Original Article Published On The Jewish Ledger

NEW HAVEN — When David Gelernter writes, “A painting is a form of trapped energy, like a compressed spring or a rock at the top of a hill,” he sounds more like a professor than an artist.

In fact, Gelernter is both.

A professor of computer science at Yale University, best known for his “Linda System,” the basis for many computer communication systems worldwide, and chief scientist at Mirror Worlds Technologies, Gelernter also has artistic talent.

His exhibit, “Recent Works: Greek and Hebrew Paintings” is now on display in the Allan and Leah Rabinowitz Gallery of the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale through April 15.

With the exception of one lithograph, all of Gelernter’s pieces are mixed media works, which include pastels, acrylics, metal (gold, copper and aluminum) leaf, liquid iron and watercolors.

The 25 pieces in the exhibit, all constructed in the past four years, are inspired by the Bible and Greek mythology, nature, Jewish tradition and the Hebrew alphabet.

Most of the Greek pieces- six paintings and one lithograph – are loosely based on Attic red-figure vases. There are scenes from the Iliad, including Odysseus, Agamemnon and Briseus, and a painting which uses a meaningless Byzantine alphabet. The three males with Hebrew inscriptions are three views of biblical David in battle with Goliath.

Gelernter’s exhibition begins in the stairwell of the Slifka Center with light shining through translucent squares of glass. The first portrait, entitled, “Ha’azinu” (the name of the Torah portion in Deuteronomy) features the word “Ha’azinu,” written in Hebrew letters, against a painted orange background, with a blue butterfly at the center. As viewers ascend the stairs and enter the gallery, they experience portraits which seem to alternate between Hebrew works and Greek works. After “Ha’azinu,” visitors view “Sailing to Byzantium,” followed by “Achein” (“Surely the Lord is in this place,” Genesis 28:16), Study (Greek Warrior), and Leikh L’kha (“Get yourself moving!” Genesis 12:1).

Gelernter notes, “Jewish art is intimately connected to sacred texts. Many of my ‘Hebrew’ pieces are based on the mezuzah, which holds a small parchment sheet inscribed with verses from Deuteronomy; others are based on different Biblical texts–several on the extraordinary, nearly untranslatable passage in which the Israelites are told “you have been shown [in order] to know that the Lord is God”-in other words: you know because you have been shown, not merely told.’ Judaism has always preferred first-hand showing to second-hand telling.”

“Recent Works: Greek and Hebrew Paintings” by David Gelernter is on display in the Allan and Leah Rabinowitz Gallery of the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale, 80 Wall Street, New Haven, through April 15.

Gallery Hours: Mon-Thurs: 10 am-7 pm; Fri-Sun: 10 am- 3 pm; 203-432-1134; www.yale.edu/slifka).

Read more

Original Article Published on The Connecticut Jewish Ledger

New Haven residents received an interesting postcard in the mail recentlya photograph of a girl with wide eyes, a curious look on her faceand a long black beard.

The caption, for Southern Connecticut Hebrew Academy reads, “You don’t need a beard to attend the Academy. Just a need for great education!”

Yet, most New Haven residents have never even heard of the Southern Connecticut Hebrew Academy.

The school, located at 261 Derby Avenue in Orange, is actually the school formerly known as New Haven Hebrew Day School.

At a recent meeting for parents, headmaster Rabbi Sheya Hecht announced the name change and shared the school’s vision for the future.

The school, which has 3,500 alumni and serves 180 students in its day care, preschool, elementary, middle school, and girls’ high school divisions, recently purchased a 3 1/2 acre property with a pond and nature area. The new property adjoins the current campus, which was built in 1970 on a 5-1/2 acre tract of land.

New Haven Hebrew Day School was founded by Rabbi Sheya Hecht’s father, Rabbi Moshe Hecht, in 1946. The four-student school grew to 120 within two years, and a building was purchased on Dwight Street in New Haven.

Hecht’s vision for the future includes increasing the school’s regional area of focus and presenting the school to a new market and clientele.

Cutting-Edge

Inside the Southern Connecticut Hebrew Academy, colorful, framed photographs on the walls and newly color-coded books in the library give a hint of the school’s ambitious goals in the areas of technology, reading, math and language instruction.

“We are trying to become cutting age, and we are building a virtual community,” reports Dr. Jeanne Rice, director of admissions.

