Sunday, July 17, 2011

Making it all about the learning.

Last week I was able to spend a week learning from the wonderful people at the Jewish Women's Archive as they were teaching us how to use this online archive in our schools, especially the Living the Legacy curriculum.  The curriculum teaches about the role of Jewish women in the civil rights movement and by extention other Jewish participation in this amazing event that changed the world we live in it.  One statistic that struck me is that some estimates suggest nearly half the white women who went South to work for civil rights from the north had Jewish heritage as part of their family history.  These were mostly women of privledge who saw the injustice and wanted to change it.  This story is important and visiting the archive website and learning about these extraordinary women would be well worth you time. 

But what was interesting was I was the only man in a group of 25 Jewish educators from around the country and Canada.  While this was not an unusual position for me to have been in in my career.  I knew a couple of the people before I came, recognized a few more from other conferences, and many were complete strangers.  What was amazing was how quickly we became a community.  As an obvious outsider it would have been easy to be held responsible for the sexism of the past and in many cases the present.  (I did occassionally cringe when some spoke of their helpless husbands suffering back home).  But we represented what truly illustrates the theme of my multicultural workshop "The Diversity of a Dozen Eggs".  We were born Jews and Jews by Choice, Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reform, and Secular Humanist, we were Rabbis, lay synagogue professionals, lawyers, writers, and many professions I can't remember, we were Jews who kept kosher and some who loved bacon, we were Jews who love services and Jews who never attend, we were Jews who feel God in every tiny detail of the world, and those who are comfortable in their doubt of God's existence.  But we were all there for one thing.  We were all there to become better educators and we wanted to bring voice to the voiceless of history.  What turned out is that we all learned from each other, we all shared with each other, we all felt connected to each other.  So often the walls that separate us make it hard for us to access all we can be.  If anything was accomplished this week was to show me that when I think of my experiences for the week, I will always remember that teachers who think outside the box to instill the wonders of Judaism to the next generation. I will remember how we worked together to find ways to modify the curriculum for our particular setting.  I will remember the discussions of sustainable food and traffic on 128.  I won't remember where these women daven, or how they say the blessings, or if full kriah is important to them.  And that will always make me smile.  We came together in diversity and left in unity without compromising that diversity.  Hazah to all the women I learned from and to Etta, Judith and the entire staff of JWA.  Thank you for making my summer learning useful and reenergizing. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Civility where did it go?

So I traveled to Boston for a conference of Jewish educators that the Jewish Women's Archive puts on.   I arrived at the airport in Indy and was greeted with an amazingly long line.  Since I didn't have a bag to check I stood in line and looked around for a USAIRWAYS attendent to see if I could skip the line and find a place to get a boarding pass.  Some horrible woman called to me and said I couldn't get ahead of her in line.  PS I was trying to help her because she too was not checking a bag.  Well let's just say the line moved well.  When we got to the counter the person who helped me was more efficent and I was done in seconds and I saw that she took a lot longer to get through security. 

So the line was long the whole time.  At one point a family of 5 walked up the counter, ignoring the line and started using one of the electronic kiosks.  When it was pointed out the counter guy asked him to stop.  He refused.  One of the girls in the family started begging and crying to the counter guy about missing their flight.  The counter guy canceled his check in and sent him to the line.  Someone let him in.  The whole time they were complaining.  In the security line, which moves surprisingly fast there was a fight of words between a couple of people...for the 10 seconds of difference between being first or second to get to the counter.  OH well, then at the gate there was the ubiquitous pushing and shoving to get on the plane first.  Once on the plane there was a bit of seat jockeying but after that things were quiet.  I had to change planes in DC.  There was a picnic.  When boarding there was a family with a child who had some form of brain disorder.  The girl was screaming like crazy and I couldn't figure out how to help.  I thought for sure that the guy at the counter would allow them on early....NOPE.  Then there was the FAA regulation that you can have only 2 carryons.  A woman had three and was yelling at the counter guy that she has to take them all on.  Then blocked the jet way to make sure someone she was traveling with would take it.  Then a guy kept trying to bump the line, then he stood behind counter guy and he had to physically move him.  Once on board the flight attendents had to repeatly tell people to power down their electronic devises, get in their seats and simply act respectful.  It was an amazing thing to watch. 

One interesting thing was our plane was met by a handful of Mass State Police, I wanted to see if they were there for any of the rude people.  Now this isn't the first time I have seen this but it was the first time it was so concentrated.  It was the first time it was so over the top. 

But now I am with a group of about 30 women, all of whom are smart, funny and ready to learn and teach.  The conference has started beautifully and we will all have a great time.  Now if we could just get this spirit out to Logan on Friday I would be happy. 

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