The New York Campus of HUC-JIR hosted the inaugural Rabbi Alan A. Kay New York School of Education (NYSOE) Alumni Day of Learning on January 29, 2013. Over sixty students, alumni, faculty, and educators participated - both in person and virtually - in the study opportunity, “Sacred Teaching and Spiritual Learning,” with Rabbi Dr. Michael Shire. This event was held in honor of Rabbi Alan A. Kay, z''l, husband of former Director of the NYSOE, Professor Jo Kay. The event was funded by the faculty of the NYSOE.
Dr. Evie Rotstein, Director, NYSOE, stated, "We honor the memory of Rabbi Alan A. Kay, beloved husband of Jo Kay, in dedicating this day of learning. Gathering as a community to learn with Rabbi Michael Shire has been a true gift. "
Rabbi Shire discussed Godly Play, an innovative approach to religious education that seeks to finding meaning, identity, and God through storytelling and wondering. The pedagogical ideal of this approach is that, from the earliest age, children are invited to experience and become increasingly aware of the spiritual call within sacred stories and of their own deep response as something naturally afforded by religious narrative. Godly Play’s theological basis is Christian, and has been developed over three decades by Rev. Jerome Berryman, founding director of the Center for the Theology of Childhood. However, its respect for and attention to childhood spirituality, through its unusually contemplative and playful style, addresses concerns common to Jews and Christians.
Ivy G. Schreibe, who participated in the session, commented, "Learning about Godly Play with Dr Michael Shire provided us with an innovative method through which we can discover and engage with concepts of God. Learners of all ages - particularly young children - will be able to relate to the essence of God through storytelling with simple and natural symbolic objects. What a unique and inspiring way to learn! I hope to be able to bring Godly Play into my congregation's many learning environments as well as Children's Services on Shabbat."
Rabbi Dr. Michael Shire is Dean of the Shoolman Graduate School of Jewish Education at Hebrew College. Formerly Vice Principal and Director of Education of Leo Baeck College London, he holds a doctorate in Jewish Education from HUC-JIR in the field of Religious Development. He gained MA's in Religious Education (HUC-JIR) and Jewish Studies (LBC) and s'micha from Leo Baeck College. He has published widely in the field of religious growth and development as well as the Jewish theology of childhood most recently in the International Handbook of Jewish Education, Eds. H. Miller et al, Springer 2011. He has also published four books of creative liturgy with medieval illuminations in association with the British Museum. He has recently relocated to Boston with his wife Rabbi Marcia Plumb and two children Anya and Micah.