By the JFNA Jewish Education & Engagement staff, with input from The Jewish Education Project 

Life doesn’t take place in classrooms. Education doesn’t even take place in classrooms. The best schools today use technology to bring their students to real-world experiences. Students learn through projects, by living rather than studying, through working together and from the experiments in which they are engaging. Yet, the Jewish communal zeitgeist often seems to continue to expect religious school—classroom-based education in which children absorb facts. There seems a bias toward Jewish literacy, a desire simply for the kids to know Passover’s four questions, or big Jewish dates, or prayers and blessings. This paradigm could not be farther from the genuine opportunities we have to enrich children’s lives and families’ lives through their K-12 Jewish experiences. Their Jewish education and involvement should help them grow as human beings, think in Jewish ways, feel deeply Jewish, and build their sense of selves, Jewishly. The “religious school” system has begun to change. It is Federations’ responsibility to support and expand that change. Here, we outline 10 efforts– there are many more that we could have included and we probably will highlight over the next few months– that are changing the nature of part-time Jewish education from across the county. They are different kinds of efforts—they:

  • Strengthen the existing system, the synagogue
  • Demonstrate what Federations can do to support kids’ and families’ learning
  • Change the existing system by offering other part-time opportunities

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