Musings on Jewish Education and Jewish Living

Archive for July, 2013


There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about how to make Religious School and youth groups more camp-like.  We’ve had numerous conversations at Temple Beth-El, and these conversations are taking place in many other congregations across North America.

There are many reasons why Religious School can never replicate the camp experience, not the least of which is that it is not immersive.  It takes place within the context of many other – and often competing – activities going on in the lives of our students and parents.

There is one way, however, that we can effectively emulate the camp experience, and this is it:  Unplugging at Camp.  While at camp, unplugging allows campers to connect in very real ways with their bunkmates and other campers, as well as with their counselors.  It enables them to really connect with the whole camp experience.

I believe that the same would hold true at Religious School, were we able to enforce our “no electronics” policy.  I’m not suggesting we do away with all technology; the opposite is true.  I have spend significant time this summer thinking and exploring ways to utilize technology in our education program.  In a sense, leveraging the electronics that our students bring with them every week.

However, when we’re not using mobile devices to further our learning, I believe that unplugging would lead to a stronger and more effective focus on students connecting with each other, with their teachers and with Judaism.  To that end, this year we will be placing a basket on each teacher’s desk and asking students to turn off their phones and place them in the basket as they enter the classroom.  That way, they will not be tempted to respond every time they feel the buzz of a new text message or email.  For our older students, an electronics “fix” will be allowed during their break, after which they will be asked to return their phones to the basket.

By the way, this was a suggestion generated by parents of our upcoming 9th graders.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.  Please feel free to respond here, on my Facebook timeline, or send me a private email.  Or if you’d like to chat about it, feel free to give me a call!

I would love to hear from you and invite you to join the conversation. If you are not comfortable responding here, please feel free to send me a private email at

Allowing Our Children – and Ourselves – to Fail

Today I read this: A Plea to Parents: Let Your Students Fail

While I occasionally “rescued” my kids by bringing them their forgotten lunch or homework – if I was still at home and therefore wasn’t a huge inconvenience or disruption to my work day – I was never a “fix it” mom. I tried hard to be sympathetic and help them process a poor grade or problem at school (“I can see you’re upset about this. What could you do next time to have a different outcome?”), more often than not, I heard my father’s words coming out of my mouth: “So what did you learn from this?” “Who got the other 2%, 10%, 40% (never!)?” “So what are you going to do about it?”

Not five minutes later, I saw this:


How do you respond to your children’s/spouse’s/significant other’s disappointment or failure? What do you think about the article and what lessons can we learn from it, even (especially?) for those of us who don’t have children in school?

%d bloggers like this: