The JOFA conference (December 7-8, 2013 in New York City) will feature an Educators Track for Jewish educators from pre-school through high school. The Educators Track is an opportunity to open a dialogue about issues related to gender and sexuality, to hear from top educators in the field, to brainstorm with one another, and to take home tools to build more gender-aware Orthodox day schools. Perhaps most importantly, we hope that the Educators Track will create a community of educators who can continue our conversation even after the JOFA Conference is over.
The building blocks of yeshiva day schools, such as tefillah, Jewish texts and halakhic practice, can stand in tension with modern sensibilities about male and female roles. Despite the centrality of gender issues in our schools, Orthodox educators have little guidance or space to truly think through and discuss how to address them. The frenetic pace of the school calendar and reluctance to raise uncomfortable questions about gender roles leave us without any opportunity for dialogue. The Educators Track will provide a meaningful forum in which to grapple with these important concerns.
Educators Track Session Descriptions:
This session will explore the feminist quest in the context of other “inclusions” we seek both in the classroom and beyond. How do we employ a feminist lens in our school policies and school life, while remaining open to the ongoing evolution of what feminism means? How do we engage and include everyone, faculty and students, in an ongoing dialogue about the role of women in Judaism and society, while staying committed to our ideals? Using Parker Palmer's influential book The Courage to Teach as our foundation, and incorporating educational works from secular and contemporary Orthodox literature, we will explore the philosophical boundaries of feminism in Orthodox educational settings and discuss their applications to school policy and programming.
What does tefillah look like in your school? Do boys and girls daven together or separately? Do they have different roles? Are there opportunities for girls to lead tefillah or read Torah? Are boys and girls interested in tefillah and open to the role it can play in their lives? The challenges and opportunities of formal tefillah differ based on age and stage, so this session will be broken into separate sections to address the specific issues that come up in preschool, lower school, middle school and high school. Presenters will discuss challenges and share best practices.
In this panel discussion, we will hear from several experts in gender and education. Our specialists will share their experience and advice in regard to feminist concerns that arise in various aspects of school life, including classroom management, teaching problematic texts, working in a diverse community, and extracurricular activities. The focus will be on practical strategies educators can implement to manage these concerns.
Session #4: The Year in Israel: Challenges and Successes
Shoshana Benjamin, Debbie Braverman, Laura Shaw Frank, Aminadav Grossman, Shayna Michalowski, Dr. Michelle Sarna
Dr. Michelle Friedman, Moderator
Spending a post-high school year in Israel learning in yeshiva or seminary has become a rite of passage for most Orthodox day school graduates. This panel discussion will explore how gender concerns intersect with the "shana ba'aretz." Panelists will address the process of selecting a seminary, the messages conveyed to young women and men learning in Israel, and the impact of the year in Israel on post-Israel family and university life.