“The mission of our technology program is to empower our students with the technological skills they need. And we are involved in a three stage plan.”

The school is newly wired, email accounts and servers have been created for all staff, and Finalsite, a web-based software, has been used to create a new, frequently updated website,www.schacademy.org.

In later stages, extensive technology training will continue and laptops will be purchased for all teachers and for students in grades 5-12.

“We are living in a world where technology is taking over,” observed Hecht, “and we have to meld and merge the two.”

Other uses for technology include teaching historical timelines through Excel, comparing changes in climate through a database, using softwar

to simulate archaeological digs and chemical experiments, and creating student websites as part of the Israel’s Biomes study.

And the school has embarked on an “alphabet soup” of initiatives. The Renaissance Learning Program, using a program called “Accelerated Reader,” seeks to individualize reading and math programs and will soon include downloadable textbooks with text geared to individual reading levels.

Both Spanish and Hebrew are being taught using TPR, Total Physical Response, a very active method of teaching which, according to Hecht, “requires students to perform actions to show they understand what they are being asked to do.”

While the school strives to incorporate the latest developments in technology, reading and math education into its curriculum, Jewish education and character development also continue to be central.

Students in the third grade are studying Chumash with Rashi and nursery students are setting up their Jonah and the Whale exhibit for an upcoming Torah Science Fair. The daily Mshna program and “character counts” program are ongoing, and all students stood to greet Rabbi Hecht, their headmaster of 25 years, as he gave a tour of each classroom.

Why the changes now?

“After about 60 years, it is a good time to look back and make it happen,” said Hecht.

Read more

Original Article Published On The Connecticut Jewish Ledger

Fifty 10th and 11th graders from across the Southern New England region had a true “mifgash” (an encounter) with each other and with Israeli peers from their Partnership 2000 Afula-Gilboa community during a recent nine-day SNEC Mifgash Israel trip.

The teens are participants in high school programs such as MAKOM (Greater New Haven Jewish Federation), Merkaz (The Jewish Center for Community Services of Eastern Fairfield), Yachad (The Greater Hartford Jewish Federation), and Kulanu (United Federation of Greater Stamford, New Canaan and Darien). Three students from the Federation-Jewish Communities of Western Connecticut also participated in the mifgash, which ran from Dec. 27-Jan. 4.

Adam Tager of West Hartford had his chance to write in the “trip blog” of the Israel Experts website (http://www.israelexperts.com) soon after he arrived in Israel.

“It is amazing to be in Israel. There is the universal feeling of home and hospitality, although for most people including myself the thought of actually being in Israel after all this waiting and anticipation has not sunken in yet.” By evening, Adam knew he was in Israel. After returning from the Mediterranean Sea near Atlit,

Tager writes, “We got out under the full moon and the stars with the lights of Israel off in the distance. With the water advancing and retreating on the sands we said the Shehecheyanu and then we knew we are really in Israel.”

According to Dr. Arnold Carmel, principal of New Haven’s MAKOM and SNEC Mifgash coordinator, “The objective was not a trip in the traditional sense-it was a true mifgash-an interactive meeting of 10th and 11th graders from our region with people their own age from Afula-Gilboa.”

Audrey Lichter, director of Greater Hartford’s Yachad program, observed, “For some, it was not what they expected. Instead of simply doing Masada and other tourist destinations, the participants had a chance to share experiences and conversations. The purpose of the trip was to establish a living bridge, to connect in a deep way.”

Mifgash participants spent six nights in homes of peers from the

Afula-Gilboa region, and the Israelis joined the American group for Shabbat in Jerusalem.

“The heart of the experience was home hospitality,” stressed Stacey Battat, dean of students for New Haven’s MAKOM and the person responsible for running the Department of Jewish Education Israel Desk. Participants stayed with families in moshavim, kibbutzim and other homes throughout the Afula-Gilboa region.

Said Lichter, “I visited the home and family of a young emissary who stayed in our home two years ago. It felt like family. Their daughter was in my house, and my daughter stayed in their house when she was in Israel.”

The Americans had an opportunity to experience such every day routines as attending school.

“Visiting the school was cool,” noted Jacob Chatinover, a 10th grader at Hall High School in West Hartford. “The students and teachers seemed very friendly and relaxed. The teachers didn’t mind if you are late (once in a while), and the students call the teachers by their first names. And the students aren’t worried about AP tests and college applications. They will be going off to the army and won’t worry about college for several years. It really put things in perspective!”

