We Can Do Better


Reflection can lead us to "we can do better"; Removing the Stumbling Block

Thinking about returning conjures images of going back - to what we have done, to what we once knew or to what we may have previously said. 

There are times when this is worthwhile. Memories are powerful, with the ability to ground us in the relationships that make us whole. 

And yet, all too often, we allow ourselves to fall back on what was, what we have always done. Maybe because it's comfortable, easier. “Because we have always done it that way,” can be a dangerous phrase when it is used as an explanation rather than investing the time to do more. We are all guilty of this. We must challenge ourselves to grow. 

When we truly do the hard work of introspection we will be ready for more.  Reflection can lead us from “it’s good enough,” to “we can do better.” 

L'shana tova; Removing the Stumbling BlockAnd we can. We can make the Jewish world a place where everyone is welcome. We can help more of our synagogues to become inclusive. We can build the relationships and shape the programs that reach those we have yet to reach. We can do this. We must do this.

Are you ready?
L’shana tova u’metukah – a good and sweet year to all!

Let Me Give You Some Advice...

I’m in the advice-giving business. 


find partners; Removing the Stumbling Block



Take any of the many hats that I wear and at some point every day I will offer advice. Educator, Jewish professional, Inclusion Specialist, teacher trainer, blog author, supervisor, mentor, parent, friend… each one of these roles has some advice-giving inherently built in.

And lest you read any negativity here, it is not implied. Giving advice often gets a bad rap, but it’s not the advice itself that’s really at issue. At issue is the way the advice is given; the issue is often the advice GIVER. 

Case in point: We run the risk of “becoming the wallpaper” when we are the ONLY voice consistently sharing a specific message. We need partners. Otherwise we help advice get its bad name, as each of us alone could veer too close to nagging, hassling or badgering.

Please don’t misunderstand – I am not suggesting that we stop offering advice or stop sharing our message. Rather, I am suggesting that we need to consistently vary the ways in which that message is delivered. 

A perfect example:



Sometimes all is takes is a simple shift to another point of view. Or maybe it's as simple as using a different modality to amplify your message.  

So let me give you a little advice...

Accommodating Isn't the Same as Inclusion

accommodating isn't inclusion; Removing the Stumbling Block

Working with students of all different abilities to ensure that they have access to a meaningful Jewish education enables me to revisit my own personal commitment to inclusion over and over again. Over the years I have learned amazing strategies and techniques in adapting curriculum, shaping lessons and accommodating individual students' needs.

But the most significant thing that I have learned is that simply accommodating a student’s needs is not inclusion. Don’t get me wrong, making appropriate accommodations is an essential strategy in working with all students who have unique learning needs. But there’s more to inclusion. 

Let me give you an example:

A class of students is going to break into chevruta (partner) groups to study a Jewish text. A written copy of the text is given to each student. The teacher decides that since this is a discussion-based activity, the text can be read aloud to a student that is blind and she can still fully participate.

What’s wrong with this? 

Put yourself in the scenario. Are you typically the one who says (when something is read aloud), “Let me see that, I missed half of what you said.”?  If so, you are probably a visual learner. (Read more about learning styles.) This is how Braille can function for a student that is blind; it’s her way of “seeing” the text for herself.

accommodating isn't inclusion; Removing the Stumbling Block
Here is another example:

Students will be working in groups to explore leadership and community building. The activity relies on students' ability to observe one another as they engage in the task. Adding a listening role to the group for a student who is blind is a reasonable accommodation, but adding that same role to every group is inclusive.

One more:

Making sure there is a chair available for a student who has a physical disability is a reasonable accommodation, but reshaping the activity so that most or even all of the students will sit is inclusive.

Inclusion isn't always easy. Sometimes it takes trial and error. And it takes both intentionality and planning.  But as we learn from Rabbi Tarfon in Pirkei Avot: "It is not your responsibility to finish the work [of perfecting the world], but neither are you free to desist from it." (2:16) 

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