Jewish Education at The Davidson School

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The Hora, the Hora...

Posted by Mark on April 25, 2012 at 8:50 AM Comments comments (0)

What makes is the Hora Jewish? Circle dancing is a rather recent Jewish tradition inspired by Shavuot, shared Dr. Joe Reimer of Brandeis University. Dr Reimer led a Lunch and Learn on Wednesday, April 18 entitled "Who Puts the Jewish in Jewish Experiential Education?"

A nutshell version of the story:

 In the 1930s and 40s, Kibbutzim in Palestine would host dance festivals to celebrate during holidays and times of specialoccasion, including the (upcoming) holiday of Shavuot. To promote the dances, the choreographers and professional dancers would teach these "new" dances, mostly in circle form to promote togetherness, kibbutz members. During dance performances, the viewers, who came from around the Yishuv (the towns and communities before 1948 were so well versed they would join in, creating their own dance circles, and bring these dances back to their communities.

Circle dances eventually spread to the U.S. by way of Jewish summer camps. As it is still ritual today, these Israeli dances were performed as Shabbat began, turning dancing into a "Jewish" activity. The dances are simple to learn, can be enjoyed by members of any background, and are purposefully designed so they are easy to change or customize.


So why is the Hora Jewish? By Jewish experiential educators who shaped today's Jewish culture.

Facing History and Ourselves

Posted by Mark on April 18, 2012 at 9:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Yesterday, Davidson School students participated in an inspiring workshop given by Peter Nelson from the esteem educational organization Facing History and Ourselves.

Attendees gained important teaching tools and resources and how to unpack these resources in an experiential way with his/her students. We hope is the first of many lunch and learns with Peter, who invited Davidson School students to attend the Facing History spring seminar on June 24th – June 28th for only $50.

In the seminar, the organization examines the Holocaust in a variety of disciplines including history, literature and the arts. They also integrate traditional and modern Jewish texts into scope and sequence. Following this seminar, participants receive complete access to Facing History’s Educator Resources, including downloadable unit plans, lessons, and online conversations. Participants are also invited to borrow videos, dvds, and books from Facing History’s lending library. Finally, each participant is assigned a Facing History Program Associate, who is available to provide ongoing support services. This seminar is only for educators who teach in a Jewish setting.

For more information visit:

Divrei Torah is an Art

Posted by Mark on April 17, 2012 at 8:45 PM Comments comments (0)

"You have 30 seconds to capture your audience."

If Rabbi David Hoffman could say one thing about creating an excellent D'var Torah, that would be the message.

Rabbi Hoffman was the guest speaker at Monday's DSSO (Davidson School Student Organization) sponsored Lunch and Learn, The Art of Crafting a D'var Torah.


In what was an appropriately invigorating discussion about what makes a D'var Torah excellent, Rabbi Hoffman offered the following advice (in addition to the opening line).

-Put the most effort into the beginning.


-Do not prove you're smart. Pick one or two sources that you have thought really hard about, not a gazillion quotes that you can rattle off.


-Speak from the Heart.

Please enjoy this video (in two parts), a Senior Sermon given by Rabbi Michael Fel, a graduate of JTS. Many participants at the Lunch and Learn were in agreement that it was one of the best Divrei Torah any of us have seen.


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Happy Pesach

Posted by Mark on April 6, 2012 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Happy Pesach from the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education! Enjoy the video below! Blog posts will resume after our holiday of matzah and maror is complete! Chag Samech!

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DSSO is No Bully

Posted by Mark on April 6, 2012 at 11:00 AM Comments comments (0)

On Sunday, April 1, The Davidson School Student Organization attended a private screening of Bully, hosted by BBYO.

According to DSSO President, Alana Tilman, "I was really glad I had the chance to see it. Many parts of the movie were very unsettling. Bully focused on how entire lives were effected. Not just the students in schools, but families and friends are greatly impacted when someone is bullied."

There are 13 million kids who are bullied in the U.S. every year. As educators, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves about bullying and how to bring an end to this harmful behavior.

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The New American Haggadah

Posted by Mark on March 30, 2012 at 8:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Presenting his just published, The New American Haggadah, Jonathan Safran Foer made an exclusive appearance at JTS that not only filled the Feinberg Auditorium, but also required a webcast due to the overwhelming attendance. I could try to explain the presentation to you, or you could watch it here.  (Watch it.  You won't know what you're missing if you don't).

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Student Spotlight: Aviva Perlman

Posted by Mark on March 27, 2012 at 10:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Aviva Perlman is a 3rd year Davidson student in the Informal/Communal Education (ICE) Track. Hailing from Princeton Junction, NJ, Aviva has spent multiple years working for Hillel's Schusterman International Center. I sat down with Aviva and asked her about her Davidson experience.

Dan Cohen: What made you want to go to Davidson?


Aviva Perlman: As a kid, my synagogue Rabbi was always talking about JTS during our confirmation classes. In 2007, I was staffing a Birthright trip. As we reached Jerusalem and recited Shehechayanu for the 2nd time on the trip, I got into an explanation as to why we were reciting this blessing for a second time. For me, this was a very powerful. I realized I wanted to be doing this for the rest of my life.

DC: You took a break from Davidson to study at Pardes in Israel. Tell me about this.

AP: I always wanted to spend a long time in Israel, being that Davidson had not yet introduced a semester-long program in Israel. It seemed like a great time to go. Many of my friends at Pardes spent much of their time in Israel worrying about what they were going to do after Pardes. I was able to make the most out of my time there because I knew I was coming back to Davidson.

