THIS WEEK: Staffers discuss the Forward’s list of inspirational rabbis, how Obama is doing in Israel and how Newark looks on a Philip Roth bus tour.Click here for the rest of the article...
Rabbi Herschel Schacter, a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, has died.Click here for the rest of the article...
“There are three paths to being an educator — a teacher, an academic or a policymaker,” Lincoln Center Chair Katherine Farley said of honoree Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, at the March 5 Lincoln Center Institute for the Arts in Education Gala. “She had been all three… and has a parallel career in philanthropy, with health care, education and the arts the focus of her generosity.”Click here for the rest of the article...
Rabbi Pinchas Punturello will begin work in southern Italy and Sicily to reach out to the Bnei Anousim, the descendants of Jews forced to convert to Catholicism centuries ago.Click here for the rest of the article...
“Special education is good education.” Have you heard that before? Some might even feel that this has become a cliché. It doesn’t matter, really, because it is true. Do you find yourself eager to believe it but struggling to make it a reality? Here are some strategies:
All students benefit from a multi-sensory approach to learning.
This is exactly what it sounds like; an approach to education that engages all of the senses. Some of us learn best by listening, some through reading. Some of us need to write something down to commit it to memory, others won’t remember well unless they repeat it back out loud. Utilizing multiple modalities increases the likelihood that the learning can be meaningful, relevant and lasting.
Station activities, or centers, benefit all learners.
Centers provide students with the opportunity to learn at their own pace as they explore a concept or practice a skill. All students benefit because centers enable the delivery of instruction to be differentiated according to individual students’ needs. The key to the successful use of centers in the inclusive classroom is thoughtful planning. Centers can be used effectively in a Hebrew classroom.
Every student thrives in a warm, caring atmosphere with established rules and a clear structure.
Make rules. Stick to them. It’s pretty much a no-brainer. You would be amazed at how challenging this can be for some teachers. But this is essential for a successful inclusive classroom.
Individualized expectations are fair.
Individualizing expectations are as fair for gifted students as they are for those with special needs; and everyone in-between. It is a misnomer that having different expectations for different students in the same classroom isn’t fair. Students should not be compared to one another or to an arbitrary level of expectation. All students should be working toward progress from their current level of functioning. This is the whole premise upon which an individualized education plan is built. Individualizing is not “dumbing down” the curriculum, it does not hold students back and it is not unfair.
These strategies are realistic and appropriate. And they are possible in an inclusive Hebrew or Jewish studies classrooms. I know because I have done it successfully.
Originally published at Jewish Special Needs Education
By Cantor Hayley Kobilinsky
Anyone who has attended an Oneg Shabbat will likely notice that the prayer over the wine, the Kiddush, is significantly longer than the brief “one-liner,” “borei p’ri hagafen,” said on other days of the week. I routinely see our young people eagerly awaiting the sweet taste of their thimble-full of grape juice and then stopping themselves just in the nick of time, because the cantor is still singing! The Kiddush is one of my favorite moments every Friday night not just because of the excitement on those children’s faces, but because of the way in which we make something ordinary into something holy. The Friday evening Kiddush, with its extended paragraph specifying the gift of Shabbat, makes what is already holy into something even holier. It makes that sip of wine sweeter, more important, more meaningful – all because we have it on Shabbat. It is no surprise that the High Holy Days would also highlight the theme of holiness, and would use a related term for that prayer, from the same three-letter root as Kiddush: K-D-SH, or “holy.”
The third benediction of the Amidah, the central portion of every prayer service said while standing, is on the theme of holiness, typically called the Kedushat HaShem (Holiness of God’s Name). This benediction has variants, traditionally depending upon whether one is praying alone or in a group, and, on the High Holy Days, receives a minor textual change referring to God instead as Sovereign Ruler. Like much of Jewish liturgy, changes occur depending on what day, or even time of day it is, and the High Holy Days are no exception. Thus on the High Holy Days, the Kedushat HaShem includes several insertions, all of which begin with “Uv’chein tein” (Therefore grant). One Chassidic melody is used with slight variations for each of the “Uv’chein” paragraphs arranged by contemporary Jewish composer Ben Steinberg. The following example, “Uv’chein tein kavod,” asks God to grant us honor, glory, hope, and joy (LISTEN). The “Uv’chein” additions muse on the theme of God’s sovereignty, but the importance of the holiday itself is given a special additional benediction, also using the term for holiness, the Kedushat HaYom (Holiness of this Day).
