Tag Archives: social media

Learning to be Together

ChailitesEach week, I write for my school’s newsletter, Chailites. This week, my address to the Albert Einstein Academy community appeared to be about social media, togetherness, and learning.  Behind it all, though, was my awareness of the 9th of Adar and a project of the Pardes Center for Judaism and Conflict Resolution to commemorate this date on the Jewish calendar, when historically the two major houses of rabbinic thought clashed violently over 18 matters of law.  The houses of Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai disputed each other’s positions hundreds of times, including on issues of marriage and divorce; despite these differences, they got along well enough that they even married across house lines. They got along that is, except on one 9th of Adar about 2000 years ago.

My article started with this:

Late last week, I encouraged Ms. Creed, our 2nd and 3rd grade language arts teacher, to try #Grammar911 on Twitter to help her students learn grammar. She started a Twitter account, @MsCreedsClass, using #aeajds2 and #aeajds3 to distinguish her classes; and then, she had her students see (by writing on the whiteboard) a grammatically incorrect sentence sent by a school in Canada, fix it, and send back the proper version. Her students were excited and engaged in learning grammar, ready to make up sentences of their own for correction.

On its surface, this paragraph is simply about a new educational tool being used in classes. In the context of the 9th of Adar, though, this paragraph is an example of constructive conflict. One school’s class tweets a grammatically incorrect sentence for another class to correct. The second class offers its correction in the spirit of learning and sharing. In the language of Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai’s better days, the classes disagree l’shem shamayim [for the sake of Heaven].

I went on to note how sharing the news of this venture caused conflict for parents:

Then, I shared a sample of this experience on Facebook. In our AEA Current Families Facebook group, an excellent conversation started right away. Social media are challenging, scary, and ubiquitous. Schools must be careful in their introduction of these media when used for learning. AEA is careful—our Parent Handbook has extensive language outlining social media offenses—and we also need to articulate meaningful guidelines for how to use social media properly (and in keeping with parents’ boundaries for their children). Significantly, there was a point in which the conversation was a turning point for our school: instead of addressing parent concerns directly as an authority, the school encouraged further discussion. That discussion is a key component of the value of social media for an institution; members of our community felt each other’s presence in meaningful conversation. More than status updates or photo-ops, social media is meant to be social.

Here, for me as Head of School, conflict needed to be constructive. Rather than assert authority, the school used the power of discussion. That discussion brought a special kind of peace–in Hebrew shalom–a kind of wholeness, incorporating many perspectives in one space, rather than merely the lack of discord. At its best, social media avoids broadcasting in favor of engagement between people.

I went on in my article to share my joy that we also have social gatherings so that we have a context in which our disagreements take place. When we are walled off from each other, it is all too easy to become siloed, territorial, and consequently selfish. When we have social bonds, we have the chance to see beyond ourselves, a lesson I noted that I felt acutely this time of year:

How wonderful then, that we had a parent/board social last Saturday night! While not everyone could attend, the fact that we gathered in my home was a reminder of the value of community and, I hope, a chance to tighten bonds and form new ones. We will have many community gatherings for school events over the next few months; I hope, too, that members will gather socially to strengthen ties to each other.

I am particularly focused on this idea of community around learning because this week marked the 18th yahrzeit of Matthew Eisenfeld and Sara Ducker (z”l). Matthew and Sara were killed in a terrorist bombing of the #18 bus in Jerusalem the year before I started rabbinical school. When Matthew’s classmates returned to New York for their studies, they created a community that profoundly affected me. Our beit midrash (study hall) was dedicated in Matthew and Sara’s names; that class seemed to live there. Rather than insulating themselves, however, that class expanded their learning outward. To this day, I count many of them as my teachers and friends. For them, the Jewish way to be together was to learn together.

