Initial Meeting of Hillel International’s Circles of Educational Excellence [Throwback Thursday]
At the opening gathering of Hillel International's Circles of Educational Excellence
At the opening gathering of Hillel International’s Circles of Educational Excellence

In December, immediately prior to Hillel International’s General Assembly, I took part in the first meetings of the first cohort of Hillel International’s Circles of Educational Excellence. Beginning on Sunday night with some introductory activities, the group got going in earnest on Monday morning, continuing on through mid-afternoon.

Consisting of the executive directors and rabbis/Jewish educators of nine Hillels in addition to some other staff leading the group, my wife and I representing Beach Hillel were the only Hillel from the western half of the US. The other eight were comprised of five Hillels from the Midwest and three from the northeast.

A historical discussion about the Senior Jewish Educator program
A historical discussion about the Senior Jewish Educator program

While it was not a frontal presentation, it relied heavily on leveraging the shared experience and brainpower of the group to help generate ideas and share what we do.

An interesting treat was to hear from some people who had been involved with the Senior Jewish Educator project, both from Hillel SIC, individual Hillels, and the Jim Joseph Foundation. It was quite informative to hear about its history and about different models of its deployment.

Eric Fingerhut addressing the group
Eric Fingerhut addressing the group

We also got to be visited by Eric Fingerhut and have him speak to our group, which was nice to have him express his interest in this initiative.

We then split up into three different groups according to how roughly similar our campuses were, which was interesting. After that, we mapped out our campuses and our assets, and then we moved to developing an educational experiment with measurable outcomes.

Unfortunately, due to time, we were unable to come back together to share what our educational experiments were with the other groups to bounce our ideas off of each other, to strengthen them. It would definitely have been great if we had had the time even to just get back into the sub-groups to share our ideas and to see how they would be and be sharpened.

We then bid each other adieu and off to Hillel International’s first-ever General Assembly.

Serving as a Judaic Educator at BBYO’s ILTC [Throwback Thursday]

In the summers of 2011 and 2012, I served for a few weeks at B’nai B’rith Youth Organization’s International Leadership Training Conference (BBYO ILTC) as one of two Judaic Educators.  While I had worked as a madrich for a few summers during college at BBYO summer programs at B’nai B’rith Perlman Camp (BBPC), where ILTC (amongst other programs) was taking place (for more on my time at BBPC, see here), I had not had in mind to return.  So, when a friend’s Facebook status update popped up that BBYO was looking for Jewish educators a few years ago, I decided to re-connect with my BBYO roots.

Teaching at ILTC 2011
Teaching at ILTC 2011

That first summer, the focus of our teaching was Jewish Heroes (the topic (but not the curriculum) was given to us), which was interesting to do something to help broaden the Jewish knowledge of these Jewish youths that was a bit atypical of Jewish educational offerings elsewhere.  The second summer, the other Judaic Educator and I coordinated with another BBYO staff member to create the curriculum and core pieces to it, which was pretty neat, especially as we had all known each other previously (they had both been program participants when I was staffing in college). Two primary pieces I taught in the summer of 2012 were Israel and philanthropy.

Looking on while participants present at a session at ILTC 2012
Looking on while participants present at a session at ILTC 2012

Inasmuch as I had gone to serve as a Judaic educator, which went nicely, there were other aspects which were great.  The first was the ability to also share some of my wisdom/experience from my BBYO time (even just having been in BBYO as a teenager was somehow surprising to many of them), which was a primary reason for staffing whilst I was in college.

The second was connecting with other professionals there, such as the people working for BBYO year-round.  Although, it was also great connecting with the occasional guest speaker was a nice treat, as well.

With the music staff at ILTC 2011 (one of whom had been a participant when I had staffed his CLTC)
With the music staff at ILTC 2011
(one of whom had been a participant when I had staffed his CLTC)

The third – and perhaps the most significant – was connecting with these young up-and-coming leaders.  Now, when I went, I mainly meant to impart Jewish knowledge and BBYO wisdom to them to help them in their endeavors; however, I also realized that many (most? all?) of the participants had many things going for them, especially brains and talent.  While that helps them ascend in leadership positions within BBYO, think about where they will go and what they will do years down the road (5 years, 10 years, 15 years, etc.) – there is a lot of potential and they will do great things.  It’s not just a hypothetical proposition: I look around at peers who were in positions of leadership in BBYO as well as who attended BBYO summer leadership programs with me and I see the great things they are already doing.  Imagine not only where my peers will be in another 10-15 years, but also where these participants will be.  It was great to have connected with them at this level.

A fourth aspect which was great was also connecting with the madrichim, who were in college and working at BBPC for the whole summer.  Similar to the high school participants, it was nice to meet these young adults and hopefully have a positive impact on them (while much different than than the high school participants).

I was certainly glad I was able to spend the time and energy connecting with all these folks in such a program and in such a setting 🙂