In my previous article about the music of the Rosh Hashanah Amidah, I referred to the Kedushat HaYom being extended not only in its function of musing on holiness, but also to replace thirteen other petitionary benedictions. (These omitted benedictions traditionally include prayers for granting us knowledge, helping us stay true to Torah, service, and repentance, forgiving our misdeeds, redeeming us, healing us, bringing us sustenance, gathering the exiled, judging us in fairness, and protecting us from harm at the hands of enemies.) Just as the Kiddush for Shabbat is appended with words about Shabbat, the spot for Kedushat HaYom on the High Holy Days is given extensions that are specific to the nature of the day. On Rosh Hashanah morning, the Kedushat HaYom consists of four separate paragraphs: 1. Atah v’Chartanu, 2. Ya’aleh v’Yavo, 3. M’loch, and 4. Kadsheinu b’Mitzvotecha. Examples of musical settings of these paragraphs include traditional examples of davvening and more contemporary examples. The words are often expressed using word painting and embellishment to elaborate on the themes, and may use word repetition, instrumentation, and multiple voices.
- Atah v’Chartanu gives thanks for our festivals, and notes Rosh Hashanah as the day on which the shofar is sounded. Listen for the three times that holiness is mentioned by the text (“v’kidashtanu,” “v’hakadosh,” and “kodesh”), and how differently the melody paints each example depending on its context: v’kidashtanu: God makes us holy through commandments; v’hakadosh: God’s name is holy; kodesh: This Day of Remembrance God gave us is holy. Also note the way in which the word “truah,” (blast) imitates the sound of the shofar (LISTEN).
- Ya’aleh v’Yavo asks for attention and blessing from God, often repeating the word “remember” (with the root Z-KH-R) in various forms (v’yizacheir, zichroneinu, v’zichron, etc.) The traditional High Holy Day nusach is combined with an English interpretation in the following example. It picks up from the middle of the prayer with the Hebrew “Zochreinu, Adonai Eloheinu, Bo l’Tovah” (Remember us, Adonai our God, for happiness), and continues with “This day remember us for well-being…This day bless us with Your nearness…This day help us to live. Amen (LISTEN).”
- M’loch continues the theme of the sovereignty of God. For a change of pace, here is a selection from a very traditional-sounding davvening chazzan (cantor). He sings accompanied by an organ and a second voice joins in harmony to embellish the words: “May every existing being know that You have made the world, may every breathing thing proclaim…” that Adonai is Sovereign (LISTEN).
- Kadsheinu b’Mitzvotecha refers to God sanctifying us with commandments and reminds that God’s words are true and enduring. In this last clip, the words come alive to a melody which could almost be mistaken as a lullabye. “Sanctify us with your commandments and grant us a share in your Torah, satisfy us with your goodness and gladden us with your deliverance (LISTEN).”
You may notice that the K-D-SH root is also at the beginning of Kadsheinu b’Mitzvotecha. We come full circle exploring the nature of holiness in the liturgy of one of our most holy days. It is my hope that my explication of these Hebrew words’ roots has not seemed pedantic in light of the much broader topic at hand. We frequently use the terms and concepts of holiness and remembering, as they are themes which run throughout our Jewish lives. Whether it is singing the Kiddush over wine on Shabbat, or sitting at a Pesach seder reciting and remembering we were slaves in Egypt, we make an effort to connect our modern day to the past. May our texts and our numerous varied melodies continue to remind us to be holy.
Hayley Kobilinsky is Cantor of Congregation B’nai Yisrael of Armonk, NY, where she has served for the past eight years. Hayley is also an adjunct professor at the Hebrew Union College’s Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music, and is President of Kol Hazzanim – Westchester Community of Cantors. Hayley recently began assisting in the coordination of Thursdays’ 10 Minutes of Torah.
