I thought you might like to read this email sent to Rabbi Shalom Berger, Lookstein Center for Jewish Education and signed by Amy Dorsch, Maxine Handelman, Wendy Light and Susan Wyner of the USCJ.
Rabbi Berger and friends,
We apologize for the delayed response to Dr. Richard Solomon’s publication, however wish to applaud and strongly support his work on Jewish Integrated Experiential Education. We hope that it will be widely read and incorporated into on-going education programs throughout North America.
The basic concept of integrated learning is one that we have fostered and promoted for many years. As members of the education consultation team of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, we consult daily with formal and informal educators over issues of early childhood, elementary, middle school and high school education. It only makes sense that the strongest educational offering is one that combines both formal and informal/experiential educational opportunities in a very deliberate and meaningful way. We believe that integrated experiential education (JIEE) is the future of Jewish education.
United Synagogue Youth (USY), as the youth arm of the Conservative Movement has prided itself on the implementation of experiential education techniques in its synagogue youth programming, summer travel experiences and International Convention, the largest annual gathering of Conservative Jews in North America. Studies have shown the powerful positive nature of our deliberate efforts towards engagement. Our participants make strong, lasting Jewish connections by living the values that we teach, by learning through action, and making this involvement their own, rather than simply by text book theory. The active learning techniques and transformative Jewish educational experiences we employ through our educational programming leave life-altering impressions with every contact and association. From utilizing the vast pathways to prayer and engagement through creative formats such as Web 2.0 technology, Youtube and art minyanim, to practicing mitzvot of Chesed and Tikun Olam on our USY on Wheels Mission Mitzvah North American summer tour (to name just a few), USYers learn Judaism by living it. Integrating this endeavor seamlessly into the academic classroom is key to our future successes.
From the earliest engagements that we have with our students and their families during early childhood classes and Mommy and Me programs we are mindful of the blending of experiential programming in a very deliberate way. In the arena of congregational school education, USCJ is heading into an era of transformation as the implementation process of a new organizational strategic plan develops. Education Task Forces and Think Tanks are meeting regularly to discuss this very issue. A major focus of the strategic plan is a new vision for integrating formal and experiential education for the next generation in USCJ Kehillot (sacred communities) which coincides with Dr. Solomon's thesis. We applaud him for his foresight and his ability to synthesize this information into such a clean understandable paper. His work will be a tool for us to use in guiding our teachers and educators through the integration process of Jewish experiential education with more formal, academic learning structures.
May all of our combined efforts continue to guide Jewish education for the 21st century toward success.
Amy Dorsch- Education Coordinator, USCJ Department of Youth and Young Adult Services
Maxine Handelman- USCJ Consultant for Early Childhood Education
Wendy Light- USCJ Director of Integrated Education
Susan Wyner- USCJ Education Consultant for Congregational Education
USCJ Department of Youth Activities
820 Second Ave.
New York, NY
212-533-7800 x 1115