Posts Tagged ‘Jewish education’

Ramah Fellows Extend Camp Feeling Into The School Year

January 16, 2014

This article was first published in JWeekly.

Ramah Service Corps fellow Eli Jacober (far right) with students at Hillel Day School in Farmington Hills, near Detroit

Ramah Service Corps fellow Eli Jacober (far right) with students at Hillel Day School in Farmington Hills, near Detroit

Heading back to school in the fall after a fun-filled summer at camp has always been a bit of a letdown for kids. Who hasn’t wished that school were more like summer camp and that teachers were more like camp counselors?

Now, Camp Ramah, the camping arm of the Conservative movement, is making those wishes come true with a new initiative that brings camp’s experiential learning to synagogue schools and Jewish day schools. Twenty-five college-age Ramah Service Corps fellows are living and working in communities across North America, infusing formal Jewish learning with camp-style activities, serving as Jewish role models for teens and encouraging kids to attend Ramah camps.

The Ramah Service Corps initiative, launched three years ago, has expanded significantly this year thanks to $1.5 million of new funding from a variety of sources.

While the Ramah Service Corps is a single initiative, it plays out differently in various communities. In some cities, each of the fellows — all former Ramah staffers — works with a single Conservative congregation to plan and lead a number of camp-inspired educational activities during the year. In most cases, the fellows are already employed or studying in the community, and their Ramah Service Corps work is an additional piece of their responsibilities.

In the Bay Area, a single fellow is working with a handful of synagogues. Last fall, University of Georgia graduate Stephen “Stevo” Feinberg moved to Berkeley to extend the Ramah experience for kids during the school year.

…In the Detroit metropolitan area, the Ramah Service Corps is a full-time job for the three fellows stationed there. Eli Jacober, Darrien Sherman and Hillel Buechler share a house in Royal Oak, Mich., and are a regular presence at six area synagogue schools, two Jewish day schools and Hillel at the University of Michigan, where there are some 150 Ramah alumni.

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© 2014 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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S.F.’s Hartman Institute Helping Community to Evolve

January 16, 2014

This piece was first published in JWeekly.

Yehuda Kurtzer, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, leads a roundtable discussion for Jewish professionals at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in 2013.

Yehuda Kurtzer, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, leads a roundtable discussion for Jewish professionals at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in 2013.

Chances are that on any given day, there is a Shalom Hartman Institute Jewish educational program going on somewhere in the Bay Area.

It could be a small gathering of community leaders meeting at a private home to study Jewish text, or a study session for local rabbis.  Or it could be a Jewish organization’s leaders sitting in the boardroom, exploring major Jewish questions with a Hartman scholar.

Founded in 1976 by American-born Rabbi David Hartman (who died last year), the Shalom Hartman Institute is a pluralistic research, leadership and educational center based in Jerusalem.

Five years ago, the institute established a North American headquarters in New York. In September 2011, it opened an S.F.-based office, headed by Bernie Steinberg, the first vice president  for the West Coast for the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, now working as a Hartman scholar.

In the past several years, the Bay Area has become a major center for the institute.

The aim: To inspire transformative thinking about big Jewish ideas and major questions facing Jews today. The institute works directly with area community leaders, both spiritual and institutional, as the agents of change.

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© 2014 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

‘My Giving Back is an Expression of Their Defiance’

September 26, 2013

This piece was first published as ‘Discovering My Family’s Legacy as Jewish Partisans’ on The Sisterhood blog at the Forward.

Jewish educator Michal Oshman

Jewish educator Michal Oshman

Michal Oshman, a trailblazing Jewish educator who has been nominated for special recognition by the Jewish Partisans Educational Foundation at its upcoming annual gala, always sensed her family’s past was different from that of other families. Growing up in South Florida, she noticed that her grandparents were always invited to light a candle at her community’s annual Yom HaShoah commemoration, but she didn’t know the details of their Holocaust stories.

That all changed when she and her family attended a special advance screening of Edward Zwick’s 2008 film, “Defiance,” about the Bielski partisans brigade during WWII. She looked over at her grandfather as he watched a scene where the partisans walked through a body of water, plucking leeches from their skin. Her grandfather was wiping his forehead as he relived his actual experience of what was shown in the movie. That powerful moment spurred Oshman to learn in detail and depth about her ancestor’s experiences as Jewish partisans.

“Tuvia Bielski [one of the brothers who led the Bielski brigade] was at my bat mitzvah, but I didn’t know who he was at the time,” Oshman, 39, recalled in a conversation with The Sisterhood. Now, of course, she knows why Bielski was celebrating with her family, and how his presence at her simcha makes her part of a special circle with a unique legacy.

This legacy will be front and center at JPEF’s event in New York on October 28. The organization will recognize third generation Jewish partisans (grandchildren of the WWII-era partisans) who are making an impact by perpetuating the history and inspiration of their grandparents.

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© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.