A number of years ago (2008), a book titled, "The Last Lecture" was published. This best-seller was an expanded version of a lecture by Professor (of computer science) Randy Pausch, who – knowing that he had but a few months to live – delivered a last lecture at Carnegie Mellon University. The father of three young children, Randy Pausch’s talk, replete with advice on how to lead life, was not only targeted to his immediate listeners, but to his children as well.
As parents of school-aged children are very well aware, the Governor and the L.A. County Department of Public Health have determined that waivers for in-person school operations will not, currently, be considered, in the face of the COVID-19 case rate in Los Angeles. In addition to early childhood education centers, camps and day care programs can, under certain conditions, operate. School boards and educators – and, of course, parents and students -- are faced with difficult decisions.
The year 2020 marks the centennial of a remarkable Jewish educational initiative. In October 1920, Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929) opened the Freies Judisches Lehrhaus (The Jewish House of Free Study), in Frankfurt. This adult education institute was designed to share Jewish learning with a generation not well versed in Jewish texts, serving as a modern “beit midrash” (house of study).
Many Jewish Day Schools and part-time Religious Schools have, in recent years, embraced Project Based Learning, a creative and engaging educational approach. Project Based Learning calls on students to investigate and respond to a complex question, challenge or real-world problem. Through collaborative investigation, students gain knowledge and skills; often, they are asked to share what they have learned with a larger audience.
When the Covid-19 pandemic forced closure of all schools, the Jewish school community in Los Angeles didn’t have to look far for support – BJE has had professional networks in place for years, including day school, early childhood and part-time religious schools.
Almost immediately, BJE began to convene the various professional networks by zoom, and participation is at an all-time high.
It is a centuries-old habit to try to reduce wisdom into short aphorisms or sound bites (“do unto others…”), and to understand or label our experience of major calamities in a similar fashion (“when the going gets tough…”).
When BJE’s March of the Living program was cancelled due to the pandemic, the staff worked quickly in order to provide the 220 participating teens with a meaningful experience despite the disappointment. After participating in a virtual Yom HaShoah program with the survivors who would have traveled with the group, Ann Mizrahi from de Toledo HS and Sabrina Cohensedgh from Milken reached out to BJE’s Liat Vorobiev and Maya Aharon to ask how they could be more involved with the program.