Express Innovation 2011-2012 Shaarei Mitzvah program Park Slope Jewish CenterRabbi Carie Carter Elisabeth Albert—Director of Family EducationAaron Weininger—Rabbinic Fellow Judy Greenberg—Rabbinic InternEllen Brickman—Lay leader
Facilitate conversations on Jewish values→ with the entire pre-B’nai Mitzvah class; 26 7th graders (ages 12-13)→ with their families→ as a communitySpanning the breadth of Shabbat→ Erev Shabbat→ Shabbat day→ Havadallah
LASHON HARA IN THE DIGITAL AGE:THE ETHICS OF SPEECH IN A WORLD OF TWITTER, FACEBOOK ANDTEXTING Friday night, January 20th, 2012
In a small Eastern European town, a man went through the community slanderingthe rabbi. One day, feeling suddenly remorseful, he begged the rabbi for forgivenessand offered to undergo any penance to make amends. The rabbi told him to take afeather pillow from his home, cut it open, scatter the feathers to the wind, thenreturn to see him. The man did as he was told, then came to the rabbi and asked, “AmI now forgiven?” “Almost”, came the response. “You just have to do one more thing.Go and gather all the feathers.” “But that’s impossible,” the man protested. “The windhas already scattered them.” “Precisely,” the rabbi answered. “And although you trulywish to correct the evil you have done, it is as impossible to repair the damage doneby your words as it is to recover the feathers.”--A famous Jewish tale as recorded by Joseph Telushkin in his book, Words ThatHurt, Words That Heal PRE-SESSION TAKE HOME LEARNING**What is your initial reaction to this story?**What do you think about the rabbis actions and response to the slandered?**Why could the slanderer never “repair the damage done”?**Do you think this is true, or is it possible to take back “mean words” or gossip once shared withothers?**Can you relate to this story? If so, which character do you relate to more, and why?**This story refers to someone verbally spreading slander in one community, how does this applyin today’s “Digital World”?
PROGRAM RECAP: After a tuneful Shabbat services and a hearty potluck dinner, we came together for some learning. Our topic for the night was: Lashon Hara in the Digital Age. We had great conversations about being mindful in our speech and thoughtful in the way we treat others. Students and parents collaborated in text study and then shared the texts they learned with the group. After these creative presentations, we had a thoughtful conversation about how each of us can be more careful in our interaction with others – how each of us can act in ways that honor and respect the dignity of those around us. We talked about some of the challenges to this ideal behavior– including some unique challenges brought to us by e-mail and other social media. → Creatively utilized multiple intelligences: reading texts, discussion, and skits → The Torah has something to say to us about how we talk today → Being quiet and not talking can be a powerful way of using your speech→ Especially with texting and other technology, words can quickly get out of your control
Pirkei Avot 1:15 Pirkei Avot 3:16• Shammai taught: Make the study of Torah your primary occupation; Say little, do • Rabbi Yishmael taught: Be obedient with much; Greet every person with a cheerful your seniors, be pleasant with your face. juniors, and greet every person with a cheerful manner. Often we focus on SAYING nice things and DOING positive actions. What does this text teach about ACTIONS over WORDS? Do you act differently towards your peers than towards those older than you? Why or why not? Do they act differently towards you?Pirkei Avot 2:16 Pirkei Avot 4:20• Rabbi Yehoshua taught: The begrudging eye, the evil impulse, and hatred of one’s • Rabbi Mattia ben Harash taught: Be the fellow human beings will ruin a person’s first to extend greeting to every human life. being. Be a tail to lions rather than a head to foxes. This is very extreme language. What do you think the text means when it says “will ruin a person’s life?” Do you think your THOUGHTS and FACIAL EXPRESSIONS can actually have that much power over others? Is this text literally telling you to be the FIRST to greet EVERY human being? If not, what do you think it is teaching? What do you think it means to be a fox? A lion?
