement but the presence of high student engagement in turn leads to greater TSRQ. (p. 90 Creating the Opportunity to Learn)

And evaluation too. We have developed three tools that enable teachers to document ways that learners are increasing their belonging.

1. Put the learner in the driver seat to reflect on connections, relationships and belonging.

2. Put the educator in driver seat and enable the educator to document growth/change over time in connections, relationships and belonging.

3. Put the learner and the educator in conversation, so together they reflect on emerging connections and relationships.

Ron, we're taking your challenge.
Clergy, educators and lay leaders are flipping the table (not like on Bravo's New Jersey Housewives).