DeLeT, Los Angeles
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contemporary design and fashion, Jewish studies, Israel, helping those in need
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I created this illustrative collage for a Chalulim Road Map assignment that is a reflection on my experiences and overall view of the world
Spirituality is that intuitive sense of being; it's an awareness of the world around us and our place in it. When we listen to our heart powerful things happen. Because my heart beats for a meaningful future in the Jewish community my intuition and know-how currently lead the way.
Like a cross-stitch on a handcrafted quilt my present and future threads are intersecting and becoming one thread. All at once, I am reflecting on my DeLeT year overall, living and working in the now, and preparing for a year in Israel as a first year graduate student at HUC. The only daughter of a single, hard of hearing and physically disabled mother, this is a lot to bear. My mom and I have been one another's support over the years and will continue to be. She often tells people that when I decided I wanted a Jewish education at age ten, I brought her back to Judaism. Perhaps she does not know that she raised me to be a Jew just by espousing Jewish values onto me that are applicable universally. She also raised me to be independent. Now I must call upon my independence as an American Jewish woman to prep me for a year away. My thread is getting stronger so that I may create my own quilt...a quilt with patches of love, of laughs, of tears, and of triumphs big and small.
I "indulge" in Pilates once a week and find meditative properties by inhaling and exhaling, stretching, and bending. But even while sleeping, I am never fully resting. My mind is always going, problem solving, thinking of ways to make things better. I recently presented a Dvar Torah on Parasha Behar for my DeLeT cohort. This parasha includes the jubilee year, the commandment relating to agriculture and the practice that we may till the land for six solid years, but must let it rest on the seventh. God tells Moses, "Six years you may sow your field and six years you may prune your vineyard and gather in the yield. But in the seventh year the land shall have a Sabbath of complete rest, a Sabbath of the Lord" (Leviticus 25:3-4).
Complete rest. Wow! This takes control and trust. It takes control to break routine, change habits, and do nothing. It takes trust to know that everything will be ok if we do so. For, God promised Moses that even in the jubilee year, there would be food to eat. What are we to do in a society that requires so much of us that we e-mail while driving, (thanks Blackberry), drink our meals (Jamba Juice), and read while watching TV while doing the laundry and waiting for our nails to dry (I do this anyway)?
In discussion with my group questions rose relating to the text and relating to our lives in a modern context. Think about your life, your responsibilities, and commitments. Resting is tough, but we are commanded to do so.
Another commandment among all of God's edicts is care for animals. In parasha Emor, we're told that we are responsible for our animals. At services recently my elementary school rabbi shared the importance of feeding our pets before we feed ourselves. The reason? If we satiate ourselves, we may forget to feed our little loved ones. Our animals can bark, meow, and act up, but cannot express their hunger in words. The principle of this simple practice builds our awareness of others and puts the "self" into "selfless."
My Jewish soul's matured this year. I am so excited to spend next year, Israel's sixtieth year, in Jerusalem. DeLeT is the literal translation for the word "door." Perhaps Elijah came through it just one year ago, as my future is forever changed by this Fellowship. Thank you to all those who got me to this point: my family, friends, mentors, instructors, students, and trustees. You know who you are!
And...who knows, maybe this monthly dialogue will continue....
Posted by LuAnne at 2:18 PM
From Purim to Pesach, the last four weeks have been maleyah (Hebrew for full) of celebration and excitement. The reasons are many and the memories abundant. Purim at Stephen S. Wise brought me back to my childhood. My students dressed up as hippies, princesses, and cowboys, just to name a few. We read the Megilah in a school-wide assembly where everyone sang, grogged with graggars, and inhaled hamentaschen. It was a lot of fun. Of course, what is Purim without a Purim carnival? Think goldfish that never die, face painting, and friends and family.
As people, we're on stage all the time. The clothes we wear express our style, just as they allow us to fit into certain situations better. It was great teaching my students about our ancient superheroes and how dressing up/wearing a mask is sometimes necessary. Queen Esther's altruistic, yet risk taking behavior related to Superman who models the idea that sometimes concealing who we are ensures the longevity of us and our community. We acknowledged that playing dress up is fun today, but that it hasn't always been that way.
