The Future of Jewish Education
In Your Hands
by Cyd B. Weissman
NATE’s 50th Anniversary Conference
December 2004 New York City
Predictions are an American December pastime. Futurologists, as Time Magazine calls them, prepare us to enter a new year by foretelling the stock market, the dip and the rise of hems, and the next pocket technology guaranteed to give the i-pod the slip. Today we are here to do the same. We are here to glimpse the future, but not for the sake of profit, or fashion or convenience. Jewish educators demand to see tomorrow for one important reason-that is- to shape it.
When I was asked to paint a portrait for the future of Jewish Education you can imagine I that I felt dwarfed by the subject. How could I speak about the unknown-about what was yet unseen? In this moment of need, I did what I most often do when faced with uncertainty. I turned to our tradition for guidance and strength. After reviewing Jewish teaching about futurology, I felt emboldened. I felt I did have the ability to see the future and so I come today to speak to you with confidence.
I was encouraged when I realized that Jews have always had a strong desire and seemingly an uncanny ability to see the future. From our sacred texts to the icons of popular culture, from the Torah to Isaac Asimov, we Jews adroitly leap the barriers of time to touch the yet unrevealed.
The Torah recounts the custom of the priests throwing the dice-like Urim and Thuumim to predict the future. Later the Bible tells the story of Saul seeking out the then dead Samuel to reveal what the future holds. An entire section of the Bible is dedicated to telling the stories of people who predicted the future, Nevim. So although there were many futurologists in our ancient texts, I felt little encouragement, because I am neither prophet nor priest. I had to gain confidence from other Jewish sources.
Undaunted, I turned to the rabbis and our great philosophers who believed it is possible to be a futurologist. They studied and wrote about soothsaying, divination and prophecy. Maimonides who most of us first met when handed a blue machberet in Hebrew School wrote that all human beings have the inherent gift to see into the future. Although we were born with the gift, this turbaned man instructed there are three basic prerequisites for predicting the future-imaginative perfection, moral perfection and mental perfection. Oh well.
So with the caveats of the priests, the prophets and the philosophers, I turned to one last voice of Jewish tradition to give me confidence to speak about the future-my mother. She always amazed me with her ability to predict what was going to happen. Like the time when I was ten years old, she called to me as I entered the kitchen, “Don’t eat any of those cookies before dinner.” With her folding laundry in the next room, and me out of her sight, I stuffed three cookies in to my mouth. When I returned to her a bit later, she said, “Cyd, you are not going to be hungry for dinner.” How did she know that? How could she tell what was going to happen in an hour? Little did I know cookie crumbs were all over my face. Her power of prediction: Reading the signs that I couldn’t see, but were clear as the nose or the crumbs on my face.
So from my mom I learned a way to predict the future. I can see the signs on the faces of Jewish Education today. The signs are saying there are two very distinct futures that are possible. Both of these futures require a tremendous amount of work, resources, creativity, innovation and commitment. Both of these futures are different from the present. So the constant in both possible destinations is change. Change is going to happen. But, what will the change look like? Which of the two distinct paths will be fully realized? I believe that answer depends on you. The future of Jewish Education-- which direction we will go in? This is in your hands.
Depending on the choices you make, the headlines in the Jewish newspaper ten years from now will read either:
A Decade of Hard Work Yields Significant Improvement in Student Learning and Parental Support
A New Set of Questions Sparks an Explosion of Experimentation that Re-imagines Jewish Education
The first headlines-“Hard work yields significant Improvement in Student Learning and Parental Support” has tremendous value. It has certainty. It has clarity. Most of us could agree to it. We even can see that is lo b’shamayim he-it is within our grasp.
We know what it looks like when students learn better. Snapshot of the future: Each fall students will remember the difference between chaf and kaf, pay and fay. Students will know Tisha b’av is not the holiday where you plant trees. And they will know more about Sh’ma than it is a prayer said before bedtime.
With this future headline, we’ll see well prepared-certified teachers. All teachers will know how to and will write lesson plans. They will use drama, art and technology and they’ll use the most up to date classroom management techniques. Teachers will know more about the Sh’ma than it is a prayer that we say when we wake and we go to bed and you can teach it by writing it on both sides of a pillow case.
Every school will have a well developed curriculum in this future. Clear objectives, enduring understandings and age appropriate and even multi cultural pedagogy will rule the day. Serious evaluation will support stated goals of curriculum. The numbers will show that schools have achieved the very standards of excellence they have set.
