Jewish Learning

A Message from our President

For me, learning is the nexus of our past and our future. Jewish learning is the gateway to a profound heritage that touches and explores every aspect of the human experience with honesty, wisdom and humor.  Only through education can we embed generations to come with the richness of our intellectual and spiritual history, making it a central, meaningful part of their lives as Jews, today and tomorrow.   

Jewish learning inspires us to examine what it means to live by values deeply rooted in Jewish tradition: critical thinking and debate, welcoming the stranger, responsibility for the vulnerable, repairing the world.  Jewish learning builds connections to the past, among Jews across generations and cultures, to Israel, and to values that can help make a better world.

Jewish LearningWorks is the only organization in the Bay Area that provides the backbone for high-quality Jewish learning – ensuring that teachers have the highest possible knowledge and pedagogical skills, that curricula are up-to-date, and that first-rate educational opportunities are available in the plethora of learning environments, styles, and readiness that our diverse community and modern life demand. 

In today’s world, Jewish learning must be both broad and deep.  I am proud of how Jewish LearningWorks accomplishes this, through a range of offerings from our extensive programs for professional educators, to Israel-related initiatives, to opportunities that provide in-home and event-based experiences for Jews with a variety of interests and learning needs. 

 I am particularly grateful for the dedication and capabilities of our extraordinary board of directors, our devoted programming and administrative staff, and our exceptional CEO. 

As the parent of three now-grown children, I have witnessed and experienced the impact that strong Jewish education has had on my family and our community. When I became involved with Jewish LearningWorks, eight years ago, I realized how deeply my family’s Jewish education was impacted by this organization. I am grateful to Jewish LearningWorks and honored to serve as its board president. 

L’shalom,

Julie Dorsey

Reflection on INCLUDE Special Needs Family Camp Reunion

On February 14th, we hosted another incredible Special Needs Family Camp Reunion.  We received a lovely note from a participating family, which we share here to offer a window into the important work of Inclusion.

Thank you so much for such a wonderful afternoon yesterday.  My husband and I were discussing the whole event on the way home.  Our family had such a good time -- all of us!   It was really wonderful to be in the environment of "family camp" again and to see people who we care so much about.  It was also a joy to share the wonders of camp with the new families.  I hope the day impacted them in such a way that they avail themselves of the opportunity to attend camp.  

I know from experience that it will enrich their lives.  I believe it is our responsibility as "seasoned/more experienced" parents to share with others our experience, strength and hope that, even in the darkest moments, it does get better.  We can live joyous, Jewish lives and be embraced by those who completely understand, through good times and bad. 

We are a blessed community.  I am personally grateful to this program for continuing to create this space and place for us.  It's the camp experience which I credit for teaching me that, although raising my son has been my greatest challenge in life, pushing me well beyond my limits, that it has also been my greatest teacher.  My son has taught me what really matters in life -- love, patience, acceptance, understanding, kindness and resilience, plus much more.

Reflection on Enchanted Journey with Piyut

One participant shared this feedback:

"You brought us into the world of Piyut with a welcoming wide smile and delicious food, tastefully presented. The Moroccan decor and Tsipi’s attire and her twinkling eyes with endless longing for her childhood experiences were magic keys that opened the gate to the world of Piyut.

The balanced combination of knowledge and spirit enriched both the mind and the soul, that doesn't know how thirsty it is for that poetic world, obscure and beautiful, and which highlights the ancient Hebrew language of past generations.

You invited us to this poetic world through all the senses! We felt the piyut through body and soul. We stroked the glorious words as we visited Jewish homes in Spain, Morocco, Yemen, Iraq and Israel.

 

A pleasure!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

 

Thrilled with the turnout and the impact of the latest program from our Integration of the Arts Initiative. We spent the afternoon with educators from all over the Bay Area for a sweet taste of Piyut, Hebrew poetic liturgy. 

Many thanks to our wonderful partners from Piyut North America, JCC of the East Bay, and Tehiya Day School; to our fearless leaders, Rabbi Tsipi Gabai and Vavi Toran, and to each of the educators who attended and have returned to their classrooms or communities ready to engage young minds with new and wonderful tools.

 

A window into the work:

We transformed the space with rugs, artifacts and props to create a festive and lively atmosphere.  We opened the program with traditional music in the background and delicious Middle Eastern food in our bellies.

We presented piyutim as the sound track of the Jewish people, and discussed the contemporary revival of this music in Israel and around the world. Rabbi Tsipi Gabai shared her personal strong connection to piyutim through her history from home, synagogue and her rabbinic studies.

We dove deeply into five piyutim, with an examination of the text, the origin, poetic elements, and community of origin. Rabbi Tsipi Gabai with the aid of two musicians - Katja Cooper on percussions, and Rachel Sills on the Oud, taught each piyut. Katja demonstrated on the different percussion instruments, their origin and purpose and Rachel introduced the Oud which is perhaps the instrument most associated with Middle Eastern music.

Midway through the program we introduced a reflective tool encouraging participants to complete one of the statements: 

“Singing piyutim connects me to…”

“Singing piyutim connects me to teaching about…”

 

We then formed a circle and improvised a dance interpretation of their responses, which included concepts and words including: past and present, heartbeat, happiness, ancient, roots... 

We introduced curricula and books for teaching Piyutim in the classroom and gave participants kits including 18 recorded Piyutim and Mizmorim created by Piyut North America. 

Toward the end of the program, we shared our learning and were blown away by the impact, just in a few hours.

 

22 participants attended, representing three day schools, six synagogues, several private tutors, one Hebrew immersion program, and one preschool, from all over the Bay Area and as far as Lake Tahoe Region.

 

 

For more information on Piyut, Integration of the Arts or upcoming professional development opportunities, email VToran@JewishLearningWorks.org.