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Pardes Educators Alumni Support Project News
JANUARY 2013 / SHEVAT 5773
Dear Hevre,

The 2012-13 school year started out as a heavy one filled with difficult events around the world. From Hurricane Sandy to Operation Pillar of Cloud in Israel to the devastating murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, it is only natural that students across North America are asking, "Why?"  

As educators, it is very challenging to deal with such difficult questions, which may plague us as well. As you prepare for these discussions with your students, remember to check the PEP alumni website  and listserve for articles and guidance. Our thoughts are with you as educators and with all of the families and communities who have been affected by the recent events. We hope that the new secular year will be a turnaround and will bring more positive world news.

Please make sure to read on for information about all of our upcoming professional development events, and remember to register for all events on time to secure your place. Keep in mind that some of these events are now open to non-PEP alumni, so we encourage you to share this information with your colleagues.

We hope that you enjoy the educational resources and personal updates from fellow PEP alumni below.

Kol tuv,
Susan, Ilana and Ben
D'var Torah 
by Ronit Ziv-Kreiger, Ph.D.

Molly Birnbaum was apprenticing to become a gourmet chef – spending hours each day learning how to perfect intricate flavors and aromas – when the unimaginable happened. She went for a jog, was hit by a car, bumped her head – and completely lost her sense of smell. Season to Taste, published in 2011, is her gripping account of her struggle to cope with this loss, to regain memories that were associated with particular smells and as she put it, to regain parts of her very identity that were lost along with her sense of smell.  Molly interviewed 200 other people who had lost their sense of smell, and spent many hours exercising her olfactory abilities.  After seven years, her ability to smell returned.

By contrast, I had hardly given a moment’s thought to smell when I was invited to co-present at a conference workshop with Molly, in which she would tell her story and I would offer reflections from Jewish wisdom about smell and fragrance.  I agreed, having little idea about what I would learn.  I trusted there would be interesting relevant texts—perhaps regarding the spices at Havdalah, or the ketoret (incense) of the Beit HaMikdash—but I did not know how the pieces might fit together, or what deeper messages might emerge...

To read Ronit's full D'var Torah, click here.
Education Corner

The Dark Issues: Where to Turn When a Student Does Not Respond to Behavioral Expectations
by Ilana Lipman

It doesn’t happen in every classroom or even during every school year, but it is inevitable that at some point in their careers, educators will interact with students who are not willing or even capable of conforming to behavioral expectations. Educators need to be prepared to cope with these issues for the sake of all students in the classroom.

It is important for educators to recognize that they are not alone in dealing with any particular student. Educators should not see themselves as working in an isolated classroom; rather they should view themselves as part of a larger picture. This means that it is often beneficial for educators to turn to other professionals within the school community in order to learn more about a particular student, his/her needs and ultimately what it is that is keeping the student from succeeding in the classroom...

To read the full article, click here.

Alumni Focus

Rochel Czopnik (Cohort 6)

Rochel taught at the Shoshana S. Cardin (high) School in Baltimore from 2007-2011. She currently teaches at the Lauder-Morasha school in Warsaw.

Rochel CzopnikAfter graduating from PEP, I was scared and quite anxious about my first job. I moved to Baltimore and for the first time was to live in the US for a long period of time. I was lucky to get a job at such a small school with only about 60 students.  I was welcomed with open arms and very quickly felt “at home”. I gained more confidence with each year, and the trust I had from the school’s administration let me truly develop my personal style. I taught mostly Bible, but I also taught some ancient Jewish history and Shoah. I could develop my own curricula (I am most proud of my Prophets and Jewish Historiography classes) and had a lot of freedom to try new, exciting things. I learned from talented educators and deepened my skills and knowledge—not just about Judaism, but also about American history and culture.

But the good times came to an end, when the school’s board could no longer afford my position  – we all know what a blow private Jewish education suffered when the Recession arrived. With a lot of regret on both sides we had to part ways. I was truly devastated; I couldn’t even dream of finding a better place. The sad moment was sweetened by a true shower of good words not only from fellow colleagues, but also from parents and students.  Thanks to them, I could leave the school knowing I did the best job I could and that people appreciated my efforts...

To read the full article, please click here.
From the Field

Ayal Robkin, First Year Teacher, Chicagoland, Chicago

Since the first week of the school year, every Friday we’ve been singing a different Jewish song, learning one new tune every month. I originally began the practice as a way to infuse spirituality into the work/study environment and to expose my students to styles of Jewish music they had never experienced. For instance, for Selichot I taught them a tune to Rachamana, a piyut about God answering our prayers that I was sure my students had never heard before. As the year progresses and my students grow more comfortable and enthusiastic about our singing, the practice became a wonderful way to create a certain atmosphere within my classroom that respects the courage to let yourself give into an experience—even if at first it felt foreign and uncomfortable. I find now that I can't teach a class on Friday without singing, a message to me that my students are thirsty for ways to express their Judaism in a manner spanning beyond the intellectual. I can't begin to describe how gratifying it is to see my students singing in the hallways or to have them tell me they're disappointed that they don't have my class on a given Friday.

