HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal
Responses to “The Torah of Relevance” in the summer issue
The Torah is an ancient book that presents great ideas in simple, accessible language. Thus the Torah invites any reader, teachers and students alike, to study its plain meaning or peshat. That’s the product we have. That’s what we’re “selling” and what we want our students to “buy.” When students are invited to dig into the text, and thereby gain mastery, matters of relevance melt away. Guided as they encounter the text, they will ask challenging questions, tease out meaning, argue with each other and eventually develop their own understandings of basic Jewish ideas.
The idea of relevance is the dinosaur in this matter.
Tzivia Garfinkel, Chicago
While at Army training this summer, I shared this article with colleagues from various Christian denominations at Army Chaplain School. Each of them had a similar response. CH Eran McNeal, a Protestant minister from the Seattle area, stated, “Rabbi Grossman states that dinosaurs are exciting to little children because they are irrelevant to these children. I disagree. Little children, my son included, are excited about dinosaurs because of the wonder, might and power of these creatures from long ago. Also, these dinosaurs are relevant because they speak to God’s creativity and His power. If God put that much care into the creation of the dinosaur, then how much more care did God take in creating humanity in the image of God? The Bible is relevant because it illuminates my life. If it was not for the relevancy of God’s word, we would all be lost and blind without a light to guide our path.”
Perhaps we in Jewish education need to broaden our depth and understanding of text, rather than narrowing it to only context and relevance. We need to have text study for its own sake, with discussion that both connects to their lives and brings out the awesomeness of that text. It is not an alternate reality, but part of our shared reality. It is not “Narnia.” The Torah is as relevant as it is awesome; we cannot teach one without the other. If we do, then it will become irrelevant and mundane and may as well be describing an alternate, extinct reality.
Rabbi Michael Gisser, Greensboro, North Carolina♦
Take part in the conversation! HaYidion welcomes letters to the editor; send your thoughts to Hayidion@ravsak.org.
RAVSAK announces a major new strategic initiative to connect school leaders and enhance their abilities to learn together and from one another: Reshet RAVSAK, a series of networks connecting a wide range of stakeholders to enable shared growth and support. RAVSAK will both curate and weave these networks. We will identify those with particular talents and knowledge, allowing them to shine and share, and forge connections that enhance mutually beneficial relationships. Each of the individual networks that will form Reshet RAVSAK will be organized in partnership with professionals and lay leaders active in the community day school field.
RAVSAK will work with Reshet participants to set ambitious agendas aimed at having the greatest impact on their work. Reshet RAVSAK will enable participants to find information they need, discover rich and vital resources and connect with people who possess knowledge and experience that can inspire them and their schools to new heights. Reshet RAVSAK will utilize a wide range of technologies including monthly conference calls, webinars, resource websites, listservs, social media and other technology platforms.
With 125 member schools and their professionals and board members, the RAVSAK network offers tremendous opportunities for collective learning and action. The power of a network comes from the ability of its members to both harness the field’s collective wisdom and access the wealth of individual expertise. Networked learning can help combat a sense of isolation among many in the field by providing access to peer-to-peer learning, collaboration and creativity.
The success of our network weaving rests not only on our creativity and efforts, but on the participation of the professionals and lay leaders in the network who have wisdom to offer, questions to ask and ideas to share. We need you! Sign up for Reshet ECE, RAVSAK’s first network for early childhood administrators (p. 63).
The next Reshet that RAVSAK will launch is Reshet JD, for Judaic directors. We are pleased that Rabbi Stuart Light of the JDS of Metro Seattle, Tzivia Garfinkel of BZAEDS in Chicago, Sharon Freundel from JPDS in DC, and Rabbi Jack Nahmod from Heschel in New York have agreed to co-chair the Reshet. They are working to shape an agenda that meets the needs of Judaic directors at RAVSAK schools. If you have ideas of topics to include or conversations you’d like to have, email them at email@example.com. Please look for the announcement for the first meeting of Reshet JD this fall.♦
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