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By Rabbi Perry Tirschwell

Over 100 yeshiva high school limudei kodesh educators participated on June 12-13 in the First Annual YHShare Conference. YHShare was a groundbreaking forum for sharing innovative pedagogic and curricular ideas that was organized by the Torah Educators Network (TEN), a new organization that serves Jewish educators from coast to coast in ways that their schools cannot do independently, including increasing the benefits offered to teachers.

Teachers in yeshiva high school classrooms across the country are facing the exact same challenges, and there’s a teacher somewhere who has a creative solution. The purpose of YHShare was to provide a venue for those teachers to learn from each other. Just like the movement in education away from the “sage on the stage” to “guide by the side”, sessions at YHShare were presented by classroom teachers, not consultants or celebrated authors.

The first day, which was held at Frisch in Paramus, NJ, focused on Bible and Jewish Philosophy. The second day, which took place at Torah Academy of Bergen County (TABC) in Teaneck, NJ, concentrated on Talmud and Jewish History.

Participating schools at the YHShare conference included Ateres (NY), Bruriah (NJ), Central (NY), DRS (NY), Fuchs Mizrachi (OH), RASG (FL), HANC (NY), Ida Crown (IL), Katz (Boca), Kohelet (PA), Ma’ayanot (NJ), Magen David (NY), MTA (NY), Naaleh (NJ), Kushner (NJ), Ramaz (NY), SAR (NY), Shalhevet (CA), SKA (NY), TABC (NJ), Ulpana (Toronto), Flatbush (NY), Frisch (NJ), and YULA Girls (CA).

Like in all fields, technology is making possible rapid changes in education. Many of the sessions focused on a technological innovations that a teacher has adapted to the Judaic studies classroom, such as “Hyperdocs for Gemara” and “Jewish History and Tanach through Google Earth”.

YHShare was dedicated in memory of Rabbi Dovid Kaminetsky, who passed away the previous week. An extraordinary educator and beloved role model, Rabbi Kaminetsky, who most recently served as the middle school principal at Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey, also held leadership roles at Manhattan Day School and The Moriah School, and was the former national director of NCSY.

There were three or four concurrent breakout sessions in most slots which included “Using Jewish History to Discuss Core Identity Issues,” “Reaching the Struggling Gemara Learner,” and “Should We Raise Philosophical Questions We Can Fully Answer.”

In an interactive conference-wide session entitled “Designing Solutions to Common Challenges,” small groups of educators brainstormed solutions and shared resources with peers on such topics as Teaching N’Ch, Judaic Studies Alternative Assessment, and Time & Structures for Learning.

During the panel discussion on “The Teacher’s Great Balancing Act: Rigor, Relationships & Religious Growth,” renowned educational leaders responded to a variety of questions about building a culture of religious growth in the classroom, and examining the relationship between challenging academic goals and inspiring religious growth. The panel, which was moderated by Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin, the Director of Education at International NCSY and included Rabbi Eli Ciner, Principal of Yeshivat Frisch, Mrs. Rivka Kahan, Principal of Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls, Rabbi Yisroel Kaminetsky, Rosh Yeshiva of Hebrew Academy of Long Beach (HALB), Mrs. Racheli Luftglass, Director of Judaic Studies of YULA Girls High School, and Rabbi Asher Yablok, Head of School of TABC.

“It was such a valuable experience to be able to connect with other like-minded educators nationwide, especially with the other Jewish history teachers, and to hear about their schools and classrooms, and to share ideas,” said Alissa Zeffren from Ida Crown Jewish Academy. “I found all of the sessions I attended to be very worthwhile.”

“I really enjoyed the program – both the sessions and the opportunity to interact with so many wonderful colleagues,” said Miriam Krupka, Dean of Faculty and Tanakh Department Chair of the Ramaz Upper School.

“I had a great time and I really thought that the sessions I went to gave me what to think about and ideas to help improve my craft,” said Rabbi Aaron Horn, Dean of Students and Gemara and Halacha Chair of Kohelet Yeshiva High School.

In addition, there were participants from the Avi Chai Foundation, Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools, Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary at Yeshiva University, and Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education & Administration.

A number of the session were recorded and can be accessed by clicking on the titles below;

For more information about this year or next year’s YHShare Conference and/or Torah Educators Network, please email Rabbi Perry Tirschwell

Rabbi Perry Tirschwell is the Founding Executive Director of the Torah Educators Network, whose mission is to provide education and benefits to mechanchim/chot. After teaching in the classroom at Frisch and Hillel (Deal), Tirschwell served for 15 years as the founding Head of School of the Katz (Weinbaum) Yeshiva High School in Boca Raton, and is a graduate of Yeshivat Har Etzion, Yeshiva College, RIETS and the Graduate School of Education of the College of New Rochelle.

Originally posted on Lookjed