We're excited to share two offerings from the Pardes Center for Jewish Educators - open to non-PEP alumni and schools as well, so please share this opportunity with your colleagues.

Summer Curriculum Workshop

PLEASE NOTE new venue and date.
This summer, our curriculum 
 workshop will be a one-week intensive program in North America, and will be open to any day school Judaic studies teachers (not only our PEP graduates) who teach grades 4-12 in North American Jewish day schools and who have been teaching for no more than four years.

While we will continue to provide one-on-one mentoring and a program that will support our newest teachers, we are also adding a teacher leadership track, to encourage our more "veteran novice teachers" to begin to take on leadership responsibilities within their schools. Even if you have already attended two workshops in Israel, you may still be eligible to join this new program.

The workshop will be held June 28-July 5, 2013 at the Pearlstone Retreat Center in Baltimore, MD. We plan to have separate groupings for elementary, middle and high school teachers. While this is a shorter program than in previous years, we will be using our evenings for programming as well. Please contact Ben to let us know if you may be interested in our summer program, and feel free to pass this eflyer on to colleagues and administrators as well.

The Rodef Shalom Middle School Program
We are pleased to update you on a new middle school Rabbinics program we have been working on at Pardes, entitled "The Rodef Shalom: Transforming School Conflict Through Rabbinic Texts." This program has been designed jointly by the Pardes Center for Jewish Educators and the Pardes Center for Judaism and Conflict Resolution. The first units of this program are currently being piloted in four day schools in California. Pardes just received a Ignition Grant from the Covenant Foundation for this project, which they found to be both exciting and innovative. We will be taking in up to ten more schools for the seven units that will be ready for the fall. If you think your school might be interested in participating in this project, please contact Ilana.

Professional Development 

First Years Teachers Conference
Our first year teachers will gather in Baltimore, MD, on February 5-6 for a short, but intense retreat. We are excited about the opportunity for reflection, sharing, and professional development. Amy Ament from the New Jewish Teacher Project will present a workshop on Assessing Student Work.

First Year Teachers Conference Call
Our first year teachers are invited to join our monthly conference call, based on a discussion of Lemov's book Teach like a Champion. The conference calls include discussions of recent challenges in the classroom and opportunities to share successes.  

Middle School PLC
We are excited that our Middle School Professional Learning Community (PLC) has continued this year. As you know, managing a middle school classroom can be an extremely challenging task.  In an effort to support our middle school teachers, the PLC meets by conference call once a month. We also take time on each call to process critical incidents that teachers are dealing with in their classrooms. This group is open to PEP alumni who are in at least their second year of teaching. If you are interested
in joining the group, please contact Ariel Wolgel.

Day School Conference for Veteran Teachers
We are delighted that 28 of our veteran alumni who continue to work with day schools are joining together at the North American Jewish Day School Conference in Washington, DC, February 3-5. This is a wonderful opportunity for those who have remained in the field to be exposed to a broader perspective and to network with a greater number of colleagues. While our alumni will be participating in the regular sessions offered, we will also be meeting daily for sharing, reflection and further discussion on issues raised. In addition, we have a special session with our funders to discuss relevant issues that impact on day school teachers.
Other Events & Opportunities

Pearlstone Center’s 5th Annual Beit Midrash:
Sacred Sustainable Rhythms of the Jewish Calendar

How does the Jewish calendar provide a spiritual, land-based rhythm for Jewish living? How do we apply Jewish agricultural values on land, the classroom, and throughout society?
Join an inter-generational, pluralistic community of Jewish farmers, rabbis, educators, students and families from across the country for an inspiring weekend of learning, growth, and celebration. This event is co-sponsored by Pardes, Hazon, and Mechon Hadar.

Friday-Sunday, Feb 15-17
Location: Pearlstone Center- Reisterstown, MD
Learn More!

The Limmud NY Community of Educators

Join a select group of Jewish educators from within the tri-state area for a weekend of professional learning and collaboration as part of a year-round learning community, both online and in person.

For more info, go to Please note: all Pardes alumni receive $50 off of regular Limmud NY registration by entering the discount code PARDESALUM.

Raising your game in the classroom
You are invited to join a day of Torah study focusing on practical subjects that are relevant to today's Jewish teens and pre-teens, with workshops led by leading educators from Israel's Lifshitz College of Education in Jerusalem. The program will be offered in 5 locations between February 6 and February 13, 2013. Click here for more information.

