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Thursday, August 22, 2019

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Ed Tech Can Facilitate Excellence, But Must Be Used Effectively

I enjoyed reading Dr. Greene’s article on blended learning (“Blended Learning: A Solution to the Day School Tuition Crisis?” November 25, 2015). I’m thrilled to see that such important educational issues are being discussed. Dr. Greene made reference to the recently released National Education Policy Center report, “New Interest, Old Rhetoric, Limited Results and the Need for a New Direction for Computer-Mediated Learning.” The report emphasizes that while technological advances should support progress in education, “recent studies show little evidence for the effectiveness of this model of integrating technology into the learning process. Combining such disparate systems into one group has made it nearly impossible to make reasonable claims one way or the other.” More often than not, technology is used inappropriately, either because of inadequate training, lack of buy-in from faculty, or out of a misunderstanding of the goals of educational technology.

In my experience as the Coordinator of Instructional Technology at The Moriah School, I have observed that when used correctly, significant benefits of using technology to enhance the educational experience are extremely beneficial to student outcomes. We have seen traditional classrooms transformed where every child is engaged and is learning in a way that is meaningful for them. Teachers are pre-assessing their students so they can target instruction where it is needed most. We no longer teach all the children the same thing at the same time in the same way; data is driving what a student is learning and the pace at which they learn. The teacher is still very much the facilitator in the classroom, working with small groups of students on targeted skills and constantly reading and analyzing data being generated by digital content their students use.

We are thankful to the Avi Chai Foundation, the AJE Project and The Kohelet Foundation who provided us with a substantive grant several years ago that allowed us to systematically change our educational model from a traditional “sage on the stage” model to a blended/personalized model.

Two areas of specific focus for us were to increase student engagement and student achievement. In conducting student and teacher surveys, and utilizing formal and informal observations of classrooms, it is evident that the students at The Moriah School are more deeply engaged during classroom instruction than ever before. Utilizing co-teachers within the rotation model of instruction in conjunction with a personalized learning approach, our students are receiving the highest quality education as evidenced by their increased scores on Terra Nova exams as well as data from digital content providers (i.e., Lexia and Achieve3000).

An important component to our program is reading and analyzing data to drive teacher instruction. Our teachers meet regularly to analyze the data generated by the digital content programs we utilize. As a part of this analytical process, teachers gain immediate insight into a student who needs support, or one who has grasped a concept and is ready to move on. While in a traditional classroom a teacher would have waited to see results on a final exam, the formative assessments and data analysis that are done on a regular and on-going basis ensure that each child’s needs are being met.

When used effectively, educational technology plays an important role in facilitating educational excellence.

Lauren Adler

Coordinator of Instructional Technology

The Moriah School

NJ Shidduch Group Warmly Welcomed in Englewood

On the Shabbat of November 20 and 21, The North Jersey Shidduch Group made a wonderful Shabbaton in Englewood together with Dine ‘N Meet.

The Englewood community hosted 66 Modern Orthodox singles ages 26-41 for three meals, an oneg Shabbat and a Saturday night soiree.

Our group would like to thank all the families in Englewood who hosted these singles for meals, provided comfortable accommodations for them and opened their homes so graciously for our events over Shabbat.

We would also like to thank the following stores for their overwhelming generosity in providing delicious food items for our meals: Butterflake, Best Glatt, Cedar Market, EJ’s Pizza, Glatt Express, Grand & Essex, Julio’s, Ma’adan, Picklicious, Sammy’s, Shoprite and Zaidies Bake Shop, as well as Englewood Florists and Privet Flowers for beautifying our meals.

Chaya Goldsmith

The North Jersey Shidduch Group

We Should Rush to Save ISIS Refugees

After the Islamic mass terror in Paris (“Paris Attacks Ignite Debate on Syrian Refugees,” November 19, 2015), the highest US security officials warned of likely ISIS infiltration of Middle Eastern refugees coming to the US and the lack of information for proper vetting of them to prevent terrorists’ entry and even for verification of their identity. On Nov. 19, Congress passed, by the overwhelming bipartisan majority the bill, freezing all Syrian and Iraqi refugee programs till vetting would be upgraded, which was a useful caution overshot, as (see below) some victims can be vetted and saved almost immediately.

