28 Days & Ideas for Jewish Day Schools
February may be the shortest month, but this year it was certainly not short on productivity. Five Jewish media organizations—JTA, the Forward, eJewishPhilanthropy, Jewcy, and Jewschool—partnered with self-described Jewish community activist Daniel Sieradski and JFNAto unleash the ultimate brainstorming session upon the Jewish blogosphere. These suggestions, designed to “change the Jewish future,” were called 28 Days, 28 Ideas, and I was struck by the variety, scope, and originality of the offerings.
I highly encourage you to take some time and read all 28 in full, but for the next few hundred words, I’ll be focusing on the seven that I think connect to Jewish day schools. They range from curricular to big-picture, from thought experiments to action items.
#4 – Orthodox Feminist Day Schools. I don’t have anything to say regarding Orthodox schools per se, but the list of practices an “Orthodox Feminist” school would encourage should certainly prompt conversation across the rest of the denominational spectrum.
#6 – Tzedakah Box 2.0. The idea is basically to replace the pushke with a smartphone. I honestly don’t know enough about the technology, but if this catches on, there’s certainly potential for day schools. (There’s also text-message fundraising, like after the Haiti earthquake).
#7 – Central game portal for teaching Hebrew. While I disagree with the author’s assertion that learning Hebrew vocabulary is among the “boring stuff of Jewish education,” I certainly agree that making learning “fun” is always a plus.
#10 – WiseGen and the Great Transition. Striking the balance between preparing the next generation of leadership and not running the current one—the “WiseGen”—out too quickly takes careful consideration and planning. Whether it’s a head of school, board member, or another leader leaving the school, the community should work to make the transition from predecessor to successor seamless not only for the school, but also for the individuals involved.
#14 – Open Source Curriculum. This is a neat little idea of making available open-source Hebrew texts (“open source” means anyone has the capability to edit, like Wikipedia). Users could add their own commentary, or simply import what commentary already exists, creating, for example, an online, interactive Talmud.
#23 – Forget About Jewish Identity. The author posits that most, if not all, Jewish programs aimed at the under-30 set are geared towards boosting a sense of Jewish identity, but not necessarily Jewish practice. Day schools do both, I’d say, and that full picture is what makes them such successful incubators of affiliated Jewish adults.
#24 – And Now for Something Completely Different: Inside the Box. The author offers some suggestions of longstanding “truisms” about Jewish communal life that can be tweaked going forward. Here is one: Boomers who emerged from the fiscal troubles relatively unscathed are ripe for philanthropic cultivation. And another: As a key element of any healthy Jewish community, day schools must take part in conversations about the community’s Jewish future.