Posted by: Clare Goldwater, Vice President for Jewish Experience on 11/13/2007 9:33:00 AM
What does one pack for a Jewish journey? A warm hat for cold climates, modest clothing for religious sites?
Well, it turns out that probably the most crucial thing, the thing that most Hillel professionals already know will make the difference for the student traveler, is a heart that is open to new experiences and to the journey itself. And the hundreds of Hillel professionals who take students on Jewish journeys every year -- to Israel, to New Orleans and to many other places far and near -- are getting ready for this year’s travels and for the powerful experiences that thousands of students will enjoy in the coming season.
And as part of their own preparation, for readying themselves for other people’s Jewish journeys, almost 250 of them recently participated in this year’s professional development seminars for immersion experiences, facilitated by a team from the Schusterman International Center.
The professional development seminars this year combined three main elements; an exploration of what it means to be a Jewish educator; skills for community organizing, focusing on all stages of an immersion experience including the follow-through afterwards; and plenty of tips, skills and preparation for the immersion experience itself. The seminars also brought together a complete cross section of Hillel professionals, from those with less than a full semester of Hillel experience, to those with decades and many immersion experiences under their belts. And, as we had expected, the opportunity to meet and re-connect with colleagues, to gain new insights and ideas, to share and discuss and to prepare together for the Jewish journeys of our students, was time well spent and a valuable opportunity, even in the middle of a busy semester.
Of course, as the title of this piece suggests, it isn’t just the journey that is important. Journeys only have meaning when contrasted with the homecoming, and most of our time is spent at home, on campus. If we can't help a student feel at home in Jewish life, as well as give them a powerful Jewish journey, we have only done half the work, and so the seminar included some important homecoming elements too. A taste of our latest technology for tracking student relationships, as well as best practices for follow-through activities were also included. And more will follow on this theme at Professional Staff Conference.
In the meantime, thank you to everyone who took days off from a very busy schedule to come to Dallas, to New Jersey or to Los Angeles. We wish you a successful preparation for an amazing Jewish journey and homecoming for your students in the coming year. And we look forward to seeing you for more professional development next year, as we all strive to improve, to learn and to grow together as a community.
RE: Journeys and Homecomings
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