An online magazine, EdJewTopia, asked Jewish educators for eight pieces of advice on Jewish education. Here's what I said:
- Israel education isn’t a magic bullet. While visiting Israel has a powerful effect on anyone who feels even the slightest bit Jewish, studying Israel in class is only meaningful if the student already feels Jewish. Otherwise it’s just social studies.
- Learning prayers doesn’t make a person religious. The experience of praying, and of attending religious services, is different from that of studying prayers.
- Time on task matters. Less class time = less learning. Also, less attendance = less learning.
- It takes commitment. Modeling mature Jewish belief is more important than transmitting information.
- Students need multiple role models. On the other hand, a teacher, principal, or rabbi is automatically in a different category from anything that most students imagine for themselves.
- Parents have more influence than do teachers. Family support for students’ education—in the form of living Jewishly—is essential.
- It takes a village. Well, a Jewish community. Learning to be part of the Jewish community is an essential goal of Jewish education. The school, the family, and the whole community need to work together.
- You’re still Jewish after the bar/bat mitzvah ceremony. Teaching only what is needed for the Mitzvah Event is a recipe for disaster. Jewish learning is a lifelong process.