By Chevi Rubin
In June, Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy staff, a staff that has grown exponentially this year, came together as a group. Like our school, our workspace is virtual.
We meet our teams regularly online and occasionally face-to-face, but an in-gathering of all us is rare. In fact, some of us had only worked for Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy for a few weeks or months, so we had never met other members of the team.
There were some awkward introductions and natural moments of hesitation, but after just a short while, the feeling of community was palpable. We discussed core values, commonalities, beliefs that we share as an organization, as a project of The Lookstein Center and as a resource for Jewish schools everywhere. What drives us? What values do we represent? What do we stand for?
We deliberated, shared, and built on one another’s ideas, and produced the following four statements about our shared beliefs and the beliefs of our school:
- Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy believes that Jewish education should transcend barriers of time and space, and that online learning should provide Jewish students everywhere with the opportunity to engage with Jewish texts and ideas, build Jewish literacy, and to appreciate the importance of Israel, both the people and the land.
- Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy believes that online instruction should combine engaging content and skill development, foster student discovery, personal growth, and the love of learning.
- Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy believes in the fundamental importance of Jewish schools and that online learning should complement, not replace, traditional learning environments.
- Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy believes in building and modeling a Jewish educational community that is grounded in Jewish values, dedicated to mutual respect and shared responsibility, and deeply committed to high quality and innovative instruction.
Our staff works remotely on teams that are responsible for different aspects of the project, be it curriculum development, instructional design, operations, or marketing. But when we joined together and thought about our shared purpose, we created concrete and beautiful ideas that reflect both the work being done at Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy and that of Lookstein as a whole.
Quite unintentionally, we had successfully reproduced the exact process that Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy students go through when enrolled in one of our courses. Our teachers challenge their students to work through units independently and to learn and internalize the material. Only then do the students and teacher come together as a group in order to collaborate and hopefully to create something beautiful of their own.