Ruth, Friendship, and Spirituality– Thoughts on Shavuot (on Shavuot)

 

Apologies for the pseudo-Shakespearian translation but here’s a familiar passage from the first chapter of the Book of Ruth:

16 And Ruth said: ‘Entreat me not to leave thee, and to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God; 17 where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried; the LORD do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.’

I have a confession to make. It’s Shavuot, and I didn’t go to Shul today.  Even though it’s Shavuot– one of Judaism’s three pilgrimage festivals. Instead, I met with and interviewed a recent alum of The Davis Academy as part of my doctoral research on adolescent spirituality. (Incidentally this is the 2nd year in a row that I didn’t go to shul. Last year I spent Shavuot at K’far Yehezkel, a moshav in the Southern Galilee. It was an incredible experience and you can read about it here.)

Though I didn’t go to shul, it turns out that I learned an incredible lesson about at least one aspect of Shavuot during my interview today…

My doctoral research is on the topic of adolescent spirituality. My goal is to advance both the academic and colloquial understanding of the phenomenon of spirituality as it is experienced by adolescents. I come to this topic not as an “objective” researcher, but as a rabbi and educator who works with adolescents and cares deeply about this aspect of their lives and their development. I also believe that this is a largely neglected area and that most educational contexts fail to protect, nurture and celebrate adolescent spirituality. Rather than circulating a questionnaire or survey I’ve chosen to conduct in depth interviews with a small cohort of recent Davis Academy alumni. Today I conducted an interview with one of my research participants. And yet again I was blown away by the depth of thought, the depth of caring, and the depth of insight that I witnessed in the adolescent sitting across from me.

As the interview unfolded both the participant and I developed a deeper understanding of what spirituality meant to him. Toward the end of the interview I attempted to summarize his definition of spirituality as he understands it:

Spirituality is about realizing our potential as human beings. It starts with self-knowledge and self-awareness but quickly extends to our relationships with other people. We realize our potential when we connect with other human beings in meaningful and socially redemptive ways. Spirituality is the foundation of the connection that we make with others, particularly when this connection is deep and true. All true friendships have a spiritual component. 

I’ve conducted several interviews, and the theme of “connection” has been present in each. But no other research participant has more emphatically emphasized that his/her definition of spirituality is so firmly rooted in the act of connecting with other people, in forging relationships of various kinds, and friendship in particular. When I asked him directly whether all of his friendships had a spiritual component he thoughtfully and unabashedly said yes.

On Shavuot we read the book of Ruth. Ruth is all about relationships, human connection, and friendship. The connection between the name Ruth and the Hebrew word for friendship/companionship Reut has been noted by others. Ruth chooses to cast her lot not only with Naomi, her mother in law, but with Naomi’s people– the Jewish people. At the beginning of this post you’ll find the most famous passage from the book of Ruth. Ruth’s words to Naomi when Naomi implores her to return to the Moabites.

While I didn’t go to shul today I do feel that I encountered holiness. I’m motivated to do my doctoral research because I believe in the importance of the topic. I think we all need to develop a more nuanced and respectful vocabulary for thinking about and discussing adolescent spirituality. I’ve conducted 4 in depth interviews and, while each participant has experienced spirituality slightly (or very) differently, if at all, they’ve all been incredibly reflective, generous in sharing their experiences, and appreciative to have been given a voice. Collectively and individually, they’ve reaffirmed my belief that JFK got it right when he said, “Man is still the most extraordinary computer of all.”

 

Jewish Day School Kids are Blessed

 

If #JewishDaySchoolKidsAreBlessed were a hashtag I’d have a lot to tweet about. But that wasn’t always the case for me. Though I personally attended a Jewish Day School for kindergarten (Stephen S. Wise in Los Angeles), I do not consider myself a “product” of the Day School Movement and I never thought I’d work at one. In fact, I’d say that, even as a rabbinical student, my attitude was somewhere between ignorance and wariness. Surely Jewish Day Schools were nothing more than small, parochial private schools, sheltering kids from the real world. And at a great financial and social cost no less.

For the last six years I’ve served as the Director of Jewish and Hebrew Studies at The Alfred & Adele Davis Academy, Atlanta’s Reform Jewish Day School. When I look back on my former attitude regarding Jewish Day Schools all I can say is that I was 1) uninformed and 2) that the view is very different from the “inside.”

