By Steve Israel
- Content & Suitability - From the Editors
1. Content & Suitability
We are pleased to present a unique, new and comprehensive educational series on the Jewish Life Cycle, complete with background, sources and programming.
We invite you to explore with us the search for and interpretation of meaning and significance of all these moments and settings, using Jewish sources, learning traditions and addressing contemporary challenges. Discover for yourselves how this continuity of values and messages comes together in a truly Jewish picture.
At the outset, we asked ourselves as editors what landmarks in Jewish life should be featured, where the Cycle really begins (from birth, with the parents, or from the founding of the Jewish home?) and how to address it in a unified framework. These questions led us to an earlier starting point, while we chose to preserve the traditional path in the spiral of Jewish continuity.
The outcome has been a developmental approach, some of which is most appropriate for student or adult education groups, while the primary focus of the series remains the adolescent and emerging adult.
We have strived to create a resource which collects a body of Jewish knowledge into one location, offering creative and structured discussion that will be of added value to all the streams of modern Judaism, as they seek to attach their membership to Jewish life and the wealth of our heritage.
With both these points in mind, issues are raised which reflect new needs and, at times, highly controversial differences that cannot be ignored, whether they are peripheral or not. We make no judgment, but bring the weight of Jewish sources and tradition as a backdrop to contemporary problems. Ideally, educators should be familiar with all the sources and aware of all these issues, rather than solely seek the familiar: the way we present the sources today is going to mold the adults and leadership of tomorrow as a knowledgeable community; at the other end of the scale, recognizing the problems that the Jewish community faces today does not mean that one endorses all the positions on them.
It is, however, up to the educator to be selective when preparing for a class, group, or community activity on the basis of these resources: to include, or exclude topics and references in line with their age-appropriateness, or suitability for a particular audience and setting.
Finally, as work progressed on the first sections, the scope of this project broadened, with the addition of intermediate chapters to bridge, or extend, the discussion. As we bring this to process to a close, we are planning yet another such chapter, in order to embed more about Jewish family relationships into the framework of the Jewish Life Cycle!
This educational series is constructed so that, with the exception of the first introductory unit, all units consist of four parts.
The largest section deals with the subject under discussion. It addresses both the rituals and traditions themselves and the meanings behind them. At the same time, it examines the value structure that the traditions and rituals reflect and elaborates potentially problematic aspects of that tradition for many modern Jews.
The second section collects all the textual sources brought or referred to in the previous section, with additional texts having a direct bearing on the subject in question.
The third section offers educational activities that explore the subject under review. These activities are an integral part of the unit and are based on ideas that are developed in the first section of the unit. Many integrate texts that have been examined in that first unit.
The fourth section is the bibliography, which brings together books that proved helpful in the preparation of the material, or which are mentioned in the text, including excerpts within the educational activities but which are not brought as source texts for the unit.
It is important to understand the educational rationale of the activities brought in each unit (apart from the first). We also wish to suggest guidelines for their use by the educator.
The general approach is a process of values clarification, in which the students/group participants are confronted with all kinds of issues and ideas and are asked to respond to them. There is no attempt whatsoever to push a particular line, but to have the participants develop their own point of view in response to a series of challenging questions. The message of the program is that these are issues to be taken seriously. As long as they do so, the program will have succeeded irrespective the particular conclusions that each participant reaches. The language is one of “suggestion” of a range of ideas for consideration. We are aware that the participants might come from a variety of ideological backgrounds and the form chosen is deliberately elastic, in order to enable participants from all backgrounds to find relevance.
Each unit will present between six and ten activities. The activities are varied and employ a number of different techniques. However, they are restricted to practical techniques that should be accessible to the general population of Jewish teachers, youth workers and other educators. We attempt to provide all the ideas necessary for the running of the activities in the body of the text. That is not to say, of course, that educators are not invited to go deeper into the subject before presenting it! The deeper the better. To that end, we have added the Bibliography.
Not all the activities need to be used. Every educator should examine the activities and see which are most suitable for use with the particular group in the specific setting. Each educator who uses the program is, needless to say, invited to adapt the activities to his or her own needs. Certain elements may have to be taken out of, or added, to certain activities when being used in certain educational settings with specific groups. There is also the possibility of “collapsing” two activities into one, selecting the relevant parts from each activity according to the group and educational setting. The activities are targeted and developed for a broad age-range, from mid-to-late-teens to adult groups. Of course, there are certain features that will be more relevant for one age group than another, but the ideas should be challenging for all. The average length of most activities is an hour and a half, but they can be reduced or inflated according to need.
In conclusion, it remains to be said only that we hope that the program will be useful and fulfill a genuine need for a thoughtful and informative life-cycle program in the Jewish educational world. We will welcome feedback and, of course, additional suggestions for activities that fit in with the spirit of the program. Go forth and educate!