For 18 years, Barbara Rosenblit, a 2004 Covenant Award recipient and Jewish educator, taught young women to consider life stories as a road map.
“One of the goals of this project has always been not to necessarily be inspired by other people’s lives but to be aware of them, and to understand, by learning of their ups and downs, that life is complex, and while your life is something you craft for yourself, stories can help to direct us, and help us choose how to navigate our own lives.”
The project Rosenblit is referring to was borne of a course she taught to juniors and seniors at The Weber School in Atlanta, GA for nearly two decades, called Addressing Women’s Lives. In this interdisciplinary course, students engaged in a year of studying the history of Jewish women in America, identified and interviewed a Jewish woman 75 years or older, and then created a mixed-media work—using embroidery hoops, lamps, vintage handbags, hats, place settings, shadow boxes, and many other objects—that reflected something students learned about each woman’s life.
At the end of the course each year, the students displayed their work in a public exhibition housed within the Weber School’s art gallery.
[Read more about Rosenblit’s work in Sight Line: The Covenant Classroom, 2015.]
“One of the reasons I think this project was as successful as it was, is that it had a visual element to it,” Rosenblit reflected, commenting on the public exhibition that was the culmination of the course each spring. “There’s something about adding a visual presentation that gave us access to a much wider audience to which we could share about the lives of women, and this also raised the bar for our participating students. In today’s day and age, to not take a ‘selfie,’ but rather, to turn the lens on someone else, was transformative for our students.”
Now, upon her retirement from teaching, Rosenblit and her colleague, artist Sheila Miller, have captured those 18 years of stories and creations into a limited edition book, titled, fittingly, Pentimento, an Italian word that describes the process in art by which a composition shows the drawing or painting that has happened underneath it—so that when one observes the art, there are traces of the versions that came before. Their next steps also look towards documenting and expanding their curriculum and designing workshops for both teachers and adult groups.
“You have to collect the stories of those who came before you, and be aware of them and be curious about them,” Rosenblit said. “And in terms of the development of a teenager, understanding the ‘intergenerational self,’ and where one exists on the timeline of one’s own family, is essential to building core elements of one’s identity.”
Miller added that the interviewing process was done with extreme sensitivity, and many students walked away knowing things they hadn’t known before. “The students had a chance to think about what it meant to be an immigrant, or to lose family members, or to be a woman with a career in the 1930’s,” she said. “Elements of a life that many of today’s high school students wouldn’t otherwise be able to imagine.”
One of the reasons Rosenblit and Miller decided to produce the book, was because they realized “the fragility of the pieces.” They understood that these stories their students had collected over the years needed to be documented in some permanent way.
“This is true about all of our stories,” Rosenblit said. “They need to be captured and held.”
Miller agreed. “Because family stories are ephemeral,” she said, “they disappear in a sense. But by giving them visual form, you also give the stories a bit of permanence. The bits and bobs and archival objects the students use in their presentation, the little mementoes, things found that were hidden in drawers or transcripts, are one way to bring the stories out, while also engaging young students in visual expression.”
When asked how this project relates to family education, Rosenblit was unequivocal:
“Learning the stories of those who came before you is essential family education,” she said.
She emphasized, too, that many students didn’t just interview those to whom they were related, but rather, in many cases, students interviewed with older women in their community with whom they had no connection prior to the project.
“This makes ripples out beyond the biological family, or the nuclear family,” she said. “This project expands the human family.”
By Adina Kay-Gross, for The Covenant Foundation
“Together we will create Jewish experiences where preteens and their families can learn, explore, and feel more connected to each other, and to Jewish life” - Deborah S. Meyer, Founder and CEO, Moving Traditions
“Education holds the key to changing the world and making it better. For education to achieve all that it can, we must have teachers who believe in the moral, ethical, Jewish ideas we teach and who are committed to inspiring their students”
—Rabbi David Eliach, A Covenant of Dreams: Realizing the Promise of Jewish Education, 2009
“There are children, grownups, everywhere
That would love to hear your voices
Singing for our health to be bright
So that we can join together...and paint our world with healing and hope”
-From the original song, Painting Our World with Healing Hope, by Karina and Debora Zilberman
“Families that share stories about parents and grandparents, about triumphs and failures, provide powerful models for children. Children understand who they are in the world not only through their individual experience, but through the filters of family stories that provide a sense of identity through historical time...Through sharing the past, families recreate themselves in the present, and project themselves into the future.”
—“Do You Know…” The power of family history in adolescent identity and well-being
Read more about Dr. Marshall Duke and his work, here.
“There are people out there who are educating their hearts as we speak. They’re getting on with the work, they’re loving their kids, they’re loving their students, they’re loving their communities. We must retrain our vision toward those people—we must develop eyes to see and ears to hear where that love is already happening—that is worth our energy and our care and our time, to tend that love, to show that love ourselves.”
—Krista Tippett, Founder and CEO, The On Being Project
"Civil discourse requires us to listen generously and to act as though—and to really believe—we could be open to persuasion. We each may think: 'I did not cause this situation, I am not to blame.' Yet we each have the capacity to help society turn the corner, if we honestly ask what went wrong and what we can do about it."
- Martha Minow, the 300th Anniversary University Professor at Harvard University and Joseph William Singer, Bussey Professor of Law, Harvard University
The Wow Metric of Success: Jewish Life in Bloom on the Farm: Spring has arrived, and the Jewish community is busy planting with purpose. In Vaughan, Ontario, the yellow coltsfoot and purple-blue scilla are just starting to flower at the Kavanah Garden, a half acre community garden that’s part of Shoresh, the Canadian-based Jewish environmental organization that includes the Kavanah Garden and Bela Farm. Last Sunday, on “Yom Manual Labor” volunteers gathered to turn the soil, plant seeds, paint outdoor tables and participate in construction projects with the Shoresh team, preparing the garden for growing season.
“Our Jewish community is only as strong as its ability to include all members in the fabric of Jewish life. Doing so helps each of us recognize the unique strengths we all bring to the Jewish community, and that community cannot possibly be complete until we actively and intentionally welcome each other.”
-Meredith Englander Polsky, 2017 Covenant Award Recipient, Director of Institutes and Training, Matan, and Developmental Support Coordinator, Temple Beth Ami Nursery School
“From all of my teachers, I have grown wise.” Psalms 119:99. Framing Jewish Education, a project of The Jewish Lens and supported by The Covenant Foundation, was created to engage teachers, students, and families in conversation about the value of Jewish education and to illustrate the power of great teaching and learning via a curriculum based on visual literacy and text.
“For me, study is a divine and daily imperative; I study a page of Talmud daily so that I am not only teaching. My teaching is constantly being fed by my learning.” —Erica Brown Associate Professor, George Washington School of Education and Human Development. Director, Mayberg Center for Jewish Education and Leadership, 2009 Covenant Award Recipient
The Covenant Classroom means something different to every educator but common goals are to motivate, engage and be inclusive of all learners. In this volume, we’ve collected an array of Teachings on Inspiration and Motivation in all areas of Education.
#ThankATeacher It has been twenty-five years since The Covenant Foundation first opened its doors, and we continue to be humbled by extraordinary Jewish educators from across North America and across the spectrum of Jewish life who have devoted their careers and considerable talents to the field of Jewish education. Now, in celebration of a quarter-century-old tradition of honoring Jewish education and educators, and to kick off a year of public engagement around great teaching, we’re proud to share The Covenant Foundation voices app with you: a new digital way to give and share your gratitude.
“There are just two outcomes that really matter: First, that students feel Judaism is the fertile ground in which they get nurtured to grow, and second, that they find Judaism joyful.” Rabbi Joy Levitt, Executive Director, JCC Manhattan
“What would it look like if we bet on Jewish early childhood education for the long-term, as our tradition instructs? The task might seem large, but the reward, we know, is great (Pirkei Avot 2:15).”
“Countless leaders have been inspired by the story of the Jewish people leaving bondage in Egypt – those whose names we know, like Martin Luther King, Jr. and those whose names we never will know, whose every-day acts of kindness and resistance fuel social change. This story, our story, has become a cornerstone of modern social justice work.”
—Abby Levine, Director of The Jewish Social Justice Roundtable
This is how I see a “Covenant Classroom”: a place where challenging topics are passionately discussed; a place where complex ancient texts are grappled with; a place in which self- esteem grows, and motivation to learn increases exponentially because of it. An environment in which each Jewish soul is given the confidence to continue the eternal search for meaning.”
—Dr. Sandra Ostrowicz Lilienthal, Curriculum Developer and Instructor at The Rose and Jack Orloff Central Agency for Jewish Education of Broward County and 2015 Covenant Award Recipient
“When powerful, new approaches to learning are introduced through digital tools, meaningful disruptions occur along the way… When this happens, new approaches which previously seemed inaccessible, are suddenly within reach.”
—Barry Joseph, Associate Director for Digital Learning, Youth Initiatives, American Museum of Natural History
“The future of Jewish teen engagement can in fact be found in 3D printers, and in text-people, and in service, and outdoor education, and in anything that brings teens into contact with authentic learning experiences and passionate, caring, knowledgeable educators.”
—Charlie Schwartz, Senior Jewish Educator, Director, BIMA & Genesis, Brandeis High School Programs
Portal seems like a particularly apt metaphor for entry points into Jewish life and learning because ultimately we want those experiences to be deeply experiential and transformative. We also want them to be accessible. A portal has no toll; passage is free. At the same time, a portal is particularistic, not a generic entrance. It conveys a sense of magic, ritual, and power. Similarly, we want to convey that Jewish life is rich, layered, and meaningful beyond what is immediately apparent. We want the encounter with Jewish life to take you on a journey that is profound and surprising. And, given that each of us may enter through the same portal but have a completely different experience of what is on the other "side," the possibilities are endless.
— Judith Rosenbaum, Executive Director, The Jewish Women’s Archive
"We need a new kind of creativity in the classroom that’s going to reach Jewish kids… If a teacher is imaginative, he or she is going to connect to students’ hearts and souls.”
—Dr. Arnold Eisen, Chancellor, Jewish Theological Seminary, Board Member, The Covenant Foundation.
"There are four types of students... The sponge absorbs everything. The funnel brings in on one side lets it out the other. The strainer lets out the wine and retains the lees. The sieve lets out the flour dust and retains the fine flour." —Pirkei Avot 5:15
"There’s a misconception that a venture must depend on large grants from big donors. It makes more sense and it’s more sustainable to test out an idea, and see whether it has the opportunity to make an impact on people’s lives."
— Ariel Beery, founder, PresenTense
I think [creating new Jewish texts] is a really good description of what we’re trying to do. These days we’re increasingly creating products that are intended to be shared on the web. We’ve felt and continue to feel that this medium, and virtual communication as a whole, is being under-tapped for its possibilities for making art.
— Reflections from Sam Ball on the New Jewish Filmmaker Project