Thursday, September 29

New Blog

We just noticed a new blog which might/should be of interest to anshei hinukh:
SEFORIM: All About Seforim-New and Old, and Jewish Bibliography

Wednesday, September 28

Teach to Remember

BOOK REVIEW: How to Teach so Students Remember by Marilee Sprenger (ASCD)

The importance of knowing how the brain remembers information is the primary emphasis of this publication. The author addresses the use of memory “lanes” which includes emotional, automatic, episodic, semantic, and procedural memory pathways. The graphic organizers and other memory-based utilities provided in this text contemplate and draw upon effective use of these pathways. However, the concern with this pedagogical resource is its strict focus on memory and retrieval as emphases for best teaching practice.
Book review here...

Tuesday, September 27

Fish Market

This short silent movie of a bustling market of mainly Eastern European Jewish immigrants on the Lower East Side of New York City was filmed on a Friday morning in 1903.

It's only about a minute long, but could be used well in a classroom (contexts: Jewish history, ghetto, Shabbat prep, etc.).

Click here for downloading or streaming options from the web.

Sunday, September 25

Money Where Your Mouth Is

AVI CHAI Grant Program for the Day School Education of Hurricane Katrina Families
The AVI CHAI Foundation announces a one-year emergency grant program providing $3,000 per student to any Jewish day school in North America that enrolls Jewish children age four through twelfth grade who were evacuated from New Orleans or other communities as a result of Hurricane Katrina.
Grant payments will be made in two installments: $1,500 now and $1,500 at the start of the spring semester for each enrolled student. There is no application form. Schools that believe they qualify for support should write to AVI CHAI at 1015 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10028 and provide a list showing the name, parents' names, former and current addresses, grade level and most recent prior school of each enrolled student. The letter/list of students should be signed by the school's principal and president. Schools should also provide a copy of the IRS determination that they qualify as a tax-exempt organization. Checks will be sent within 30 days of receipt of the request and verification of the eligibility of the listed students.
AVI CHAI has developed this grant program in the hopes of assisting day schools to attract and properly serve Katrina evacuee children. We hope that our support will encourage schools and other community organizations to be proactive in recruiting these students.
For more information, please contact Michael Trapunsky at (212) 396-8850 or

Thursday, September 22

Popularity Contest

Our friend Rabbi Yitzchak Blau points out...
In all educational fields, we should be careful not to identify the best teacher with the most popular teacher. All things being equal, it is certainly a good thing for a teacher to be liked. However, popularity can be achieved in all kinds of educationally dubious ways. A teacher can achieve popularity by going too easy of the students, telling them inappropriate jokes, always siding with them against the administration and by encouraging them to adopt an arrogant attitude that only in their classroom is the truth being taught. Yet all of these methods ultimately hurt the educational process. Apparently, popularity and quality teaching remain distinct categories.
And all this based on the Gemara Sotah 40a!
Read Yitzie's analysis of an aggada here (and view the archives of his series on aggada here).

Wednesday, September 21

Simon Wiesenthal z"l

When we come to the other world and meet the millions of Jews who died in the camps and they ask us, "What have you done?" there will be many answers. You will say, "I became a jeweler." Another will say, "I smuggled coffee and American cigarettes." Still another will say, "I built houses," but I will say, "I didn't forget you."

Knight Ridder
ABC News
USA Today
Fox News
Washington Post

Hitnatkut Letters

Yeshivat Har Etzion's VBM has archived in Hebrew and English translation the (ongoing?) exchange between Rav Aharon Lichtenstein and Rav Avraham Shapira regarding the halakhic ramifications of hitnatkut and seiruv pekuda (disengagement and refusing orders).
Click here...

Tuesday, September 20

Traduttori Tradittori

As the Italians say, traduttori, tradittori: translators are traitors. But the translator who shrugs and agrees that “every translation is an interpretation, after all” has too readily embraced the way of the tradittore. The translator who strives for strict fidelity, even knowing its elusiveness, will be less treacherous. In translation, fidelity is the ultimate imperative and trumps every other virtue: even clarity or readability.
On Robert Alter's new translation of the Five Books of Moses...

