Judaic educators share their strategies


Over 100 educators representing Modern Orthodox high schools across the United States participated in YHShare, a two-day conference of yeshiva high school Judaic Studies teachers organized by the Torah Educators Network (TEN).

The first day, at Frisch in Paramus, focused on Bible and Jewish philosophy. The second day, at Torah Academy of Bergen County (TABC) in Teaneck, concentrated on Talmud and Jewish history.

“Teachers in yeshiva high school classrooms across the country are facing the exact same challenges, and there’s a teacher somewhere who has a creative solution,” explained TEN Founder Rabbi Perry Tirschwell. “There must be a venue for those teachers to learn from each other, hence the name ‘YHShare.’

“As opposed to public and most parochial schools, Jewish day schools are independent. There is no central organization that coordinates curriculum or pedagogy, and only a handful of for-profit vendors who are addressing high schools.”

The program was dedicated in memory of Rabbi Dovid Kaminetsky, the middle school principal at Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey, who passed away the previous week. Participating schools included Ateres, Bruriah, Central, DRS, HANC, Ma’ayanot, Magen David, MTA, Naaleh, Kushner, Ramaz, SAR, Frisch, SKA, TABC and Flatbush, as well as Fuchs Mizrachi (Ohio), RASG and Katz (Florida), Ida Crown (Illinois), Shalhevet and YULA Girls (California), Ulpana (Toronto) and Kohelet (Pennsylvania).

In addition, there were participants from the Avi Chai Foundation, Prizmah, RIETS, and the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education & Administration.

Sssions included “Using Jewish History to Discuss Core Identity Issues,” “Reaching Struggling Gemara Learners,” and “Should We Raise Philosophical Questions We Can’t Fully Answer?”

In an interactive session entitled “Designing Solutions to Common Challenges,” small groups of educators brainstormed and shared resources on teaching Nach, alternative assessment, and time and structures for learning.

In a discussion on “The Teacher’s Great Balancing Act: Rigor, Relationships & Religious Growth,” educators responded to questions about building a culture of religious growth in the classroom. The panel was moderated by Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin and included Rabbi Eli Cine of Frisch, Rivka Kahan of Ma’ayanot, Rabbi Yisroel Kaminetsky of HALB, Racheli Luftglass of YULA Girls High School, and Rabbi Asher Yablok of TABC.

“It was such a valuable experience to be able to connect with other like-minded educators nationwide, especially with the other Jewish history teachers, to hear about their schools and classrooms, and to share ideas,” said Alissa Zeffren of Ida Crown Jewish Academy.

“I really enjoyed the program — both the sessions, and the opportunity to interact with so many wonderful colleagues,” said Miriam Krupka, Dean of Faculty and Tanakh Department Chair of the Ramaz Upper School.

“I had a great time and I really thought that the sessions I went to gave me what to think about and ideas to help improve my craft,” said Rabbi Aaron Horn, Dean of Students and Gemara and Halacha Chair of Kohelet Yeshiva High School.