With this futurist headlines we know what parental support will look like. Parents will encourage their children to attend and to learn. Parents will use the same phrases for religious school as they use for public school. In the year 2015 you will hear parents say, “You can’t miss Sunday school for soccer.” Parents in that year will attend family education programs where they too will learn to read, define and sing Sh’ma. For them it will be as important as attending the spring concert and the school play at the public school. Parents care about and respect excellence and high achievement and will see in religious school the same quality they’ve come to expect from secular school.
This headline of the future will be written by funders and professional and lay leaders who truly believe that if we improve our schools, if we have standards of excellence and if parents will support the schools, then we will be successful.
Examine with me the signs that indicate that this headline is truly what will be written ten years from now. The first that we see is Jewish educators and teachers working hard. They work countless hours attending workshops, reading new materials and learning new techniques. We adopt and adapt best practices from general education and the most prestigious educational research universities. Harvard might start it, but we add a distinctly Jewish twist. Kohlberg talks moral education, we say menschlichkeit. Gardner says multiple intelligences, we say each child is b’zelem elohim.
Jewish educators are never satisfied and this is one of the positive signs that school change is coming. I recently saw religious school teacher lead a lesson on Israel. She had a strong set induction where the kids outlined what a typical day for them in America was like. She then had students work in hevruta, identifying the typical day of an Israeli child. “Compare and contrast,” she said, “The life of an Israeli child and an American child.” The lesson concluded with the singing of Hatifkva and the Star Spangled Banner. She walked out of class saying,” I should have pointed out why students should care about connections with Israeli children. I’ll do it next time.” She, like all Jewish educators, is in a constant state of reflection, evaluation and improvement.
An additional sign of the school improvement model is the language of our conferences and workshops. Jewish Educational chat includes phrases like standards of excellence, evaluation, spiral curriculum, teacher recruitment, development and retention. Added to the public school vernacular is that uniquely Jewish twist that adds trips to Israel, summer camp and youth group experiences.
Educators from around the country tell very different stories than they did just 10-15 years ago. People are not talking classroom chaos led by untrained teachers. You are telling stories about kids who are learning to read their prayers and learning to identify Jewish ritual items. You are speaking with pride. There is a lilt in your voices when you talk about new books and new curricular materials. You say God is not only on the guest list, but God is on the curriculum. Of course there are exceptions. We hear the complaining stories. Maybe we say them, as well. Negative stories, however, are not the predominant theme. Pride and a hunger for a better school predominate.
There are stories about dedicated lay people who work to support the religious school. Recently, in a congregation, I saw three parents putting up children’s work on bulletin boards in the hall. The Director said, “The parents come every month to make the school beautiful.” Each of you could shout out from your seats the signs that show parents are demonstrating more support for what you do in the school. Not only do they volunteer, but they also come to the family education programs a few times a year where they learn with their children or with each other and say things like, “That was great, who knew what a wimple was. I loved it.”
It would be easy enough for us to imagine the vision statement of school that has written this headline: A guiding vision that aligns to this program would say something like: Our congregation is committed to create a school of excellence where children will be literate-well informed Jewish adults. We will garner the resources needed to ensure that our school employs well trained teachers who only use the best practices of general education.
This picture of the future is driven by the belief that excellent schools will build the next generation of Jewish adults. This vision and the supporting program have come from asking the following four questions:
- What is excellence in a religious school?
- How do we train teachers and leaders so they will be instruments of excellence?
- How do we evaluate excellence?
- What can we do to get parents to support this work toward excellence?
This is a future that we will be proud of. The signs are the: an improved-an excellent school supported by parents is our future.
Absolutely not, say other signs, this is not our future. Rather, there are signs that indicate that this well intended conversation about standards of excellent schools, although important, is draining our energy, draining our limited resources, and leading us in the wrong direction.
There are signs that say this is a time to take risks, to experiment, to dare to believe that change, dramatic change in a different direction, is possible and is necessary. Following the path of secular education is not how to lead in Jewish education.
There are those who say the three ch’s;
Its chutzpah time-time to have the nerve to stand up and say the hard work we do is not getting us where we need to go.
Its chalutzim time-time to show the courage to leave the security of what is known-to try new ways of doing education,.
Its chochma time-time to be wise enough to create and discover what will make the difference we seek.
There are signs that I see as clearly as the crumbs on a face that say additive change won’t do. One more family ed program, one more improved piece of curriculum won’t make enough of a difference. The time for band aids is over. Improved learning is not enough to grow a Jewish adult.
