If there’s no point, don’t do it.
If there’s no point to an arbitrary rule, don’t follow it. If you’re lacking kavanah (intent), don’t pray it. If you’re assigning busy work to your class to keep them busy while you nurse a migrane, don’t teach it. Just as we do not learn ethics from following laws by rote, we don’t learn meaning and content from educational experiences that do not pack a punch.
Enough negatives: invision conversations with 3rd graders about the Best Moment Ever in the nighttime hours of erev Shabbat. Imagine building an edible Sukkah, eating it too quickly, then sitting in a food-coma while you read a story of the mystical Ushpizin and brainstorm your own guests. Gird your loins as you imagine 4th graders staging a mini-action in which they make banners, signs, and chants to create a political campaign for Tu B’Shvat, inspired by The Lorax, and shout “We Are The 4th Grade and We Speak For the Trees!” Fill your heart when you listen to 8th grade boys discuss masculinity and menshlechkeit as both social constructs.
My name is Ariana, and I’m stoked to be blogging at PunkTorah. I’ve been teaching in religious schools for the past 4.5 years, after being a student at Jewish Day schools for 12. In my fairy tale upbringing, we danced in Wonder Woman face paint, ate pomegranates naked to avoid stains on our clothes, ran outside under the stars to learn about the lunar eclipse, and blessed everything we found Good. We blessed Shabbat as we had our weekly Shabbat Parades, marching around the first floor of our home with tambourines and pots to bang and clapping hands before settling down for Shabbat dinner. We blessed the creatures of the world when we stopped before sitting down to our own vegetarian dinner to feed the pets. Through experience and exploration, my family made blessings.
As an educator and an activist, I spend a lot of time thinking about points of access. Children of any age can understand the beauty of a good midrash, it all depends on how it’s presented. How can we entice kids to the study of Torah (short of smearing honey on the pages like they allegedly did in the Old Country)? By honoring their experience and pushing them once we all get on the same page. How can we push our Jewish community to think more critically about Israel and Palestine? By honoring experiences, while simultaneously bringing passion, respect, and new information to the table. At heart I’m a nerd for Torah study, midrash, the Documentary Hypothesis. I’m also a proponent of student-lead learning, designing my curriculum to be flexible to meet the interests, needs, and modalities preferred by students.
I graduated from university in May, studying sociology and gender studies. Basically a degree in feminism, and I earned my minor in bothering the administration with my comrades. I’m in the process of applying to rabbinical school, but also I’m violently superstitious and not interested in talking about that until the end of this process, kinahera. I hope to one day speak Yiddish. I live in a collective house with 5 of my closest friends, and dance in the kitchen on the regular. The first punk album I bought was the Dead Kennedys “Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death,” but I’m more of a Girlyman/Waxahatchee/Joan Baez/Daniel Kahn kind of person now.
I hope to bring to PunkTorah Kids resources as a Jewish educator, including lesson plans I write, stitched together from amazing resources already available, and those of my own creation. I hope to share interactive haggadot and other tangibles and project ideas to do at home. I hope to share some Jewish educational theory and have discussions with the PunkTorah community about engaging young Jews in a modern world.
Ariana is a religious school educator, PR type, knitter, radical children’s book collector, and activist. Ariana blogs at Vildah Chaya, including weekly Parsha Playlists about each week’s Torah portion. Ariana blushes when someone can work bell hooks theory into a d’var torah.