On the topic of #JewishDaySchoolKidsAreBlessed I’ll simply offer one thought that’s particularly fresh in my mind. Students at Jewish Day Schools are among a small minority of children anywhere in the world that are given the time, space, support, and resources to develop an authentic and compelling spiritual practice.

Siddurim

 

Davis Academy students are consistently exposed to developmentally appropriate prayer (tefilah) during their years of study. I’ve personally witnessed countless children journey through different phases– the wonder and curiosity of early elementary, the literalism of upper elementary, the deep questioning, skepticism, and struggle of middle school. Few leave Davis fully formed and secure in their spiritual lives (indeed that’s not the goal), but all leave having had ample space and support in exploring their spiritual lives.

Even the finest public and private schools in the world typically don’t support the kind of spiritual exploration, experimentation, and growth that children need. Consequently most children (and in turn most adults) encounter spirituality as something foreign, intimidating, new-ageish, or perplexing, rather than as an intrinsic and essential part of the human experience.

While it’s quite possible to develop a spiritual practice outside of school through interactions with faith communities or through a variety of different activities, the fact that Jewish Day Schools carve out and dedicate time for spiritual practice is a powerful statement of purpose. The fact that it’s deeply countercultural is something to be lamented rather than celebrated. Spiritual education is an area where Jewish Day Schools can and should shine and it’s an area where we can offer expert advise and insight to educators that aren’t fortunate to work in environments that celebrate spirituality.

Through my doctoral studies I’ve learned that different countries have different attitudes toward spiritual education. The UK and Australia, for example, mandate that public schools provide some sort of spiritual education for their students. For obvious reasons that’s not the case here in the U.S. Unfortunately, banning spiritual education from the classroom has the unintended consequence of destroying this capacity for too many children.

#JewishDaySchoolKidsAreBlessed for many reasons. One reason is because they are given the space and encouragement to grow spiritually, in turn making them better able to begin to appreciate the many other blessings they are lucky enough to have.

Those of us who work at Jewish Day Schools have to work together to make sure that we do indeed support spiritual growth for our students. It is our obligation to make sure that time dedicated to tefilah isn’t a source of dread but a source of joy and inspiration for our communities.

 

 

Lollipops, Light, and Leadership

I recently had the pleasure of watching this TED Talk by Drew Dudley with a group of 30+ middle school students who both applied to and were accepted for The Davis Academy’s Middle School Leadership Training Institute (MSLTI):

 

 

 

In his talk Dudley emphasizes the often overlooked low- hanging fruit of leadership which, for him, is the simple truth that most of us continually do things great and small that impact people’s lives for the better.

Too many of us unconsciously cling to the false notion that “leader” is a special title granted only to certain individuals like elected officials, captains of sports teams, or school administrators.  We think that in order to truly qualify as a leader our actions have to have some sort of cosmic importance or shape the course of world events. We dare not call ourselves leaders on the basis of such an absurdly limited definition.

At its core leadership is about daring to make the world a better place. The good news is that, when simplified and demystified, we can start to see continual leadership opportunities, often in the smallest of moments. With the recognition of unlimited potential and possibility for leadership comes humbling awareness that we let many, maybe even most, of these opportunities slip through our fingers.  Marianne Williamson (who is quoted in Durley’s TED) names the anxiety that many of us feel:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Our leadership development work with middle school students is geared toward helping them learn to channel their “power beyond measure” toward legitimate ends.

We dare our students to encounter their brilliant light from a place of joy and appreciation rather than a place of fear.

We dare our students to shine in ways that inspire, encourage, and lead their peers, teachers, and others to shine along with them.

How fortunate we are that our work in this area can draw inspiration from Drew Durley and others who have elevated “leadership” to the highest pillar of the “everyday.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fig Tree and the Bottle Cap

I had 4 b’nai mitzvah students in my office. A teacher rushed in asking me to go to the boys bathroom. I soon learned that a student had swallowed a plastic bottle cap. Freak accident. He was breathing and able to talk. Definitely in pain. We called 911. The paramedics came. His mom came. They took him to the hospital. They took out the bottle cap. It’s in a plastic bag now. Thankfully he’s fine. He won’t be swallowing any more bottle caps.

