Jewish Education at The Davidson School

The Blog

view:  full / summary

Transforming Vision Into Reality - Joy Levitt on the Jewish Journey Project

Posted by Danny on April 10, 2013 at 10:50 PM Comments comments (0)

On Tuesday JCC Manhattan Executive Director Rabbi Joy Levitt visited JTS to speak about her new initiative, the Jewish Journey Project. Davidson students were interested in hearing her responses to questions such as:

How did you realize there was a need for the Jewish Journey Project?

How did you transform this need into a realized vision?

Rabbi Levitt told us that it takes "arrogance and chutzpah" in order to imagine the world you wish to see. In her case she feels that, "School [as we know it] is not the right model for the transmission of Jewish values and ideals....[because] Judaism is not something you do, it's who you are." She received criticism for this stance, but she felt an urgent need to revitalize Jewish education. Rabbi Levitt believes the ideal school should be flexible, innovative, and collaborative. The Jewish Journey Project is intended to be all three. 

Davidson student Meredith Levick ('15) had this response to Rabbi Levitt's presentation: "Joy commented on the need to be bold when one is trying to create change. That really struck me. Above all else, we have to be courageous in carving out new approaches to education."

We thank Rabbi Levitt for her visit and we look forward to the success of the Jewish Journey Project.

Strategies and Challenges in Bringing Jewish Education to Teenagers

Posted by Danny on April 9, 2013 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (0)



The Experiential Learning Initiative Lunch and Learn Series continued on Monday with a panel discussion on engaging Jewish teenagers. The panelists were Melissa Frey (Associate Director of NFTY and Director, URJ Kutz Camp), Rachel Krueger (Program Director, BBYO), Mark Fein (Regional Director, Upstate New York NCSY and NCSY Director of Advisor Development), and Amy Dorsch (Education and Outreach Coordinator, USY).

The panelists provided macro and micro -level advice to Davidson students regarding the value of immersive Jewish experiences, how to balance allowing teens to lead events while still providing an appropriate amount of guidance, and ways to deal with bullying. Over all, Davidson students were reminded that our mission as Jewish educators is to meet our students where they are and empower them to see Jewish life and tradition as a useful resrouce in their lives. 

Chag Pesach Sameach!

Posted by Danny on March 27, 2013 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Dear Readers,

On behalf of the Davidson school, we wish you a happy and meaningful Passover. The Davidson School Blog postings will resume on Thursday, April 4. Until then, we hope you have a restful and enjoyable chag!

How to Spice Up the Seder

Posted by Danny on March 19, 2013 at 2:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Davidson School Rabbi in Residence Jonathan Lipnick on Tuesday led a session addressing common challenges faced by leaders of Passover seders. Some questions addressed include:


  • Should a seder be fun or serious?
  • What makes for a successful seder?
  • What are ways to keep people engaged?
  • How does one keep young and old involved at the same seder?
  • What are some current themes related to the Exodus you might expand upon at your seder?


Students had an opportunity to discuss what has worked for them in the past, and how they understand the role of the seder leader. Rabbi Lipnick reminded us to use multiple access points and learning styles in order to engage as many people as possible. He also exhorted us to draw on our own talents, saying, "If you are engaged and excited, then your audience will be engaged and excited."

Above, Rabbi Lipnick uses Tzafi Tz’fardeiah - "the frog with yichus" - a puppet character he invented. 

Fall 2013 Course Possibility: Leadership for Public Life Fellowship

Posted by Danny on March 18, 2013 at 6:45 PM Comments comments (0)

This fall JTS students in the rabbinic, cantorial, and education schools will have the opportunity to take the course, "Leadership in Public Life Fellowship," along with students from Hebrew Union College and Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. The course is being facilitates by Meir Lakein, Director of Organizing of JOIN for Justice, whose mission is to develop hundreds of top quality Jewish organizers in lay and professional positions inside and outside of the Jewish community, transforming and strengthening individuals and institutions as they work for a more just, inclusive and compassionate society.

Meir came to JTS today to describe for interested students just what "community organizing" is. We heard that it involves building relationships around a shared story; developing a common purpose; taking collective ownership of the purpose; and organizing people and resources to take action in service of that purpose. The course itself will delve more deeply into the tools of organizing, and students will put those tools into practice by organizing a community they are actually involved in. Then they will assess their experiences, and learn from organizers practicing in the field. 

The course is offered in partnership with Just Congregations and Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice.

Those interested should contact Meir Lakein at [email protected]

Matan - For every child. For every community. The gift of Jewish learning.

Posted by Danny on March 14, 2013 at 6:40 PM Comments comments (0)

This week Matan Executive Director Dori Frumin Kirshner (DS '96) came back to her alma mater to present at a lunch and learn session for Davidson students. Matan advocates for Jewsh students with special needs, empowers their families, and educates Jewish leaders, teachers and communities so that all Jewish children have access to a rich and meaningful Jewish education.

