Experiments in Learning at Studio 70 By Rabbi Joshua Fenton At Studio 70, we believe innovation demands seriousness and rigor as much as creativity and a willingness to take risks and fail. In a recent Harvard Business Review article on innovation, Professor Gary Pisano from Harvard wrote, “Creativity can be messy. It needs discipline and management.… A willingness to experiment does not mean working like some third-rate abstract painter who randomly throws paint at a canvas.”
We like to say, “We don’t throw things at the wall to see what sticks. We develop hypotheses and then test them.” While some throwing at the wall happens, and stickiness is the goal, the process is not random nor without rigor and accountability. And the Edah afterschool program, a five day a week program in Berkeley, California, offers us the perfect lab in which to experiment.
In Edah, we pilot and refine specific approaches to learning within our afterschool program. We evaluate them, determining their effectiveness and whether our hypotheses hold true, and continue to iterate in response to the ways our learners engage. Each pilot or experiment happens as a station in Edah’s learning village. The stations are then either integrated in to the core of the curriculum, or they make way for the next experiment. The following series of articles are devoted to sharing the stories of each of our stations—our successful experiments. Our hope is that others will benefit from our experimentation and innovation and apply these approaches and models broadly. And if you do give one of these approaches a try, let us know. We’d love to collaborate.
“It’s Not School, It’s Jewish After School. And it’s Awesome!”
By Ana Robbins
The Nitzan Network is reinventing Jewish after-school learning experiences, providing young people with the building blocks that will help them grow and explore the world. In Atlanta, Berkeley, Boston, Chicago, DC, Philadelphia, and Toronto—we’re seeing it—the movement to renew Jewish learning after school is growing: now serving over 400 kids and their families annually nationwide. These programs, which have come together to form the Nitzan Network, offer students and parents a revolutionary childcare option during the week. Combining the services of after-school childcare with experiential Jewish education, families can relax knowing that their children are having fun while building their Jewish identity.
Distinct from Jewish Day School and different than traditional religious or Sunday school, Jewish After-School Programs offer many Jewish families exactly what they need: after-school childcare that includes transportation from school, homework help, and snack while providing Jewish learning and community on a regular basis. The programs are flexible: students can enroll for as few as two or as many as five days a week to accommodate other extracurriculars. School closed for Presidents Day, a teacher work day or Spring break? No worries! The programs in the network have full day, action-packed camp days that expand on many of the lessons and values featured in their daily programs.
The after-school programs in Nitzan offer highly immersive, content-rich, relationship-focused experiences that are rooted in Judaism and a connected community. Children who participate explore Jewish texts and hone their Hebrew language skills. They learn about tradition, practice, holidays, geography and history. They develop positive Jewish identities.
Because Jewish after school has so many more contact hours than a traditional Sunday school it is designed for kids to be able to learn in fun and creative ways, “we have different ways we do Ivrit [Hebrew]. They're always really creative and fun. One way ... is that we had these jars where we had 10 jars that had exercises. They got progressively harder. My friend and I were way ahead of all the people...We were pushing each other to see who could finish first. It was really fun because even though we were really competitive, we still helped each other to finish.”
Another benefit of added contact hours? Fostering meaningful relationships. One educator remarked, “We get to know our children really, really well. They tell us about so much of their lives-- we know the names of their stuffed animals, their grandparents, and their best friends from school. One child came to me during the winter, upset about how everything in stores and at school was about Christmas. It was an opportunity for her to feel comfortable discussing something that was bothering her, with a safe Jewish grown-up. We create an environment where our children feel safe, whole, and recognized for who they are and what they care about.” Parents say that Jewish after-school “is the best thing going in Jewish education. Unbelievable curriculum, pedagogy, faculty” and makes it possible for their kids to form deep connections to Jewish role models and peers, “With instructors and fellow students from Russian and African backgrounds, he has also built relationships across the diversity of contemporary Judaism that few American communities could match or model.”
Students appreciate that because Jewish after school is so immersive it becomes an important part of who they are and they can truly let loose and be themselves. “[We] laugh a lot... we are happy as a community together. This one time during snack time one of the people in my group said something funny, I started laughing and couldn't stop. I had to leave to get water. BTW that has happened many times..”
