Douglas Rushkoff is credited as the ideologue behind the “digital Sabbath.” He’s a smart guy: Professor of Media Theory and Digital Economics at CUNY; media commentator; author; first coined the terms “digital natives,” “social currency,” and “viral media”… yada yada… his whole bio is on Wikipedia if you want it.
Several years ago, he argued that people needed to take time away from digital media. And because he was into the Jewish thing at the time, that idea morphed into the notion of a “digital Sabbath.” And then something called The National Day of Unplugging was established by ReBoot. (ReBoot is an organization built on an annual gathering which Rushkoff helped to convene, initially. But he now calls it elitist.) The National Day of Unplugging exists to encourage people to take their own digital Sabbaths, all on the same day.
Now, Rushkoff says he doesn’t like the idea anymore. From the Guardian, Douglas Rushkoff: ‘I’m thinking it may be good to be off social media altogether’:
I came up with this thing which I now don’t like: the digital sabbath. It feels a little forced and arbitrary, and it frames digital detox as a deprivation. I would much rather help people learn to value looking into other people’s eyes. To sit in a room talking to people – I want people to value that, not because they aren’t being interrupted by digital media but because it’s valuable in its own right.
That’s novel, I suppose. (Though I’m pretty sure Ari Kelman wouldn’t think so.)
From “Synagogue-based Religious Schools: A Community Responsibility,” by Lisa Harris Glass and Stephanie Hausner
We have spent a generation disproportionately focused on day schools, thereby relegating supplemental religious schools to second-class status. Our efforts have done nothing to increase day school choice in the majority of the Jewish community; but have served to successfully demoralize supplemental school education directors and decimate the bench of quality, qualified, inspiring religious school teachers. We have consigned our number one opportunity to inspire/ignite a lifelong love of Judaism and positive Jewish identity to “less than,” “wannabe” status.
Whoa. Because truth.
Here’s where you’ll find my handouts from Limmud 2014 in Coventry, England. (I’m posting them live on the day of the session. All handouts should be up as of January 1, 2015.)
If you have any questions, or if you’re looking for something that should be here but isn’t, drop me an email.
Max Steinberg grew up in the same part of Los Angeles where I did, and he graduated from my high school, though it was a decade after I was last there. So I never met him. But I’ve read a lot about him this week, after he died while serving in the IDF in Gaza and his story became the paradigmatic narrative about Americans who go to Israel to join the army.
The piece has come under fire because Benedikt seems to be claiming that Birthright killed Max Steinberg. Or at least that’s what the critics are saying.
I don’t think that’s what Benedikt was trying to say. As I read it, she’s answering a question that a lot of non-Jews (and non-engaged Jews) might be asking: What made this kid — who never seemed to be all that Jewy before — decide to pick up and join the Israeli army? That’s a legitimate question. How many American kids ship off to fight for the Dutch army or the Argentinian navy? (Not very many, I would think.)
Benedikt answers the question by explaining that (a) Steinberg’s parents credit Birthright, and (b) Birthright’s goal is to get American kids to care about Israel. Her assessment seems to be: Look! It worked.
And, “at some point during their all-expenses-paid ten-day trip to a land where, as they are constantly reminded, every mountain and valley is inscribed with 5,000 years of their people’s history,” there is “the moment”— the moment when participants realize just how important Israel is to them, to their fundamental identity, and how important they are to Israel.
According to Steinberg’s parents, that is exactly what happened to Max.
Birthright’s defenders should take her article as a compliment, not an attack.
Benedikt does make one important critical point:
People say Birthright is “just like camp,” and it sure sounds like a very condensed version of the Jewish camp I attended as a kid, whose purpose was, at the very least, to foster a connection to Israel in young Jews—and at best, to get us to move to the country and fight for it. My camp, filled with the children of liberal American Jews, did this by presenting a very simplistic picture of the political situation in Israel and the threat to Jews worldwide, all within the context of helping to fix the world while having the time of your life. Birthright does a form of the same.
Um… are people saying she’s off base here? It seems to me that it’s a fair criticism. Birthright is a ten-day trip, partly because the 6-week summer trips that existed before its inception weren’t attracting unengaged, disconnected Jews (like, um, Max Steinberg). Since it’s beginnings, I’ve heard lots of Jewish educators who are Birthright supporters (and I think I count myself in that group) admit that ten days is just a taste, and that it presents a “simplistic picture.” (And we usually say that if Birthright does its job, we’ll have lots of chances to add layers of complexity to that picture as the attendee engages post-trip.)
