In the fall of 2014 the Department of Experiential Jewish Education at YU launched an EJE fellowship for YU students who are currently serving as synagogue and youth movement advisors. The Fellowship convened once a week, for six weeks, to study various EJE concepts and the way in which these concepts relate to their practice. What follows is a participant’s testimonial of her experience in the fellowship.
Yeshiva University EJE Fellowship for Synagogue and Youth Movement Advisors
By Devora Schloss
It’s 8pm on a Wednesday night in the middle of November, and I am sitting in a room with 30 others who have come to learn the secrets of experiential Jewish education. Okay, maybe not the ‘secrets’ – we are here to gain whatever we, as individuals working in youth movements, can to improve ourselves as experiential educators. We do not have formal jobs in EJE (yet). This is something we all do on the side between exams and papers, whether it be Shabbatonim, schmoozes or summer programs. We do it because we love it and in turn, have joined the fellowship program because we want to give the youth we advise the best experience we can.
This week goes pretty much like any other: Gaby throws out a term (such as “Gain vs claim” or “purpose vs meaning” etc) and the room breaks into a debate: what is exactly meant by the term and its definition. It is comically predictable with every new term. Without Gaby there it would probably result in mayhem. But instead these debates are turned into productive conversations, exploring the ideas she presented.
I like to call these sessions exploring and not learning because the thing I find most interesting about them is that they are not teaching us anything new, per se. Each of us sitting in the room has been in a leadership position of some sort and has run youth programing. This fellowship is not teaching the steps of creating a program. Instead we are being exposed to the methodology behind the programs we run, giving us more intentionality when planning programs of our own. I feel like I am able to approach experiential education with a lexicon of terms and an understanding of how learners’ experiences can vary (and be varied through adaptions to programs).
This fellowship program has helped me understand what I am accomplishing as an educator. I have a better understanding of what I am doing–what I am accomplishing, and how the learner is understanding the program/lesson/experience I am creating. If I were to run an activity before attending these sessions and then again after these sessions, my activity might look similar, but the difference in the activity will be my awareness of the how the students are being impacted. I am gaining tools that help me quantify their experience in the learners seat. This heightened awareness allows for more intentionality on the part of the educator. Like I said, the activity may be the same but I will go into it with clear intentions of what I aim for my students to get out of the activity. Thus a deliberateness is introduced into programs I will run and with that comes a greater potential to impact the learners.
To learn more or apply to the Certificate Program in Experiential Jewish Education go to www.ejewisheducation.com. Applications for Cohort V will be accepted through January 26, 2015.