We are currently deep into the month of Tishrei, the month of Jewish holidays – Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. The goal of this time period is to inculcate values and stir us to introspect and connect, and indeed, many Jews who feel disconnected or uninspired during the year find themselves reconnecting during the holiday period. What is it about the Tishrei holidays that connect Jews to the sources and the Jewish spirit? Which skills and methods can we glean from how we celebrate holidays, and what can apply those same strategies to the educational system?
I would like to suggest thinking about four primary principals:
- A sensory experience involving all of the human senses– the blowing of the shofar, the smell of the etrog, the fast of Yom Kippur, the decorating of the Sukkah, the festive dress and the taste of the holiday foods.
- Stepping out of our regular routine to celebrate something special– transitioning from an indoor home to an outdoor hut, from lavish meals to fasting, from the day-to-day routine to festive holidays.
- Active involvement– building a Sukkah, singing special and familiar melodies, joyously dancing as we celebrate Simchat Torah.
- Collaboration and community– sharing meals with friends, communal prayer services, special gatherings that used to be done at the Temple.
- Time for introspection and development– a chance to reflect, to learn from mistakes, and to take on new goals and aspirations for the coming year.
If we can learn from the holidays and from the wisdom of the Torah and our Sages, who wanted to bring the Jewish people closer to the commandments and to God, we should be able to apply the principals mentioned above to our schools, and awaken those students who have “fallen asleep,” reinvigorating them with curiosity and a love of learning.
At the AMIT Network in general, and through Gogya in particular, we are trying to change the educational approach at schools, adapting to the variety and differences among students, encouraging experiential and meaningful learning, and viewing students as active partners in the learning process. This is done by cultivating an environment that enables students and teachers alike to experiment; developing collaborative communities of learning that invite discussion, development, and ongoing peer learning and growth; and pushing for excellence and self-fulfillment across all levels of the educational system.