None of this is what I thought I’d be doing this afternoon.

I received a call out of the blue this morning from Kathie C. Kathie is my colleague from The Marist School. This Spring we initiated a very successful interfaith partnership between The Davis Academy and The Marist School. She called to tell me that she’d bought us a fig tree. She explained that she knew that fig trees had great symbolism in Judaism and that she thought it would be a wonderful symbol of our new partnership. Could she bring it by this afternoon?

 

Fortunately Kathie was late and missed the whole to-do with the bottle cap. After speaking with her I started thinking about her remark regarding the fig tree as a symbol in Judaism.

On my recent trip to Israel we spent a fews days staying on a kibbutz on the banks of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). To call it idyllic is an understatement. The rainy season was great this year and the Kinneret is more full than most Israelis can remember it. We saw the tops of trees that were completely submurged.

During a few precious quiet moments I took out the guitar and decided to write a song. Kendrick P., one of my fellow chaperones joined me. We wrote a simple song with three words: ayeka, hineni, l’famim.

“Ayeka” is the first question in the Torah. God asks Adam, “Ayeka?” It means, “Where are you?” Since God likely knew where Adam was physically, the question is clearly meant to dig deeper.

“Hineni” is a powerful response to the Divine Call, however and whenever we hear it. It means, “I am here and I am fully present.” When God called to Abraham and Moses they replied, “Hineni.” While “hineni” traditionally speaks to the vertical relationship between humanity and divinity, it’s even more powerful when we can say “hineni” to one another and be truly present for b’nai mitzvah students, bottle cap swallowers, paramedics, colleagues, friends, and family.

“L’famim” means “sometimes.” We’ve got to show compassion to ourselves and one another. We can’t constantly barrage one another with existential questions or expect complete and total presence from one another. “L’famim” is grace. It’s embracing our humanness. It’s celebrating the sloppy and imperfect. It’s both contentment and striving, likely not at the same time.

“Ayeka” and “Hineni” are an intuitive match. The nuance of “L’famim” is an idea I learned from a great teacher: Rich O’D.

So there we were, harmonizing on the banks of the Kinneret. I looked up from the bench we were sitting on and realized that we were sitting underneath a fig tree. Go fig-ure (sorry).

I immediately thought of my biblical namesake, the prophet Micah. His vision of a perfect world looked something like this: “Every person shall sit under his grapevine or fig tree with no one to disturb him” (Micah, 4:4). I couldn’t have said it better myself.

As I sat and chatted with Kathie C. we shared some of our hopes and dreams for the partnership between our two schools and what it might mean for our students. In the back of my mind I worried about the student who swallowed the bottle cap, praying for his health and speedy recovery. I told Kathie I was planning to blog.

While looking up the quote from Micah I found a similar quote from another biblical prophet: Zechariah. He wrote, “In that day– delcares the Lord of Hosts– you will be inviting each other to the shade of vines and fig trees” (Zeachariah 3:10).

Micah’s vision is solitary. Zechariah’s vision is communal. I’m grateful to Kathie for the beautiful gesture of giving us a fig tree to plant on our grounds as a symbol of the partnership between our schools. If it weren’t our moment of interfaith dialogue today I might not have ever stumbled upon Zechariah’s teaching from our shared traditions. I’m glad I have. Micah’s vision is beautiful and I’ve always found it to be inspirational, but Zechariah’s teaching has expanded my understanding of what redemption might look like and how we might get there, together.

Ayeka, hinenu (we are here), l’famim.

 

The Value of Interfaith Dialogue

A remarkable week ended on a remarkable note at The Davis Academy Middle School. We hosted 150 students from The Marist School for a day of interfaith dialogue and relationship building.

It has been a remarkable week. The Jewish community commemorated Yom HaZikaron (Israel’s Memorial Day) and celebrated Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day). As Americans we watched in horror as the Boston Marathon bombing took place. As human beings we grieved for the loss of life in West, Texas. It has been a remarkable week.

Since coming to The Davis Academy I have dreamed of creating a context wherein our students could meaningfully explore matters of faith with peers of different faith backgrounds. Several years ago I was invited to be a guest lecturer at The Marist School, a local Catholic middle and high school. Eventually I found a counterpart at Marist, and we assembled a team of educators who were motivated to bring our 7th grade students together. Today we had the privilege of hosting these students and many of their outstanding faculty.

The goals of our interfaith dialogue program at this point are threefold: 1) to build relationships based on mutual respect between adolescents of different faith backgrounds, 2) to teach students how to engage in intentional dialogue on matters of faith, and 3) to partner in faith-based community service. Today we made great strides in actualizing goals 1 and 2.

Davis Academy 7th graders gathered in our gymnasium a few moments before the Marist students arrived. We had been preparing for their visit for several weeks. For example, we asked our students what kinds of questions they thought Marist students might have for their Davis counterparts. We also asked them what questions they had for their Marist counterparts. We also brainstormed different things we hoped to share with our guests and also reviewed what it means to be welcoming and gracious hosts. The energy in the room was palpable.

The centerpieces of today’s program were twofold: 1) we broke into small groups, facilitated by faculty members, to do, “I’ve always wondered.” Students  from both schools had the chance to ask and answer one another’s questions in a safe and respectful environment. When we reflected with our Davis students later in the day they identified this is a highlight. Topics ranged from: kashrut to Santa Claus, Lent to belief in God, Jewish ritual clothing to the Gospels and much more. Without fail, faculty members who facilitated the groups reported great conversations, active listening, and mutual respect. One teacher characterized the meeting in Buberian terms: I-Thou.

The second centerpiece was Kabbalat Shabbat. Since the program was held at The Davis Academy on a Friday morning we felt that we should share a central part of our community’s identity: Kabbalat Shabbat. Almost 1/2 of the grade volunteered to help lead Kabbalat Shabbat. Marist students were given the option of wearing kippot and most chose to do so, and also took them home as a memento of their visit. Davis students shared what Shabbat means to them, we took out our Torah scroll, and recited the Shabbat blessings.  At the end, Marist’s priest and I joined together in offering the Priestly Benediction to a group of Marist and Davis students who were celebrating their birthdays. We all shared challah and grape juice and made promises to reunite in the Fall.

Today the city of Watertown is under siege. Today is also the anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing as well as the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. For The Davis Academy and the Marist School, today is the beginning of a friendship that we hope will change the world one teenager at a time.

Anachronistic Faith

I’m reading James Fowler’s classic work, Stages of Faith, as part of my doctoral research. To say there’s a lot going on in this book is an understatement. It’s dizzying at times, especially as I’m trying to read it both critically and with an open mind. I’m also reading it not only as a doctoral student, but as an educator, rabbi, and person of faith. One idea that resonates with me is the idea of “anachronistic faith.” Fowler writes:

To approach a new era in the adult life cycle while clinging too tightly to the structural style of faith employed during the culminating phase of the previous era is to risk anachronism. It means attacking a new agenda of life tasks and a potential new richness in the understanding of life with the limiting pattern of knowing, valuing and interpreting experiences that served the previous era. Such anachronism virtually assures that one will settle for a narrower and shallower faith than one needs (Fowler, 1981, p. 114)

Fowler is describing a costly disconnect that I have observed at times. The journey through life is necessarily one of maturation. We are meant to grow in so many ways: in wisdom, in compassion, in appreciation, in our capacity to love and so on. As spiritual beings we are also meant to grow in our faith.

Faith is a dynamic concept. It isn’t necessarily religious though it can be. It isn’t necessarily individualistic, though it can be. Rather faith represents the capacity to respond to life experience with a certain set of characteristics or dispositions. Faith is a way of knowing, a way of being, and a way of doing.

The tragedy that I think Fowler accurately describes is for the person who encounters the complexity and richness of life, having failed to mature in faith. To greet the challenges of life as a mature adult with a faith that has not been reflected upon, challenged, or expanded since childhood or adolescence ensures that we navigate life from a place of deficit and immaturity (at least as far as faith is concerned).

In my work as an educator I find myself committed to helping children and adolescents develop their spirituality and faith. Already by Middle School it is evident that some children are less motivated to develop their faith lives than others. I believe it is the responsibility of adults to promote dynamic faith development in children and adolescents. I fear that anachronistic faith in adults undermines our ability to do so. Like most things, we must educate ourselves before we can educate others, especially our children.

