LimmudLA honored its founders, Linda Fife and Shep Rosenman, in an evening of dinner, music and study on Sunday, Sept. 9, at the Los Angeles River Center and Gardens. LimmudLA is the local outlet of an international model of interdisciplinary, interdenominational, no-boundaries Jewish conferences and events. Founded in the United Kingdom more than 30 years ago, Limmud now conducts 60 conferences in 30 countries, all of them almost entirely run by volunteers.
Sitting at an oblong table, 11 students, each with a school-provided computer tablet, discuss John Steinbeck’s "Of Mice and Men," parse the four types of classic love and veer off into talk about sex -- all the while interrupting each other and their teacher.
Why is the summer's poetry slam on the loss of the Beit HaMikdash (the Holy Temple) seared into our educational memories, while the details of yesterday's Jewish history class can hardly be recalled? Why do the ultimate messages of pride and unity felt at the end of a massive color war ring deeper than silently reading what Rambam has to say about the topic?
The nondenominational Pre-Collegiate Learning Center of New Jersey doesn't have a math teacher. The East Brunswick school instead relies on experienced math tutors who help students work through an online math curriculum relying on outside sources.
In a city where some of the very rich are willing to pay $1 billion-plus for the bankrupt Dodgers baseball team, why can’t anyone spare $500,000 to support an Academic Decathlon program that brings luster to the often criticized Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)?
Like other virtual learning and videoconferencing, Web Yeshiva students see and hear each other and the instructor in the virtual classroom.
Who knew that 20 teenagers from Los Angeles could help make a difference in the world?
Historically, rabbis have proclaimed that in order to study kabbalah, one has to be a learned Jewish man older than of 40. So imagine how surprised those rabbis would be today if they could peruse a modern bookstore: There are now a plethora of tomes on the subject, making kabbalah available to the layperson -- male, female, Jew and non-Jew -- the dummy and idiot alike (which is it better to be?).
Also known as "Read Hebrew America," the course has been picked up by nearly 700 synagogues in North America during last 10 years through the National Jewish Outreach Program (NJOP), a nonprofit organization based in New York. The objective is to promote Hebrew learning among American and Canadian Jews who have lost touch with their Jewish identities. While this is the first year Nessah has participated in the program, its leaders said the free Hebrew course has attracted more than 600 local Iranian Jews to its first three sessions.
As part of the American Jewish University's Celebration of Jewish Books Festival, students in first through 12th grade submitted essays answering the question: "Jews are the people of the book. What does that mean to you today?" The editorial staff of The Jewish Journal selected four winners -- one from each age group -- to receive a $250 Borders gift card, as well as a $1,000 donation to their school. We received hundreds of submissions in the form of stories, poems and artwork. It was a difficult decision, and the four winning essays below represent just a small sampling of the great work submitted.
Discussion of the pro and cons of school trips.
In celebration of Jewish Book Month, here are some suggestions for fostering critical literacy skills and igniting a lifelong love of reading in your child:
Educators these days are taking a new look at homework, attempting to measure its value and to re-examine the underlying assumptions about how kids learn, the pace of their development, family life and the role of work in our lives. Despite the complexity of the issue and a lack of consensus about the research, the battle lines in the debate have been redrawn.
To me, mere satisfaction -- in job or life -- has always meant stagnancy. But, as we all know, the interview process is exhausting. Besides being on your best behavior, you're subject to constant judgment. Confidence is imperative, and things are often not as they seem.
"When you're out in the water, when you see the sunrise or sunset, and when you see how small you are in comparison to the massive water, and the current and waves, it humbles you," Shoshtain said. "Everything in nature connects you to spirituality, if it's done properly."
Is Islam a religion of war or of peace? Is it both? How did it start? What are its connections to Judaism?
Even today, Bresnick "listens to everything," and his own compositions have a uniquely American eclecticism.
At a time when Jews and Muslims in other parts of the world aren't having much luck learning from one another, the conversation and the setting for it are both quietly revolutionary. Here Jewish and Muslim students live together in harmony.