Mazel tov to the 36 individuals – including 10 Reform rabbis – included in the Jewish Daily Forward recently released list of America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis. The list includes 36 rabbis who, editor Jane Eisner says, are “shaping 21st-century Judaism.” Among them are following Reform rabbis, all nominated by their congregants and others with whom they work:
- Rabbi Andy Bachman (Congregation Beth Elohim, Brooklyn, NY)
- Rabbi Bradd Boxman (Temple Kol Tikvah, Parkland, FL)
- Rabbi Valerie Cohen (Beth Israel Congregation, Jackson, MS)
- Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn (Temple Israel of Greater Kansas City, Prairie Village, KS)
- Rabbi Lisa Edwards (Congregation Beth Chayim Chadashim, Los Angeles, CA)
- Rabbi Elyse Goldstein (City Shul, Toronto, Ontario)
- Rabbi Ellen Lippmann (Kolot Chayenu/Voice of Our Lives, Brooklyn, NY)
- Rabbi Janet Marder (Congregation Beth Am, Los Altos Hills, CA)
- Rabbi Amy Perlin (Temple B’nai Shalom, Fairfax Station, VA)
- Rabbi Mark Sameth (Pleasantville Community Synagogue, Pleasantville, NY)
Of the list and its nomination process, Eisner writes,
The rabbis profiled on these pages, and the hundreds more suggested by Forward readers, teach us a profound lesson about the yearnings of American Jews at this fraught moment in time.
I didn’t expect such a lesson. When we initiated this project, I hoped to engage readers and hear stories about rabbis in unlikely places as we embark on a yearlong series examining the embattled American rabbinate. I did not expect to receive a deluge of heartfelt responses so compelling that it was difficult to select the 36 profiled here.
And the lesson from these 36, a special number in our tradition, is that American Jews, regardless of denomination, geography or gender, harbor a deep longing for spiritual leadership — and respond to it not only in synagogue, but in classrooms, Hillels and hospices. They yearn for rabbis who touch the soul and create community.
These rabbis offer that kind of leadership. Whether the broader rabbinate can do so may hold the key to the future of the American Jewish community.View the full list at the Forward, and tell us – who’s the most inspiring rabbi in your life?
Who travels to Miami in the coldest, rainiest week that Florida has seen this winter? I do. My excuse? I was one of 40 or so composers whose pieces (you can listen to mine here) were selected for presentation at the Fifth International Festival held by Shalshelet, the Foundation for New Jewish Liturgical Music – and I was one of only a few composers there who are not professional musicians.
Needless to say, it was humbling to be included in such lofty company. As part of the festival, I got to sing in ensembles and perform the works of other composers along with talented conductors, cantors, and cantors-to-be. For someone who likes to sing and loves to be where music is happening, it was an awesome experience, despite the dismal weather.
Shalshelet’s mission is to enhance spirituality and build community through the creation and dissemination of Jewish sacred music, and the festival certainly did that. It included composers from Canada, Russia, the United States, and other places, and showcased a variety of music from klezmer to emotional Yiddish ballads to “campfire” songs to serious, academic works to Eastern-influenced Kirtan-type tunes. They lifted up text from psalms, highlighted life-cycle moments, and celebrated special occasions.
My piece is designed to do all three. At my synagogue, we tend to harmonize during any service and our choir sings at special events—like Jewish book breakfasts, Interfaith Thanksgiving gatherings, and Martin Luther King Day celebrations. So I wrote a song that can be sung in any of those situations, using text from Psalm 92, the psalm for Shabbat, verse 5:
Ki simachtani Adonai b’fo-olecha—Your miracles, Adonai, make me happy
B’ma-asei yadecha aranein—I rejoice in the works of Your hands
I like this phrase because it emphasizes the relationship and love between God and human beings. We’re not just buttering God up here so we can then petition for something else. In this phrase, we actually appreciate Gods works and our life. How often have we witnessed or seen something spectacular—one of God’s marvels—and just appreciated God’s creations?