Shai Agnon Writing Contest
The Agnon House in Jerusalem, together with ATID and, announce a writing competition for Jewish high school students for works of prose or poetry written through the inspiration of S.Y. Agnon's Nobel Prize winning Hebrew literature. For details visit

Drisha Institute Beit Midrash
Drisha Institute seeks highly motivated, intellectual teenage girls for the opportunity of a lifetime learning in the Drisha beit midrash in NYC. For more information please see the Drisha website or contact Gila Hoch at
Online Resources
  1. Debra Weiner suggests a Lookstein podcast on how to build student motivation.
  2. David Bernstein shared an article in The New York Times Magazine by Lori Gottlieb, “What Brand Is Your Therapist,” as food for thought for Jewish educators.
  3. Mordechai Cohen suggests Sefaria, a database for Jewish texts – "bringing digital texts into the public domain." It also features a tool for building source sheets.
  4. Suggested by Pardes staff: The Jewish Education Center of Cleveland (which uses Understanding by Design as the foundation of the curriculum it develops) has two music curricula that could be adapted in different ways for day schools.  Both are available for free download from this page of the JECC curriculum website.
  5. Ilana Lipman suggests Al HaTorah, a one-stop Tanakh study resource, providing the tools, techniques and technology to make Torah come alive in the home, classroom and synagogue. Al ha Torah was founded by Pardes faculty member Neima Novetsky.
  6. Seth Goldsweig recommends this online tool for setting up a "fake" facebook page (so, for example, students can create a fb profile for Moshe).
  7. Suggested by Pardes staff, Lookstein's online guide for teaching about the Israeli elections.
  8. Becca Farber suggests Zemirot Database.
Happening at Pardes: Yom Iyun shel Chesed 5773

             Marla Bennet                               Ben Blutstein

This year marked the tenth annual “Yom Iyun shel Chesed,” a day of social action in memory of Marla Bennett and Ben Blutstein, students in the Pardes Educators program who were murdered by terrorists in the Hebrew University bombing of July 2002.

During this year’s Yom Iyun shel Chesed, students spent the morning visiting their choice of one of three organizations that make a profound impact on the lives of different sectors of the capital city: Yad Sarah, Shalva, and Yad LaKashish. After lunch, students chose again from three options: a “globalization tour” of Mahaneh Yehuda (Jerusalem’s open air market), a community gardening project, or an exercise that elevates garbage pick-up to a spiritual practice.

PEP student Stu Jacobs (cohort 12), who was a Pardes year student in 2002-2003 and helped organize the very first Yom Iyun shel Chesed, reflects upon Ben and Marla’s legacy of kindness:

“The year after Ben and Marla were killed was a year of mourning for our whole community, even for those, like me, who never had the pleasure of meeting them. The first Yom Iyun shel Chesed enabled us to come together and celebrate the lives of two fellow students by creating something positive from the midst of this tragedy, some light from the darkness. Marla and Ben had been in the Pardes Educators Program, learning, working, and planning to become Jewish educators. As such, we were able to tangibly feel the immense positive influence these future teachers would have undoubtedly had on the lives of thousands of children.

One idea behind the Yom Iyun shel Chesed was that this would become a yearly Pardes tradition that would eventually impact thousands of people for the better, just as Ben and Marla surely would have. It was therapeutic for our immediate Pardes community at that time, and it also was a way to somehow make up for Ben and Marla’s lives being cut so short.

Reflecting on this now, it’s powerful and rewarding to be here in person and to see that indeed this tradition is alive and thriving today. Our greatest hopes, nascent in that very first Yom Iyun shel Chesed, are every year coming to fruition. The legacy of Marla and Ben, who were both so committed to making Jerusalem and the world a better place, is truly commemorated and celebrated each and every year through the daylong focus on chesed of the Yom Iyun shel Chesed.”

Stu Jacobs is from Cleveland, Ohio. He received a BA in Organizational Psychology from University of Michigan. Between his year at Pardes in ’02-’03 and now, when he is a student in the PCJE program, he worked as a director of catering and food service.
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Mazal Tov to:

Sarit Cohen (Cohort 4) and Hanania on the birth of a son, Hilkiyahu. Mazal tov to big brothers Yehoyada and Nehorye.

Andrew Shapiro Katz (Cohort 2) and Emily on the birth of a son, Yehoshuah. Mazal tov to siblings Maya Batya, Avital Reena, and Eitan Yishai.

Etan Weiss (Cohort 5) and Amy on the birth of a daughter, Nava Brielle. Mazal tov to big sister Ya’ara.

Scott Kaplan (Cohort 7) on his induction into Tzahal.

Eric Zaff (Cohort 1) and Jillian on the birth of a son, Noah. Mazal tov to big brother Joshua.

Tamar Rabinowitz (Cohort 1) and Greg Fine on the birth of a son, Judah Rein.

Amy Martin (Cohort 10) and Yossi Cirlin on their recent marriage.

Baruch Dayan Haemet

Condolences to:

David and Aliza Riemenschneider (Cohort 9) on the loss of David's father, Don Riemenschneider.

PEASP is supported by a generous grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation.