Jewish education is predicated on dialogue, discussion and the occasional heated disagreement. Our Talmud is rife with animated arguments spanning generations about the interpretation of Halakha (Jewish Law) that we still grapple with more than 1,500 years later. Chevruta (partner/small group learning) is the traditional way we learn Talmud, seeking to understand together before turning to the teacher for explanation.
Why the opening paragraph about Talmud? Because it is precisely this style that we aim to instill in the students. From the first day of Jewish History, we let it be known that our kitot (classrooms) are safe spaces. They also simultaneously exist to challenge the preconceptions of the students and encourage them to see their Jewish identity and history in a new light. We seek to educate by exposing the students to multiple sides of an issue, playing devil’s advocate in discussions and pushing the students to form their own opinions. Often, we utilize the Chevruta method, having them learn from each other and struggle with a concept together.
Since 2015, I’ve had the privilege of being a Jewish educator at URJ Heller High. Without a doubt, my favorite parts of the job are the students, the staff, the kibbutz and the tiyulim. As a collective, we learn from and challenge each other on a daily basis, all while exploring and engaging with our diverse and beautiful homeland, Eretz Yisrael. Already in the first month, it is abundantly clear what a bright, inquisitive, interesting and good-natured group of students we have. I can’t wait to see what the next three months have in store!
וְהַיְינוּ דְּאָמַר רַבִּי חֲנִינָא: הַרְבֵּה לָמַדְתִּי מֵרַבּוֹתַי, וּמֵחֲבֵירַי יוֹתֵר מֵרַבּוֹתַי, וּמִתַּלְמִידַי יוֹתֵר מִכּוּלָּן.
-תענית ז׳ א:י״ב
And this is what Rabbi Ḥanina said: I have learned much from my teachers and even more from my friends, but from my students I have learned more than from all of them.