We are the choosing people no doubt. If the next generation is going to choose to live as Jews in a world that draws and pulls toward a secular material life, children require cultivated hearts and spirits to have not only the knowledge but also the will to live as Jews.
They require a lev that makes Jewish meaning of the everyday.
They require a nurtured neshama that seeks to live in connection to the Jewish people, to the world community and to the Oneness that is ours.
Traditional schools are not designed to fill this tall order. A school, at is very best, acts as one spoke in a larger wheel of society’s expectations and structures. What could any public school or even a 25,000 dollar a year private one, accomplish if every fiber of society didn’t require and value education? Without this support system, schools are a ship without an engine. Educators are like Sisyphus pushing a rock up a hill. We know too well what that is like.
There are Jewish leaders in America who are not saying dayenu to improved religious school because a school that teaches children to read and translate Sh’ma is not sufficient. And they will not say dayenu to the religious school that gives workshops so parents can also read and translate Sh’ma. Rather they will say dayenu when learning is design so that children and adults make informed choices of the mind, heart, and soul about living Sh’ma, living Jewish lives. For living Sh’ma is a path for making oneness in our world of brokenness.
Reciting words is not the same as living them. And it is the living, not the recitation that is our goal. Living Sh’ma is when these words are a compass for daily decisions. Living Sh’ma is drawing toward each other in sacred community for strength, joy and comfort-all because we are acutely, daily, reminded of connection, our connection to each other and Adonai Ehchad.
More than an improved school, say this group of futurologists, is required. More than parents putting up bulletin boards and attending workshops is required for the next generation to live Sh’ma.
A snapshot of the future that can accomplish this is neither clear nor singular. A photo album is needed to give you a glimpse of this future. One snapshot won’t do, because each community will experiment, based on their own values and culture, how to create new structures, yet to be imagined structures, to accomplish the goal of living Sh’ma.
Experimentation is needed, according to these futurologists, to generate new ways of doing the business of Jewish learning. This future holds an explosion of experiments as congregations try to figure out-if the model of dropping kids off for a few hours a week and tacking on a few family workshops isn’t it, then what is? To get a better picture of the future let’s look at one congregation’s photo album from the year 2015.
Temple Machar’s photo album begins with families gathering in each other’s homes for weekly Jewish learning and celebration. Kids are seated on the floor while one of the parents teaches. Under the guidance of a professional teacher, the other parents enrich their own learning then prepare lessons that they will teach in the coming sessions. One child with his aunt and another child, Rich, is with an elder from the congregation, Mrs. Rosenberg. She began participating on days when Rich’s dad worked late. Now Mrs. Rosenberg comes regularly with a friend, who also brings a friend. Learning is linked to living, so this class, or as they call it, this tribe, one of 12 in the congregation, is planning a ceremony for putting up a mezuzah on Mrs. Rosenberg’s new apartment door. They’d gladly show you photos from their Israel trip, but there isn’t time now.
So instead, we’ll look at the photos from Temple Machar’s album of other children and parents wishing Shabbat shalom to congregants of all ages as they enter the Temple for weekly learning, praying and socializing. The service begins with a niggun. At the Torah reading, kids and adults turn in hevruta to grapple with the verse “viahavta lirayacha camocha.” It is a congregant who starts the discussion, “Thank about an argument you had this week-with a friend, a coworker, or a sibling. How could we have spoken differently, if we had thought about this text? What might be different next time we disagree?” When the Torah buzz quiets children and adults stand to say the name of someone in need of healing before the misheberech is sung. On this particular Shabbat, Mrs. Rosenberg’s name is said.
From this same Temple’s photo album are shots of teens and congregants gathering for lattes in their Starbucks lounge, for text study, before weekly visits to the local nursing home. The Jewish journey coach and a social worker from the congregation join them on their visit. Later that day they participate in a chat room discussion, facilitated by the rabbi, about experiencing a greater Oneness amidst brokenness. A posting appears during the chat announcing a death in the congregation. Kids arrange with parents to be present for the shiva. They go because they knew Mrs. Rosenberg well just as he knew them. They experience a greater Oneness amidst brokenness.
From this congregation’s photo album, you’ll notice the teacher is not playing a traditional role. He had to learn work in new ways, creating them when new situations arose. He was able to adapt his role because Temple Machar recognized that teachers are a jewel in every education crown. They invested in their staff by bringing teachers into their emerging community of Jewish learning and living. They discovered that teachers, like parents, who are regularly nurtured Jewishly and spiritually can then nurture others.
