How to Put Tefilah Back on Schools’ Agenda

August 19, 2015

Source: eJewish Philanthropy 


At the beginning of the summer, the Pardes Center for Jewish Educators brought together 17 successful Day School educators, rabbis and administrators to think more deeply about the critical area of prayer in day schools. This six-day intensive symposium, entitled Aleinu Le’shabeach, drew a diverse group from Community, Orthodox and Conservative schools spanning grades K-12. There were many takeaways from this program. However, we want to focus on what we saw as the central and most significant finding: the need to develop and professionalize a field of tefilah education. All the rest is commentary.

What does it mean to have a professional field?

  • First and foremost, it means that teachers are trained.
  • Tefilah educators need colleagues from diverse backgrounds.
  • Professional fields sponsor conferences and gatherings to bring people together to engender new ideas, build new relationships, and foster advocacy to keep the field fresh and cutting edge.
  • We need a repository of best practices.
  • A professional field has clearly articulated goals.
  • All professional areas within our day schools assess student achievement. That needs to be true for both the cognitive and affective areas of tefilah education.
  • There is a need for a recognized body of literature deemed essential for literacy in the field.
  • Serious research needs to be undertaken.
  • A professional field has shared terminology.

All of the above constitutes a tall order, but we need to get started. Some schools devote as much, if not more time to tefilah education than any other area of the curriculum, if one includes services, blessings one recites throughout the day, and tefilla learning that takes place in a classroom. What currently exists is far from a field. We, at Pardes, together with a few theorists and a group of amazing educators, have taken the first steps toward creating this field. We came away inspired by our program to engage this challenge and bring the best of what we know about education to this field.

Read the entire post at eJewish Philanthropy.

Updated: Sep. 09, 2015