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March of the Living Teens exiting Auschwitz

The BJE March teaches powerful lessons of Jewish history and personal Jewish identity with a profound impact on participants. On Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Los Angeles delegation, along with...

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For 84 years, BJE has been the only organization wholly dedicated to Jewish education in Los Angeles, across the religious spectrum and in all aspects. More than half of the money we raise to provide educational opportunities to young people in our community comes from individuals like you. BJE's Annual Campaign runs from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021. We’re grateful for your support and can’t do it without you.

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BJE presents our summer mini-camp
Event
July 14, 2021 at 10:00am

For rising 11th and 12th graders seeking opportunities to do some good during summer break, BJE has an answer. BJE’s ATID is a two-day intensive for LA teens exploring values, advocacy topics and ways in which each person...

BJE Builders
Mar 15, 2021

As a Jewish early childhood program, the IKAR ECC draws from Jewish traditions, culture, and practice to offer children a rich experience in which their Jewish identity can thrive, their social consciousness can be deepened, and they can establish roots in a love for their heritage.

Here at IKAR, we are inspired by the grassroots, egalitarian nature of our community. Our educators and families approach children’s Jewish learning with sensitivity, respect and collaboration, all of which are also tenets of the Reggio Emilia philosophy. With our emphasis on multi-sensory experiences, music, art, and dramatic play, the IKAR ECC’s overarching goal has been to bring the joy of Judaism to even the youngest of our community. Woven into everyday learning is the richness of our Hebrew language, the beauty of our cultural traditions, and an inclusive, progressive approach to religious practices. 

Beth Weisman, who brought with her more than a decade of experience as a Jewish early childhood educator and administrator before coming to IKAR, founded the IKAR ECC in 2010. She fell in love with this spiritual community and worked closely with families to launch an ECC founded on the tenets of respect, gratitude, best developmental practices, and a deep love of Judaism in its most inclusive form. Jane Rosen is in her fifth year as Director of Education at IKAR’s ECC. She brings with her a rich and multi-dimensional background in early childhood education, clinical psychology, art therapy, and parenting expertise. 

In addition to our amazing administrators, the IKAR ECC strives to find the most qualified, experienced early childhood educators from varied backgrounds (Reggio Emilia, Jewish Emergent Education, Special Education, Hebrew language). We embrace an inclusive co-teacher model in our classrooms that recognizes the value of every staff member. Our staff has a deep love for and knowledge of Judaism. We emphasize developmental practices through the lenses of tikkun olam and tzedakah, and we seek to see and love every child for who they are in this world. 

In response to the pandemic, we now offer a distance learning track, in addition to implementing CDC and DPH protocols for our on-campus instruction.

We have limited class size for our on-campus instruction, and there is no sharing of spaces or materials between classes. We have also created a staggered drop-off and pick-up schedule, and do not allow any external adults to enter the campus, in order to help limit everyone’s exposure and improve safety.

Dr. Jane Rosen and Beth Weisman were recognized at BJE's Out of the Box Gala on February 5, 2021.  To learn more about IKAR's Early Childhood Center, please visit their website by click here.

BJE E-News
Jun 18, 2021

By Rabbi Jim Rogozen

Recent articles and gatherings, including Prizmah’s Mental Health Summit, have addressed a growing concern about mental health issues in our schools. While creating initiatives to address the mental health needs in our school communities is necessary, the long-term success of these efforts is not guaranteed. 

What often happens in schools is that an identified problem, or even an opportunity to improve something, leads to initiatives (or innovations) that are poorly or incompletely implemented, or dropped entirely. In some cases, the problem was misdiagnosed, the solution did not match the problem, the initiative was not well thought out or even needed. It can also happen that the process of engaging the faculty was too top-down and, as a result, there was no real buy-in from teachers. 

Just as often, however, the reason for failure is that the school simply did not have the bandwidth to take on a new project. As one colleague used to say, “More things get piled on our plates, but no one gives us more people or more plates!”

Change Management

Adhering to successful practices in change management will ensure that your initiative in mental health will be well conceived and planned. If you are the one(s) being tasked to introduce new mental health programming, here’s what you need to do so things don’t get messy. 

In the language of organizational management, projects that succeed pay attention to a school’s institutional capacity (people, funding, time, management systems, leadership, communication protocols, relationships, technology, ability to assess and monitor) and the school’s institutional readiness (change management skill sets, history of success, ability to plan, role clarifications, history of collaboration, relationships, consensus on purpose/goals/outcomes, ability to adapt). In other words, your school community may want to solve a problem, or launch an initiative, but you have to ensure that you have the necessary resources and readiness to do so. As leadership guru Warren Bennis points out, it’s the difference between the “desire to do things right” versus the “ability to do the right things.”

Administrators are under pressure to innovate, to run “cutting edge” schools, to be first out of the gate to adopt a new educational approach or curriculum. This pressure comes from a variety of sources: board members, donors, parents, even teachers. Some pressure is good. A school should examine its practices and strive for improvement. This is healthy and should be encouraged by the school’s administration, as well as its board. 

But a successful school will manage pressure, stick with programs and encourage faculty partnerships. Schools would be wise to follow Douglas Reeves’s Rule of Six: no more than six initiatives at any one time. This includes both new projects and other recently launched initiatives. Peter Drucker famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” I would like to suggest that a lack of institutional capacity and readiness eats school culture for lunch. 

Using the concepts of “institutional capacity” and “institutional readiness,” and engaging your entire school community in this process, is a good way to ensure that your school does the right things, and does them well.

Checklist for a New Program

I would like to propose some questions you and your leadership team might consider asking before launching a new mental health initiative. While the focus here is on mental health, I believe that the following approach can work with all kinds of initiatives.

As you go through this list, I suggest you keep this mantra in mind:

Tafasta merubeh, lo tafasta (the more you grasp, the less you really have). Do fewer things, better. 

Capacity and Readiness Inventory

Defining the Problem

What is the (specific) problem we are trying to solve?
What does it look like? 
How is it impacting our students, teachers, families, others? 
How important is it? What is the priority?

Why Should We Tackle this Problem?

How does addressing this issue fit in with our mission and vision?
Which of the school’s core values are guiding us here?
Will this initiative force us to drop something from our ongoing strategic plan?
What if we don’t tackle this problem?

How Will We Discuss This?

Who are the key people involved in looking at this issue? 
Where will we get our information about this?
Who needs to know about it? 
What do various constituencies need to know about it? 
Do we have a shared vocabulary—mental health terms, planning terms (goal, input, outcome), education terms (curriculum, unit, lesson, learning goal, assessment)?

Making Decisions

Who will be part of making decisions (about program content, resources needed, prioritizing)? 
Who will “own” this decision? 
Who will decide what other goals or projects will have to be put on hold?

Planning 

How much time will it take to plan this initiative? 
How many meetings (# hours) will we need for this? 
What other meetings will drop off in order to do this?
Who has to be at what kind of meeting (planning, budget, curriculum, other)?
Do teachers have time to attend some or all of our planning meetings?
What combination of “plug and play” resources and teacher-made programs are we aiming for?
What will drop out of our regular classroom and large-group educational programming?
How much will it cost to implement?
What role does technology play in this? 
What will be the role of parents?

Implementation

Who is in charge of implementing the initiative and individual program(s)? 
Have roles been delegated clearly (goals, how to get things done, assessment protocols)?
How will administrators adjust their workload/other assignments for this to be successful?
Will we need to add hours/salary to make this happen?
How many meetings (# hours) will we need for ongoing management of this initiative? 
What other meetings will drop off in order to do this?
Who has to be at what meeting?
Do teachers have time to do this?
What tasks will the Head of School take on in this effort?

Communication

What will the board and administration communicate to others (parents, teachers, student, donors)? How often?
In what venues will the Head of School address this?
What educational/mental health resources will the school make available to teachers and parents?

Assessment

What are the criteria for success for each part of our initiative?
How will we measure? How often will we measure? Who will measure?
Are we willing to allow ongoing assessments to lead to midstream changes in the program?
Will teachers be evaluated on how they implement?
Will administrators be evaluated on how they implement?
How will the school celebrate progress/success?

Covid Questions

How will post-Covid needs/demands add to the school’s already long to-do list?
How will post-Covid needs/demands impact the daily schedules of teachers/administrators? 