Dori's session at Davidson provided students with some concrete strategies for working with students with learning differences, as well as a resource guide designed to provide a basic understanding of various special needs. Students also spent time in hevrutah-learning reflecting on the meaning of a variety of Jewish texts on the topic of disability awareness (below). 

We thank Dori for raising awareness of Jewish special needs education, and for encouraging and empowering us to seeing ourselves as partners in children's journeys.

The Gatekeepers

Posted by Danny on March 11, 2013 at 10:55 AM Comments comments (0)

On Sunday the DSSO sponsored an outing to see the film, "The Gatekeepers", at Lincoln Plaza Cinema, an Israeli film that was nominated this year for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. The synopsis of the film is as follows:

"Charged with overseeing Israel’s war on terror-both Palestinian and Jewish- the head of the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret service, is present at the crossroad of every decision made. For the first time ever six former heads of the agency agreed to share their insights and reflect publicly on their actions and decisions. The Gatekeepers offers an exclusive account of the sum of their success and failures. It validates the reasons that each man individually and the six as a group came to reconsider their hard-line positions and advocate a conciliatory approach toward their enemies based on a two-state solution."

After the screening we went to Soom-Soom for dinner and reflective conversation about the film. The outing was an opportunity for Davidson students to listen to the testimony of the former heads of the Shin Bet, and to consider our own personal positions on the situation in Israel and, further, in what ways our teaching about Israel will be affected by the film and by our own politics.

Student Spotlight - Olga Lara

Posted by Danny on March 5, 2013 at 7:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Jewish education is Olga Lara's second career. She is concentrating in Educational Leadership in Synagogues and Communal Settings and plans to graduate in 2014. Below, she provides a new perspective on the challenges facing Jewish educators today.

What inspired you to begin a new career as a Jewish educator and professional?


My own adult Jewish studies in the course of my Conversion to Judaism ten years ago inspired me to become an adult Jewish educator. I want to provide for others what my teachers have provided me---an academically rigorous, intellectually- and spiritually-meaningful engagement with Jewish texts.

In what way(s) does your experience in your first career affect your work as a Jewish educator and professional?

I learned that one must meet the client/customer where they are and help facilitate a process to get them where they wish to be.

In your opinion, what is the single greatest challenge facing the American Jewish community today?

Recognizing that we must engage Jews of all ages in meaningful dialogue.

In what way(s) would you like to work as a Jewish professional in order to address that challenge?

I would like to create educational programming to meet the learning interests of people over the age of 50 who may or may not have had previous Jewish education, but are now ready to engage or re-engage with Jewish texts in order to deepen their relationship to their Jewish identities.


Career Development Lunch and Learn Series

Posted by Danny on February 28, 2013 at 9:20 PM Comments comments (0)

In addition to providing top-notch pedagogical training for Jewish educators, The Davidson School is committed to preparing its students for successful entry into the work force upon graduation from JTS, and positioning them for long term career growth. To this end, Mark S. Young, Program Coordinator of Davidson's Experiential Learning Initiative, offers a variety of lunch and learn seminars that focus on developing one's career development skill-sets including networking, and how to market oneself as a Jewish educator. Mark has also in recent years partnered with Davidson project director Cheryl Magen, who has designed and facilitated a week long career workshop intensives for graduating Davidson students for over a decade.

Students are enthusiastic about the usefulness of these seminars. Says Davidson first year MA student in the experiential education cohort Mollie Sharfman: "I davka attend these seminars during my first year at Davidson so I am prepared when it comes time for me to begin my job search. It's empowering to take ownership of my individual career plan. Mark is great at getting us out of our comfort zones by challenging us to practice real-life situations, like giving an elevator pitch."

As Davidson students get ready to step up their job hunts this spring, you can be sure they will be well-prepared!

Karina Zilberman on Intergenerational Jewish Experiences

Posted by Danny on February 25, 2013 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)

"In 2007, Shababa started as a musical Shabbat gathering of a handful of families singing with Karina in a corner of the 92Y lobby. It rapidly became a vibrant, bursting community, where families with young children are part of an intergenerational, inclusive Jewish experience" (

Karina Zilberman, Director of Jewish Familiy Life and Culture for the 92nd Street Y, and creator of the 92Y Shababa Community, came to JTS today as part of the Davidson School Experiential Learning Initiative Lunch and Learn Series to lead an interactive Shababa workshop, so we as educators could experience Shababa and understand and reflect on Karina's goals and methods. Zilberman aims to create an experience that people of all ages can connect to. Of Shababa, she says, "It's not a 'program,' and it's not a 'tot shabbat' or 'children's programming.' It is an intergenerational experience. When a child sees grownups involved in what he or she is involved in, it amplifies that experience for the child because it is as if the adult is saying to the child, 'I am not here because of you, but because I need this experience, too." 

Zilberman reminded us that as educators we have to connect to ourselves. If what we do does not connect to our essence, it will not resonate with our audience. "If we do not allow ourselves to have authentic, inspiring experiences, we will never be able to create trustworthy educational experiences for others." Zilberman is clearly inspired and we thank her for sharing her light with us!