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Welcome to the home of The Lookstein Center’s LookJED discussions. Initiated in 1998 with just 25 people, The LookJED has evolved into a growing community of over 3000 educational professionals and lay people of all levels—academics, principals, teachers, etc. who are looking to learn, share, and innovate together. Our discussions serve to introduce, reflect upon, and debate compelling topics of interest in the world of Jewish education.

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Benefits and Typologies of Parental Involvement

I am a mother of four, but I was not, and in fact, am still not, an involved parent at my children's school. Mea culpa.  But I have always looked at those parents in the forefront and wondered: Why are you so involved?  As I got more and more interested in that...

Revitalizing the Tekkes

The yamim (or modern Jewish holidays, from Yom HaShoah, to Yom HaZikaron to Yom HaAtzmaut), are often meaningful and powerful moments in modern Jewish history. However, the way in which these holidays are currently being observed by most Jewish communities lull us into a communal “sleep mode” rather than energize us. It seems as if Jewish institutions across America go into a default “tekkes-”mode (ceremony-mode) for the variety of these upcoming holidays.
The tekkes itself ostensibly means sitting for a while, standing for a while, sometimes observing moments of silence, singing familiar Jewish songs, and often passively listening to speakers or instrumental pieces. The tekkes was and is a powerful mode for engaging certain generations, from Holocaust survivors, to children of Holocaust survivors, to Israelis who now live in America who grew up with tekasim (plural for tekkes) as “the” way of observing these holidays.
There is certainly something powerful and somber about the style of the tekkes but I’m not sure that it’s reaching the hearts and minds of our current generation of students and families. And I’m not sure it ever really reached mine – the generation of infamous millennials. Yes, I held a yellow tulip, but did I really engage in a developmentally appropriate way with the themes of Yom HaShoah? Yes, I waved an Israeli flag but did I truly understand and appreciate the miracle and nuanced complexities associated with the State of Israel?
Perhaps it’s an attention-span issue or perhaps it’s this generations’ ability to find meaning through primarily creating their own content. It seems that this across-the-board default mode of going from tekkes to tekkes is not building a deeply engaged future generation of the Jewish people. For many (myself included) the tekkes itself is an outmoded pageant that no longer has an appeal.
In the calendar of so many post-Passover holidays, the model of the tekkes overwhelms what could otherwise be unique and varied events.
How do we make this yearly cluster of modern Jewish holidays more innovative and engaging so that we don’t do the same thing every year?
How do we recognize these holidays in a way such that people don’t feel like they just have to show up?
How do we make these holidays more interactive and meaningful?
How do we establish new traditions for these holidays that go beyond the outmoded model of the tekkes?

Let us find ways to empower participants to take charge of their own learning through innovative uses of music, art, videos, building, cooking, social media, and actual participation. Let’s re-craft this post-Passover holiday cluster and re-energize these holidays so that they are more meaningful to the current and next generations of the Jewish people.
*This has been adapted from an article in eJewish Philanthropy.

What can we do with our students that doesn’t contribute to an “us” and “them” reality, but fosters a real sense of Achdut and sameness with our fellow Jew living in Israel – and everywhere else in the world – despite our often differing experiences?

Spring Season Achdut

Throughout the year, and in this season in particular, the lives of our students are so different from the lives of their peers in Israel. The Israeli kids just participated in 1 seder, they will have entirely different experiences throughout the “yamim” (try as we might to mirror the awesomeness of the “yamim” in Israel) and as of this week we will even be reading a different Parsha on Shabbat.

What can we do with our students that doesn’t contribute to an “us” and “them” reality, but fosters a real sense of Achdut and sameness with our fellow Jew living in Israel – and everywhere else in the world – despite our often differing experiences?