A story is told about 3 people who meet with their rabbi before Yom Kippur to talk about repentance. Onedid something big and awful. The rabbi tells this person to get the biggest stone they can possibly carry, andbring it to the rabbi’s office. The man takes the rabbi’s suggestion seriously and picks a small boulder that he can barely carry. He struggles to move this rock, but eventually gets it there. The second person did 6 pretty bad things that she feels bad about. The rabbi tells her to go get 6 big stonesand bring them back in one trip. The woman finds six sizable stones. Each is easy to carryon its own, but she has a lot of trouble balancing all of the stones in one trip. The third person has done many little things over the year. He begins to name a few them, but can’t remember all of them. He just feels badly. The rabbi tells him to fetch 50 pebbles. These pebbles are quiteeasy to carry, but he can’t keep track – does he have 48? 51? Did he just drop one? He gets to the rabbi and hope she has 50. To each of these people, the rabbi says, “Now go put these stones back exactly where you found them. Thefirst person is shocked how much heavier his stone feels now. After much struggle, he is able to return it, but it doesn’t sit quite right in its spot. The second person, again struggles to balance them all and she is only able to remember 4 places exactly. And the other two she has to guess. The third person can’t remember which pebble came from where. He just knows a few from here, a few from there. He is unable to return them. These stones symbolize moments when we hurt others. The boulder is a big mess-up we remember well, but is very hard to fix; it is very hard to mend that relationship. The six medium-sized stones are timeswhen we hurt those around us. They are the times that we are aware of, but can easily forget and are hard to mend. The pebbles represent all of the small mistakes we make against those we love and those we interact with daily. They are the little times when we could have been kinder or could have listened more. We can barely count them.The three people’s struggles to return the stones recall how our relationships cannot be perfect. But we canall strive to not upset stones – we can all strive to treat those in our lives with honor, love, and respect. And we learn from this story the labor involved in fixing our wrongs.May we be able to see the effects we can have on others. May we treat everyone in our lives with respect and honor. And may we have the courage to return stones when we hurt those around us.
MAPPING YOUR JEWISH JOURNEY Shabbat morning and afternoon, February 11th, 2012
Guiding Questions1) How would you characterize Yitros Exodus 18:8-10response to the story of Exodus? And Moses told his father-in-law all that Adonai had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the travail that had come upon them by(verses 8-10) the way, and how Adonai delivered them. And Yitro rejoiced for all the goodness which Adonai had done to Israel, in that God had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. And Yitro said: “Blessed be2) What is the problem that Yitro helps Adonai, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and outMoses solve? (verse13) of the hand of Pharaoh; who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.3) What do you think about the way Exodus 18:13-27Yitro gives constructive feedback to And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people; and the people stood about Moses from the morning until the evening. And whenMoses (verses 14, 17, and 18) and the Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did to the people, he said: “What is thisway Moses responds? (verses 15-16) thing that you do to the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand about you from morning until evening? And Moses said to his father-in-law: “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; When they have a matter, it comes to me; and I judge between a man and his neighbor, and I make them4) How would you respond to Yitros know the statutes of God, and God’s laws.” And Moses father-in-law said toadvice if you were Moses? him: The thing that you are doing is not good. You shall surely wear away, both you, and this people that is with you; for the thing is too heavy for you; you are not able to perform it yourself alone. Listen now to my voice, I will give your counsel, and God be with you: you should be there for the people before5) Is there something to learn from God, and you will bring the causes unto God. And you shall teach them theYitro in how we prioritize the many statutes and the laws, and shall show them the way in which they must walk, and the work that they must do. Moreover you shall provide out of all thepieces of our Jewish journeys? people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating unjust gain; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people at all seasons; and it6) What does this text teach us about shall be, that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they shall judge themselves; so shall they make it easier for you and bear thelearning from those around us, our burden with you. If you do this thing, and God commands you so, then you shallfamilies, our teachers and mapping be able to endure, and all this people also shall go to their place in peace.