Roberta Louis Goodman
Every summer I think about icebergs, sounds a bit like an oxymoron. The Goodman Center for Jewish Education is an iceberg. The programs and classes that we provide for our students and their families fall through spring, ten hours a week, are the “tip of the iceberg,” the visible part of what we do. We prepare at least 10x as much for every hour of school. That not so visible part is doing during the summer and even during the school year.
One of the lessons I have learned from creating and implementing Camp@NSCI, is the importance of having many minds participating in the planning and implementation. This goes well beyond the “standard preparation” that we expect of teachers for each lesson. Having teachers participate translates into paying teachers for their time as it is a consuming, but energizing task that produces results! I was recently in Detroit presenting to ALL but one congregation, Reform and Conservative, about Camp@NSCI. They were captivated by the thoughtfulness, intentionality and depth of the program!
If you need anything during the summer, we will be here. Of course, we enjoy having visitors too!
Listening and Responding to Our Students’ Interests: The Leo Guitar Class Story
While we are still analyzing the results of the school survey sent to parents, giving families choices for their Jewish learning experiences and being flexible stood out as some of our best qualities! Those learning experiences are often shaped by what we know of your interests. Here is one of my favorite stories that is leading to some really “cool” and creative learning experiences.
One day at Camp@NSCI opening, while we were waiting for the rest of the campers to gather in Kersten hall, Leo, a 3rd grader, got on the piano and started playing. When we complimented Leo on his playing he said that he plays guitar and wants to learn Jewish songs. Ok, so here is my opening! I arranged for one of our 12th grade Machoniks and Selah members, Bryan, a skillful guitar player to tutor Leo on Sundays for 20 – 30 minutes teaching him some Jewish songs. Great, had this all arranged with mom and set to go that Sunday.
The Tuesday before, we had a meeting with the 4th grade parents about bar/bat mitzvah dates. In speaking about our approach to creating a village and responding to our students’ needs and interests, I shared the Leo story. Next thing I know I have emails from two parents who were there that evening saying that their children played guitar and wanted to learn some Jewish music too. One other student had recently contacted the Cantor and another guitar player was standing by the Cantor the next day when I shared the news, so that brought it to five! Five, we have to send out an email I realized. By that Sunday, we had 10 or so participants, including one ukulele player and one person who never played guitar before but started taking a few lessons just to be in the guitar group. We drafted our Sunday music teacher, Ellen Blank to work with the guitar players, Cantor Goldstein made himself available, and 3 more members of Selah in addition to Bryan volunteered to help out on different Sundays! What started as 20 minutes private session, became a 45 minute group experience! Our guitar group played their first two Jewish songs, the Shema and “It Is a Tree of Life” at the Torah Celebration for Camp@NSCI the last Sunday of school.
Next Year: Prayer Jammin’, Guitar Class and Selah
So what happens next year? When we asked the 5th and 6th graders how many of them played musical instruments or sing? About half the hands went up! So next year, 5th and 6th graders can take “Prayer Jammin’” bringing their musical instruments as their Hebrew class, during regular school hours both sessions Sunday, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 3rd and 4th graders can be part of guitar class–ukulele too and we are considering singers too–on Tuesdays and Wednesdays the last 35 minutes of the day during “Chug – elective” time. Everyone will learn Jewish prayers and songs, instrumental techniques, and song leading too!
Plus, we are inviting all 8th through 12th graders and selected 7th graders to help out in the class too! They will be the mentors to the younger students. All 6th through 12th graders are eligible to be part of Selah, the musical group that helps lead monthly Shabbat services and some High Holy Day services. Plus Selah is expanding into helping lead Sunday and midweek services, Camp@NSCI opening and closing sessions, and more. Selah will meet during school hours on Sundays rather than after school in the coming year. Of course, all 9th – 12th graders who help out with the younger students get paid as Machoniks!
Next Year: Prayer through the Visual Arts
From our Camp@NSCI experience, we know that many of our students are interested in the visual arts. On Sundays, both early and late sessions, we will offer a one hour pull out from regular Hebrew for 5th and 6th graders where students will explore the meaning of the prayers through the visual arts. Lynn Friend, our gifted Art Specialist and Co-Coordinator of Individualized Instruction will lead this effort. She will teach the class late session and Orly Nussbaum will teach it early session.
Conclusion: Let Us Know What Interests You
These are some of the plans for next year. Who knows what will pop up the following year! We should all remember the power of one, a single voice, to change the world! Thank you Leo!