Pesach was another playful approach to the serious Exodus story. I taught my second graders the basics of slavery in Egypt, Moses and Pharaoh, the plagues, eventual freedom, the Red Sea splitting, and how we celebrate this biblical event now.
Freedom is an underlying theme in several of our Jewish holidays, but especially these two. How fitting it is that after months of rigorous study, we get a little break. We get two whole weeks to rejuvenate, catch up on things, and have personal check-ins.
In the midst of all the recent festivities, the enriching gift of integration recently visited room 44 at SSWTES.
Room 44 Seder
The unit? Missions of California and Kibbutzim of Israel. Values of community and willpower connected the two otherwise separate topics. Students learned that the pioneering spirit of the Padres and the early chalutzim is universal- that it shaped our identities as Californians and as Jews. It was a pleasure to think up and execute creative, sophisticated lessons. The "Ah-ha" moments and smiling faces indicated that the kids enjoyed becoming mission experts, kibbutznikim on a desert journey, and fruit-salad eating farmers. I know they learned a lot too.
My auction winner from the Bohemian Bliss event cashed in her winnings and I treated her and a friend to a Santa Monica afternoon of bonding and beading. After a nice lunch, we made matching double stranded Swarovski crystal friendship bracelets with a rainbow pattern and evil eye charm. This activity defines the joy of teaching and giving back. I auctioned myself off to my students to support my Temple and school and then spent my time and funds on them. Maybe it's a double mitzvah in that sense and totally worth it.
girls and bracelets
Other big news that I haven't shared until now (so as to not jinx myself) is that I applied to HUC for a joint Masters in Jewish Education and Communal Service... AND drum roll please... I was accepted! This opportunity solidifies my Jewish personal and professional commitment. I wholeheartedly believe this is meant to be. Though the three year program is intense, I am confident in the institution, my soon to be professors and peers, and most importantly, I am confident in myself. I know that this is right.
The first year in Israel as required by the Rhea Hirsch School of Education will reconnect me to the land, the language, and the people. The following two years will expose me to an amazing education, as I've already tasted through DeLeT.
The hitch: Hebrew, Hebrew, Hebrew. I still have to pass the proficiency exam before I can pack my bags.
If you are reading this as a prospective student or know someone that might apply/be a fit for the college, I encourage you to study Hebrew and increase your proficiency. Even if you're not applying, it's a phenomenal language, one that I must show improvement in the coming weeks. After not studying Hebrew for six years, I'm rusty, but dusting off.
I hope to share more good news next time... for now...
Posted by LuAnne at 9:54 AM
Lu with cousins
I just returned from a weekend in Northern California where my entire family came together in celebration of my cousin's Bat Mitzvah. Just last year we all congregated for her brother's Bar Mitzvah. As I might have written before, a year makes a difference, as does what one experiences in that year. Because of DeLeT, my whole Jewish world-view is expanded. From every word uttered by the Rabbi at Friday night services to the different melodies sung, and the progressive vibe at my family's Nor Cal Shul. It was camp-like to me, reminiscent of my summers spent in the Malibu hills at the beach and one with nature. What a contrast from my monolithic Los Angeles shul and large Reform community! Not better or worse- diverse! The facts and issues of the week's torah portion, pikudi, were at the forefront of my mind. Our weekly DeLeT parashat hashavuah session prepared me for my cousin's Dvar Torah. Following the Bat Mitzvah, I conversed with the rabbi openly about his educational background. His wife received her MA at the Rhea Hirsch School and is now the executive director of a large Jewish organization.
Another insight of the weekend is that among the maxims that connect our Lubow/Goldberg family is this one: The world is your oyster. My maternal grandmother told this to her children and they've passed it onto theirs. How's that for oral tradition?! Through difficulties in my youth, to accomplishing high-set goals, to even now, my mother's always positively reinforced my willpower and abilities to succeed at whatever I put my mind to. That's why it was warming to hear my uncle announce it to my cousin at her Bat Mitzvah. My grandmother's spirit was in the room and everyone was moved to tears. This year with DeLeT I feel that I am cracking open the shell and becoming more a pearl.