"If we don't have something to yearn for, some dents in our life to fix, some messiness, some crucial quality of our life is missing," Kula tells the audience. "Yearning can be a path to blessing."
Depression is a word that has been cheapened. We forget that it is a diagnosis for a bona fide disease. It becomes a catch phrase for the weighty feelings we experience as we come to terms with life's challenges and honor the process of change.
545 San Pedro Street is an address I will never forget.
It is the Union Rescue Mission downtown, inhabited by homeless individuals that reside in their designated corners on Skid Row. My school, Milken Community High School, offered a community service experience for 21 students, and I found myself at the Union Rescue Mission.
Adam is pushing the strings of his tzitzit through a small hole on the side of his desk.
"Synaplex provided us an opportunity to experiment and explore and suggested new ways to create a sacred community," Moskovitz reported. "In a sense, it's completely transformed our service. Our Synaplex Shabbat was like a stone dropping on a calm pool of water. The ripple effect continues to reverberate in a positive and profound way across our temple community."
Whether they're secular or religious, Jewish astronomers are part of a venerable tradition of inquiry and teaching. And the light transmitted by this tradition shines just as brightly in the upcoming generation of space scientists.
The American Jewish community is one of the most learned and sophisticated communities in Jewish history - in everything except Jewish texts. As Jews, we are illiterate.
A brief rundown of the national synagogue revitalization programs that have arisen since the early 1990s.
Gone are the days when observant Jewish students suffered for their absences from class or exams on the High Holidays or Passover. The California Education Code fully protects students' rights to observe religious holidays free of academic penalty.
Many Reform Jews express their connection with the divine through social action and tikkun olam, fixing God's world. While all of these are also part of my own life as a Jew, it is study that nourishes my rationalist-traditionalist soul and links me to another realm.
Last fall, I started working with Franklin, a 7-year-old autistic boy. My job was to help shape the child's behavioral and social patterns, promoting ones healthy to his development, while curbing ones that hinder him.
"All of us that have kids in Israel are trying to make the best of the situation," said Jules Gutin, international director for USY, the youth arm of the Conservative movement, which has about 50 California teens in Israel this summer. "We want the experience to be worthwhile and positive, as well as safe."
Our ancestors understood that when we make a vow, promising to give something to God, or take an oath regarding our own actions, this was the highest and most serious endeavor, as the power of speech is what separates us most critically from the animal world. "Baruch She'amar V'hayah Ha'olam, God spoke and the world came into being."
Warren told Wolfson his interest is in helping all houses of worship, not in converting Jews. He said there are more than enough Christian souls to deal with for starters.
"There has been a significant rise in the past four years in anti-Semitism generally and on school campuses," said Dr. Kevin O'Grady, associate director of the Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) Orange County/Long Beach Region. O'Grady's office recorded 43 cases of harassment and vandalism last year, nearly 50 percent more than in 2003; one-third of these involved public schools.
Hila Plitmann is building a career based largely on new music by composers like David Del Tredici, John Corigliano, Roger Reynolds and Esa-Pekka Salonen, the latter the longtime music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and something of a Plitmann champion.
In recent years Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest Jewish community, has become a stop for visiting Jewish dignitaries -- especially politicians, hoping to tap into the fundraising network here.
Scientists will tell you that the senses of smell and taste are most strongly associated with memory. I think eating resembles what learning the Passover story should be -- we allow something from outside of ourselves to enter us; we "digest it" and change it (it is we who must tell the story so that our children can hear it) and it changes us and nourishes us and stays with us forever.
As a 9-year-old violinist performing for world-renowned cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, Camilla Tsiperovich was told to call herself Camilla Gadjieva. Her headmaster at the Azerbaijan Conservatory considered this a more suitable name, one that reflected the Muslim heritage of her country. While representing Azerbaijan in international music competitions and spending her first year of high school at the famed Moscow Conservatory, she always understood that "there was something wrong because you were Jewish."
Tendler's resignation comes shortly after his nephew, Rabbi Aron Tendler, resigned under pressure as rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation in Valley Village.