 

Limitation and Liberation

Down here in Atlanta the 2012-2013 school year is well underway, even though it’s only mid August. The yearning for summer endures, but it’s balanced by the incredible surge of energy that comes with the beginning of a new school year, especially at The Davis Academy. One of the things I appreciate most about being part of The Davis Academy is that it’s truly a community of learners. Obviously student learning comes first, but there’s a healthy recognition that authentic teaching requires authentic learning. At Davis I’m surrounded by adults who are modelling what “lifelong learning” is all about.

One of the ways we promote a community of learning amidst the frenzied schedules we all keep is through our commitment to professional development. Without delving into the depths of PD here at Davis, I want to share a personal takewaway from a session we had during our preplanning days when we were lucky enough to host John D’Auria, noted educational author, researcher, and president of Teachers 21.

During our time with D’Auria he engaged us in thinking through several of the key points in his excellent, accessible, and provocative book, Ten Lessons in Leadership and Learning: An Educator’s Journey. The lesson I want to highlight has to do with different beliefs about intelligence: limiting and liberating.

Limiting beliefs about intelligence center around the idea that intelligence is essentially determined at birth. You’ve either got it or you don’t. Each of us has a fixed amount of intelligence. Mistakes, errors, and failures show us the limits of our intelligence and let us know when we’ve reached our intellectual capacity. Pretty dreary stuff, but unfortunately these limiting beliefs are alive and well.

Liberating beliefs about intelligence suggest that intelligence can be acquired, molded, and developed over time. Rather than being an elusive quality granted to the lucky few, intelligence is available to all, assuming we’re willing to work to achieve it. The same mistakes, errors, and failures that are so devastating in the world of limiting beliefs about intelligence become the very tools that drive learning in a liberation mindset. Simply stated, we learn from our mistakes, and our failures help us rise again.

Our time with D’Auria coincided with the London Olympics. As I was fast-forwarding through my DVR one evening I inadvertently stumbled upon a commerical that stopped me dead in my tracks. It was a Nike ad that was speaking directly to the point that D’Auria had made earlier that day. The ad has stirred a bit of controversy because some viewers think it’s poking fun at the child featured in the ad.  But I think it’s a remarkable commercial that espouses liberating beliefs about intelligence, and about the capacity for growth more generally. On the first day of school we had a chance to share it with our middle school students and drive home the point that greatness isn’t granted at birth, rather it’s achieved through effort and strategy. Fellow educators who are concerned with imparting liberating beliefs about education may want to use this commercial as well.

Wishing us all, Northerners, Southerners, Jewish Educators, Independent School Educators, Public School Educators and champions of intellectual liberation, a great 2012-2013 school year.

The Bar Mitzvah Revolution

Gary Rosenblatt’s recent article in the Jewish Week provides a snapshot of the URJ’s plans to “overhaul” the Bar/Bat Mitzvah as it currently exists in many congregations, Reform and beyond. 

Rosenblatt summarizes: “The goal of the new project is to create more engaging ways to mark a bar or bat mitzvah for the youngster and his or her family, teach Hebrew as a living language and add a spiritual component to learning prayers.” He also quotes Rabbi Laura Geller who laments that for too many the bar mitzvah has become a “terminal degree.”

For too long dissatisfaction and frustration have been hallmarks of the b’nei mitzvah experience for many families. In spite of our best efforts too many kids report that the experience is performative, superficial, and meaningless. Many Jewish professionals lament the  distorted priorities reflected in ostentatious celebrations, the tangible reminder of which is typically b’nai mitzvah party favor clutter.

Fortunately, URJ leadership is committed to leading change in partnership with congregations, and ultimately with families and children.

My goal here is to suggest a few ways that Jewish day schools can serve as natural allies for those interested in reinvigorating and “revolutionizing” the b’nei mitzvah experience.

 

It’s time to open the door!

1. Not a terminal degree. All Jewish middle and high schools continue to provide rigorous Jewish education well beyond the bar/bat mitzvah. The simple fact that Jewish day schools surround b’nei mitzvah with years of study, both before, during, and after is significant. While Jewish day schools have our own “terminal degree” challenges, we don’t suffer from “degree” confusion– a diploma is meant to be a terminal degree, a JNF certificate isn’t. I’ve written elsewhere on the goals of Jewish day school education.