The week following this enlightened weekend, one of HUC's most revered educators led my DeLeT cohort in a deep conversation based on the article "Education for Jewish Identification" in Forum on the Jewish People, Zionism and Israel 1978, by Michael Rosenak. As we prepare for our integrated inquiry where we'll connect general and Jewish topics by creating a unique unit and teaching it, we deconstructed this piece in order to understand its contextual and applicable meaning. I won't give too many details away, (you should read it for yourself!) but we discovered that there are five facts for which Jewish education relies. They are Torah, God, land, people, and the messiah. In order for us to make Jewish choices –those reflective of identity– we must understand the relevancy of these five common places and how they shape our values. There is continuity and there is change. We go to the proof text, the Torah, to dig deep and find meaning.
Lu with mentors
To understand how this knowledge relates to the culture of our day schools, we were given a set of questions to look into. As I contemplated about the five common places and where they are or aren't at my day school, I thought about the messiah specifically. Where is the Messiah? Who is the messiah? I thought to myself. Surely it can't be any one person as traditionally held. Then...I realized that WE have the power to act in messianic ways. By fulfilling mitzvoth we are creating peace, we are bettering our communities, and therefore we are bettering the world. We are not perfect, but we are doing God's work by giving Tzedakah, volunteering, thinking about our environment, etc. Ultimately we make personal sacrifices. By acting in selfless ways, we offer ourselves to God, betzelem elohim.
I can't wait to write all about Purim: the costumes, celebrations, and best of all the infamous gold fish, a prize from one of the annual games at my Temple's carnival. I hope I win one as they live forever!
Posted by LuAnne at 10:35 AM
The Bohemian Bliss event
It is only February and maybe it's the eighty-degree Los Angeles weather, but spring has already sprung for me. I feel a great sense of renewal and growth. The little bud I was in July is now opening into a thoughtful educator. The year is organically progressing. I am enjoying it for all that it is. The workload is serious, but part of the process. Assignments and responsibilities are "good" stress; the kind that's motivating and rewarding.
In one week, I taught two lessons, one General and one Judaic. Appealing to all learning types, I brought in music, a picture book, reading and writing, and creative assessments. The feeling in the room as I taught was in a word: magic.
Sorcery also happened on our recent field trip to the Gene Autry museum. Here, the students got to pan for gold, sit inside actual stagecoaches, and admire a beautifully painted mural depicting the timeline of the West. While they learned, I also learned. I am so excited to share this with you:
A group of excited 4th graders at the Gene Autry Museum
When we go out for drinks with friends or even casual dinners, drinks such as Washington Apples, Cosmopolitans, Lemon Drops, etc. are deemed "girlie." This wasn't always the case, however. It turns out that parched cowboys/miners were more sweet than rugged sometimes. After drinking water and burnt coffee for days, all they wanted was the sweetness of flavored rum.
The end of January was also inviting. I was fortunate to enjoy Stephen S. Wise Temple's ECC and elementary school fundraiser appropriately titled "Bohemian Bliss." The Moroccan theme was authentic as were the guests which comprised school parents, temple members, and members of the school staff. I auctioned myself off to a lucky student and friend for a day of culture and fun. We've since decided to go for lunch and pick up supplies for an afternoon of clothing embellishment and accessory making (this is one of my favorite outlets after all and I'm happy to share it with them). :)
My peers and I danced the night away to the beat of the drums. It was a night to remember.
Posted by LuAnne at 12:29 PM
The circle of education is a perpetually bouncing ball. It bounces here. It bounces there. So long as we learn and reflect on our school years, that ball's buoyancy stays with us. On rare occasion, it bounces back. Whether at the grocery store, the dry cleaner, at a restaurant, at an airport terminal, etc. former classmates and even past teachers, bounce back into our lives. This happened to me recently. The ball bounced for me.