Another student commented, that “we (the kids) can have our own ideas and not have them be spoon-fed to us, but we can also hear other ideas.”
An educator sums up the effect the new programming has had on classroom culture: “There's so much kavod [dignity, honor, appreciation] here- where I grew up, there wasn't kavod for subject matter, peers, or teachers...building our compassionate community is the...foundation of the learning we do together.” Jewish after school does more than just make life better for families. Educators say this type of program makes it possible to “respect the intellectual capacities of children and work with them to help them figure out what they think and believe. Questions become an opportunity to learn, explore, and create new ideas, and drive the topics of learning and exploration. The curriculum adapts and responds to the interests of the children here, and who they are.”
Quite simply, Jewish After-School is a game changer for parents, students and educators. With 7 locations and growing all the time, the Nitzan Network of after-school programs is sure to continue transforming Jewish learning after school! Keep your eye on this innovative movement dedicated to renewing Jewish learning afterschool by following us at nitzan.org.
Traditional Hebrew schools are losing their effectiveness. Nationwide, parents are opting out of sending their children. Some say it is because they don't want their children to resent the experience the way they did while others claim that high-quality, joyful choices do not exist.
For whatever their reason, sixty-seven percent of Atlanta children who are being raised Jewish in intermarried households do not receive any formal Jewish education (2008 JFGA Demographic Study). We're talking about 50,000 children in Intown Atlanta! The number of children not getting a Jewish education could fill the Braves stadium!
Anxious to know more about this demographic, JKG hosted a series of focus groups in October 2011. In just a few sessions, we discovered that,
1. Both affiliated and unaffiliated families long for a high-quality Jewish education program that will actively support and engage their children on a Jewish journey.
This finding was expected and was more-or-less the hypothesis on which JKG had built a successful one-day-a-week program that had grown from 6-65 children between 2009-2011.
2. There is significant interest in a five-day a week Jewish after school program that provides care, community, and content.
3. There is a desire for a “third option” in Jewish education for families who cannot or do not send their children to Jewish day school, but for whom traditional Hebrew School is not substantial enough. Not unique to Atlanta, researchers report, “Rises in the level of childhood Jewish schooling are almost always associated with increases in adult Jewish identity years later. Day school alumni outscore supplementary school alumni, who in turn outrank Sunday school graduates” -Cohen and Kotler-Berkowitz, 2004. In response to these focus groups and the understandings that resulted from them, research on best practices, and site visits to unique programs across the country, JKG created JKG Afterschool Community. The“newest and most innovative idea in Jewish education.”
JKG Afterschool Community combines a premium afterschool-care program (homework help, snack, hangout time) with a ridiculously cool Hebrew school (community gardening, team challenges, art, drama, music, Israeli games).
Our 2012 pilot program is six months old and is an inspiring, hamish, loving community where kids learn and play together up to 20 hours a week. Community member Barbara Horowitz said, “[the teaching approach] is so different, it’s a breath of fresh air!”
Children attend up to five afternoons a week, making their experience with Judaism and each other, truly immersive. JKG Mom, Rachel Silverman is happy to not have to shlep her kids to A program they don't like on Sunday mornings and was quoted in the Jewish Week, “[JKG is] the best of both worlds, and we got our Sundays back.”
Based on our experience with JKG Afterschool Community we posit that the future of Jewish education lies in A) diversifying the range of educational frameworks and B) creating premium programs that address the needs of the largest percentage of American Jews, the “unafilliated Jews” (cue eye roll here).
Currently, two main education models exist: Day schools and synagogue-run Hebrew/Sunday schools.
We think there need to be more options, including our immersive after school model.
We learned many quick lessons while launching JKG Afterschool Community and have identified a number of our best practices, JKG:
Places the school at the core of a larger community, comprised of affiliated and unaffiliated families.
Creates a framework that combines services parents need (like after-school care, and a flexible program) with the rich content of an experiential Jewish education.
Feels a lot like Jewish summer camp and is an immersive Jewish experience for children M-F after-school.
What are your “new” best practices? Do you agree or take issue with ours? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
An experiment with kids and Hebrew
by David Holzel Senior Writer at Washington Jewish Week
This week I wrote about a new after-school program for elementary schoolers, called MoEd. With 23 kids enrolled, it meets five days a week in an activity room at Congregation Ohr Kodesh in Chevy Chase.
Mo'ed was started by a group of working parents who need after-school care for their children, and wanted it to have a Jewish foundation. It shares elements of many forms of educational and recreational programs from the present and past, but isn't like any of them. This makes it an experiment worth watching.
Like religious school, it emphasizes Hebrew and Jewish knowledge, but it isn't a school. Like Jewish camp, it has outdoor play and indoor activities, but it is tied to the school calendar. And like the old Talmud Torah, it meets five days a week to keep a sense of continuity in learning, although families decide how many days they want to send their kids.
But it's MoEd's emphasis on Hebrew that most interests me. For decades, religious supplementary schools have steadily deemphasized Hebrew, as if the language were somewhat of an embarrassment. It might be true, seeing that the number of teachers who know Hebrew as a living language as well as an ancient tongue is tiny. There is enough Hebrew for the bar mitzvah, but not more.
Hebrew for young children barely exists. And why not? This is the age to start learning a language, to become familiar with reading and writing the alef-bet.
The kids I met at MoEd are years away from their bar or bat mitzvah. But the staff chatters away at them in Hebrew anyway. They color Hebrew letters, learn to recognize their Hebrew names. Some know more than others. But, then, this isn't school. When I asked one 3rd grader if I could interview him, he told me to speak to him in Hebrew.
I'm interested in seeing how this immersion works. Will Hebrew begin to seem like a normal language to the kids, rather than something foreign, just another thing they had to learn at school? Will it become a tool they own to enrich their lives?
And there are other things we can learn from this experiment:
How many families will be willing to cross over to someone else's synagogue to attend MoEd?
To what extent will traffic conditions limit how far parents are willing to drive?
Can a Jewish program beat out or coexist with kickball and karate?
Can a niche program with small but strong support thrive?
The Tarbuton San Diego’s Center for Hebrew & Israel Education Selected to Join National Network for Innovative After School Programs
by Jennie Starr
The Tarbuton San Diego’s Center for Hebrew & Israel Education Selected to Join National Network for Innovative After School Programs
San Diego, CA, 1/7/2013 The Tarbuton, Israeli Cultural Center in Carmel Valley, is honored to have been selected to join Nitzan, a National network for innovative after school programs. (“Nitzan” means flower bud in Hebrew.)
The purpose of Nitzan’s network is to support the renewal of Jewish learning after school. Network members support each other by sharing resources and practices, discussing successes and challenges, and collectively engaging national experts in the discussion pedagogy, curriculum, organization, and practice. Network members include professionals and lay leaders involved in emerging, developing, and established programs that are designed to renew Jewish learning after school.
The network was catalyzed by a small number of emerging programs in North America looking for a community of practice and support. The initial launch of the network was funded by the generous support of The Covenant Foundation.
“We are thrilled to have found an organizational umbrella for our work in the Nitzan Network and appreciate the Covenant Foundation’s willingness to look at ways to support organizations like the Tarbuton,” said Jennie Starr, the Tarbuton’s Director and Founder. “This is the latest in a series of positive nods from the community for the hard work and direction of the Tarbuton.”
The Tarbuton was recognized in November, 2012, by the Slingshot Fund as one of the top 50 Jewish Innovative programs in North America. Seed funding was provided first by the Jewish Federation of San Diego County in 2011 and 2012 for scholarships to needs-based students, making it possible for them to participate. The Leichtag Foundation provided additional support for the Tarbuton in 2011 and 2012 with additional scholarship funds for families and supporting the PJ Library program in the Tarbuton, the Modern Hebrew version, Sifriyat Pijama. The Tarbuton is seeking second stage funding and continued support for its growth.
The Tarbuton Israeli Cultural Center offers an after school and Sunday, Modern Hebrew, Jewish and Israel program for pre-school and K-8, at our Center and on San Diego public school campuses. The “Shnat Mitzvah” program couples Hebrew with Israel education catering to families planning a Bar/Bat Mitzvah in Israel. Hebrew for High School Credit is also available. The Tarbuton two track Hebrew program meets the needs of Israelis and Americans, but brings the Israeli-American community together in our Israeli dance, music and drama programs, sports and martial arts Hebrew enrichment programs and community wide Jewish Holidays celebrations.
ABOUT TARBUTON, ISRAELI CULTURAL CENTER
Tarbuton modern Hebrew classes are offered in the Del Mar and Solana Beach schools. New classes are being explored for Encinitas, Carlsbad, and La Jolla as well. Who we Serve: Pre-school, K-8, High School Credit for Hebrew and Adults. Established: January, 2006 Children attend: 1-4 hours/week (Some students also attend Sunday Schools, Jewish Day School, Jewish Summer Camp and local youth groups) http://www.tarbuton.org Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 858-245-9375.
The Nitzan network is being led by one of their grantees, the Edah program in Berkeley, California. Nitzan is seeking additional funding to grow and sustain the budding network. http://www.nitzan.org/
Slingshot was created by a team of young funders as a guidebook to help funders of all ages diversify their giving portfolios with the most innovative and effective organizations and programs in North America. This guide contains information about each organization’s origin, mission, strategy, impact and budget, as well as details about its unique character. Now in its eighth edition, Slingshothas proven to be a catalyst for next generation funding and offers a telling snapshot of shifting trends in North America's Jewish community. The book, published annually, is available for free in hard copy and as a download at www.slingshotfund.org.
What I Want For My Children's Education
by Daniel Handwerker
My oldest child will be starting kindergarten next year, and I have been thinking about her Jewish education.
I am proud to raise my children in an ethnically and economically diverse neighborhood and to be part of a vibrant Jewish community. I live a block away from a public school where my children can get an excellent secular education. I also want them to benefit from Jewish learning that is engaging, rigorous, and appropriate to their needs. With two working parents, our family spends Saturday observing Shabbat, and we treasure Sunday for the family time when we can do things we don’t do on Shabbat.
One option for my kindergartener’s education is to spend around $20,000 to bus her to a day school miles away. That would pay for a secular education that would be approximately as good as the one at the public school, coupled with 15 to 20 hours per week of Jewish education. My other option is to send her to the public school down the block and pay around $1,000 to get three or four hours of supplemental education per week at a nearby synagogue. I’m planning to send her to public school, but I don’t think that three hours a week of Jewish education is sufficient and I’m willing to pay for more.
For anyone reading this who is mumbling that I should just send my daughter to day school, you’re in good company. I’ve lost track of the number of intelligent and passionate leaders of synagogues and synagogue schools who have told me that if I want a serious Jewish education for my children, day schools are the only choice.
Still, I am not alone in facing this choice and not choosing day school. According to recent surveys by the Avi Chai Foundation, there are 56,000 children attending supplemental schools in Conservative synagogues in the United States, and 13,000 children enrolled in Solomon Schechter day schools. Those 56,000 children whose parents can’t or don’t chose day schools have few other options for rigorous Jewish education during the school year.
I am also looking at another model that takes some inspiration from the old Talmud Torahs. In this model, on weekdays children get their secular education in public schools, and then they go directly to a Jewish school for Jewish education four days a week. Talmud Torahs were created as community schools in urban areas, but when Jews migrated to the suburbs their children moved away from those schools, which were not re-created in their new neighborhoods. This model can be revived and updated with everything we’ve learned about quality Jewish education in school and camp settings. (One modern benefit would be that Talmud Torahs provide childcare that helps working parents in the late afternoon.)
The Kesher Community Hebrew After Schools in the Boston area are probably the most established example inspired by this model. A few families in our neighborhood are trying to create this kind of program. We’re working with vibrant local Conservative synagogues – Tifereth Israel Congregation in Washington, DC, and Ohr Kodesh Congregation in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Ohev Sholom, a modern Orthodox synagogue in Washington, also has expressed some interest in this idea and has families considering participating. We are receiving our most direct inspiration and help from the Edah program at Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, California.
Edah began with one kindergarten class last fall. Its goal is to merge the experiential, structured learning that flourishes at highquality Jewish summer camps with a commitment to daily Jewish learning and Jewish community. The program began with a partnership between a group of parents and Netivot Shalom’s rabbi and director of lifelong learning. The program runs Tuesday to Thursday afternoons, beginning when the school buses arrive from public schools – between 1:30 and 2:45 – and goes for a total of 8 to 12 hours per week. On Thursdays, the Edah children join the synagogue’s religious school class. Plans call for the program to run five days a week in future years, with children attending at least three afternoons.
When they arrive, children can choose art, reading, or game activities. Each activity has Jewish content, and most involve Hebrew language. The children play a lot of games, play sports in Hebrew and do aleph-bet yoga, participate in outdoor and environmental learning experiences, cook, daven, study the parshat hashavuah, and much more. There are also full-day programs when the public schools are closed, and three full-week programs during school breaks.
Rena Dorph, a day-school graduate and Edah co-founder, said that the program is helping her child develop a sense of being Jewish in a secular world. She has heard kindergarteners discuss how to explain Judaism and kashrut to friends in their public schools. The regular transitions between a secular environment and a community of Jewish peers create a place for in-depth discussions like these. Rabbi Stuart Kelman, Netivot Shalom’s founding rabbi, who is a former day school principal and camp Ramah director and the grandparent of a child in the program, calls it “the first serious alternative in Jewish education that has come along in years.”
I hope to adapt some of these elements in our community. Although it is far from certain that we’ll have our program ready by the time my daughter enters kindergarten, the lay and professional leaders at Congregation Tifereth Israel and Ohr Kodesh Congregation are enthusiastic and willing to work with us. But translating enthusiasm into action is a challenge. Budgets are tight and neither synagogue has funds to invest in experiments, even if those experiments should be largely self-sufficient once they are fully running. It’s hard to recruit families for a program that doesn’t have a location or a schedule yet.
My vision is far from the only new model in Jewish education. For example, the winter 2010-11 issue of this magazine looked at Hebrew language charter schools. I am not personally interested in that model – I see no need to replicate the things that secular schools do well in my community. My vision, however, does share something with Hebrew charter schools – the central organizations of the Conservative movement are barely part of these efforts. The authors of two of the three articles in CJ supported a serious consideration of charter schools by the Conservative movement. The third article, from the head of the Solomon Schechter Day School Association, argued that it would be “demoralizing, counterproductive, and against the best interests of the existing institutions” for Schechter professionals to support charter school Jewish education.
Given limited money and staff, what role could the Conservative movement’s central organizations play in these efforts to innovate in Jewish youth education? Section 2 of United Synagogue’s recently passed strategic plan provides some surprisingly good guidance, as it talks about United Synagogue staff as connectors. For example, in CJ’s spring 2011 issue Rabbi Harry Pell described a Schechter day school’s curriculum on the evolution of halachah through modern times. A central Conservative organization like United Synagogue or the Jewish Educator’s Assembly could make such curricula available on public websites. Even if such a program can’t be replicated outside day schools, it could be a starting point for educators in traditional supplemental schools or newly designed programs. Organizations also could work with outside groups such as the TaL AM, which provides Hebrew language books and curricula to day schools, to adapt their resources for other education models and increase the number of Hebrew language educators trained in using such materials.
I want to see Conservative organizations identifying, documenting, and publicizing some of the many new education ideas happening within and outside the movement, so that educators and parents can spend less time reinventing the wheel. Where there are particularly exceptional programs, I want to see additional funds and the necessary support to replicate them. I want the synagogues in my neighborhood to learn about programs, like Edah, not because a random congregant – me – moved from California to Maryland, but because professionals are scouring the country for good programs to use. Even providing web pages where people could post and comment on programs, curricula, and lessons would be a huge help.
