JWA Institute for Educators - Day 1

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Today was the first day of the Jewish Women's Archive's Institute for Educators. They wrote a new curriculum for Jewish high school students, about Judaism, social justice, and the civil rights movement, and I was selected to come to Boston to learn how to use the curriculum.

The sessions today were mostly introductory, but it was fun to get to know the other 24 participants. I knew one of them from Berkeley Midrasha, but I'm closely connected to several others. (I remain convinced that Jewish geography requires only 3 degrees of separation.)

In the after-dinner program, we each presented an artifact from an important woman in our life, and I showed some antique spice containers from my grandmother's kitchen. (Note: This wasn't a stunt. I actually pulled them off her shelf last Friday.) They were different levels of old (two were pretty old, one was old, and one was super-old), and the spices inside had definitely tasted like sawdust for a while. I used the spice containers to describe how awesome my grandmother is, and the things in her life that she's experienced as she's moved from place to place.

We're exploring the curricula in more detail tomorrow, but I read a few of them in preparation for the Institute. My favorite part (so far) is the stories of individual participants in the civil rights movement, and their reflections (both currently and at the time) on what was happening. One particular passage blew me completely away, from 60's activist Paul Cowan about his activist mother:

"She was too much of an egalitarian to admit she subscribed to the religious idea that the Jews were a chosen people. Yet the subtext of her words carried that message. We were chosen to suffer; chosen to achieve brilliance; chosen to wage a ceaseless war for social justice. Indeed, to her, the struggle for justice was nothing less than a commandment, even though she had no interest at all in the concept of halacha - the intricate system of laws that have bound the Jewish nation together for five thousand years. I don't think she could imagine living without fighting for the oppressed."

Isn't that amazing? I can't wait to learn more about these lessons, and get to know these incredible educators!

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