Weeks of excitement mounted for our first Parashat HaShavua (weekly Torah portion) session since winter break. My Chumash teacher from Tenth Grade was scheduled as our guest leader. She was one of my favorite high school teachers. Questions surfaced like: Will she remember me? Has she changed? Is she still at the high school? How are her children? And so on and so on...
Her teaching style was so unique -she turned Biblical text into movement–interpretive dance. As a Tenth Grader, this was a bit "silly," yet it got us out of our seats, appealed to our creativity, and was another way to absorb the material. Just as we're learning to do in DeLeT, she differentiated to reach several types of students.
Another question for her rose. Would we put movement to our text this time? Sure enough we did! While humming Mi Chamocha we choreographed our individual movements of Parashat BeShallach into a larger piece. Our arms motioned side to side, lifted up, and circled around us. We blanketed one another with an imaginary shawl of protection.
The best part of reconnecting with my former teacher is that I plan to keep in touch. We do live in the same neighborhood, after all.
I'm realizing more and more that the circle of education stays buoyant. And as we become more educated and expand our worldviews, the ball bounces even higher!
Some might call it "networking," but my former teacher calls it "community."
No matter where we are, in LA or across the globe, the Jewish community networks for us. All we have to do is catch the ball.
Posted by LuAnne at 9:17 AM
My in-class birthday celebration where we played the infamous Birthday Game
Several months into my DeLeT experience, I realize that teaching in an elementary school setting (or any school setting for that matter) is about educating minds, adapting curriculum, etc. At the heart of the Jewish institution is just that- heart. There is a heart that pumps the required resources, services, and expertise through the veins of the institution to keep it thriving.
These veins are the attentiveness to extraordinary students, either advanced or those with processing, auditory, behavioral, or emotional difficulties, among other things. Teachers, specialists, and parents work together to design specific plans for these students. They maintain the nervous system.
The people of the Jewish Day School embody the values that the school, like doctors to keep it healthy, they prescribe values. The health of the Jewish Day School relies on the proper operation and demographic to fill spots.
In our current class "Day Schools in Society," we are learning all about the Jewish day school, from the inside (the heart and those aspects already mentioned) out (outside sources that support its functioning). We are studying the history and sociology of how Day schools came to be and where they are now. Questions rise like, what does the Jewish institution mean today? What does the mainstream, Jewish population think about them? What do other people think about them? Furthermore, among a competitive secular niche, how is enrollment retained? Clearly the message is good and it's getting results. Were Jewish studies always popular among American Jews, or was it an obligation, an unfulfilling requirement? Where was the shift and what caused it?
Assigned readings, discussions, and guest speakers aim to answer these questions and more. These are of course, just a few of my questions.
Picture is from our first Day School in Society Class where we drew the mind, body connection and if there is one. We also spoke of God and where God is.
On another note, Hanukkah was a miracle at my placement. This miracle extended beyond the "no homework for eight days" policy. Students learned the value of selflessness and felt the warmth of flickering candles. There was a certain spirit in us all.
I also recalled a Torah Study the DeLeT Fellows recently had in which we decoded the number seven in the weekly Parasha. Number seven repeated several times and we wondered its significance, if any. One rational is completion: God created the world in seven days. There are many others and it's fun to look up. This process of numerology and meaning in numbers led me to study our classroom Menorah.
I saw that we light a candle each night of Hanukkah, using the Shamash (the helper candle) to start candle number one. Left to right, we light candles for each night. By day eight, we've lit thirty-six candles. Double Chai! For those that don't know, Chai is Hebrew for "life" and has the numerical value of eighteen. Eighteen is good luck, and thirty-six, double Chai, is even better. The numerical equivalents to Hebrew letters are the basis for the mystical understanding of various words.
Until next time, I leave you with the excitement I feel about all that I'm learning and all that I'm teaching.
