Idie Benjamin and Dale Cooperman
We are writing this on the last day of Hanukkah, and only a few days after the unspeakable tragedy in Connecticut. We had planned to write about Purim, but now we are approaching Purim with a different perspective and with a different clarity. We are thinking about the clowns—clowns that are sent into the circus rings when there has been an accident during a performance. They are there to distract the crowd while the injured are removed from the arena.
by Josh-Mason Barkin
Old magazines can surprise you.
In 1994, CAJE published an edition of its Jewish Education News dedicated entirely to Jewish heroes. Fifteen years later, flipping through dusty papers on a bookshelf, that issue of JEN inspired us to publish our new book on heroes, Eizehu Gibor: Living Jewish Values.
None of the many articles in that issue explicitly mention it, but there’s a tension throughout the Spring 1994 edition’s pages. On one hand, esteemed thinkers of Jewish education argue that we need to introduce our students to the mythological characters of Jewish history like Samson and Herzl. On the other hand, equally esteemed thinkers argue that we need to teach our students about everyday heroes, normal people who can show us how to live mitzvah-filled Jewish lives.
We teach Jewish values not because we want our students to know the Hebrew names for a bunch of ethical principles. Rather, we teach Jewish values because we want our students to live moral lives informed by the Jewish tradition and their connection to God. Knowing that kavod means respect is useless if you’re not a respectful person.
Recently, educators have been telling us a lot about this struggle to have the Jewish values they teach in the classroom translate into the way students treat each other. Suffice it to say that we hear a lot of frustration in those educators’ voices. We think Eizehu Gibor can help.
How do heroes fit into the equation of values internalization? And why are we publishing a new heroes book this year? Perhaps the best way to explain is to explore the tension between the “big heroes” and the “everyday heroes.”
Heroes are important for two reasons. First, they give students powerful examples of how to live a life richly informed by Jewish vales. Second, they connect students to Jewish peoplehood, allowing them to take pride in the accomplishments of important Jews throughout history.
Eizehu Gibor: Living Jewish Values is a new way to bring Jewish heroes and the values they stand for into your classroom. It is a values text for our time, about being a person worthy of emulation. It’s about knowing how to do the right thing, how to make a contribution to the world, and how to be a mensch, and how to live up to being created in God’s image.
Designed for fifth and sixth graders, Eizehu Gibor: Living Jewish Values adds new names to the pantheon of Jewish heroes, presents texts from the Jewish tradition as well as the heroes’ own words, and challenges students to think about how they can live up to the examples set by real role-models.
Did you know that Natalie Portman isn’t just a Jewish actress, but also a tzedakah hero? How can Debbie Friedman and Craig Taubman help us to sing praise to God by finding our own voices? What’s Jewish about owning a football team? These questions are at the heart of Eizehu Gibor: Living Jewish Values, and they can be at the heart of your students’ classroom, too.
Eizehu Gibor: Living Jewish Values will begin shipping in July. But right now you can check out sample chapters and pre-order by clicking here.