Sunday, November 29, 2009

Frisch Integration Programs

My regular integration presentations are having a delayed start this year, because of the many new integration initiatives the school is now involved in. First, I was busy establishing the integrated curriculum themes on the wikis for the ninth and tenth grades. The integrated curriculum is now part of the freshman and sophomore years; freshman year has the same theme as last year's freshman class, Identity, and sophomore year has the theme of Exploration. The Frisch wiki has a Home page that is a portal to both grades' wikis, and then there are Home pages for each respective grade. The pages on each grade's wiki pertains to the grade's theme. The ninth grade pages are basically the same as last year's: My Story, Modern Orthodoxy, Classification, Leadership, Return to Zion, and Civic Responsibility. A new page is Relationship with God.

A new initiative on the ninth grade wiki has been the inclusion of the students of the Amal School in Nahariya, Northern New Jersey UJA's sister city. Educational Technology Director of Frisch, Rabbi Tzvi Pittinsky, traveled to Nahariya at the start of the school year to get the students and faculty onto our wiki, so our Hebrew Language ninth grade students could dialogue with their Israeli counterparts. Several interesting discussions have already taken place.

The tenth grade wiki is new, so the pages are all being introduced and built this year. So far, for the theme of Exploration, we have Traveling Through Time and Space, Visions, Man in Search of God, Cause and Effect, Exploring Diverse Cultures and The Rules of Engagement. One example of a teacher who used the Exploring Diverse Cultures page in an interesting way is by a Chumash teacher who had students weigh in on the Noahide laws on the Discussion section of the page.

At the end of last year, a school in Alon Shvut, Neveh Channah, found Frisch's wiki because of an article in the Lookjed journal that Rabbi Pittinsky and I had written. The teacher from Neveh Channah wanted to collaborate with an English Literature class, and since I teach the subject, I agreed. I'm very excited about the work we've been doing. The teacher looked at my syllabus and found points where our curricula meet. Our school's grade theme is Exploration, and she chose a civic responsibility angle for her syllabus, so we're trading off using not only each other's wikis, but also each other's themes.

So far, her class has read "A Modest Proposal," which was a work generated by my curriculum, and after also reading an article by Chief Rabbi of England, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, both of our students discussed the effects of greed.

After a discussion of possible rehabilitation of criminals, an idea that grew out of one of The Canterbury Tales my class was discussing, both schools began researching and thinking about whether criminals can be reintroduced into society. Last Monday, Neveh Channah's Director of Educational Technology set up a FlashMeeting, so Frisch students could join Neveh Channah students in listening to a speaker, a man who runs the Jerusalem-area prisons. Frisch students were, in real time, able to ask questions to the speaker and learn about the Israeli prison system. Tomorrow, Monday, November 30, a friend of mine from Los Angeles, a psychologist who worked in California prisons, will be speaking to my class via telephone and answering our questions on prisons in America. Finally, on Wednesday, December 2, a rabbi at Frisch who has a law degree and practiced as an attorney before joining the school's Judaic Studies staff, will be addressing my class about America's penal code. Key points from both tomorrow's and Wednesday's lectures will be on the Neveh Channah wiki, so our students and the ones in Alon Shvut can continue our discussion of the issue. The topic works well with Neveh Channah's civic responsibility theme.

Coming up with Neveh Channah is a joint Chanukah party, where our students will learn about an interesting battle that took place in Gush Etzion during the time of the Maccabis. If we can find a way to exchange sufganiyot over the Internet, we'll do that, too!

For the ninth grade for Chanukah, I may finally get to do an Integration presentation, about a shul in Israel that archaeologists first believed was a pagan temple, because it had Zodiac mosaics of a sun and an uncircumcised male nude, both subjects that were taboo in Classical Israeli synagogues. Archaeologists later realized the shul belonged to a group of Hellenized Jews. The presentation will be part of a larger discussion throughout the ninth grade about Greek culture. Secular Studies classes will focus on the huge contributions the Greeks made to Western culture, as basically the creators of it, while Judaic Studies teachers will focus on where to draw the line between our religion and the outside world, since as modern Orthodox Jews, we may sometimes feel conflicted and unsure about where we should stand. I hope my presentation will show that Hellenized Jews sometimes went too far in adopting Greek culture, just as today many Jews stray too far into the secular world.

Other upcoming Integration presentations will be in Chumash, on the importance of the Shema, especially as it compares to idealogies of other religions, and in Nakh, on the power of the Assyrian Empire as it is seen in Melakhim Aleph and Bet.

I want to thank AVICHAI, without whom I would have never have heard of a wiki! Now wiki-ing is all I do!

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