Rabbi Harry Pell is the Associate Head of School at Schechter Westchester. In his piece in yesterday’s eJewishPhilanthropy, he reminisced about a particularly hot take offered by his high school Talmud teacher.
His Talmud teacher argued that of all the major movements in Judaism, Conservative Judaism was an “experiment.” He went on to explain. Cloistered, traditional Judaism survives because they are closed off from the world. Assimilationist Judaism, he argued, will eventually disappear. However, it was unclear whether Conservative Jews who found a middle ground would manage to create a sustainable movement over time.
The experiment continues, although from the data and numbers we have so far, Pell is not optimistic. As an educator, he went on to consider how the experiment plays out in liberal Jewish schools, especially when very ground upon which every Jewish institution is built is shifting.
Pell worries that legacy denominational schools might not be able to adjust. “What if,” he asks, “what works for me Jewishly, and in fact what I need as a Jew, is compelling to a smaller and smaller subset of the Jewish community?” Legacy schools, designed on the traditional, industrial model, cannot address the needs of subsets.
ADRABA is, by design, a school of one networked to many.
With technology, we can personalize learning down to the smallest of subsets, creating micro-communities on the fly and connecting them into the broader kehillah network. With a solid foundation in Jewish literacy, ADRABA learners can not only engage with our rich history and heritage, they can do Jewish stuff comfortably and naturally too.
Though ADRABA is new to Toronto, there is a decades-long tradition of best practices when it comes to blended learning. But, best of all, ADRABA’s focus on MAJESTY integrates Jewish learning across the curriculum, bringing our centuries-old tradition to bear on the present moment. The 21st century is complicated and challenging. It demands critical thinking and the audacity to propose, test and iterate complicated solutions to real world problems. As Pirkei Avot teaches us – the bashful do not learn, and an ignorant person cannot be pious.