The conference is now over, and my final thoughts are as much about the participants as about the content and the new curriculum. I was struck by the passion and positivity of every one of the participants, even the ones who were from generations older than mine. The set of participants struck such a contrast with my own Hebrew school teachers, who were largely stuffy, academic, and boring.
Everyone I met at the Institute has such a passion for Jewish education. They're the sort of teachers that students automatically love, and want to learn from, and the sort of teachers who can inspire students to develop a lifelong connection to Judaism. True, it's somewhat of a self-selected bunch (only the coolest teachers would want to come to a conference about Judaism in the Civil Rights movement), but I got the feeling that these teachers will effectively spread the curriculum throughout the community.
That task will be easier because of the diversity among participants. They represented many different kinds of schools, including day schools, supplemental schools, Hebrew high programs, youth groups, and secular schools (not to mention summer camps), across most of the mainstream and alternative movements. The participants also spanned a remarkable age range, which led to a tremendous panoply of perspectives. I'm so excited for each of the participants to bring the curriculum to all of their communities, and to spread the good word.
Finally, I was struck by the passion and excitement of the conference's coordinators, Emily and Judith, who had also written the curriculum. It was clear that they were genuinely enthused about the material, and that developing these lesson plans had been fun for them. As an educator, I've discovered that so many curricula are dry and overly academic, but Living the Legacy overflows with the liveliness of the movement itself, and the vibrancy of this organization that decided to explore Jewish women's role in the Civil Rights movement. I can't wait to start trying the lesson plans next week at camp (look for some updates here), and for this amazing new curriculum to spread throughout the American Jewish education community.