Robyn (Year '08, PEP '10) is a third-year teacher.
She teaches High School Judaics at the Emory/Wiener School
in Houston, where she will continue in the fall.
My name is Robyn Miller. Typically, May is not a good time to ask me about my life as a teacher. I’m about to finish my third year of teaching, although in many ways it’s been like my first (as I moved from elementary to high school teaching after year two). In May of my second “first year” of teaching, my primary goal is to make it to the finish line without permanently scarring anybody. However, with three weeks left to completing my Pardes commitment, it’s a great time to reflect on my experience as I start to think about what’s next.
Three years ago, I was terrified to have my own classroom. I didn’t feel I had the stamina or the knowledge to produce a year’s worth of lessons. Still, I had a commitment to fulfill, so I had to make the best of it. There were a few things I knew for sure: 1. Absolutely no middle school, 2. High school would be a heck of a lot of work, and 3. I wanted to live somewhere warm. So I started Continue reading →
Tamara Frankel (PEP '09-'11) is in her second year of
teaching at Chicagoland Jewish High School.
It’s one of the first sunny days in Chicago this spring and my students beg me to take them outside for class. We negotiate and decide to review our homework in class, on the board, and then go outside to start the next sugya. Eleven rambunctious and extremely insightful freshmen sit on the grass beside the bleachers while I stand up top. I ask my students to imagine that they are at the foot of Mount Sinai and that God is holding the mountain over their heads, expecting—maybe even threatening—them to accept the Torah. If not, they will die.
My students think I’m crazy. I tell them that Rav Avdimi recounts this dramatic “filling-in-the-gaps” of a pasuk in Shmot 19:17: “ויתיצבו בתחתית ההר” “And they [the Israelites] stood at attention at the foot of the mountain”. For a moment, I’m off the hook; I could never make up this story! Continue reading →
The loss of Mike Rosenak is of particular significance to the world of Jewish education, and certainly to Pardes. Mike was an early leader of Pardes and saw and promoted its promise. From my vantage point, he was interested in two large ideas. The first was the creation of two groups – the first was an educated laity who would incorporate the enthusiasm for Jewish living into the very fiber of their beings. He saw Jewish communal living as well as Jewish text study as vehicles for the creation of, as he put it, these “lively and alive” young Jews. The second group was a new core of Jewish educators who Continue reading →
In Rabbi Meir Schewiger’s Parashat ha-Shavuah (weekly Torah Portion) class, while learning Sefer Shemot (Book of Exodus), we spoke about the desert as a place where one goes to prepare for Torah study. When B’nei Yisrael (Children of Israel) leave Egypt, they flee through the desert and are on the run until they get to Yam Suf (Red Sea) and cross to safety. Even after getting to Har Sinai (Mt. Sinai) and receiving the Torah, they still spend another 40 years in the desert wandering and preparing to enter into the Land. On the festival of Shavuot, we celebrate Zman Matan Torateinu (our receiving of the Torah at Sinai). We have just finished counting the Omer, the period of time from Pesach up to Shavuot and while we have now received the Torah and have celebrated this by a long night of learning and Torah study, B’nei Yisrael is still in the desert. For the rest of this year, leading up to the Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe) and Simchat Torah, we will continue to follow them as they travel through the wilderness in preparation for their entry into Eretz Yisrael (Land of Israel). I liked the idea of the desert as a place for preparation and when I thought back over the last few years of my life I began to like it even more.
In the fall of 2010, I had been living and working at home in Connecticut, teaching in the Jewish community for a year after graduating college and I was ready for a change. I volunteered with the Kibbutz Program Center and after consulting with friends of friends, was placed on Kibbutz Yahel in the very south of Israel, about a 40 minutes north of Eilat in a region called the Arrava. Arrava means wilderness and this was exactly what I found when I got there. This was the absolute middle of Continue reading →
Yesterday was a special day at Pardes. Not because Meir was roaming the halls with a mass of students, singing at the top of his lungs, although that was part of it. Not because there was dancing in the beit midrash, although that was part of it as well. The occurrences above, while special, have been seen from time to time at Pardes before.
But, this time, the spirited nigunnim sung in the halls and the circle dancing in the middle of the beit midrash were in celebration and commemoration of a Hachnasat Sefer Torah, the welcoming in of a Torah that was given to the Pardes community. This sefer torah was brought into our community with a number of meaningful rituals: It was brought, under the shade of a tallit, to every classroom where Torah was being learned that morning; it was escorted through the halls in which endless conversations referencing the impact of Torah study can be heard; and it was passed, from person to person, around the beit midrash, out to Continue reading →
Should our students be allowed to study Torah on an iPad?
Does it change the Kedusha of the text?
For thousands of years Jewish tradition was rooted in the oral passing of history. In the first and second century when Yehuda HaNassi compiled the Mishna, he changed the future of Jewish education. I can see the riots and criticism he must have dealt with from the ‘traditionalists’ and others who thought he was lessening the importance of learning these sacred pieces of our religion. However much it changed when the Mishna was compiled, the move towards Continue reading →
Over the past couple of weeks, students in their first year of the Pardes Center for Jewish Educators have been participating in a Devar Torah workshop with DLK (Rabbi David Levin-Kruss). This is the Devar Torah I wrote to be presented at the workshop yesterday, for Parashat Emor. Please keep in mind that this was written for middle school students and it is written to be read aloud. Emor has a many parts and it was hard to decide what to focus on, especially since I needed to find something Continue reading →
Over these past few weeks I have been reading Steven R. Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People as part of my coursework in Jewish educational leadership. Covey’s message and delivery are inspiring, and I highly recommend to this book to anyone and everyone. Its main premise is that leaders are most effective when they are, first and foremost, committed to and guided by principles of a universal and eternal character ethic. These principles enable them to prioritize their goals and forge authentic relationships with their colleagues in a way that cultivates their talents and spurs them toward greatness. Ostensibly intended for a business management audience, The Seven Habits has implications for every individual. Continue reading →
Lisa Narodick Colton (Year '99-'00) reflects upon the impact of a recent trip to Israel with her son.
I was 21 years old when I first came to Israel. A summer in Tzvat begged more questions than it answered, and I returned for 15 months in Jerusalem (including Pardes) to fill in the openings.
This Pesach I brought my 8 year old son to Israel for the first time. I’ve known since before I had children that I wanted them to have an intimate and informed relationship with Israel embedded in their Jewish identity from an early age. And while I have dreamed of coming back to Israel for years, it was hard to choose the age and time and itinerary that would achieve this effect. Continue reading →
Naomi Minsky (Year '13, PEP '15) came to Pardes this year
for the Year Program, and will be returning next year as a
member of the Pardes Educators Program!
Since my teenage years I secretly wanted to pursue a career as a doctor. This is not because I am scientific and enjoy learning about the human anatomy. In fact, I go into panic-mode at the sight of blood. I was attracted to helping others live life to the full. Thankfully I have found an alternative route to achieve my aim.
Unlike medicine Jewish education does not literally save lives. However, it supports people to have meaningful experiences and relationships. It is a way to help others appreciate Judaism and approach it with confidence. My Bat Mitzvah involved facing the community and saying the shema prayer. The whole time I looked directly at my grandparents. They were sitting in the front row saying the words back to me. I am indebted to my Jewish education teaching me that the shema is an affirmation of Jewish identity and love of G-d. I felt the beauty of the experience as I was connected to my family, community and religious tradition simultaneously. Jewish identity today is multifaceted, for some it is Continue reading →