Posted by LuAnne at 10:11 AM
Who DeLeT is this year:
Tali Hyman, Joel, Me (LuAnne) Brian, Rachel, and Michael Zeldin
During the DeLeT year there are two opportunities to experience the day school placements of other fellows. These opportunities are called Kallahs. On October 28–29 the So. Cal. fellows went up North to visit our friends placed there. Luckily for us, DeLeT fellows old and new, are integral parts of these Jewish institutions. Accompanied by the Rivka Ben Daniel, Educational Director of DeLeT and Rabbi Tali Hyman who will teach us all about "Day Schools and Society," the first day was spent at Brandeis Hillel, San Jose. Straight from the airport, we met Michael Zeldin, the Director of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education who engaged us in what we call a "day of learning." Reunited for the first time since our summer session, this was truly a treat!
In fact, the fog hovering San Francisco was the only cloudy thing about our recent DeLeT trip. Because the two-day session provided such clarity about teaching and learning, blue skies were all I saw. The first session with Michael Zeldin (limud vs. hora'ah) set the tone for the whole experience. It was the "set induction" of the major lesson that ensued. That lesson was how to view Jewish day schools as an observer and how to note the people and structures that make them what they are. Personal touches (notes on lockers, student art, etc.) and fresh ideas added warmth and uniqueness to the otherwise "office-like," security enforced buildings.
One moment that resonates with me deeply came from Chaim Heller, Head of School at Brandeis Hillel. He asked each of the Fellows our names and said that he "wasn't just asking our names to ask, but that he was going to memorize them and try to get us to work there after DeLeT because DeLeT fellows are the agents of change in Day Schools"; this was booming. If only Brandeis Hillel were in Los Angeles! His mention of private school economics also added to our understandings of school operations, including tuition and its effect on budget and subsequently teacher salaries. For future school administrators, this sparked an interest in behind the scenes decision making and planning. Learning about the school's four strategic plans also showed how institutions must reflect the greater culture if they are to succeed. This was a great transition to Gideon Hausner...
Speaking to Avi at Hausner also supported our "mission"...literally. We dissected the school's mission and learned that schools are dynamic, living and breathing organizations that are always finding new ways to breathe. Analyzing logos that attached to each mission component was a worthwhile activity, which I think we all enjoyed. "It's a pomegranate... No, it's a Fetus! No, it's a brain! Wait, but there's the fetus' umbilical chord." We realized that just are there are several ways to think about the images, there are several ways to make the school's mission speak to us and work with our own values.
I could go on and on about the beautiful ark at Brandeis Hillel, the amazingly resourceful library...oh my G-d, that reading room! The generosity of the parents and the effort to support teachers' well being by providing nosh on Mondays and an enormous bowl of apples daily...Brandeis Hillel is a top notch, independent school, competing with other secular elementary and middle schools.
The So. Cal. crew returned to Los Angeles uplifted by what we saw and energized about the future. I can't wait to host the cohort this January at my school.
Posted by LuAnne at 9:00 AM
My first blog
Yom Haatzmaut festival
Hi! My name is LuAnne. I am twenty-three (soon to be twenty-four in December) and a recent graduate of Wheaton College, MA. I grew up in "The Val." Yes, it's true; I am a legitimate "Valley Girl." Despite this, I have grown into a woman of the world.
My background with Judaism is rich and continues to deepen as I grow academically, culturally, and spiritually. At the age of nine, after much humiliation at a family Passover Seder where I was asked to read "The Four Questions" and began doing so in English, instead of Hebrew, and was consequently shut down for not knowing Hebrew, I decided I wanted a Jewish education. I didn't just want this; I thirsted for it. Something inside of my led me to the well that is Stephen S. Wise Temple Elementary School (SSWTES).
The progeny of an interfaith marriage, I did not have a stable Jewish life. The rejection I faced at the Passover table was really an invitation to create that stability for myself. And so, with the support of my family, I studied the Alef Bet.
Rosh Hashanah party
My first year at SSTES was mixed. It was a tough transition, but I met amazing people who are still close friends and impressionable teachers- Day School teachers with compassion for the profession and beaming values.