And don’t be concerned that I didn’t share photos of the educational director. She is still working hard in this future state. But she’s not doing carpool-because there is no drop-off. She’s no longer playing tug of war with parents trying to pull them in to the learning. The director’s role, like the teachers, like the rabbis is different. For the past ten years she’s has seen her self emerge as a community builder and a change agent. She talks systems instead of programs and personal meaning making in addition to knowledge acquisition. Excellence is still part of the conversation, but is measured anew.
At Temple Machar, they look at this photo album from the year 2015 and still they will not say dayenu. They are on a continual track of experimenting, reflecting and trying again to reach their shared vision. In the year 200 they embarked on a spiraling series of innovations, where experiments generated participation and creation of new ideas. For the leaders in this congregation, they experimental journey has been like standing on a spiral staircase. They look back to see what they have accomplished as well as look a little bit ahead toward their future. Each time they try something new, they advance up the staircase which reveals a little more of their destination-each experiment helps them see a little more clearly what is possible. Each step moves them closer to a vision that is a compelling picture of the future. Their program is aligned to a vision that says:
Temple Machar is a well, like the wells of our Israelite ancestors, where the generations gather to know each other, nourish each other and learn with and form each other within the rhythm of Jewish life so they can strive to live daily in Oneness.
How did this congregation move so far up the spiral staircase?
How did this congregation and others like it from San Francisco to the Midwest to New York work against the thunder clap of naysayers whose refrain is “that’s impossible.”?
How do any of us work against the very architecture of Temple buildings that place children in a separate wing from their synagogues? How do all of us bring children’s Jewish learning from the basement of the Temple into the center of an affecting-inspiring community?
One thing is sure the educational director doesn’t do it by herself. In some cases, a director can start a spark by bringing new questions and new challenges to the table. But it requires an entire team to be ignited by the recognition that it is time to leave the hill of Sisyphus to risk uncertainty, experimentation and even failure. Transformative change requires a trusting team. It requires a shared belief that despite the risks—Jewish children need more than a diploma from a school, they need a gateway to an authentic Jewish center.
There are educational teams across North America, who as we speak, say the future is lo bishamayim, it is in our hands to re-conceptualize Jewish education by writing the headline of the future that reads:
A new Set of Questions Sparks An Explosion of Experimentation that Re-imagines Jewish Education.
What are the new questions that have such a power?
As educators we have a toolbox for doing our work. Language is one of those tools. Let’s face it language is a power tool of the Jewish people. This future headline requires Jewish professionals and lay people to use a new language.
My oldest son is working construction before he goes to graduate school. The new job requires him to leave behind the tools he was most comfortable with like matrices and computers and instead use saws and hammers. On the first day the foreman told him to take down the dry wall that he had put up. Not so easy to switch tools, but it is even harder to build a barn with a Newtonian root approximation. And it will not be easy for Jewish lay and professional leaders to leave behind phrases like “my kid isn’t happy,” or “they have to learn conversational Hebrew instead of prayer Hebrew.” However these kinds of phrases, the ones most often circulated around the table at our education committee meetings, in the driveways of our Temples, are not helpful tools for building re-building a re-imagined Jewish education.
New language can begin with new questions. There are four questions-this is no surprise to Jewish educators-- that can be put in the toolbox for re-shaping the future.
I’ll share the four questions that congregations who work with The RE-IMAGINE Project of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education’s Experiment in Congregational Education ask. These are congregations are on a path of re-imagining education. As you may know, I work with ECE and I am privileged to hear the conversations that result from these questions. I get to see the signs of a very different future.
The first question is not how many prayers should a student recite at her bat mitzvah, but rather it is: How is learning structured to create a link between Jewish learning and living?
Most of our schools are designed to teach information. As educators we’ve been trained to teach children to learn information-knowledge acquisition, if they know we’re successful.
Lesson plan says: At the end of the lessons students will retell the story of Adam and Eve. Students will identify the moral choices of Adam and Eve. Activity: a biblio-drama of the scene with the serpent. Students will engage their senses by finger painting Gan Eden. The lesson concludes with a reflection exercise. Students will write a rap song of their own version of Creation. Good lesson? A typical lesson?
This lesson is a start but one must ask, what is in this lesson to move the story of creation to living the creation story? What in this lesson will integrate the story of creation into the core of who this child is and what this child chooses to do?
What does Torah learning look like when the purpose is for students to have an interactive meaningful Torah life? Isn’t it our goal for students to have an active prayer life?
