by Dr. Gil Graff
by Dr. Gil Graff
Millennia ago, Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) opined that “there is nothing new under the sun.” Though, occasionally, it might seem as if something is new, Kohelet maintained that the matter was recognized in times past but simply forgotten. To be sure, humankind acquires new knowledge. For example, while we know more about child development today than in former times, Koheleth might suggest that seeking and applying such knowledge is a contemporary expression of the ancient wisdom of the Book of Proverbs, "educate each child in their way."
The 15th of the Hebrew calendar month of Shevat (Tu B’Shevat), this year, corresponding to January 30/31, marks the new year in the agricultural cycle, for purposes of various Jewish legal requirements relating to produce. The date has, in more recent times, been embraced as a Jewish Arbor Day. This year, Tu B’Shevat coincided with a striking, early morning eclipse of the moon.
The unlimited availability of information at the push of a button makes teaching and learning altogether different, today, than in the (ever more remote) 20th century. Education is not about mastery of a body of knowledge; it’s about processing, synthesizing and wisely applying abundantly available information. Project-based learning and collaborative problem solving are, appropriately, increasingly at the core of students’ educational experiences.
by Dr. Gil Graff
This year marks 80 years since BJE was established by the Jewish Community Council, in a Los Angeles Jewish community that would be virtually unrecognizable today. The 1930s were fraught with challenges, locally and throughout the world. One of BJE’s Past Presidents, the late Bernard (“Bernie”) Levin, recalled, as a young man, joining the Anti-Nazi League, as one response to the threatening conditions of the era; this, at the same time BJE was created.
In many Jewish communities - as the Jewish holidays of the month of Tishrei near their close -- it is customary to read the book of Ecclesiastes (Koheleth) during the shabbat of sukkot. A holiday known as "z'man simhateinu" - the time of our joy - is, paradoxically, celebrated in part by reading reflections, traditionally ascribed to King Solomon, that suggest that the human condition is utterly inexplicable. In the face of an uncertain and often frustrating world, the book ends by counseling the reader to maintain awe of God and to observe God's commandments.
With the approach of the new year, BJE installed its Officers and Directors for the 2016-2017 term. We are fortunate that Dr. Alan M. Spiwak will continue as President for a 3rd one-year term and are pleased to welcome to the elected board of forty-one directors and officers four new directors: Ilana Goldschein, Dr. Simona Heumann, Amy Leibowitz and Sheilah Miller.
By Dr. Gil Graff
With Pesach on the near horizon, thoughts of the haggadah and its call to include, hear and relate to multiple voices take on heightened consciousness. The haggadah opens the Passover narrative with an invitation to all who are in need, whether materially or in spirit, to join the seder experience. Shortly thereafter, we expressly recognize (at least) four different attitudes among children with regard to the seder proceedings. While calling for differentiated responses, each child is to be included in the broader conversation.