Mental Health Sensitivity Questions

What are the prevailing beliefs/attitudes about mental health in the school community?
If there are stigmas attached to mental health, what advanced work must be done to overcome them so that programming will be successful

________________

At this point, you may ask, “Isn’t this a lot of front-loading to undertake before beginning to address mental health issues in our school?” I get it. The need is great and you want to do something NOW. 

Here’s one answer: Growing up in LA, I was used to seeing cast members wear T-shirts that advertised their upcoming movies. A shirt for a movie about stuntmen called Stunts had the following tag line: “Forget the dialogue, let’s break something!” Unlike movie stunts, your goal isn’t to break things; it’s to repair what’s broken. Like a carpenter, you need to measure twice and cut once. 

Another answer: We read in the Friday night Lecha Dodi prayer: “Sof ma’aseh bemachshavah techilah”—start with the ends in mind. If you don’t know where you’re going or how to get there, you won’t accomplish what you need to, and you’ll be frustrated. Take the time to plan and you’ll ensure success. In the end, you’ll be glad you did.

This article was originally published on Jun 14, 2021 in Prizmah.org

Rabbi Jim Rogozen is the director of BJE LA’s Center for Excellence in Early Childhood and Day School Education. He oversees the agency’s wide range of support to 34 affiliated day schools and 57 affiliated early childhood programs. Jim served as a head of school for 29 years, primarily at Gross Schechter Day School in Cleveland. He served as the chair of the Northern California Day School Principal’s Council for seven years, as the chair of the Schechter Principals’ Council, and the board chair of the Schechter Day School Network. He was also on the founding executive board of RAVSAK.

Girl with Israeli flag
BJE Thought Leaders
May 24, 2021

By Dr. Gil Graff

I recall one of the first BJE professional development sessions I attended as a teacher at a BJE-affiliated school decades ago. The speaker was Rabbi Harold Schulweisz"l. The gist of his message was that anti-Semitism and the Holocaust could not serve as a compelling platform for Jewish education. The “case” that Jews have been persecuted and killed as Jews, and that successive generations owe it to such ancestors to carry on the Jewish heritage, would not, he argued, speak to the hearts and minds of children and teens. In fact, if the central motif of Judaism is suffering and persecution, a student might well conclude that distancing herself/himself from that legacy is well advised. While honoring the memory of those who were killed and combatting prejudice and hatred are important responsibilities, Judaism, he urged, should be taught and experienced as a path to leading a meaningful life.  

I thought of Rabbi Schulweis’sz"l remarks in reflecting on two recent phenomena, an uptick in anti-Semitic incidents and condemnation of Israel, in connection with its response to missiles launched from Gaza. For decades, American Jews, by and large, felt that anti-Semitism in American society was on the wane. This has changed, as reflected in the fact that, while the 2013 Pew Center study of American Jewry did not examine attitudes about anti-Semitism, the 2020 study included several questions probing the subject. More than half of American Jews indicated that they feel less safe as a Jewish person in America than they did five years ago.  

In recent weeks, missile warfare between Hamas and Israel evoked a variety of responses among Americans, Jews and non-Jews. Support of Israel’s fundamental right and responsibility to protect her inhabitants was voiced by many, including the President of the United States; at the same time, calls for Israel to desist from military action were vigorously expressed. In the face of contemporary realities, what can educators and parents share with students/children charting their lives as Jews in the United States, in the third decade of the twenty-first century?

There is, of course, no simple answer. As reflected in the Pew study, there are many ways that people define their Jewishness. Whether one sees Jewishness as peoplehood, a religion, a way or life, a culture, or anything else, identity as a Jew emerges from a sense that there is something positive about that peoplehood, religion, or culture. Judaism is a matter of lived experience; creating meaningful and joyous Jewish experiences in which the learner is an actively engaged participant, at school and at home, is an essential starting point for appreciating that Jewishness is of positive value.  