This question came boldly to my desk right after 9/11. You may have had the same experience. Adults and children were devastated and in a fog of grief and confusion. Of course our shul had a service. But I was left wondering how well had we nurtured people to turn to words of prayer, to God for comfort guidance and hope?
Can a lesson that teaches the recitation and the definition of Sh’ma accomplish that? Think about a common used assessment tool-the check list of prayers. The check next to Hannah’s name does not access that Hannah says Sh’ma with warmth when closing her eyes because she feels she’s not alone in this world.
The experiences of Jewish education will be shaped differently when the end of the lesson is: Students will access words of Torah in a moment of decision. Student will use words of prayer as bridge to the greater Oneness. At the end of the lesson students will make informed choices about living what is learned.
The second of the four questions also has the ability to re-conceptualize Jewish education as we know it.
That question is: How do we create educational experiences that build long lasting memories?
Memories matter. And I don’t mean remembering what day the heaves were created in Bereshit. Remembering facts is important. We need facts to navigate the geography of Jewish life. But facts alone are not enough. Learning facts in isolation of a living context is the like memorizing vocabulary words without every speaking, reading or writing them—they are soon forgotten.
Childhood memories impact who we will be as adults. Jewish memories matter in our adult choices. I don’t need to quote you research studies prove that. Think about your own story. What on earth happened in childhood to make you grow up to be not a fireman, or a policeman, a doctor or a lawyer, but a person who works harder than any other professional that I know about except maybe for an obgyn? What was the memory that shaped your committed Jewish journey life?
When congregations work with The RE-IMAGINE Project, of the first exercises they do is to ask their teams to share “your most memorable Jewish learning experience” Their responses are a gesher to Jewish belonging. In short order, it is often revealed that learning intertwined with loving relationships, with real living and with personal meaning has the transformative ability to draw a child to the center of Jewish life and draw Jewish life to the center of a child.
The third of four questions must be asked to fully answer the first two: What is the role of parents in a child’s Jewish education? Often it is understood that you can’t build long lasting memories or link learning to living without asking what is the role of parents?
You may be thinking, please Cyd, this question has been asked and answered over the past twenty years. We all have family education programs. Sure enough, we needed to start somewhere. But now, say the future shapers, we need to grown beyond the questions “how can we get parents to support the work of the religious school?” Support implies it is primarily the job of the school to raise Jewish children, and parents can help out. That dynamic is like a spouse who “helps with the housework.
When a community believes that parents play an essential role in a child’s religious up-bringing, they then experiment with ways of creating gateways for parents not to support, but rather to go along the Jewish journey with their children in a way that makes a significant difference for each of them.
The congregations who are reexamining this question are often discovering that parental Jewish journeying done with the regularity that all acts of important parenting occur-like reading to children impacts children’s and parents’ lives in ways that no class, no matter how good, can accomplish.
This question can lead to a future with a tipping point or a breaking point where parents scorn the idea that dropping kids off a few hours a week for the end goal of a bar mitzvah, in the same way this generation scorns the parental idea that children have to eat everything on their plate before they leave the table.
Already in 2004 there are congregations across the country where parents actually go on the Jewish journey with their children. Beth Am in Lost Altos is an example. Beth Am in Philadelphia is another. No they are not a franchise. These congregations are examples of two very different places, one Reform and one Conservative that asked similar questions. Their answers produced different models. Yet both provide safe and inviting gateways for parents to create Jewish learning lives with their children.
We come now to the fourth of the four future shaping questions. This may be the most important one and the one that is most difficult to address. We do not have well developed tools to answer this. The experimentation that responds to this question is truly nascent. The question is: What is the role of community in a child’s Jewish education?
The answer is essential, according to congregations who are on a path of re-imagining education. They have come to realize that in order for learning to move to living-more than multi-sensory learning is needed. Rather what is needed is learning that is anchored within a community that values and practices what is taught. A community that acts as a visible living breathing embodiment of the very facts they wish students to remember is required for children to develop religious identity.
Without such a community the work of Jewish education is akin to teaching boys in the suburbs to ear skirts. A school can develop a curriculum to teach boys how to select a skirt, where to buy one, how to put it on, and even why it is beneficial to wear one. As well as any school can teach that, there is only one place where boys proudly wear skirts, Scotland. Boys wear skirts in Scotland because the community expects, models, and values the behavior.