Eleven Jewish groups are among 81 that sent a letter to Congress members urging them not to roll back plans to accept Syrian refugees into the United States. “To turn our back on refugees would be to betray our nation’s core values,” said the letter. “It would send a demoralizing and dangerous message to the world that the United States makes judgments about people based on the country they come from and their religion.”

Among the Jewish groups signing are the Union for Reform Judaism, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the National Council for Jewish Women, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee.

These “nation’s core values” had been betrayed by some of the same organizations before. On July 21, 1942, over 20,000 people in Madison Square Garden and outside it gathered to protest Nazi atrocities. Among the speakers was Reform Rabbi, long time Zionist,  Dr. Steven S. Wise, who, during the Holocaust years, served as director or a high officer in over a dozen Jewish organizations. None of the speakers proposed measures to rescue the Jews still alive in Hitler’s Europe. Rabbi Wise asserted that “the salvation of our people…can only come through a victory speedy and complete of the United Nations.” (D.S. Wyman, “The Abandonment of the Jews”, 1984, Random House).

FDR and his administration were willingly betraying the Jews, and for the dominant Jewish organizations, represented and controlled by Rabbi Wise and his colleagues, supporting the president with his powers was more important than saving the European Jews. Food and money for ghettos were collected, proclamations were made, but that was it. It seems likely that the current position of 11 major Jewish organizations is similarly motivated by their devotion to the current US president and his preferences.

At the start of WWII, the American Orthodox community was insignificant numerically and powerless politically and economically. However, the Orthodox groups were ready to go as far as breaking the law to provide aid or attempt rescue. They were bound by the Torah’s imperative of pikuach nefesh (saving a life), often incurring the wrath of their fellow Jews. They sought unity on rescue and were willing to cooperate with any others, including atheists, and received a powerful support from some Christian religious leaders and organizations. Tens of thousands were saved by the Orthodox efforts (D. Kranzler, “Thy Brother’s Blood”, 1987, Mesorah Publications).

I witnessed myself a complex falsehood of the claim that “To turn our back on refugees would be to betray our nation’s core values”. I am a working biophysicist and published history writer and came as a Jewish refugee to the US from the USSR in 1982. My family got into the middle of the fight of HIAS and major Jewish organizations to drastically limit the US admittance of the Jewish refugees and direct them only to Israel. We were locked in the Vienna Red Cross building as a transit station. The democratic Austrian government objected to forcing anyone to go anywhere against their will. This almost led to breaking the diplomatic relations between Israel and Austria. However, we were released from under the lock. While I already had two US job offers in my field, HIAS refused to help us. International Rescue Committee (IRC, which originally helped refugees from Hitler) helped us to apply for US visas and get the acceptance by INS. While we visited Weizmann Institute from the next transit stay near Rome, I was told that after the maximum of 2 years scholarship in my field I would have to look for a job in the US, Canada or Australia. I already had US offers and we decided not to plan a second emigration. Fight and politicking about asylum for Soviet Jews continued for a long time and is well documented.

Some of Christian leaders and organizations helped to save Jews during the Holocaust and support Israel now. In spite of the rhetoric of the US President and his cohorts, immediate preferred vetting and asylum in the US to Christian refugees is not religious discrimination. Simply for this type of refugees there are abundant sources of identification and unbiased confirmation witnesses. Such sources/databases and reliable witnesses are apparently unavailable for most of Muslim refugees (note that some widows were and are terrorists). After the US inexcusable indifference during the Holocaust it is our moral obligation to save those marked for genocide as soon as possible. The freeze on refugee programs till the vetting upgrade, passed by the Congress on Nov. 19, is a useful caution, but some victims can be saved almost immediately.

On some level, the decision of much of the organized Jewish community to support the entry of Syrian refugees is understandable. American Jews are largely a community composed of the children, grandchildren, and the great-grandchildren of immigrants. Much of their original communal infrastructure was organized around the need to provide services for newcomers to the country and to defend their rights. As an ethnic/religious minority, Jews have always been rightly concerned about protecting other minorities, seeing the defense of each component of society as integral to the safety of all citizens as well as the preservation of America as a country where all were welcome.

Respectfully,

Dr. Alex Rashin

Teaneck, NJ