2.More engaging ways to mark the experience. Jewish day schools can and should be at the forefront of supporting and supplementing congregational efforts to make b’nei mitzvah more engaging. There’s ample room within our curriculum and ample resources within our school communities to make this happen. In Atlanta, I had an opportunity to sit down with a rabbinic colleague from a local synagogue to learn about their dynamic b’nei mitzvah program. The Davis Academy is currently helping our students who are members of that synagogue fulfill a host of creative tasks and projects. Beyond these obvious partnership opportunities, we also have multiple venues– from tefilah, to athletics, to theater, to tzedakah/ social justice programs. These can be sites for b’nei mitzvah engagement. Lastly, we have specialized faculty that can be part of the process- Jewish studies teachers, guidance counselors, rabbis, and others.

3. Hebrew as a living language. As this is one of the goals that Rosenblatt mentions, it’s simply worth mentioning that this is an area where day schools can and should excel. As part of enhancing the b’nei mitzvah experience might involve strengthening ties with Klal Yisrael, our commitment to teaching not only biblical and rabbinic Hebrew, but modern Hebrew as well, may prove to be of great value.

4. Spiritual component to learning prayers. Most Jewish day schools are committed to the study and practice of tefilah. Most Jewish day schools provide their students with siddurim at a very young age and strive to familiarize their students with both the keva (fixed components) and kavanah (personal/emotive components) of Jewish prayer. Speaking from experience, I know that Jewish day school students have ample opportunity to explore tefilah through creative writing, visual art, movement/dance, as well as opportunities to lead tefilah on a regular basis. The hope here would be that day school students could ascend the bimah (as well as sit in the congregation) with greater awareness, intention, spirit, pride, and connection. So long as the traditional service remains an integral part of the b’nei mitzvah experience, it’s worth considering how we can help our kids connect with the spiritual potential of Jewish prayer.

I hope that this article will contribute to the important conversation of how Jewish day schools can be at the forefront of helping to reinvigorate the b’nei mitzvah process. It’s a goal that I know is shared by most, if not all, of my day school colleagues across the country. As institutions dedicated explicitly and exclusively to Jewish education in the broadest sense, this is a natural area for us to serve as a resource. Where and how can this conversation take place? Ki va moed— the time has come.

 

 

 

Cultivating a Spiritual Life

Lately I’ve been thinking and reading about spiritual growth. I’ve been thinking about it primarily in the context of my work as a Jewish educator with a focus on early adolescent spiritual growth. Thus far my thinking has been all about questions. What do people mean (what do I mean) by spiritual growth? What exactly is it that does the growing or developing? How does the spirit develop? Does the spirit develop in ways that can be assessed, studied, and replicated? What sociocultural “tools” (in the Marxist/Vygotskian/ Geertzian sense of the term) promote spiritual growth? What role do educators play in promoting spiritual growth for early adolescents? How can educators be most efficacious in terms of promoting spiritual growth for early adolescents? What kinds of educative experiences impact the spiritual lives of early adolescents? What milieus in the Jewish world today are most well-suited to support adolescent spiritual development? What specifically Jewish cultural tools can be resources for promoting spiritual growth in adolescents (i.e. tefilah, Hebrew language, Torah study, Israel experiences, summer camp, Jewish day school education, synagogues, youth groups, tikkun olam projects)?

Obviously I’m starting from the assumption that spiritual development is important– for children, adolescents, and adults. I’m also assuming that spirituality is something that can be learned, transmitted, and acquired and that adults (educators in particular) have a responsibility to support and challenge young people to grow spiritually and not only cognitively, emotionally, and physically. In terms of Judaism I’m assuming that spiritual growth is part of living a vibrant Jewish life– that is to say that Judaism condones and values spirituality and that spirituality can be achieved within the cultural framework of Judaism (as opposed to arguing that spirituality and religiosity are somehow at odds with one another).

I know that there are lots of great people out there who are working on the question of adolescent spirituality both within and beyond the Jewish community. I also know that a better understanding of this issue would help educators (would help me ) feel like I could assess whether my efforts and those of my colleagues are on the right track in terms of promoting spiritual growth for the young people that I have the honor and joy of educating in my capacity as a teacher and rabbi. If you’ve read this far and can think of people I should reach out to, please share their contact information or encourage them to reach out to mlapidus@davisacademy.org.