Letter from the Editor-in-Chief

by: Beverly Buncher

The idea that we as individuals have three relationships to develop in this world in order to be good Jews (person to God, person to person, and person to self) is a powerful one. Zelig Pliskin’s book Gateway to Happiness, paraphrases a passage from the Alai Shur that mentions the three relationships in a way that has become a spiritual compass for me over the years. “A person who has mastered peace of mind has gained everything. To obtain peace of mind you need to be at peace with the people in your environment. You need to be at peace with yourself – your emotions and desires. Furthermore, you need to be at peace with your Creator.”

During a particularly stressful stretch in my professional career, I was accepted to the Institute for Jewish Spirituality’s Educators Program which offered Educators of Jewish Teens an opportunity to renew themselves through a two year cohort that included instruction in Jewish meditation, Torah Yoga, Hasidic text study and work with Rachael Kessler, founder of the PassageWays Program and author of The Soul of Education (ASCD). At the end of the two years, we would take a project back to our schools for our students. I saw this program as an opportunity for me to reinvigorate my work on the three relationships.

The program had a tremendous impact on my inner and outer life as an educator, helping me bring the three relationships back into balance in my life. It also inspired me to begin writing again, to get my body back in shape, to be more in touch with my own spirituality, and to implement the PassageWays program (see below) in my own school (my take-home project).

The most important lesson I learned from the experience is the importance of taking care of my own relationships, my own inner and outer lives, in order to truly help others grow in a transformational way. With the importance of nurturing the principal, teacher, and student in mind, this issue is filled with articles designed to be renewing to you on both the personal and professional levels. Here are just some of the articles awaiting you within:

Inviting Soul into the Classroom by Rachael Kessler shares the PassageWays program as a means to help students open up to their own spiritual development, along with a focus on helping teachers develop their ‘Teaching Presence’ in order to facilitate student growth most effectively.

• Arlene Fishbein’s Feeling at Home in their Own Skins and with Each Other shares her own experience implementing the PasssageWays program with her students. After spending a few days studying with Rachael Kessler, Arlene brought the PassageWays program back to her classroom and has watched her students grow in their abilities to relate to themselves and each other throughout the year.

• Alan Brill sees spirituality as a ‘catchphrase’ for what he calls ‘at least four very different approaches to seeking a sense of the transcendental in life.’ He describes the characteristics of each and gives guidelines of how to approach students who operate from each of the four.

• Stephen Bailey asks ‘Can Spirituality be Taught?’ describing Krathwohl’s Taxonomy of Affective Education as a means to open students up to spirituality. He walks readers through the process using tefillah as one example of an area in which to do so.

• Moshe Drelich focuses on the importance of role modeling to the process of engaging students in tefillah, describing his own inspiring approach to students in the process.

• Jay Goldmintz shares a unique method of teaching tefillah using pictures as prompts and motivators. This replicable method is shared in an article that includes pictures as well as text to walk readers through the process.

• Aryeh Ben David offers an approach to spiritual education that encompasses the intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual realms in order to engage students’ souls, explaining why all must be utilized in order to bring about transformation.

• Nancy Siegel’s Silence for Renewal: The Power of Silence in the Classroom provides ideas and exercises to help one get in touch with one’s ‘inner world’ in order to experience an inner renewal and awakening for both teachers and students.

• Lillian Yaffe writes about how being kidnapped by Colombian guerillas transformed her perspective on teaching and on life itself. This experience led the former college professor to choose a high school teaching career as a way to make a lasting difference in students’ lives.

• Elana Sztokman visited the Reut school in Jerusalem and writes about the spiritual approach of this model school and its founder Aryeh Geiger. This article is all the more poignant as it describes how Dr. Geiger is walking the school community through his own battle with cancer.

In addition to these and the other inspiring articles you’ll find within these covers, you will find several articles on the web at www.lookstein.org/journal.htm designed to spark further conversation on topics as diverse as the creative arts, gender, defining and finding spirituality in the community school, questions to spark spiritual discussions, and how the synagogue experience affects preschoolers’ views of God. (See web abstract page for more information.)

Let me know which of the articles touched you in a way that helped you make a difference in your life and/or that of your school. You can reach me at beverly@lookstein.org.


Beverly A. Buncher