JCUA Recognizes Nadiv Fellowship Graduates

2010-2011 Nadiv Graduates

Hildie Cohen (from left), program coordinator; Ray Grossman, instructor; Shana Rubenstein, Jacob Adler, Sarah Miles, Mara Brotman.

Mazel Tov to the 2010-2011 Nadiv Fellows! The fifth graduating class of Nadiv Social Justice Teaching Fellows were honored at a culmination celebration held at Temple Sholom in Chicago on May 24.

The Nadiv Fellow graduates are Jacob Adler, Mara Botman, Sarah Miles and Shana Rubenstein.

The Fellows were responsible for educating over three-hundred students this year and also dedicated time and effort to providing suggestions for updating the JUP curriculum. The Fellows are engaged in a wide variety of activities that meld Judaism and social justice. We offer them congratulations on their accomplishments with JUP and beyond and wish them yasher koach in fulfilling this great mitzvah teaching young Jewish students how they can help create a more just world.

Nadiv offers a select group of emerging Jewish social justice leaders (ages 21-30) the opportunity to learn about Judaism and social justice while also inspiring the next generation of Jewish students to develop their own social justice commitments.

Nadiv fellows participate in semiannual retreats and monthly Judaism and social justice study sessions taught by some of the leading rabbis and teachers in Chicagoland. Nadiv fellows then teach two “rounds” of JCUA’s seven-week-long Judaism and Urban Poverty (JUP) curriculum to middle school students in local religious schools.

One of the graduating students, Shana Rubenstein, shares her experience:

When I look back over the past year on my experience as a Nadiv Fellow, one instance that resonated and seemed to frame the subsequent year was our discussion with Rabbi Shoshana Conover, from Temple Sholom.

Rabbi Conover modeled for us a guided discussion on the first lesson in the curriculum, covering Moses’ realization that he is a member of the tyrannized Israelite community in Egypt. When Moses sees the abuse suffered at the hands of Egyptian overseers, the commentary states, “‘He saw their suffering,’ He looked at them and allowed his heart to be troubled on their account.”

Rabbi Conover translated the Hebrew as “He gave them his eyes.”  As Rabbi Conover led the discussion in a fascinating manner in which we, as the guided, were given the power to discover the meaning and beauty in the passages themselves, we discussed the radical empathy that Moses felt for the oppressed, which drove him to action.  Recalling this experience, it struck me that giving another your eyes, that experience of empathy through visceral understanding, is what teaching ideally should be — giving another your eyes to see and understand a different perspective. 

The Judaism and Urban Poverty Program is an experiment in this process. As teachers, we give students our eyes and let them glimpse the lives of others placed in difficult circumstances by systemic injustices. Through experiential lessons and field trips, students gain understanding, empathetic respect for others and, in the tradition of Moses, empathetic anger at injustice.

In the words of a student, after visiting a homeless shelter in Naperville, “I learned so much and now feel obligated to help.”

As students see the world through another’s eyes, a great design of the Nadiv Fellow program, teaching fellows are also in the position of students, fortunate enough to see through the eyes of Jewish and social justice community leaders.  Our position as teacher-learners, hopefully, reminds us also to learn by seeing through the eyes of our students.

In one passage we read during the curriculum, a young man wakes up from a dream and tells his father, “Father, I just dreamt of an upside down world, where those who are on top were on bottom and those who are on bottom were on top.”

The father replies, “My son, you saw a corrected world.”

I brought this quotation up for discussion in class. Few of the students agreed with the moral and when asked what their vision of a corrected world would be one student suggested that in his corrected world there would be equality with no one on top or bottom. This small re-imagining of possibilities reminded me of the constant mutuality of teaching; the lack of possession of any one person, regardless of title, of the ability to share with another the view from their eyes.  I am so grateful to have had the experience of being a Nadiv Fellow and I look forward to continuing to teach the JUP Curriculum.

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