Now that we are approaching Passover, the sweet musical experience of Shalshelet stays with me. Like in Song of Songs, which we’ll read on the sabbath that falls during Passover, Psalm 92:5 recognizes the essential togetherness of God and people who worship Him.
As we sit around the seder table and retell the story of liberation from slavery, let us savor the numerous opportunities we’ll have to break out in song with the many tunes of this holiday, be they traditional, regional, or brand new and of our own creation.
Awesome news! Last week, the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) and ARZA, the Association for Reform Zionists of America, announced that there are now 40 Reform Jewish congregations in Israel. New Reform communities in Megiddo, Gilboa, Shoham, Kibbutz Beit HaShitta, the Arava and Caesaria have begun meeting for prayer, study and activities, as well as have chavurot in Be’er Sheva, Haifa, and the Jerusalem neighborhood of Kiryat HaYovel.
Rabbi Bennett F. Miller, National Chair of ARZA, said of this development, “The fact that there are now some 40 Reform congregations in Israel represents a powerful shift in the meaning of affiliation for Jews in Israel. Forty congregations today is a giant leap forward. We are near the tipping point which means that soon the number of Reform congregations will grow exponentially. And that can only be good for Israel and for the Jewish People all over the world.”
In addition to these 40 congregations, the Israel Reform Movement also operates 50 preschool classrooms, eight schools, 25 women’s groups affiliated with the Women of Reform Judaism, a Mechinah program (pre-army leadership training and social action) with twice as many qualified applicants as openings, and Beit Midrash B’Derech, a post army young adult “live and learn” community. Israel’s active Reform youth movement, Noar Telem, runs a summer camp for 700 participants, coupled with year-round youth activities. The Israel Religious Action Center conducts a vibrant advocacy and legal program and Keren B’Kavod serves as the humanitarian arm of the Reform Movement in Israel.
Approximately 80% of Israeli Jews consider themselves secular, and 34% of them identify Reform Judaism as the movement they most closely identify with, yet the Reform Movement’s Israeli communities serve only 20% of that population. ARZA is dedicated to providing the financial resources to help the IMPJ open new congregations in more locations, meeting the needs of this growing movement.
Jewish Education Portal JerusalemOnlineU.com Teams Up with Write On For Israel for an Advocacy Training Webinar.
(PRWeb February 14, 2013)
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/2/prweb10428868.htm
The Jewish Journal reported this week on the growing trend of teenagers exiting Jewish life once their b’nai mitzvah experiences come to an end – and what the Reform Movement is doing about it. Reporter Ryan Torok writes,
When Isa Aron considers b’nai mitzvah today, she gets the impression that parents — and sometimes synagogues — care more about their son or daughter performing flawlessly when on the bimah than they do about their forming lasting connections to Judaism.
“The moment itself is wonderful because the kid is up there performing and all that, but Jewish value of the moment is not really in there,” said Aron, co-director of the B’nai Mitzvah Revolution, an initiative launched in partnership by the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) to radically change the ritual.
Those who gathered in Long Beach for the Reform Movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis convention learned more about the initiative on March 5 from Aron’s co-director, Rabbi Bradley Solmsen.
“One of the major places where we are engaging youth or disengaging youth is around the aftermath of the bar mitzvah,’” Solmsen said. “People find the bar mitzvah experience itself very fulfilling, but then they check out. It’s more a graduation ceremony than anything else.”
A study from the Avi Chai Foundation supports Solmsen’s claim. According to its 2006-07 census of Jewish supplementary schools in the United States, “The dropout phenomenon after bar/bat mitzvah is dramatic. More than one-third of students drop out after grade 7 and then the rate of decline accelerates so that by grade 12 only one-seventh of the number of seventh-graders is still enrolled.”
Tackling the issue in several ways, the B’nai Mitzvah Revolution has created a pilot cohort of 14 congregations across the country that is working on experiments to change b’nai mitzvah preparation and the ceremony itself. Los Angeles-area synagogues that are participating include Temple Isaiah and Stephen S. Wise Temple.