That there are people who hold prejudices vis a vis various “others” is, regrettably, so ubiquitous as to be commonly recognized by our students and children. Millennia ago, the Torah directed Jews to draw upon memory of enslavement in Egypt as a catalyst for treating the “other” with dignity. Though Rabbi Schulweisz"l did not see Holocaust memory as a foundation on which to build a platform for Jewish life, he was a co-founder of Jewish World Watch, “seeking to inspire people of all faiths and cultures to join the ongoing fight against genocide.” The classical texts and lived experiences of Jews have served to inspire action toward building a more perfect world; a world free of prejudice. By personal example, expressed values, study, and projects in which students can actively engage, we can help successive generations embrace this quintessentially Jewish response to prejudice.  

Sovereignty in the State of Israel has, for the first time in nearly two millennia, provided an opportunity for a Jewish majority to develop a national society that draws upon the wellspring of Jewish values and experience. Israel’s founding proclamation, May 14, 1948, declared, inter alia, that the new state would “be based on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace taught by the Hebrew prophets.” As with the U.S. Declaration of Independence, implementation of the founding document remains a work in progress; it is a vision by which social progress can be judged and guided. The growth and development of Israeli society over the past seventy-three years is, notwithstanding shortcomings – which Israelis do not hesitate to identify, freely critique, and look to rectify – quite remarkable.

There are competing narratives with respect to the State of Israel. For Jews, renewal of Jewish sovereignty in the land central to Jews and Judaism for millennia is a dream come true. For many Arab Palestinians, the “Zionist entity” represents colonialism. “Free Palestine” is not, typically, a call for a Palestinian state alongside a Jewish state; it is often a call for an Arab Palestine that has no place for Jewish sovereignty, within any borders that might be imagined. Hamas is unequivocal in asserting this position and pursuing this outcome.

Jews around the world are, in the weekly cycle of Torah study, reading the Book of Numbers – in Hebrew, “Ba-Midbar,” in the desert. Ba-Midbar deals with living in community as well as interaction with external – sometimes, hostile – groups. The various tribes of Israel spend decades camping and journeying; each has its particular leadership and interests. The narratives of Ba-Midbar include episodes manifesting considerable divisiveness, as a people only recently liberated from slavery makes its way toward the promised land. Compounding the challenge, desert peoples with whom the Israelites have no desire to engage in battle occasionally attack them, with the aim of visiting terror and destruction. The twin challenges of developing a cohesive community and defending against external threats ring quite contemporary.

Israel’s ongoing, internal project is building a society that reflects the aspirations articulated in its founding proclamation. As in any democracy, there are competing opinions about how best to realize the vision of a democratic Jewish state, a state that “will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex.” There is much about which to be proud in Israel’s accomplishments as a society, since 1948. That there is vigorous debate in Israel about so many issues that remain to be resolved is a hallmark of democracy.

For a student moderately knowledgeable of Jewish texts and traditions, the longstanding connection between Jews and the land of Israel is clear. Jews are not a colonialist group that suddenly laid claim to a slice of territory in land that is the birthright of others (even absent the U.N. partition plan of 1947 that called for an independent Jewish State in Palestine). That said, it must be recognized that this is the perception of many, within and outside the Arab world. It is important to ensure that Jewish education includes not only Biblical Israel, but a rich understanding and appreciation of the State of Israel – with all of its complexity -- in today’s world.  

Among the more well-known episodes in the Book of Numbers is the story of Balak, King of Moab, who hires Balaam, thought to have prophetic powers, to curse the Israelites. Balaam cautions the King, advising him that he can offer no guarantees; such words as God puts in his mouth will issue forth. A series of blessings ensues, including – as Balaam overlooks the camp of the Israelites -- the declaration: “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, Your dwellings, O Israel.” Drawing from the words of Balaam, it might be said that the aim of Jewish education is to nurture the development of human beings of whom a dispassionate onlooker would proclaim: “how goodly…O Israel.” This is a mission shared by educators and parents, from generation to generation; it is an enduring theme within an ever-changing landscape. 

Dr. Gil Graff is the Executive Director at BJE.

Event
September 12, 2021 at 10:00am

 

 

BJE presents our summer mini-camp
Event
July 14, 2021 at 10:00am

For rising 11th and 12th graders seeking opportunities to do some good during summer break, BJE has an answer. BJE’s ATID is a two-day intensive for LA teens exploring values, advocacy topics and ways in which each person...