Monday, September 19

Yeshiva Directions

Here's a summary of an interesting doctoral dissertation completed recently at Loyola:
How have changing conditions, in America generally and in the American Jewish community, affected what kind of Jewish schools are both possible and desirable? Focusing on an Orthodox all-boys elementary school, this study employs a synthesis of modern secular scholarship and traditional Jewish scholarship to explore this question. Historical research is used to describe the past century of Orthodox Jewish education in America, detailing the development and diversification of the day school. The social changes that have occurred over the past century are detailed, with special consideration as to how those changes might effect the educational methods that are possible and desirable. A synthesis of the traditional philosophy, current situation, and secular methods, produces a picture of an ideal Jewish school. Based on this ideal picture, specific recommendations are made to improve current educational practice within Jewish schooling.
Barney Berlin, The Strictly Orthodox Jewish Day School: Directions for the Future
Click here for full dissertation as a PDF (162 pages).

Sunday, September 18

Home Schooler's Bookshelf

Home schoolers in America put their numbers at about two million, the federal government guesses closer to one million, but everyone agrees that the number is growing by 5% to 15% a year. All of which means that there are millions of parents buying books for their children's kitchen-table schooling. And while many of these moms and dads are assigning their children books that would be familiar to school kids anywhere, many are not. A new class of best sellers has arisen--mainly old books, given new life by the Internet, specialty bookstores, librarians and word of mouth. There is no one book they all read, but each camp has its favorites, and some have crossover appeal.
What's on the home schooler's bookshelf? Click here...

Wednesday, September 14

Do Teachers Hate Parents? 2

Click here for a response to this.
Communication that is supported by teachers, parents, and administrators has the best opportunity for genuine connection. Having time, skills, and motivation are important, of course, but the expectation that communication is essential must come from the participants. Does the school value the parent, seek input, invite questions, recruit participation, open doors for involvement in governance, offer guidance and feedback when requested?

Monday, September 12

Rav Kook's 70th Yahretzeit

This Wednesday (10 Elul = September 14), to mark Rav Kook's 70th yahretzeit, a notable conference is being held in Jerusalem at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center.

Click here for the program.

Sunday, September 11

Family Dinner

Family dinner is really important, combining two basic needs, for nourishment and for connection, and there's nothing else quite like it. Alas, there can be no question that it is vanishing, if not actually dying, reports the Washington Post (click here).
And what about the Shabbat table? For that, check with ATID (click here and here).

Thursday, September 8

Do Teachers Hate Parents?

Earlier this year Time magazine ran an article entitled “Why Teachers Hate Parents”.
In TCR a professor of education rebuts, suggesting the relationship is not one of hatred but complexity--posing challenges each party must overcome in order to make the relationship work. She takes the position that the partnerships are essential for increasing student achievement (duh) and suggests directions for the field to take.
Click here...

Wednesday, September 7


A great cartoon from this past week's New Yorker...

Tuesday, September 6

I.D. and YU

David Klinghoffer, of The Forverts, throws down the gauntlet...
Intelligent Design (see here) is all the rage these days. Conservatives love it because it seems scientific and frum (because it supposes a Creator instead of Darwin at the helm). Christian philosophers, scientists, and theologians have weighed in on it. Where're the Jews? How come the rabbis and scholars at Yeshiva University haven't stepped to the podium on the issue?, he asks. Isn't that the Maimonidean heritage that YU aspires to or claims for itself?, he chides. Are they afraid?, he mocks.
Yeah, but it might be more complex than all that.
Click here in all cases...

Sunday, September 4

Lessons Learned?

After last December's aweful tsunami, we heard a lot of people--including some whose first name is "rabbi"--saying some stupid things (you should forgive us). We haven't really heard of (too many) people trying to show they have some clairvoyance into the mind of God in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Have we learned our lesson on this one?
In all cases, with the return to school this week, we're liable to need to address the tremendous suffering taking place in the Gulf Coast. Here are some links we posted after the tsunami, which may be useful now:

Thursday, September 1

A Teacher to Remember

If you're lucky, once in a lifetime you have a teacher like Miss Stellfox.
Click here...