As much as I loved my time at Pardes, I came back to finish because JTS and Davidson have an excellent reputation in the Jewish professional world. Israel was a refreshing experience, but the degree from Davidson is my ticket to a successful career.

DC: When you first arrived to Davidson, what were you expecting to get out of it?

AP: I came in with an unguided passion for Judaism. I wanted to learn teaching skills, pedagogy, and how to pass Judaism on to others. I wanted to become a role model for young people like the role models I had growing up.

DC: What did you get from Davidson that you weren't expecting?

AP: I didn't really notice how much I was learning at Davidson until I went to camp after my second year. I began using all of my gained knowledge that I didn't know I had. I realized how much I was learning and became very satisfied with my education.

DC: If you could give one piece of advice to prospective Davidson students, what would it be?

AP: If there's something you want to do, something you want to get out of your education, make it happen.

Student Spotlight: Ariel Scheer

Posted by Mark on March 21, 2012 at 6:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Ariel Scheer is a 2nd year Davidson student in the Day School Track. Hailing from Rockaway, NJ, Ariel has experience teaching in several synagogues around New York City and is a lifelong member of Young Judea, both attending as a camper and working at Camp Tal Yehuda. Ariel's practicum is at Rodeph Sholom School. I sat down with Ariel to hear why she chose to attend Davidson.

Dan Cohen: You are graduating this May, What are your aspirations for your post-Davidson career?

Ariel Scheer: I want to bring my passion for Jewish education to a setting working with youth, teens, and young adults.

DC: So what made you choose the Day School Track?

AS: It was not an easy decision. Ultimately, I already had experience working in synagogue and informal settings (camp). I really wanted to advance my pedagogy and teaching skills. I also wanted to gain experience where I was lacking the most.

DC: What made you want to go to Davidson?

AS: I was drawn to the combination of education classes and Jewish studies. I wanted to learn how to be an effective educator and practitioner.

DC: What are you hoping to get out of your time at Davidson?

AS: I'm wanted, and have been getting hands on experience coupled with coursework which has strengthened my general knowledge, not just Jewish. This experience has surely enhanced my skills as a teacher.


Jewish Camp, Experiential Education, and Chancellor Eisen promoting both with FJC!

Posted by Mark on March 16, 2012 at 2:40 PM Comments comments (0)

On Monday March 12th, Davidson students attended Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Biennial Leaders Assembly Conference in New Brunswick, NJ.  650 Jewish professionals had the opportunity to hear the heynote address with a panel of Dr. Richard M. Joel, Rabbi David Ellenson, and Dr. Arnold M. Eisen, the heads of Yeshiva University, Hebrew Union College, and JTS. respectively. Facilitated by Dr. Chip Edelsberg, Executive Director of the Jim Joseph Foundation, each spoke and fielded questions regarding the importance of Jewish camp in fostering Jewish educational expereince for our youth.

Our own Chancellor Eisen shared, "You don't have to be at camp to experience experiential education. You can experience it in schools, but it is a lot harder." He, along with Ellenson and Joel, stressed how Jewish camps are crucial to the formation of Jewish identity and how the rest of Jewish education can learn from camp how to create meaningful engaging learning experiences for all Jews. It was a watershed a moment in the transformation of the Jewish educational landscape, acknowledging that Jewish camp and experiential education is now integral and essential to the field of Jewish education.

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Check out  this video of Rabbi Mitch Cohen, Director of the National Ramah Commission discussing the future of the Ramah Camping Movement. 8 Ramah Camps, a subsidiary of JTS, were among the 50+ Jewish camps represented at the Asssembly.

Davidson Alum Transforms Jewish Education Advocating for Jewish Special Needs Education

Posted by Mark on March 13, 2012 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)

When speaking about The Davidson School to colleagues in the field, I often share that one of our main goals is to train and empower our students to be leaders and innovators, impacting the Jewish landscape by either transforming within existing Jewish institutions or by creating or enhancing new ones on their own. A prime example is Dori Kirshner (JTS Education 1996, before it was called the Davidson School), the Executive Director of Matan (

Matan advocates for inclusion, fairness and quality education for all Jewish youth, including those who may be fairly or unfairly labeled as children with special needs. On Sunday March 11th, I attended the keynote address of Matan's Institute for Synagogue Education Directors, who over two days will be trained to effectively address this important issue, creating communities where everyone feels welcome, acknowledged and supported. (Matan has also visited JTS this year twice to lead sessions on special needs education for The Graduate School's MSW/MA Jewish leadership program and Davidson's experiential education master's cohort).

Dori welcomed the institute calling this a "watershed moment" in Jewish Education. She then introduced the keynote speakers, Rabbi Artson from California and his son Jacob, a 19 year old Jewish teen with Autism. No embellishment, Jacob wrote one of the most compelling, intelligent, direct, pithy and inspirational keynote speeches I have heard, from anyone. He challenged all of us not to think of him as different or impaired or stupid, rather that we all have special needs, and each of us deserves to be fully a part of the Jewish community, without unfair labels, glaring stares from across the room, or pre-judgments. His father echoed his son with eloquence, passion and challenge for all of us to think broader, be more inclusive, create the kehilla for every Jew like we are commanded to do.

This morning represented a true transformation in the Jewish landscape, with Dori and her Matan Team leading the way. She credited her studies at JTS in her address, and we applaud her for her leadership, boldness, and drive to bring quality Jewish education to all Jews.

-Mark S. Young

(Above Dori Kirshner, JTS-Education 1996, the Executive Director of Matan)