There’s a study that shows that lab rats don’t get as stressed from being shocked as they do from not knowing when the shocks will come. Put that rat on a regular shocking schedule, and it doesn’t freak out.
Rather than waiting for her son to express himself verbally, Rabbi Debra Orenstein, like many Southland parents, decided to enhance Emmet's language skills by taking baby sign-language classes. Teaching sign-language to preverbal hearing babies is one of the fastest-growing parenting trends in North America.
A voice expert known for coaching singers and nonsingers, and working with deaf and autistic students and contestants for TV shows like "Extreme Makeover" and "American Idol," Coury is unique and considered "revolutionary."
The Etta Israel Center runs programs to teach Judaism to developmentally challenged children and young adults, as well as group homes for adults (its third home will open in the Valley in June) and a popular summer day camp. It helps Jewish day schools meet the learning needs of all its students, and has trained thousands of teachers in how to help all children learn through its Schools Attuned programs.
This tour is no typical high school field trip, with its predictable mix of unruly, disinterested teenagers. These students are here mainly because their school, Jefferson High, became a flash point last year for fights between Latino and African American students. The overcrowded, underperforming campus in South Los Angeles was 92 percent Latino, 7.5 percent black and, seemingly on a handful of occasions, nearly 100 percent out of control.
Generally taught once a year, with 10 to 20 girls enrolled per class, the program affords mothers and daughters special time together. It also introduces the girls to peers from other schools, allowing them to view bat mitzvah as a more universal experience.
My senior students suffer from short-term memory loss, a condition less severe than Alzheimer's and dementia but nonetheless frightening. They can recall exact moments from decades past, but in the present, from one moment to the next, many don't remember who or where they are. Sort of like elected officials.
"We are blessed in Los Angeles with a plethora of adult learning opportunities," said Rabbi Mark Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California. "Synagogues offer literally hundreds of courses for adults as do many other fine institutions."
Me'ah, which began in 1994 with 50 students in greater Boston, is also now being offered in Baltimore, Cleveland, Rhode Island, Florida, New Jersey and New York.
Stan is deeply attracted to the Lubavitch way of life: He longs for a wife and house full of children and is drawn by the prospect of fully expressing his Jewish identity as a member of a tight-knit community, steeped in Jewish tradition and insulated from the pressures of modern life.
Judaism is a simple religion containing many complexities. No one could realistically hope to understand everything. It is important to question and to learn. But when we don't understand something, or don't agree with something, we need to remember that it doesn't give us license to not follow halacha or to not keep the Torah.
Teaching your brain new tricks is like a workout for the mind. It's never too early to start, and you don't have to ante up tuition to start your brain fitness program
A college buddy of mine -- Jewish, though not a descendant of survivors -- once observed that his family dynamics follow the rules of a sport: Guilt Judo. The sport requires a range of moves: arm-twists, throws, the art of the pin. Grace and style matter, and it is, of course, imperative to master that most fundamental skill: learning to fall without injury.
Years ago, when my son was beginning his foray into competitive tennis, I entered him in a local, somewhat low-key tournament intended to introduce new players to tennis competition.
Our teachers come in many forms and shapes. Many of mine have, over the years, appeared somewhat similar both in regard to gender andprofession. The ones that never cease to surprise me, demanding of me to think beyond myself, are my younger students. Clearly, the younger -- the better.
Skip Aldrich signals a student to turn down the lights and flips on the projector. An image of a gaunt concentration camp inmate hunched over a workbench evokes a collective gasp from the 10th-grade world history class at John C. Fremont High School in South Los Angeles.
Cecelie Wizenfeld is not alone in her efforts to find memorable ways of helping children connect with the holiday. While model seders, seder plate illustrations and handmade afikomen bags have become standard educational fare in the classroom, many Southland religious and day school teachers are finding that creative and unusual holiday projects make more of an impact.
Roberta Weintraub used to be a technophobe. But that was before she decided to launch High Tech High, a public charter school in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) that integrates technology and education.
The other day, it suddenly hit me. I'm the anti-Forrest Gump.