By Heather Wolfson - Senior Director of Community Partnerships
For more than a decade, I have had the privilege to serve as an “informal” Jewish educator in both a professional and personal capacity. From my early days in Jewish preschool (yes, I remember some parts) to USY and from my days as a Hillel student at the University of Arizona to young adult programming in Los Angles—I’ve participated in, and have been exposed to, innovative and not so innovative programs.
The more successful programs have transformed me (or at least resonated with and moved me). I’ve never quite understood why—was it the facilitator, the program design, the people, the environment? Over the years, I’ve gone with my gut and used some of these experiences to inform my style as an educator. Enter, Yeshiva University EJEc5’s first seminar—five days of intense learning, sharing and bonding.
On day one, sitting at the beautiful Bronfman Center of NYU (with the Pride Parade taking place just a half a block away) 19 individuals from across North America came together for the start of this nine month journey. Immediately, we began to form our community as a cohort, participating in and learning about the effectiveness of team building exercises. We also began to root our understanding of “experiential Jewish education,” the language and pedagogy. And of course, we got the chance to meet our incredible mentors who will support our personal growth.
What are our values? What is an archetypal conflict? How does this play out in experiential Jewish education?
Throughout the rest of Seminar One, our focus was on CDM (Content Development Model). What are our values? What is an archetypal conflict? How does this play out in experiential Jewish education?
We heard from incredible educators that provided framing and context for our learning. The culmination of the seminar was when we were tasked to design our own 30 minute programs in teams utilizing CDM. My “ah ha” moment also happened then.
Here we were, 19 educators from all backgrounds, learning together, informed by our own values, tasked with designing a program to move and challenge peoples’ values. Our cohort is exceptionally pluralistic in all senses. The time in my group (a microcosm of the full group), as we built our program, was eye-opening. The diversity of the groups’ opinions and experiences pushed me to challenge my values and re-think my own facilitation-style.
My “ah ha” moment happened then.
On the last day, as each group presented, I really understood the power of experiential Jewish education. Even with 30 minute programs, I was moved—I felt the conflict. As I left New York later that day, I couldn’t help but to reflect: I am an “experiential Jewish educator.”
Every program, speech, seminar, activity has a value, exposition, conflict, journey and resolution and it is up to us to guide the learner through the process and move them in some way. I look forward to the next nine months of learning, and growing - together.