Jonathan Woocher in his “Unified Field Theory,” writes that our goal is to build strong Jewish identities. “If Jewish identity is the cart we wish to move along the path of growth,” he notes, “then Jewish community is the horse that will pull that cart…we need to transform communities and without such a transformation, I believe it is unlikely that our efforts to change individuals can produce more than marginal gains in the prospect of Jewish continuity.”
Transformation from a school building to a community building, from a school in a distant wing to a central part of a vibrant community is required. Students require inspiring and affecting communities.
Ironically, we’d all say we are already a community. But we are challenged along this path to transform in to the kind of community that acts like the Scots expecting their boys to wear skirts.
To accomplish this transformation congregations in the future will be challenged to ask: Who are the learners? Who are the teachers? When and how does learning take place? Why does learning take place? They will re-imagine time, space and resources so they can grow to be places of deep knowing where living and learning exist is complimentary harmony. They’ll work to develop a common purpose supported by a shared Torah language that binds participants to one another and to tradition. The language taught will be more than words. Rather it will be a compass that directs action. In short, they will experiment until they find ways to surround what is learned by what is lived and valued.
I’ve seen sparks of this future in my work as the direction of education at a congregation that spent ten years responding to the rabbi’s challenge. Rabbi Marc Margolius had the chutzpah to say, “We can build a better failed model or we can build a new model of Jewish education.” I’ve seen the sparks in congregations around the country who have already started to ask and answer these four future shaping questions with innovations that re-imagine education as we know it. These innovations come from teams who see the task as difficult, necessary and possible.
Each of us has experienced the future. We’ve seen the delicious crumbs on our faces, and have tasted the world to come. This future is rooted in what we already see and sense.
You should that when I turned to Jewish tradition to gain the confidence to see the future, I found not only the words of my mother, but also the words of Abraham Joshua Heschel
It is written:
At the time when God was giving the Torah to Israel, God said to them: My children. If you accept the Torah and observe my mitzvoth, I will give you for all eternity a thing most precious that I have in my possession.
And what, asked Israel is that precious thing which Thou will give us if we obey the Torah?
The world to come.
Show us in this world an example of the world to come…in other words “show us a glimpse of the future now, ” said the Israelites.
And God responded. The Sabbath is an example of the world to come (Mekilta to Exodus 31:17)
Heschel notes that unless one learns how to relish the taste of the Sabbath while still in this world, unless one is initiated in the appreciation of eternal life, one will be unable to enjoy the taste of eternity in the world to come. Sad is the lot of him who arrives inexperienced and when led to heaven has no power to perceive that beauty of the Sabbath.
Everyone in this room is already privileged to taste the world to of Jewish education to come. You see, and you create the successes, the sparks that need to be harnessed to step toward a future the grows the next generation of Jewish adults who will live with meaning and belonging. As Heschel instructs, just as the Sabbath allows us to experience the world to come now, so we can recognize it when we get there, reflection on our deepest successes allow us to both recognize and crate the wonder that will come.
As you listen today, you are deciding which headline will be the future of Jewish Education. You are deciding where you will commit your energy in the coming years.
Will it be toward the headline..A Decade of Hard Work Reaps Significant Improvement in Student learning and Parental Support…or will it be toward…A New Set of Questions Sparks an Explosion of Experimentation that Re-imagines Jewish Education.
Maybe we are at a Robert Frost moment, where the two roads diverge. We are challenge to take one or the other. We know which way Frost suggests. Or maybe we are at a michamocha moment. We’re standing at the edge of a daunting sea, choosing to go back to a challenged land we know or step in to uncharted depths to come to an unseen holy land. We know which way, despite uncertainty and tribulation, our tradition directs us. Today and tomorrow, may we choose wisely.
In choosing I’d like to ask the youth directors, educational consultants from movements and bureaus and NATE interns who are here to stand. Please know the future of Jewish Education is in your hands. Rabbis, researchers, and professors, who are here, please stand. The choices you make will pave the road to the future. If you are not standing, but you are a parent or a student, please stand. You too hold the future of Jewish Education in your hands---but never in your hands alone. All the people who are standing and who will stand with you back in your communities share in this work toward the future. May we be blessed.
Dear God, God of Sarah, Rebekkah, Rachel and Leah, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God of all Jewish teachers, we have an awesome task before us. Please be with us as your were with our ancient grandparents, so we too will have the wisdom and courage to discern and we will have the strength to gather up the holy sparks to create a future of Jewish Education filled with light. May God bless us and keep us safe and sound as we choose which road to take-to make-to the future. And we say, Amen.