Friday, August 7, 2015

Where are We? Where are We Going?

  • Tell me about the successes? In other words, Where are we? 
  • If you had a wish, what would it be? In other words, Where are we going?

These questions are guiding my first conversations as  I step into my role as Director of The Reconstructionist Learning Network. I'm on a listening tour to understand where are we, and where are going. What is the state of Jewish learning in the community? What might it be?

Today, I had one of those conversations while standing by the road. The sun was so inviting, I had to step outside to breath in some sunshine.  Terri Bernsohn from the Jewish Reconstuctionist Congregation in Illinois and chair of RENA was describing the awesome Shabbat she experienced at Camp JRF.

One wish she has--imagine what a "Reconstructionist educator uniquely needs to know, like being a community builder and knowing the ways to foster values-driven-decision making, and then create the spaces to develop those skills." As Terri finished her thought, an old car pulled up next to me. A young woman  leaned out the window:

"Hey, do you know how to get to Manayunk?"

My attempt to explain the 10 turns, and the 15 minutes it would take to get there, left her looking Red-Riding-Hood-afraid--on a mission and unsure. She was so far off her mapquest directions, she had no idea where she was, or where she was going.

Terri graciously said we'd talk later. I got in my car. The young woman followed me down suburban twists and turns until we reached a main road marked on her directions.

She smiled relief and waved a hand with thanks.

No one had stopped to ask me for directions in years. Why this moment?  I couldn't help but wonder if she were an "angel metaphor," sent to help me make sense of my first week at work.
  • There is no clear map of where we are
  • Printed directions aren't going to get us where we need to go
  • We'll need one another to figure it out
  • There are going to be twists and turns
  • Trust, because clear markers will emerge
Thank you angel metaphor. But there is one place we diverge. The young woman had a specific  address where she was going. Where exactly Jewish learning is going, is not so clear.

"Transformational change is more emergent than planned," writes Gervase Bushe and Robert Marshak in a new book about organizational change. "Transformational change cannot be planned toward some pre-determined future state. Rather transformation requires holding an intention while moving into the unknown."

Jewish Education under Re-construction is about transformation. I'm ready to move into the unknown. Ready to go too?

Will you help me know where we are, and where we are going?


  1. Wow! What a wonderful way to begin reflecting over Shabbat! I, too, had an intensive week of meeting, connecting, studying, discussing and learning at NewCaje and am looking forward to synthesizing and reflecting over the weekend. Thank you, Cyd, for providing a framework in which I can do so. I enjoyed meeting you, am inspired by this blog, and look forward to working with you. Shabbat Shalom! Sue Penn

    1. Hi Sue, thank you for getting me started on the road. Would love to hear what is percolating for you after your week of thinking and learning!

  2. I love the metaphor and if I might add to it, just as you identified the roads for this woman to follow, so will you illuminate the paths open to Jewish learning and growth.

    1. Thanks Helene for thinking with me. I'll keep that image in mind!

  3. Our success is that we are still working to create new models in education that fit our families in the 21st century. I'm not sure where we are going, but I hope that we will find ways to keep our families connected to a Jewish life, rich with Jewish values, so that they will continue to "be" Jewish.

    1. Hi Nancy,
      This really is a time of great experimentation asking us to imagine new models. I just came back from an impressionist exhibit at the Phila art museum. The exhibit highlighted how the impressionists were laughed at-scorned..but they were responding to their changing times. Time to be impressionists?
      Glad to spend some time with you this week!

  4. Taking stock is an important piece in any attempt to engage transformation. I have often encountered people thinking of something they would like to see existing in education when it is right in front of them but they are unaware. I keep hearing about how we need to change for the new type of Jew. Funny as I see the history of Judaism that is the heart of the story. It will mean seeing what we are doing now that is helping our families feel connected while at the same time always looking for ways to respond to the new generation.

  5. Hi George, I really like the humble notion that you put forth--we are not the first of the Jewish journey people to have to re-imagine. This is the constant in our Jewish story and now as a person connected with the Reconstructionist Communities I believe as you said it is at the "heart" of what we need to do.

  6. This is great! Welcome to your new position Cyd. I look forward to meeting you.
    Betsy Schneider
    Dor Hadash
    San Diego

  7. Betsy,
    Thank you for welcoming me. I can't wait to visit you on the sunny shores of San Diego! Looking forward to discovering what is possible with your help.