Happening on JEDLAB


Peter Eckstein

Peter EcksteinWith close to 5700 members, JEDLAB is evolving. When it formed over 2 years ago, its mission was to explore new, innovative approaches to Jewish education….to be a laboratory where ideas could be tested. It was to be a safe place where educators, folks interested in Jewish education, stake holders, students and others could meet and push the envelope of current Jewish educational practice.

Over the past few years many discussions have taken place in JEDLAB about philosophy of education, the nature of inclusion, the role of politics in the classroom and more. These conversations are still happening….and as an example of how JEDLAB is changing, many of these encounters take place IRL (in real life) at meetups set up specifically to provide face to face venues, as well as through other types of formats, such as the ongoing book discussions about Sir Ken Robinson’s most recent book, “Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution that is Transforming Education” (click here for more info about this.) These book club discussions are taking place on FB as well as in real life and other online venues. However, over the past 6 months, there has been a subtle shift in the type of conversations that are taking place.
Yes, we are still exploring theory and philosophy, and ramifications and implications. In fact, there is a new JEDLAB initiative revolving around Rabbi Alan Lew’s book This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation . JEDLABers are writing microblogs on the how they are preparing for Yamim HaNoraim, sharing thoughts about being prepared and ready for the acts of Teshuvah. You can find these pieces in JEDLAB using the hashtag ‪#‎ JEDLAB_unprepared But there’s another development.

Remember Listservs—those email based forums created in the late 20th century? They still exist, but many have been replaced by other types of cloud based environments, like Facebook groups, such as JEDLAB. This wasn’t the intention of the group’s creators, and there have always been posts asking very specific questions about “How can I teach this topic”, or “Where can I get this resource” Of late, however, we are seeing a lot more of these types of interactions. One educator recently reached out to her colleagues in the group, looking for a book to read aloud to her students. Another was looking for samples of High Holy Day programs. But wait, there’s more. One educator began a text study in the group, focusing on Second Samuel, Chapter 3 (go here) Technical questions have been posed: How do I share photographs from my phone in the most secure manner? What’s fascinating is that many of these simple questions result in deeper conversations and the development of new relationships – which is the point of the JEDLAB network – to build connections between its members. Remember that query about finding a good book to real aloud? Someone suggested creating a list of Great Jewish Books. In another forum, someone created a JEDLAB pintrest page with Jewish resources contributed by JEDLABers (and others!)

Everything changes, even things on Facebook. And while there might be those who may bemoan the loss of what they call “the revolutionary JEDLAB ethos”, what I would say is that

1) JEDLAB is still revolutionary. Revolution, by its very nature implies change…and JEDLAB is changing;

2) The shift from pure theory to a hybrid of philosophy and concrete practice is refreshing and illustrates the development and growth of the Jewish educational ethos of change and transformation and experimentation.