Saturday, December 14, 2013



What follows is a beautifully written azkara and notice of the death of a young boy I only met once. I am connected to his mother almost exclusively through online connections and the fact that their family is friends with my sisters' family. I am sharing it because it is beautiful and in case any of you are connected to Sam's family and did not get the information.  

Goodbye Sam. You left an indelible mark on the people who loved you and on those of us who knew of you. 

Rebecca, thank you for sharing your words. So many of us have none.



by Rebecca Einstein Schorr on 14 December 2013 @ 11:53 am
SAS zl
And Samuel died; and all Israel gathered together and lamented him
(1 Samuel 25:1)

Sammy. Sweet Sammy has died.
He is dead.

His parents haven’t “lost” a child.
They would never…could never…be so careless.
He didn’t “pass” or “pass away.”

We pass a driving test or a kidney stone.
We don’t just pass through life.
Sammy didn’t just pass through life.

He lived.
And at 12:33am, in the still solitude and with his beloved parents surrounding him with their love, Samuel Asher died.

And on Monday, December 16, 2013, all Israel will gather together and lament him.
Funeral services will be held at Am Shalom, Glencoe, IL at 1:00pm.
Tenderly, we will return his body to the earth and tuck him in for his eternal rest following the service at Shalom Memorial Park in Arlington Heights.
Shiva will be observed in The Crown Room at Am Shalom: Monday through Wednesday, 5-8:00pm, with a minyan service each night at 7:00pm.

We will not celebrate; we will mourn. Together. As we always have.
He is not in a better place because how could there be any place better than in his parents’ embrace?
And God didn’t want Sammy with Him; God weeps with us in our time of sorrow.

Baruch Dayan HaEmet.
Blessed is the Eternal Judge of Truth.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

JEDLAB and the Buber:
A conversation on I and Thou

December 29, 2014 - Due to some foolishness on my part, the images of the I and Thou Conversation were deleted. Since the Internet is forever, I was able to retrieve them! Sorry for the inconvenience and thanks to Ken Gordon for spotting the problem!

Long time followers of this blog may know that I was one of fourteen fellows in a program at the Lookstein Center funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation. Our brief was to create online communities of practice. Some of us were more successful than others. Some CoPs are still going strong, others have served their purpose and are but memories.

And then came JEDLAB! There has been a lot written about it and by those involved. It is worth reading some of it. More importantly, it is something you should join. Unlike CAJE of blessed memory or any number of conferences that have grown up in recent years (and may they all thrive and grow), it is an ongoing 24/6 conversation about Jewish education and the things that educators want to talk about, learn and teach one another. I try to check in at least once a day, and occasionally find I have something to say.

To join JEDLAB you need to be on Facebook. That is the central platform on which the community meets. (We do have the JEDLAB test kitchen on Google+ and we love to have ad hoc connections in a variety of places as well). And it is a community, currently 2,220 strong. Some write. Many read. And it crosses all lines: geography, movement, professional setting and methodology, relationship to Halacha, etc. Everybody plays, and no one can so you can't play (Thank you Vivian Gussin Paley). Just click on JEDLAB and ask to join. Or become my friend on FB (if we are not already) and ask me to put you in. Or ask anyone in JEDLAB to do it. It is worth your time. (If you are not on Facebook, you should join just for this. Set privacy settings so the kids from your 3rd grade class can't find you if you prefer.)

Ken Gordon, the founder of JEDLAB proposed a book group on Martin Buber's I and Thou. Not a light undertaking. He opened the conversation in a way that drew me and others in and if you follow, he moderated with a very light touch. Our first 36 hours of conversation is below. I think you will find it interesting and invite you to join in - preferably in FB at JEDLAB. If you comment hear, I will transfer your thoughts - in your name - to the group.

This is hopefully the first stop in a traveling blog carnival. That means that other bloggers in the group will hopefully pick up the thread of the conversation on their blogs in turn. I will put links in the comments section. (Note: Permission was given by the participants in the discussion before I posted this. JEDLAB is a safe place for conversation!)

Please enjoy and join us in JEDLAB! Consider this your present for the last night of Chanukah!


Since the image above is a .jpg of the Facebook conversation you can watch the video with this link:

Sadly, the Mechon Hadar document is no longer available.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

I've Got Sunshine!

Me and Barb at a
NATE Leadership meeting
Barb Shimasky, a wonderful educator at Temple Sinai in Milawaukee who blogs at – and a former student of mine (oy.) – nominated me for a Sunshine Award. It is an interesting award, since there is no actual competition. If you are nominated, all you need to do to win is to accept. And that is where the catch comes in. You have to follow the five rules.
  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)

Responding to something like this is not strictly speaking why I maintain this blog. I began it three years ago to create a conversation about Jewish Education and to crystalize my own thoughts.

