Doing our Sacred Work Together
This blog has been cross posted on the Union for Reform Judaism’s Inside Leadership blog.
What is “it?” What does “it” look like when we do “it” successfully?
Where do they intersect? Where do they diverge?
These questions are being asked in many circles: in the halls of Jewish academia, like HUC-JIR, Brandeis University and JTS; in the synagogue staff meetings, between directors of education, religious school principals, directors of youth engagement, youth group advisors, rabbis and cantors; in camp visioning and planning conversations; in central agencies such as the Jewish Education Project’s recent research and recommendations in Generation Now.
Without even knowing the answers, one thing Jewish educators of all varieties have come to understand is that we need to work collectively in both asking and answering these and many other related questions. Some Jewish education settings have already successfully eliminated those silos, creating holistic visions and structures for doing the work of education and engagement. No longer can we function in detached and erroneously separated silos of “youth engagement” and “Jewish education”, or “informal” and “formal.”
The recent merger of ARJE and RYPA is one way that Jewish educational leaders in the Reform Movement have taken action to create a more collaborative approach to our work. This merger brings together all Reform Jewish professionals who engage and educate youth in synagogues, camps, and other Jewish organizations. As one organization, the Jewish educational leaders of the Reform Movement are able to:
- Serve as a collective voice for the Reform Jewish education, in all its varieties of settings
- Authenticate in one professional association the close relationships that exist on the ground in our day-to-day work settings
- Provide common support and advocacy for professionals who may have diverse portfolios yet collectively embrace the ARJE mission to advance the profession of the Jewish educator and inspire excellence in Jewish education
- Create space for a diversity of professionals to network, explore curiosities, ideas, varied practices and approaches together through our rich professional learning opportunities
The grammars of “education” and “engagement” are distinctive. As a more diverse community, we, the members of the ARJE, are committed to learning from and with each other. We are committed to developing an understanding of each other’s vocabulary, each other’s practice, as well as each other’s successes and challenges.
In spite of these differences, what is most important is that our core values are aligned. We share a commitment to excellence in Jewish education, Jewish learning, and Jewish engagement. We share a vision of the future in which our communities are vibrantly living and learning Jewishly. We know we are stronger when we do this sacred work together.
How is your community is addressing these questions about engagement and education? What have you done to break down the silos that may exist? What have been your challenges and where have you been successful?