Creating Mutually Beneficial Dialogue Between Different Groups of Educators

I  recall that in my early teaching years, as a high school teacher I yearned to be able to learn from a variety of pedagogical techniques from elementary and middle school teachers. At the same time, in conversations with some elementary and middle school teachers, I repeatedly heard them seeking high school teachers who could enrich and deepen their content. Since making Aliyah, part of my work has taken me to visit many schools, from elementary to high schools. Although there have been exceptions, it seems like the generalizations I experienced years ago are, for the most part, still valid.And I wonder how we can create the kind of mutually beneficial dialogue between different groups of educators – those who have strong pedagogy and those who have deep and broad content knowledge – to create more meaningful, substantive, and pedagogically sound educational encounters for our students.

A Look Back and A Look Ahead at Megillah Reading. Who? How? And Why?

Many Talmudic debates result in practical Halacha, and guidance for everyday living for observant Jews. Society has evolved from generation to generation, but every few decades our brilliant ​Poskim ​find ways to make living a life of Halacha and observance that much more accessible. Often times when debating a specific topic, we get caught in the crosswinds of Hashkafa​, and how it relates to ​our ​particular circles, neighborhoods, or institutions. I find these debates particularly challenging in a school environment, where Hashkafa is hard to enforce, we cater to a range of families/communities, and our role as educators can be unclear.With Purim just behind us, we have almost a full year to think about and plan for what Purim can and should mean for our students and school communities.So many commentators write about why the Megillah was named only after Esther and not ​Megillat Mordechai V’Esther? Our sages teach us that “he wrote the Megillah” but only once Esther sends it out publicly, do the people accept and spread the story. Initially, the Jews were afraid to circulate the story because of how the nations of the world would react. It was due to the courage of Esther, who shared that the story was already recorded in the books of Media and Persia, that the people had no need to fear further consequences. Esther’s voice is what led to the Megillah being heard then and read today within our communities.I think about this every year as we prepare for Purim.The Talmud records in two places a woman’s role in reading the Megillah. In ​Masechet Arachin​ (2b – 3a) “All are fit to read the Megillah, to include what? To include women” and it references what was also written in ​Masechet Megillah​ (4a) “R’ Yehoshua ben Levi said women are obligated in the reading of the Megillah, for they too were involved in that miracle”. This sets off a debate amongst many Poskim​, the answer to which is largely dependent on your ​minhagim​ and community.In his works ​Chazon Ovadia Purim (נט), R’ Ovadia Yosef writes: ויישוב קטן שאין שם איש שיודע לקרוא את המגילה כהלכה, ויש שם אשה שיודעת לקרות המגילה, יכולים להתאסף באחד הבתים והאשה תעמוד בצד בצניעות, ותקרא להם בטעמיה.A small community that does not have a man who is able to read the Megillah properly (Halachically) and there is a woman who knows how to read the Megillah properly, they may gather in one of the homes and the woman will stand on one side modestly, and she may read the Megillah (with cantillation).R’ Ovadia is not the first to generate this ruling, but he is the most contemporary. ​Rashi, Rif, Rambam, ​and​ Ritva ​are some who also agree that a woman may fulfill this obligation, all while following the well-known principle that whoever is obligated to do a mitzvah can fulfill the obligation of all those who are obligated to do that mitzvah (based on ​Mishna Rosh Hashana 3:8).Every year when we celebrate Purim, we give credit to one of the main heroes of the story, but yet we are not willing to get behind some serious ​Poskim​, and make it mainstream to have women lead the reading of public readings of the Megillah. I think this message can be harmful for the growth of the young women in our schools. I think it would bring more meaning to many young girls to know that the mitzvah of reading the Megillah can be fulfilled by a woman.I recall hearing a shiur by R’ Ovadia’s son, R’ Yitzchak Yosef, who said that his father’s “wish was to edit many parts of his works (which were printed 30 plus years ago) and add to them more modern rulings.” He said that his father in his last few years acknowledged that this generation needs “many more leniencies”, and that following “stringent ​halachic​ views” is causing many people to be minimally involved with Judaism.If we do not accept the rulings where our Rabbis allowed leniencies, we will be forced to deal with the future ramifications of stronger leniencies. Rabbinic legislation allows and encourages tremendous flexibility when we are בשעת הדחק. I would like to argue that we move forward in a dignified way relying on multiple ​Poskim ​or we will inevitably get there in a pressing way.

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