This carried onto middle school and high school at Milken Community High School where I was very involved. I played softball, danced, was on planning committees and a member of various clubs. I worked, interned, and volunteered. I worked at Stephen S. Wise Temple every Shabbat my freshman year of High School and was then accepted to the competitive and life enriching Israel Exchange program in Tel Aviv my sophomore year. I was so fortunate to host an Israeli girl for three months and then live with her and her family for three months. As I stated to a reporter for the Jewish Journal in 2001, "The experience shaped who I am and who I will be." It surely has.
When I graduated Milken and ventured to New England for college, I dedicated myself to the campus community and ultimately the Jewish community. I found that Judaism was something I learned to take for granted. It was an overlooked part of me. Though diverse, Los Angeles boasts numerous Jewish resources to meet my Jewish needs. Everything that it was to me was Jewish. The small, remote campus of Wheaton College did not satisfy that part of my identity. Instead of finding a place where I might fit in better or find more comfort, I made Wheaton fit for me. In turn, I shaped the Jewish voice on campus. I had a rigorous academic schedule, yet with much assistance I elevated the Jewish voice from a mere whisper to a booming, undeniable shout! "Look at us!!" Hillel began to say. I was also active with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
With an independent Media Studies Major, (I am fascinated by the media and its force over society) and four years of on campus dedication: I was also an RA, Admissions Intern, and Education Department Assistant, it was May 2006. It was graduation.
I returned to LA and the pressure was on to find a job (self imposed). I was given two job offers and jumped at the one that seemed "edgy and cool." It was at a trendy, rock 'n roll inspired clothing company. Sure, New York Fashion Week and other aspects were fun and exciting. Overall, I was over worked and underappreciated. I gave so much and my goodness was the only good thing about that environment. So I left...
I was a year out of college and wondering how or where to direct the next phase of my life. It was then, as if G-d read my mind, that I received an e-mail from the Alumni Director of my high school. Normally, I glance over these messages or just delete them straight away (sshh!), but there was something about the subject line of this e-mail that caught my attention and drew me to read on. "Prestigious 13 month Fellowship in Day School Teaching" it read. And with each informative bullet point, I embraced the thought of applying more and more. By the time I reached the end of the e-mail, I noticed the contact information and applied that day!
After I spoke to the enthusiastic DeLeT intern, who was herself a DeLeT fellow before pursuing her Masters in Jewish Education at the Rhea Hirsch School of Education here at HUC, I feverishly requested recommendation letters from my past bosses and professors. These people, as it turns out, are just some of the mentors I now hold dear. From there, I wrote the required essays and completed the application forms.
Not totally sure at this point whether DeLeT was for me, I spoke to several DeLeT alums who had the same enthusiasm and love of Judaism the DeLeT intern expressed. They listed the pros and cons of the fellowship. And their realness added to my already glimmering perspective of the program. Because I knew what I'd be getting into, I was able to put everything into perspective.
That's what DeLeT is- perspective. It's a way of viewing Judaism in our communities and in us. People of all backgrounds are DeLeT fellows. We are Yeshiva graduates and public school graduates. We are American and Canadian. We are male and female. We are single and coupled and in different stages in our lives. But one thing's for sure: that no matter what our background may be, we are all DeLeT. We are part the DeLeT family.
And now onto DeLeT's core... The fellows, General Studies and Judaic Studies Mentors, topnotch faculty and staff are the bones of the fellowship. It is the experiences that are the neshimah (spirit) of the thirteen months. What do these experiences look like?
DeLeT is teaching and learning: learning how to be creative, thoughtful, novice teachers. Just as we learn, we teach. This ability builds as our knowledge and exposure to the classroom broadens. Our General and Judaic Studies Mentors along with our Clinical Educators, Professors, and fellow DeLeTs support the goals of the program and create a web of support.
I am so honored to have the opportunity to share my DeLeT year with you. Please check in often to see what unfolds!
Posted by LuAnne at 9:38 AM