This week I had the opportunity to gather with an exceptional cohort of Jewish educators. Due to a generous and visionary grant awarded to the Foundation for Jewish Camp by the Jim Joseph and Avi Chai Foundations, there are six communities across the United States that are undertaking a bold and forward thinking initiative called NADIV.

The Cliff’s Notes version of the Nadiv program is as follows: six Jewish camps have partnered with six other Jewish institutions to engage an outstanding Jewish educator to share their time between the two institutions. San Diego, Seattle, Minneapolis, New York, New Jersey, and my own Jewish community, Atlanta, represent the six geographic regions that are participating.

Gathering in the spirit of forging a community of practice were representatives from six Jewish camps, four Jewish day schools, two congregationally based schools,  five of the six Nadiv educators and two Nadiv mentors, as well as representatives from the Foundation for Jewish Camp, the Jim Joseph Foundation, the Avi Chai Foundation, and the Union for Reform Judaism.

During our time together many topics were discussed and many relationships formed and nurtured. As a community of practice we confronted the reality that our pilot project may very well represent the future of Jewish communal life in North America.

In the face of limited financial resources, Jewish institutions will need to join together to engage highly talented professionals.  We will need to “link the silos” and be open to the idea that we are stronger together, even if collaborating on such a deep level presents an array of challenges from logistics all the way to mission and vision.

Together we shared some of the challenges, but mostly celebrated the many successes that have already been achieved. Camp directors reported radical enhancements to the delivery of Jewish education at camp. School directors shared the creative ways that Nadiv educators are addressing needs and identifying new opportunities to reach kids and families. Our own Nadiv educator, Sara Beth Berman, has helped reinvigorate middle school Tefila, our Beit Midrash program, and is overseeing a large scale program on “voice and choice” on the 1/2 day before Thanksgiving. In the next year we plan to develop a robust retreat program, brainstorm new ideas for engaging families on a deeper level, and expand our social action presence in the community.

At the center of the Nadiv experiment are the educators themselves. Each had an opportunity to teach. All of us were energized by the creativity and passion that they brought to our meeting and to their work across the country. They’re a remarkable cohort.

As the Nadiv program at The Davis Academy unfolds I hope to have the opportunity to share insights and challenges, as well as innovations and successes. In the meantime, I’m grateful to Bobby Harris, the director of URJ Camp Coleman, Sara Beth Berman, the Nadiv educator at Camp Coleman and The Davis Academy, as well as to all the dedicated stakeholders at our two institutions. And of course, thanks is due to the three foundations that brought this idea to life, Jim Joseph, Avi Chai, and the Foundation for Jewish Camp.

 

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