Doing this feels a bit self-promotional – not my favorite thing. So I gave it some thought before deciding to accept and follow the rules. And it seems to me the best reason for doing to is to introduce anyone reading my blog to 11 of my favorite bloggers who write about Jewish Education. So I am going to start by listing those bloggers (in order of the individuals’ first names) because that is the important stuff. The rest is just because I want to honor the spirit and intention of the awards which require me to share something about myself. Feel free to skip all of that and just visit the 11 blogs listed.So let's talk about what these bloggers are talking about!

Blogs I am nominating and hope you will visit (in addition to Barb’s):
  1. Community Organizer 2.0 – This is Deborah Askenase's blog. Her main gig is as a digital strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She occasionally writes about Jewish education, but I think every educator can learn from her organizing and digital repertoire.
  2. eJewishPhilanthropy – Dan Brown (not the author of several best sellers) lives in Jerusalem and does a remarkable job of collecting articles from a wide variety of people on a wide variety of topics: Jewish philanthropy, Jewish education and Jewish Peoplehood to name a few.
  3. Jew Point 0  – This is the blog of Darim Online, which includes Lisa Colton's brilliant team. 
  4. ayekah — where are you? Conversations about how we respond to the world through a Jewish lens – Rabbi Fred Greene of Temple Beth Tikvah in Roswell, GA is a great friend and colleague. And I love the way his mind works.
  5. The Gris Mill – Joel Lurie Grishaver's Blog. Joel was one of my inspirations to get into Jewish education and is one of my dearest friends. And he has some pretty interesting ideas.
  6. The Torah Aura Bulletin Board – Includes a lot of Joel's writing, but also a group of terrific educators writing about technology, early childhood education, art and other great stuff.
  7. Muse for Jews – Debbie Harris is the director of educational technology at the Sager Solomon Schechter Day School in Northbrook, IL and teaches religious school at Lakeside Congregation for Reform Judaism. She is also one of the most gifted at bringing technology to Jewish education.
  8. Itzik's Well – One of my oldest friends, Irwin Keller serves as Spiritual leader of Congregation Ner Shalom in Cotati, CA. He is also founder/performer with the Kinsey Sicks, America's Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet (
  9. Or Am I – Rabbi Paul Kipnes was one of my classmates at the Rhea Hirsch School of Education at HUC-JIR in LA. He is the Rabbi and Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas, CA and one of the most thoughtful people I know.
  10. Jewish Education Lab – Wendy Grinberg is a terrific educator and consults with Jewish educators all over.
  11. Sects and the City – My bunk mate Rabbi Liz Wood's journey through life and learning.
11 Questions for those I am nominating:
  1. If you had an extra million dollars lying around that had to be spent on Jewish education, what would you do?
  2. What is your favorite holiday and what do you do to make it uniquely special?
  3. If you only had time to visit one place in Israel, where would you go and what would you do there?
  4. If you only had time to visit one place NOT in Israel, where would you go and what would you do there?
  5. What is one piece of advice you would give to someone beginning their first full time job as a Jewish educational leader?
  6. What is the best general release (i.e. not specifically Jewish) film you have seen in the last eleven months and what is one thing you liked about it?
  7. What is your favorite Jewish song (at the moment)?
  8. What made you choose to pursue the career you have chosen?
  9. If you were given a six month sabbatical and more than enough money to fund it, what would you do? Where would you go?
  10. What is the one Jewish food - that if your doctor told you had to stop eating it - you would be most upset ?
  11. What is the best book you have read lately?
11 random facts about myself:
  1. I love to cook, but my son is better at than I am.
  2. Every time I watch a film, I cannot help but look for the scene that will help me teach something Jewish. It is a curse. And a blessing.
  3. I have played quiddich. Really.
  4. A part of me never leaves Jerusalem.
  5. I have too many books next to my bed.
  6. I am very handy with power tools. Habitat for Humanity considers me a skilled.
  7. I believe that latkes are made with grated potatoes. Shredded potatoes yield hash browns.
  8. While I could not keep up with their scientific conversation, I could otherwise hold my own with Leonard, Sheldon, Howard and Rajesh.
  9. I am a member of the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity. Not four years, but a lifetime!
  10. I once danced in a paid (not to me) performance of the Twyla Tharp Dance Company
  11. I love what I do for a living.
Answers to Barb’s questions:
  1. What is one change you try to be in the world?
    To be a good father, husband and teacher.
  2. What is your favorite drink from Starbucks?
    Five shot Grande Americano with room (I add some skim milk).
  3. What is the best thing that has happened in your life during the past week?
    Both sons are home for Thanksgiving and they are filling us with joy!
  4. If you had $100 and were required to spend it on yourself, what would you buy?
    Tickets to a Cubs game, a hot dog and a frosty malt.
  5. What was your favorite childhood movie?
    The Great Race
  6. Where is a place you would like to travel that you have not yet had an opportunity to visit?
    England (Incl. Scotland, Wales and Cornwall)
  7. How many tabs do you have open in your browser right now?
  8. What is your favorite board game and why?
    Clue. Professor Plum, in the Dining Room with the Lead Pipe. Need I say more?
  9. What is your favorite website?
  10. What is something that makes you weird?
    To whom?
  11. What size shoe do you wear?