The following was also posted on the Jim Joseph Foundation blog.
By Jordan Magidson, Nadiv Educator at URJ Camp Kalsman in Arlington, WA and Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle, WA.
One idea that has been drilled into my head for the last four years is that no Jewish community is an island—or at least no community should be. Rather than hoarding our intellectual property we should be sharing it, collaborating with other Jewish organizations and learning from one another in order to create the best possible educational experience for our children. What I find unique about the Nadiv program is that it is one of the first national initiatives to begin building those bridges between Jewish organizations, recognizing that religion schools (that’s what we call it in my neck of the woods) and Jewish camps both have a lot to teach each and learn from each other when it comes to innovative and successful Jewish programming for kids.
My position as Nadiv Educator is pretty unique. I am only one of six Jewish educators who split their time between working in a school and working at camp and only one of two in this pilot that works in supplementary Jewish education. While there have been challenges, they have been minimal and hardly noteworthy. The benefits and opportunities for growth for the camp, the religion school and for me as an educator have been far more numerous.
When I am wearing my temple hat, I am thinking about what makes camp so successful and how we can start integrating that into our religion school. We send 140 students from Temple De Hirsch Sinai (TDHS) to URJ Camp Kalsman each summer. This gives us the opportunity to create a sense of year-long Jewish education for our students. With camp being located only an hour outside of Seattle, we have the chance to utilize this beautiful and uniquely Jewish setting to support what is happening in the classroom. We will begin by sending our 4th-6th graders to camp in May for a Shabbaton where we teach our students and their families about how we can address poverty in our community. Camp is a perfect setting for this as fighting hunger is a major goal of our camp community. This past year we donated roughly 1000 lbs. of food that we grew in our garden to a local shelter and we hope to double that this year. By utilizing program areas like the garden and farm, we not only teach our students about this big issue, but also literally get our hands dirty and show them how they can be change agents in our community. This will have a bigger impact than if we just stayed at our congregation. We are also, of course, hoping to garner more excitement about camp and encourage some first-time campers to try it out.
When I am wearing my camp hat, I am thinking about ways in which camp can continue to grow and be at the forefront of innovation when it comes to Jewish education. It is important that camp not simply rest on its laurels – just because something worked 20 years ago doesn’t mean it doesn’t need rejuvenating. This year at camp we are beginning to move to a fully integrated model of Jewish education, which will be a change from how we have done things in the past. It will bring a new energy to the education program. As Director of Education at camp, I am also aware that not every community I work with has the same resources available to them as available TDHS. That is why we are beginning to send out holiday recourse sheets to schools and families that will allow them to bring a little of the camp spirit into their homes. We are also going to start making available tested and approved all-school and family programming to our camp communities that would like to add more experiential programming to their schedules but may not have the time or resources to create them. This will be one way we can give all of our campers, not just TDHS campers, the ability to experience this year-long Jewish education.
All of this is just the beginning. April will mark one year in this very unique position for me. In this first year I have learned a lot and accomplished a lot. I know that in the coming years I will accomplish even more. David Berkman (Director of Camp Kalsman), Rabbi Daniel Septimus (Director of Congregational Learning at TDHS) and I are all very committed to creating endless opportunities for collaboration. I can’t wait to see where we go from here!