So what does movement infrastructure have to do with my vision for my children’s education? I’m just a parent with a mediocre Jewish education who is learning Jewish pedagogy in my spare time. I want my ideas to be heard by others, ripped apart, improved, and sent back to me so that what happens in my children’s classrooms is of higher quality than what I and a few overworked teachers and synagogue leaders could create on our own. I want to learn about new ideas from people with whom I have no direct connection. I want my children to understand they are not part of just their synagogue community, but of a world community of Jews who are working together to make sure their education is as engaging and high quality as possible. I want the institutions of the Conservative movement to have an active and valued role in this process.
Daniel Handwerker is a walking-distance member of Tifereth Israel Congregation in Washington, DC, and Ohr Kodesh Congregation in Chevy Chase, Maryland. He’s also a non-walking distance member of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, California. He grew up at the South Baldwin Jewish Center in Baldwin, New York.
THE JEWISH WEEK 10/3/2012: Jewish After-School Stressing Flexibility-- From Berkeley to Washington Heights, budding network offers families fresh alternatives.
For Rachel and Joel Silverman — a two-career couple in Atlanta — Hebrew school used to be yet another item on the family’s already crowded to-do list.
Monday through Friday, the working parents needed after-school care for their daughters. Then on Sundays, when the adults were home and eager for unstructured family time, they had to shlep the kids to Hebrew school.
Now, the after-school child care and Hebrew school are one and the same — Jewish Kids Groups (JKG) Afterschool Community, a new initiative combining informal Hebrew and Judaic instruction with standard after-school services like school pickup, snack, homework help and playtime.
“It’s the best of both worlds, and we got our Sundays back,” says Rachel Silverman.
JKG Afterschool, which launched in August, is part of an emerging group of independent Jewish after-school programs — among them a small, fledgling effort in Manhattan’s Washington Heights — starting up around the country. They are among many experiments currently taking place as the traditional Jewish education models — fixed-schedule day schools and synagogue-based Hebrew schools — are struggling to meet the needs of price-sensitive, time-limited and flexibility-seeking families.
While Kesher, a popular Jewish after-school program with two sites in the Boston area, has attracted national praise for over a decade, this is the first time people in so many other communities — from Berkeley, Calif., to Toronto to Chicago’s Hyde Park — are attempting such a model.
The new programs vary in their goals and structures.
The Washington Heights program, for example, a twice-weekly Hebrew-immersion option housed within the Y of Washington Heights & Inwood’s after-school program, was founded by a group of parents who had initially come together to establish a Hebrew charter school.
In contrast, the four-day-a-week Sulam — in Brookline, Mass. —aims to provide all the Judaic content of an elementary day school, with the goal of preparing students to transfer to a Jewish middle or high school. The program was developed by parents seeking a cheaper alternative to day school.
Meanwhile, Atlanta’s Jewish Kids Groups serves many parents who might not otherwise provide any Jewish education for their children. “The idea of paying for Jewish education is something they’re not used to, but they all pay for after-school,” says Ana Fuchs, JKG’s 29-year-old founder.
The new programs share a pluralistic approach and a commitment to offer more hours, more Hebrew, more content — and often more flexibility and convenience — than traditional synagogue-based Hebrew schools.
Through a network they are forming called Nitzanim — Hebrew for “buds” — leaders of eight new programs, who convened this summer at a New Jersey conference funded by the Covenant Foundation, are hoping to help one another and build a movement of sorts.
“We have common needs, like figuring out how to apply for nonprofit status and get health insurance for our teachers,” Fuchs says. “Sharing best practices is helpful for all of us, and none of us are in competition with each other.”
The idea of Jewish educational after-school programs is not entirely new, of course.
Boston’s Kesher, which many of the fledgling after-school programs describe as an inspiration, was founded in 1992 and currently enrolls about 160 children in two locations. Both the JCC in Manhattan (Upper West Side) and Jewish Community Project (Tribeca) in recent years experimented with replicating Kesher locally, but for various reasons the efforts did not take off.
Meanwhile, a group of after-school Judaic studies programs are emerging to serve students who attend Hebrew charter schools, where children learn Modern Hebrew but no religion.
Rena Dorph, the founder of Berkeley’s Edah, which launched in 2010 and now has 27 kids, came up with the idea of convening some of the fledgling groups this summer.