‘ Soour Jewish journeys? Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law, and did all that he had said. And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And they judged the people at all seasons: the hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves. And Moses let his father-in-law depart; and he went his way into his own land. PRE-SESSION TAKE HOME LEARNING
Program Recap:We played a game we called “Mapping your Jewish Journey.” Eachfamily received a game board with spaces numbered 1 though 10. Eachfamily received 18 cards with different Jewish action values on them.The family’s task was to select and then rank the top ten values thatinform their Jewish identity. The cards included activities like attendingservices, celebrating holidays, having a bar/bat mitzvah, and creating aJewish family. We also included two blank cards for actions for peopleto fill in. Passionate discussion ensued, as each family member sharedhis or her values and listened those of parents, children, spouses, andsiblings. We joined together to reflect on the process. We hope thatmany of the conversations from Saturday have continued at home! → “That was the most that I’ve talked to my child in weeks.” → First times many of these families discussed the value of dating and marrying Jews → Students articulated to themselves and to their parents what having a bar/t mitzvah means to them
"These are the deeds which have benefit now and continue to givebenefit in the World to Come: honoring parents; doing deeds of lovingkindness; attending the house of study (school, synagogue, etc.)punctually, morning and evening; welcoming guests; visiting the sick;helping the needy bride; attending the dead; probing the meaning ofprayer; making peace between one person and another, and betweenpartners. And the study of Torah is equal to them all."Which of these deeds do you identify with most closely? Do you sense a prioritizing in the text? What is the value of examining our values?POST SESSION TAKE HOME LEARNING
REPRESENTINGOURSELVES, REPRESENTINGOUR VALUES Seudah Shlishit and Havdallah, March 17th, 2012
Between Occupy Wall Street and the current economic situation, issues around wealth have been on our minds and in the news agreat deal this year. We express our values to the world in part by the way we spend our money and the way we share our wealth with others. This is especially true at moments of family/communal celebration. Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a time when students often receive more money than at any other moment. So we wanted to think together about the way we use the (financial) gifts that we have. As we prepare to come together to think about the "meaning behind bar/bat mitzvah", please take a few moments to consider and discuss these Jewish texts about wealth.Pirke Avot 4:1 (found in Siddur Sim Shalom, p. 631) Consider as well this passage about Shabbat. Shabbat is, according to Rabbi Abraham Joshua"Who is rich? One who is happy with her/his portion, as it is Heschel, "an island in time". It is a special time written: For you will eat the labor of your hands and in our week, a time when we generally set aside you will be happy and all will be well with you.” (Psalms 128:2) the business of the week to "be" in a different way. It is telling that our Bnai Mitzvah"Who is honored? The one who honors all beings, as it is generallyt ake place on Shabbat (or a holiday). written: Those who honor Me I will honor, but those Here is the text from the Book of Exodus that who scorn Me, will be despised.” (I Samuel 2:30). reminds us of the uniqueness of Shabbat.1. According to this text, are you rich?2. How could you use this text’s lesson to plan a bat/bar V’Shamru (Exodus, 31:16-17) mitzvah that makes you honored? "The people Israel shall observe Shabbat, to maintain it as anMishnah Pe’ah 1:1 (Siddur Sim Shalom, p. 8) ever lasting covenant through all generations. It is a sign between Me and the people Israel for all time, that in six"These are the things for which there is no exact measure: days Adonai made the heavens and the earth, and on leaving crops at the corner of a field for the poor to the seventh day God ceased from work and rested." collect, offering first fruits of the harvest as a gift to God, traveling to Jerusalem for the three Festivals, doing 1. Why does it make sense to celebrate your bat/bar deeds of lovingkindness, and studying Torah.“ mitzvah on Shabbat? 2. What does Shabbat mean to you? What do you think it1. “No exact measure” means that you can never finish meant to your grandparents and great-grandparents doing any of these things. What does it mean that and ancestors before that? these actions cannot be completed?2. How do the last two actions (doing deeds of lovingkindness and studying Torah) relate to your bat/bar mitzvah? PRE-SESSION TAKE HOME LEARNING