Event
September 12, 2021 at 10:00am

 

 

Past participants of the early childhood conference
Event
March 7, 2022 at 12:00am

BJE will hold its annual Bebe Feuerstein Simon Early Childhood Institute March 7, 2022. The conference provides early childhood educators with an opportunity to learn and practice new skills, network with other educators, and grow as...

BJE Builders
March 15, 2021

As a Jewish early childhood program, the IKAR ECC draws from Jewish traditions, culture, and practice to offer children a rich experience in which their Jewish identity can thrive, their social consciousness can be deepened, and they can...

Dr. Deborah Parks Principal at Harkham Gaon
BJE Builders
March 9, 2021

For Dr. Debora Parks, being a leader of a small day school means wearing many different hats. Dr. Parks indeed does that, as she is a flexible, dynamic leader, one who assumes a variety of roles in her school. She is always giving of her...

BJE Builders
March 4, 2021

The Bay-Nimoy ECC values the virtue of learning, the act of learning and living Tikkun Olam, and living a life of integrity by practicing acts of loving-kindness as we learn. By integrating Jewish values, the history of the Torah, and the...

Sarah Escobar - BJE Builder from Temple Israel of Hollywood
BJE Builders
March 3, 2021

Temple Israel of Hollywood’s Religious School is committed to providing a meaningful and joyous Jewish education for its students and families. We value that we are an integral component of the Jewish journey for the many members we serve. We...

BJE Builders
March 2, 2021

Jewish education is the “secret sauce.” Any good school will teach students to be literate individuals, but Jewish schools teach students what to do with their literacy. Learning Hebrew teaches students a second language and forms synapses in...

BJE E-News
June 18, 2021

By Rabbi Jim Rogozen

Recent articles and gatherings, including Prizmah’s Mental Health Summit, have addressed a growing concern about mental health issues in our schools. While creating initiatives to address...

Image of Becca Barish from Second City
BJE E-News
June 7, 2021

Having difficult conversations – with parents, colleagues, employees and supervisors – is part of any early childhood director’s experience. Learning how to successfully navigate these conversations so that each party feels heard, and progress...

Image of the six of the Lainer and Smotrich Religious School Award winners
BJE E-News
May 11, 2021

BJE Honors Religious School Educators

Like educators in so many settings, teachers and administrators in part-time religious schools rose to the challenges of this year in a huge way, pivoting overnight to digital...

BJE E-News
April 20, 2021

Knowing that students need more emotional support than ever before, David Lewis and his colleagues who work with educators from part-time and congregational religious schools embarked on an effort to help these schools sharpen their skills in...

Thank you for supporting BJE March of the Living image of Israeli flags
BJE E-News
April 12, 2021

For two weeks, friends of BJE March of the Living helped make a huge impact on social media by donating to BJE’s special Facebook campaign, sharing the campaign with their friends, and holding their own Facebook campaigns. The result of these...

Girl with Israeli flag
BJE Thought Leaders
May 24, 2021

By Dr. Gil Graff

I recall one of the first BJE professional development sessions I attended as a teacher at a BJE-affiliated school decades ago. The speaker was Rabbi Harold Schulweisz"l. The gist of his message was that...

Wheat fields for Counting the Omer
BJE Thought Leaders
May 3, 2021

Counting each day of the seven weeks between Pesach and Shavuot is referred to as Sefirat Ha’Omer – a reference to the “wave offering” of a sheaf of ripe grain (an Omer), brought to the Temple in Jerusalem, from the beginning of the grain...

BJE Thought Leaders
March 25, 2021

Shortly before Pesach, my wife and I will celebrate the first birthday of a grandson whom we have yet to meet in person.  Since his birth in New York City, during the early weeks of the pandemic (at a time when his father could not enter the...

BJE Thought Leaders
March 9, 2021

Recently, I read a book co-authored by two very distinguished Jewish educators, Dr. Bruce Powell and Dr. Ron Wolfson, titled: Raising A+ Human Beings.  In his preface to this very worthwhile and accessible work, Rabbi Ed Feinstein recounts the...

BJE Thought Leaders
February 23, 2021

As Purim and the one year anniversary of the initial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic draw near, there is cause for cautious optimism.  The L.A. area COVID-19 surge has declined.  Effective vaccines have been developed and are – despite “roll...

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