“In our pilot year we started to get calls from other organizations around the country,” she says. “People were finding synagogue-based options lacking in terms of substance but also format. For a working parent to shlep their kids from school to Hebrew school in the middle of their work day for only two to four hours a week, wasn’t a format that was viable for many parents.”
When Edah got a $50,000 Covenant Foundation grant this spring, Dorph asked the foundation if it would help bring the startups together for a “real conversation.”
Harlene Appelman, the executive director of the Covenant Foundation, describes the new movement as a “groundswell, grass-roots kind of conversation,” one that responds to a “common need.
“People are looking for alternative forms of after-school programs — that’s been going on forever,” she says, noting that Covenant awarded a grant to Kesher back in the mid-1990s.
Asked why previous attempts to replicate Kesher have failed to take off, Appelman suggests such efforts may need to start at a grass-roots level in order to flower.
Foundations and policy makers “don’t want people to reinvent the wheel, and we talk about scaling, but education in this domain is local,” she says. “Parents, advocates and idea champions need to totally own it themselves, and that’s what you’re seeing here. People who in many instances are parents who want their kids to get a different kind of education — and it’s not a mystery that after-school care in this society is a need.”
Edah’s Dorph, who attended a Jewish day school in Los Angeles throughout elementary and middle school, came upon the idea of Jewish after-school while doing research on after-school science programs in her position as the director for The Research Group at The University of California, Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science.
Such programs “tend to be very experiential and hands-on — they’re a great venue for youth development and growth as well as getting important science content and skills,” she says. “For me it was not a big leap to say this could work for Jewish learning too.”
Edah is open five days a week, in space rented from a Reform temple, and it requires children to register for a minimum of three days a week, unless they also attend a synagogue Hebrew school.
Like Edah, Atlanta’s JKG — which parent Rachel Silverman approvingly describes as a “chavurah for kids” — emphasizes community and an experiential approach.
At JKG, which currently has 20 students, children can sign up for anywhere from two to five afternoons a week, with each day focusing on a different theme. Tuesdays and Thursdays — “core content days” — are required.
Tamid NYC, a startup synagogue/Hebrew school also participated in the after-school meetings this summer, although — with a synagogue and a once-a-week approach — it is somewhat different from the other new programs.
Rabbi Michael Mellen, Tamid’s youth and education adviser, explains that what his new program in Lower Manhattan shares with the other programs is a focus on the needs of children coming directly from school, which include school pickup.
Rather than offering Hebrew school at one central location, Tamid’s program has multiple sites near popular public schools. And while children attend only once a week (choosing from an array of times and locations) for now, “part of where we could see it growing is in the direction of more options after school.”
Meanwhile, at the other end of Manhattan, five children are pioneers in another startup: Washington Heights’ Hebrew Language Immersion Class.
Initiated by parents, the program is being operated (and subsidized) by the Y of Washington Heights & Inwood; the Jerusalem-born teacher, Tamar Matza, used to work at a Hebrew charter school and specializes in teaching through the arts.
For now, the entire class — including the petite Matza — easily fits on a tiny blue rug in a small, third-floor room of the Y.
On a recent Thursday, four Washington Heights kindergarteners and first graders, a bit sleepy from the long school day, gathered there, absorbing basic Hebrew vocabulary — colors, animal names, body parts and adjectives like “fat” and “thin” — as they played with finger puppets, crayons, colorful buttons, cards and aleph-bet cubes.
“Shalom haverim,” they sang at the end, dancing in a circle, before returning to English and the regular after-school program for the rest of the day.
“We were looking for fun after-school activities in Hebrew so it wouldn’t feel like a burden,” says Yael Rotter, one of the program’s organizers, whose 6-year-old daughter is enrolled.
Another parent organizer, Graham Parker, says he likes how the track is integrated into the Y’s after-school program.
“Our son goes to the Y four days a week: Monday he has swimming, Tuesday Hebrew, Wednesday sports and Thursday Hebrew,” he says. “We want to make it fun, and his friends are there, so it’s easy, not a separate thing.”
E-mail: email@example.com Original link: http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/national-news/jewish-after-school-stressing-flexibility