Is Benedikt’s attitude toward Birthright a little cynical? Sure. It should be. It’s a multi-million dollar PR campaign for Israel and Jewish identity. It deserves to be examined with some healthy cynicism.
Moral of the story: Chillax. Allison Benedikt said nothing wrong.
Today is Israel’s independence day, if you’re Gregorically inclined. That’s because Ben Gurion declared independence on May 14, 1948.
Of course, he declared on that day that the new country’s independence would be effective the following day, immediately following the termination of the British Mandate. So if you’re celebrating the declaration, today’s the day on the Gregorian calendar. If you’re celebrating independence itself, then I suppose you should hold off til tomorrow. Yom HaAtzma’ut, he official state holiday in Israel (and the corresponding holiday for Jews living elsewhere) is commemorated on the fifth day of Iyar, or on the sixth day of the month if it turns out that Yom HaAtzma’ut (or the day before it — Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day) would fall on Shabbat.
This year, Israel celebrated its own independence on Tuesday, May 6, which was the sixth day of the month of Iyar. Had they celebrated on the fifth, then Yom HaZikaron would have fallen on Shabbat. So they pushed em both up a day. How do I know all this? Well…
This just in from Google: You can now display Hebrew calendar dates (alongside the normal Gregorian headings) in Google Calendar on the web. To enable it:
Now, you should see Hebrew dates alongside the English ones in your calendar.
As I watched my class struggle, I came to realize that conversational competence might be the single-most overlooked skill we fail to teach students. Kids spend hours each day engaging with ideas and one another through screens—but rarely do they have an opportunity to truly hone their interpersonal communication skills. Admittedly, teenage awkwardness and nerves play a role in difficult conversations. But students’ reliance on screens for communication is detracting—and distracting—from their engagement in real-time talk.
As Abbott sees it, the need for reflection has never been greater. Spurred by technological advances, “civilization is on the cusp of a metamorphosis,” he says, that will lead either to societal collapse and chaos, or to a resurgence of liberty, community, and ethics. Either way, schools are stuck in the past: The emphasis has been on feeding children static information and rewarding them for doing only what they’re told, instead of helping them develop the transferable, higher-order skills they need to become life-long learners and thrive in an uncertain future.
If you’re the type of person that’s interested in grappling with some of the… um… stickier parts of the Hanukkah story, the past few years have seen a bumper crop of impressive writing on the topic.
I’ll write more later about my own take on all this. But for now, check out all this good stuff.
What if Mordechai, Haman, and the Wizard of Oz held a rap battle? That’s the question or students asked.
The video is a project of one of our Emtza “pods.” Emtza is our seventh/eighth grade project-based program at Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles, where I work. (You can read more about the program in my previous post on the topic.)
As part of my job at Temple Isaiah, I developed Emtza, a project-based program for our middle school students. When I say “I developed,” what I mean is that I had a basic concept, an idea sapling. I handed that idea to an educator hired to run the program, Jessie Downey, who developed the idea further, bringing it into the realm of reality and giving it some real “umph.” Then she handed it to her amazing staff of teachers.
This video — one of two — is a piece of evidence that we were on to something. It’s a product of our students, who created it from scratch. They had a lot of support from their teachers, but it really is theirs. I hope you get a kick out of it… I sure did. (Click “More” for an explanation of how the Emtza program works.)
Now, if it is true that individuals develop a sense of connection to and concern for a larger collectivity in the ways that I’ve described – through the practices of story, language, and love – then we should notice that peoplehood education does not conflict with other substantive, content-rich Jewish educational efforts but rather comfortably co-exists with them.
Today, a new organization called B’nai Mitzvah Revolution announced itself to the world.
I’ve been privileged to serve as the webmaster/tech-guru on the project. Working with the team behind BMR — notably the co-directors and their colleagues at HUC-JIR/RHSOE/ECE and the URJ — has been an amazingly fulfilling and insightful experience. I’m thankful to Isa for giving me the opportunity.
Check the site out. I’m incredibly proud of it (though, truth be told, a lot of the conceptualization and tweaking came from the entire team).
Viva la revolution!