The terrorist bombing that killed Matthew and Sara and many others is part of a terrible political conflict. What strikes me about Matthew’s classmates is that they did not let that conflict define them. Somehow, they found the Jewish tradition’s texts of holy conflict as a source of peace. They taught me that arguments for the sake of Heaven are arguments that bind us together rather than tear us apart. In the spirit of that constructive experience of conflict, I concluded:

I believe the same is true for AEA: the way to be together is to learn together. Whether through our discussions online, through expanding our students’ horizons beyond a classroom, through social or school gatherings—when we learn, we strengthen our ties.  To that end, I am excited to announce that AEA will be looking for new adult learning opportunities to start next fall.  We were lucky to have much learning under the Kohelet Foundation programs. This week has reminded me that it is time we start again. In offering learning, we offer a deeper community, a community I hope will expand outward to affect lives throughout the Brandywine Valley.  I hope you will join me!

I pray that the 9th of Adar be a day of commemoration that inspires us to spend time socially, to share our differences, and to learn to be together in the wholeness of constructive conflict not just in the cessation of argument.9Adar_LoRezEng_180

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Filed under Chailites, Education, Jewish Community, Jewish Holidays, Jewish Wisdom

Surfin’ Social Slivovitz

1378871_10201344783874243_1586591793_nHave you ever had slivovitz?  Do you know the burn of Eastern European plum brandy?  It’s usually kosher for Passover, which is rare for alcoholic beverages other than wine.  It’s usually strong without distinctive flavor.  In the hands of Andy Statman, bluegrass and klezmer virtuoso, slivovitz is a ride you want to take.  I saw him in concert Thursday night at the Arden Guild Hall where he performed a song from his two-day old album, Superstring Theory; the song is called Surfin’ Slivovitz.  Listen to it, and a little old-world plum brandy will seem like the hottest new thing.  While I don’t recommend the alcohol, I do recommend putting a shining face on something you are familiar with.

It’s Open House season at many independent schools.  We give tours every Thursday and by appointment.  We have some print marketing in place and two events down the road.  The best recruitment and donor engagement comes from people who know our school: from you.  You are the best press for Albert Einstein Academy and for Jewish day school.  The trick is to make sure you are putting a shining face on us.

ShipHome4Were you part of over half the school that went on the Kalmar Nyckel?  That’s a shining face on early settlement of Delaware, AND a great chance for you to share a photo or a reflection on social media.  Post to your own Facebook wall and “mention” the school by typing @Albert Einstein Academy Jewish Day School OR post directly to the school page.  Imagine you were looking for the right school for your child; wouldn’t this field trip be the kind of experience you would want?

51xdnl4rJUL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the UK, wrote book A Letter in the Scroll, helping us understand that we each have a letter in the Torah.  If our letter is damaged or missing, the entire scroll in invalid.  We teach the positive idea in that notion to help each student see how special they are in this world—how his or her uniqueness is necessary.  I would add to Rabbi Sack’s presentation of the written scroll that Torah includes the oral tradition.  Your voice is also as important as the presence of your letter.  Judaism thrived throughout the ages because of the rabbinic dialogue that spoke with many voices, all for the sake of Heaven.

via breslovworld.org

via breslovworld.org

If you have something wonderful to say, you should say it; it improves the world.  If you have something negative to say, say it quietly to the right people; I am here to address your concerns and need your help to make improvements to areas of need of which I may not know. If you have something neutral to say, shine it—make it surf like Andy Statman’s slivovitz.d that we each have a letter in the Torah.  If our letter is damaged or missing, the entire scroll in invalid.  We teach the positive idea in that notion to help each student see how special they are in this world—how his or her uniqueness is necessary.  I would add to Rabbi Sack’s presentation of the written scroll that Torah includes the oral tradition.  Your voice is also as important as the presence of your letter.  Judaism thrived throughout the ages because of the rabbinic dialogue that spoke with many voices, all for the sake of Heaven.

I believe in your voices so strongly that I am offering a challenge: if you write about what makes AEA so special to you, I will give you this space.  If you don’t want your voice to be the cover Chailites, post your thoughts on our Facebook page or as a comment on my blog posting of this article.  Your voice matters!

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