PROGRAM RECAP:OVER DINNER WE DISCUSSED HOW CELEBRATING B’NAI MITZVAH IS ANOPPORTUNITY TO REPRESENT OUR FAMILY’S VALUES TO OUR SYNAGOGUE AND TOOUR EXTENDED COMMUNITIES. HOW DO WE DECIDE TO SPEND OUR TIME ANDMONEY CELEBRATING THIS OCCASION? WHAT PRESSURES DO WE FACE? STUDENTSAND PARENTS SEPARATED FOR A BUDGETING ACTIVITY USING FRESHLY MINTED"CARTER CASH,” AND THEN FAMILIES SHARED HOW THEY CAME TO THEIRDECISIONS. WE SAID GOOD BYE TO SHABBAT TOGETHER WITH A REFLECTIVE ANDMUSICAL HAVDALLAH SERVICE. AFTER, WE WATCHED THE ABSURD ANDHEARTWARMING MOVIE KEEPING UP WITH THE STEINS, WHICH TELLS THE STORY OFA FAMILY STRUGGLING TO MAKE MEANING AND TO MAKE DECISIONS ABOUT THECELEBRATION OF BENJAMIN’S BAR MITZVAH. THE MOVIE LED TO SOME GREATDISCUSSION. → Families expressed positive value of a large celebration – a rare opportunity for the family to gather → At the same time, asserting: I feel no communal pressure to do so → Havdallah was a special time to gather as Shabbat and the year of programming came to a close → Film screening (with popcorn!) allowed for social bonding in a relaxed atmosphere
Discussion questions for after viewing Keeping Up with the Steins1. What is your initial reaction after seeing this movie?2. Who is this all about? The parents or the kids?3. Where should the focus be? On the “bar” or on the “mitzvah”?4. Do you feel pressure to throw/have a big party?5. What do you “get” out of a bar mitzvah?6. What does the bar mitzvah mean?“It doesn’t matter what happens at the Temple—it’s the party that counts!”
“Ultimately the education and religious spirit of bar and bat mitzvah can extend beyond the final hymnor prayer at the service. It can permeate the lives of our young, and it can enrich what they take withthem into the world. Jewish celebrations that truly celebrate Jewish values implicitly erode thedistinctions that so many erect between the „Jewish world‟ and the „real world,‟ between our daily livesand the relatively scant amount of time so often devoted to overtly religious issues and rituals. It canhelp remind us that that “religious” and the “spiritual” are everywhere, and cannot be relegated tocertain places and certain times.” --Putting God on the Guest List: How to reclaim the spiritual meaning of your child‟s Bar or BatMitzvah (p. 89)“Let young people…be sure that every deed counts, that every word had power, and that we all can doour share to redeem the world in spite of all its absurdities…Let them remember to build a life as if itwere a work of art.”– Abraham Joshua Heschel, ABC Interview, 1972 (Putting God on the Guest List, p. 152) 1. One goal of the Shaarei Mitzvah program is to help families identify their own Jewish values. What does your list of values look like?2. How can parents and children work together in making the bar or bat mitzvah as rich and meaningful as possible? 3. How can these lessons be extended beyond the bar or bat mitzvah season? POST SESSION TAKE HOME LEARNING
Online surveys followed each program“Thank you for offering these important and innovative programs that instill greaterinsight for families into the journey of providing a Jewish education for our children.”“Great program! We learned a lot and it was nice spending time as a family on thoughtprovoking issues.”“We appreciated the planning and work that went into the session; thank you all for that!”“The evening was well-structured, including the emailed material to read and think aboutbeforehand, the general introduction to the theme of lashon hara, focusing on texts insmall groups (each group seemed to put a lot of energy into coming up with its skit orpresentation), and coming back together for presentations and more discussion.”“I dont think we would have had a discussion about Jewish values in this way without thisprogram. It was excellent.”
Goals achieved for Express Innovation√ Explore Jewish values with teenagers√ Help parents speak to children about meaningful Jewish issues√ Break down social barriers between day school and public school kids√ Build community among B’nai Mitzvah families