A Manifesto on Experiential Education

Joel Lurie Grishaver

After I posted my last TAP-BB/Blog entry on the risk of success as it applies to education and Jewish education, I got a very short e-mail from a friend who told me to do three things. This entry is a fulfillment of that request. The friend says (a) quote David Bryfman, (b) keep it short, and (c) write what you actually believe about Experiential Jewish Education. I like the writer of that e-mail so here is what was wanted.

This is the way that David Bryfman explains experiential education in an article:

Experiential Jewish education is dependent on three broad components being evident in every experience. These parameters – recreation, socialization and challenge – only when operating together allow for participants to learn, develop and grow through their experiences.

“Recreation – As recreation, experiential Jewish education aims to provide its participants with social comfort, fun and belonging in a Jewish context.

Socialization – As socialization, experiential Jewish education aims to provide the knowledge, skills and attitudes to be an active member of the Jewish community…

Challenge – As experiential educators, Jewish educators aim to encourage participants to undertake the challenge of stretching themselves and growing towards a more complex participation in one’s Jewish life…

In understanding experiential Jewish education in this way, challenge must be understood of as being able to exist only if recreation and socialization have preceded it. Challenge, as a learning process, can only be conducted in a space space where an environment has been established that makes people feel safe enough to take risks and trust one another.

David Bryfman, The Challenge of Experiential Jewish Education

Here is the state of our commitment to create text materials that not only support but enable Jewish Experiential Education.

  1.  We believe that Jewish education should be fun and that well-mastered challenges often turn that fun into joy.
  2. We believe that Jewish education takes place in sacred community and builds sacred friendships.
  3. We believe that Jewish learning should be active, interactive, and be learning through doing.
  4. We believe that Jewish learning includes inner-work and needs to include learning about the self.
  5. We believe that Experiential learning needs reflection. Any experience that lacks reflection probably lacks learning.
  6. We believe that the study of Jewish texts, when done correctly, fulfills the first five statements in this manifesto.
  7. We believe that rather than eliminating books from the classroom, books can the foundation on which good experiences can be built.

There you have it, short, sweet, and with a quote from Dr. David Bryfman of the Jewish Education Project.