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I am a Boomer with no farming experience. Once, in Los Angeles, I bought a red pepper plant and after picking the red pepper that came with the plant – was annoyed when new peppers came in green. I thought someone had tricked me. How should I know red peppers start out green?
I am also an anomaly among American Jews as I don’t feel quite right unless I belong to a synagogue; I may not go weekly, or be heavily involved, but that synagogue membership anchors me as a Jew.
So this is my personal background as I made a visit to Urban Adamah in Berkeley, CA. I went because I’m a big fan of UpStart, which helped UA launch itself. I love what young Jewish people are doing to refashion Judaism in ways that are meaningful to them, outside of traditional Jewish venues such as synagogues and JCCs. I love their passion and energy and understand they are the future of Judaism. Still, a farm….Old MacDonald with a yarmulke? I didn’t really see the point of it all – until I went there.
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Moving the Needle at Portland Jewish Academy
By Merrill Hendin, PJA Principal
Earlier this week I came upon some of our middle school students excitedly posting sticky notes on one of the walls in the school lobby. Their teacher was giving them space, watching them work from a distance. From their teacher I learned that they were working together to decide on a theme for our cross grade media exploratory project to produce a radio show. The level of energy and engagement with the process was palpable and contagious!
Why did this all seem familiar to me? THIS WAS DESIGN THINKING IN ACTION and I had just returned from participating in the day long Deep Dive at “Moving the Needle 2014,” the RAVSAK/PARDES conference in LA, on Design Thinking and Adaptive Leadership. I was a skeptic going into the Deep Dive. There were other seemingly more relevant Deep Dives in which my colleagues at PJA were participating. Our middle school Jewish Studies teacher was spending the day diving into Tefillah, our Hebrew and Jewish Studies director would be attending Effective Technology, Effective Education, our General Studies Director and School Counselor was ‘diving’ into Special Needs and the Diverse Classroom—which we were very grateful to see on the conference agenda as we continue our strategic planning in this area in our school—and of course the innovative Board Leadership Institute, which four of our board members attended.
I had used Design Thinking at school when, under the leadership of Sarah Blattner of Tamritz (former Technology Integration Specialist at PJA), a team of faculty participated in Social Media Bootcamp through Darim Online. I understood the ideas and liked what they could offer us as a school. But was an entire day the best use of my time?
Gross Schechter Day School in Cleveland, Ohio was recently chosen to participate as one of 15 Jewish Day Schools, and one of only two outside of the New York area, in the second year of the Day School Collaboration Network (DSCN).
DSCN is a joint project of The Jewish Education Project and Upstart Bay Area, made possible by a generous grant from UJA Federation of New York. This exciting new initiative utilizes Adaptive Leadership and Design Thinking to to create a shift in mind-sets and skill-sets that will lead to new forms of creativity, distributed leadership, and efficacy within and across schools.
In the DSCN, educators from across the religious spectrum address challenges facing individual schools while working together to bring new models and approaches to the broader field of Jewish day school education.
A team of four educators from Schechter participated in a two day retreat as part of the school’s involvement in the program. The educators included Early Childhood Center director Tracey Bortz, kindergarten teacher Orli Rabkin, fourth grade teacher Donell Newman, and middle school teacher Cheryl Stone. The four spent the retreat working side-by-side with teams from other schools and experts in Design Thinking and Adaptive Leadership.
Dr. Ari Yares, Head of School at Gross Schechter Day School, participated in the inaugural cohort of DSCN during the prior school year. Dr. Yares shared that “through the DSCN, we are acquiring new problem solving skills that allow us to tackle challenges and grow stronger by understanding the needs that underlie those challenges.”
The Jewish Education Project’s Director of Jewish Day School Leadership and Innovation, Rabbi Ed Harwitz, has been involved in the program since its inception. He commented that “The DSCN seeks to become the Silicon Valley of the Jewish day school world, a real location for creativity and measurable innovation.”
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Perhaps this year the Jewish community can commit itself to taking professional development to the next level, identifying what it might threaten if it is taken seriously, and learning to tolerate some discomfort, some awkwardness, for the sake of swifter, smoother, healthier movement.
I recently invested in swimming lessons. I love to swim; it is one of my regular ways of exercising. But when an old injury began hurting each time I was in the water, and when my father shared that he'd recently torn a rotator cuff while swimming, I decided that if I am going to continue swimming, I'd better get a few pointers. At first, the lessons were fun – I felt like a kid again. Then, I realized something. Each time I was in a lesson, I'd turn, stroke, and kick the way the instructor was teaching me. But each time I swam on my own, I'd revert to my old way of swimming, because it was faster, and more natural. It dawned on me that if I really were going to learn how to swim more efficiently and safely, I would have to endure an unknown period of transition time, during which I felt slow, awkward, and frustrated in the water. Since I've realized this, I've come up with every possible excuse not to swim.
There is often an aspect of loss involved in any change process.
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[eJP note: This piece was published on eJP on May 13, 2009. It is as relevant today as it was then.]
Dr. Anita Friedman, Executive Director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services, the oldest charity west of the Mississippi, and one of the most innovative and successful Jewish organizations in the United States, was this month’s featured speaker at UpStart’s Executive Director Round Table series. Bringing her stellar leadership experience of over thirty years, her sense of humor, and her honesty to the table, she wowed participants with her Yoda-like wisdom – “Your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness,” “I hated it so much that I decided to take it over,” “It’s the difference between a Sushi Restaurant and a Cold Dead Fish Restaurant” – and with her genuine passion and phenomenal knowledge about making organizations thrive.
Here is her top-ten list of essentials for creating, or transforming, an organization: