Trying to live as a Jew in just another tumultuous century
Monday, July 30, 2012
Calling for change--here is what it looks like.
The Coalition of Innovating
Congregations of New York, over 50 congregations from across movements, does
not ask why Jewish education has to transform in the wake of the changing
natures of knowledge, commitment and learning. They don’t write essays on what
education could look like if change were made. Today, that is the work of the
blogosphere and folks who find comfort in ringing the worry bell.
Instead, pioneers in New York
have, for almost a decade, done risk-everything-sweat-on-brow-imagination-full-force
work that has resulted in transformation in real time. To those who are now
joining the unanimous call for change, I invite you to be in conversation with
the Coalition (innovatingcongregations.org).
The work they have done does
not come from a single push of a button. Truth be told, transformation is
complicated and even at times serendipitous. So, a blog post won’t
capture the full story of how to do what's needed. But, here is a clear guide
for all those who want to do the work.
Learning “about Judaism” is dead. Powerful Jewish engagement models created in
New York have one thing in common: an
end to learning about a holiday that’s coming, or an event on a calendar or
a trip that will happen one day. And they put an end to activity, no matter how
interesting that is for sometime in the future. None of the emerging models
assumes that children singing, painting and acting their way through a Jewish
content area relevant to some day in the future will deeply change a young
In place of the “learning
about Judaism” model, these leader congregations are creating LIVING LOMED.
Living LOMED is like:
1.Brushing your teeth. You do it every day. If you don’t do it,
there are consequences like with your health and folks who don’t want to sit
next to you. There are people in your life, who nudge you when you don’t do
Today's models enable young people to
daily practice stuff that helps them be healthier human beings (mind, body and
soul). That practice can be about how you breath, how you wake, or how you
fight on the playground. Adult roles aren’t about “teaching about” but being
there in a regularized way to encourage, to answer, and to model.
2.Eating a meal. The Tisch Model has emerged in New
York. Regularized meals with family and friends in your home, in the
museum or in the shul have become the table set for Jewish life
learning. In these new models friends and the generations literally and
figuratively have hunger fed. Folks are hungry for food, ok that’s important.
And young people have an equal hunger to explore the turmoil and openings of
daily life. There is a real hunger not to sit at the table alone. Engagement in
New York is like the modern day tisch feeding what young people are hungry for:
Food, relationships, nurturance and figuring real stuff out.
3.Playing in the orchestra. Everyone has a role to play. Sure there is
practice, but it is in service of clear active regularized participation in
something greater than self. An orchestra has a hierarchy…you have to do a lot
to be the first violinist. There is a first violinist who is a role model and I
want to strive to participate in that full way. I also add value in a way that
people notice and care about. And, even if all I can do is turn the page,
people still say, “I see you and I care about you.” I can be part of something
really important that is appreciated by others. The emphasis is on the group
experience that results because of my unique and complementary contribution. Being part of the orchestra is good for me. It
also matters to others.
4.Doing a science experiment in a
living laboratory. Today,
there are not five easy steps for how to be a Jew or a whole human being. So in
New York young people are taught how to be Madame Curies. You’ll just have to
figure out how to live a meaningful life guided by Jewish tradition, no one can
tell you how. So learn how to be an experimenter in your everyday life.
a.State a compelling question
b.Do the background research
c.Create a hypothesis
d.Test it out..live it on the way
e.Reflect and analyze
f.Confirm or challenge your
g.Try to live it again
These are opportune times. Join
those who altering the landscape of Jewish engagement. The good news is that
the wheel is already being reinvented. Dr. Michelle Lynn Sachs says educators get
stuck in the “grammar of schooling.” Too many have tried to fix curriculum or
add clever activities. We've learned in New York, that just ‘aint enough.
Jewish engagement today has to
be regularized and healthy enriching daily existence like brushing teeth;
it has to feed your most basic needs, like at a meal; it has to enable you to
experience purposefulness and connection, like playing in the orchestra; and
must enable self construction, like a science experiment in a living lab.
The Coalition of Innovating Congregations has
more work to do in the next decade in order to fully realize what they have
uncovered and begun to build. They have a great blueprint for the new
landscape: the grammar is living, not learning about.