Shai Silverman, a junior at the Hopkins School in New Haven, had a similar experience during his visit to a kibbutz school.

“The school was beautiful, and they had a building for each grade,” reports Silverman. “This particular school was very different because there is a farm on the school and each student is required to help around the farm as part of the curriculum.”

Jaclyn Siegel of Bridgeport was impressed by the opportunities to interact with officials from Afula-Gilboa and with Israeli Arabs. She noted in a blog entry, “Today we spent time at the home of the vice head of the Gilboa Municipality. This was such an amazing and unique experience…I didn’t have any idea that we would be spending time in an Israeli-Arab village. It was not at all what you would see on TV. The house was unbelievably gorgeous. The family was so nice and greeted us with a kosher snack on their balcony. They even gave us gold-trimmed glasses to drink from! It was very interesting to me to hear him say that he hopes for peace in Israel – it surprised me but I am glad. It was an experience I will never forget.”

Matt Kochen, also a tenth grader at Hall High School, said, “I thought it would be a little more dangerous. I felt really safe and realize that the

media blows things out of proportion.” Kochen enjoyed getting to “experience real life” in Israel, and “meeting new people.”

While Chatinover noted that “getting to know the culture and getting a feel for the country” were the “focal points” of the trip, he also enjoyed the time spent getting to better know teenagers from his own community and from throughout Southern New England.

The group members have already begun acting as spokespeople and shlichim by sharing their impressions and thoughts at religious schools, synagogues, and Federations throughout the region. Chatinover and Kochen spent a recent day at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Hartford.

“Our responsibility is to educate,” said Kochen. “We were telling the students why they should go to Israel!” added Chatinover.

In a letter to Battat the day after returning home, one female participant wrote, “I will spread the mission of peace, I will spread the truth and reality of the people and culture of Israel, and this is what I have been thinking about for the past couple of hours since I returned home. These past ten days have given me everything I could have wanted. I gained friendship, family, and a homeland, in the land of my people.”

The wind blows harder,

Yet I stand strong,

I am a Jew

Israel is my homeland

Where else can we belong?

My heart is here

My spirit lives in the mountain breeze

My soul bathes in the Kinneret

Overlooking Syria, Lebanon and my homeland

The wind blows loudly

Howling in my ears

Slapping my cheeks

Bringing tears to my eyes

Pushing back my chest

My legs do not falter

I will not fall in vain

I am a Jew

Israel is my homeland

Has the spirit of Jews

The endless hope courage, deep affliction, passionate love, ironic humor

Filled with stories and the simultaneous joy and tragedy of humankind

Remember…

And keep the heritage, dignity, traditions and Israeli spirit alive.

Be Strong

We face the ongoing battle against the winds of conformity, fully and proudly.

I am a Jewish girl.

I love deeply, suffer greatly, and have G-d’s breath in me.

I belong in Israel – my homeland.

— Melanie Wise of Hamden

Read more

Original Article Published on The Connecticut Jewish Ledger

After 25 years of selling and marketing such products as Stride Rite, Keds and Levi Strauss, Jerry Silverman brings his business sense and passion to a product that lasts many years longer than your average pair of shoes or jeans.

Silverman, the former president of the Stride Rite Children’s Group and the Keds Corporation, was recently named executive director of the Foundation for Jewish Camping (www.jewishcamping.org).

Silverman is passionate about his latest “product” and is happy to discuss the lifelong benefits of Jewish camping.

Research into the impact of Jewish camping has been conducted during the past five years, and benefits of Jewish camping include:

•Research associates Jewish camp experience with increased Jewish practice, identity, leadership, affiliation and generosity, as well as with decreased intermarriage.

•Jewish camp alumni are 50% more likely to join a synagogue and 90% more likely to join a JCC than Jewish adults who never went to Jewish camp.

•65% of professionals in the Jewish community are alumni of non-profit Jewish overnight camps.

Silverman is also quick to point out some astounding numbers about camps and campers currently in Jewish summer camps.

“Non-profit Jewish overnight

camps are full to capacity,” notes Silverman, “We serve more than 120 Jewish camps and 120,000 counselors. But there is only room for 55,000 children each summer, barely 7% of our camp-age population.”

Public foundation

This is where Silverman, the Bildners, and the Foundation for Jewish Camping come in. When philanthropists Rob Bildner and Elisa Spungen Bildner completed the Wexner Program, they were eager to put their new knowledge and skills to use serving the Jewish community. They were inspired, did careful research and felt the opportunity for the greatest impact was in the field of Jewish camping. In 1998, they set up a public foundation to (in the words of Silverman) “drive the message of Jewish camping and to serve as the central address and advocacy voice for information about non-profit Jewish camping.” The

Foundation for Jewish Camping also provides leadership, financial and programming resources to camps, campers and their families across North America.

According to Silverman, “Our number one mission is to significantly increase the number of Jewish kids participating in Jewish non-profit camps.”

Silverman then outlines for current goals of the foundation.

“Our first goal is professionalizing the field of Jewish camping,” notes Silverman. There are currently several grants aimed at keeping people in the field of Jewish camping. Billy Mencow, who worked closely with the Foundation during his five year tenure as director of Camp Ramah

in New England, praises the work of the Foundation. Mencow reports, “They have recognized the critical importance of staff retention, particularly in the college years. The FJC has hit the nail right on the head with its Cornerstone Program. Cornerstone supplied financial incentives for college sophomores to return on staff for a third year. This cohort goes on to become our Roshei Edah and Roshei Anaf – Unit and Department Heads. This is a program whose impact will be long lasting.”

Other grants include the Jewish Environmental and Nature Fellowship, geared to professionals interested in teaching nature and environmental issues in Jewish camps. The Spielberg Theatre Fellowship helps camps develop their theater arts programs. And Silverman notes with great excitement, “In 2006, we will launch a top level development curriculum for top notch, top-of-the line in the field.”

The second goal of the Foundation is what Silverman calls “advocating for the field.” This includes getting the message out about the importance and

impact of Jewish camping- through the media, Federations, etc. Silverman

spends a great deal of his time traveling across the country sharing data and stories with Jewish Federation and other community leaders about the

importance of Jewish camping.

The Foundation’s third goal, “looking at our sense of capacity,” has led to the development of new programs and new camps.

“We need capacity and new customer-centric and customer friendly programs. We need special needs programs, we need specialty camps,” Silverman notes.

Silverman reported on a high-level Jewish arts camp, BIMA, the Berkshires Institute for Music and Arts, which was started this past summer on the campus of Williams College in western

Massachusetts. Started by Rabbi Danny Lehman, the founder of the New Jewish High School in Boston, the camp offered tracks in art, music (instrumental and vocal) and creative writing to 42 students, including six from Israel.

“We will be offering six or seven specialty programs this summer alone,” boasts Silverman. “And we are working to open new camps

with various movements. The Reconstructionist Movement bought and will open its first camp, and we are offering seed grants to get programs off the ground. And we are challenging existing camps to increase their capacity.”

The fourth goal of the Foundation is programmatic excellence.

Existing camps are eligible to receive Program Excellence Grants, where the highest quality programs are rewarded. These programs are then shared through a program bank offered by the Foundation for Jewish Camping.

Ruth Ann Ornstein, executive director of Camp Laurelwood, the only Jewish overnight camp in Connecticut, reports, “We use the Foundation for Jewish Camping as a resource network. We call with questions, and we use them for help in finding staff.” Further, Ornstein is pleased that Camp Laurelwood received a Spielberg Grant four years ago.

The Harold Grinspoon Foundation, based in Springfield, Mass., shares many of the Foundation for Jewish Camping’s goals and has collaborated on several projects, including the Grinspoon Institute for Jewish Philanthropy.

According to Joanna S. Ballantine, executive director of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, the two organizations are working to help Jewish overnight camps with board development and fundraising. The Grinspoon Foundation has organized a leadership training institute for camp executive directors, and they continue to offer the Campership Incentive Program.

This program funds Jewish children from Western Massachusetts who attend Jewish overnight camps; this program is neither need-based nor affiliation-based. “We believe Jewish camping is one of the important places to make an impact on Jewish families,” reports Ballantine.

Silverman assures readers that he “will be a strong advocate to ensure that the Jewish sleep-away camp remains a viable and growing industry for parents seeking to give their children a lifetime of memories as well as a life-long community one summer at a time.”

And he concludes, “It is my hope to double the numbers of Jewish children attending non-profit camps in the coming years.”

For more information about the Foundation for Jewish Camping log onto www.jewishcamping.org or contact the Foundation at questions@jewishcamping.org

Read more