We are living in a time period in which extreme political polarization and demonization of the other is the status quo. This challenging environment is particularly stressful and draining on adolescents as they navigate the tricky tension between forming an individual identity and a competing need for social belonging.
How can we help our high school and upper middle school students meet these challenges?
Click here to download an overview of the curriculum and curricular packages.
The Pardes Center for Jewish Educators (PCJE) believes that the integration of Jewish text study with Social-Emotional Learning can help equip students with the cognitive, emotional, and interpersonal skills they need to better manage internal and external conflicts.
As such, powered by Pardes North America, PCJE has created a new curriculum for high school and upper middle school students called Mahloket Matters: Healing Our Broken Discourse – Navigating Inner Challenges and Societal Discord through Jewish Text and Social-Emotional Learning. These interactive materials foster a constructive disagreement mindset via Jewish text study and Social-Emotional learning. These materials were inspired by and adapted from the Pardes project, Mahloket Matters: How to Disagree Constructively.
The curriculum consists of three versatile units that can be used for in-person or distance learning. They can also be integrated in a variety of contexts. For example, a school may choose to incorporate them into its Judaic Studies curriculum, advisory program, debate club, or as a special theme for the school year.
Each unit comes with a comprehensive educator’s guide, editable student workbook, and editable slides.
- Unit 1 – Introduction to Mahloket Matters
- How can students and teachers work together to create a positive learning environment?
- What is the point of interacting with people who disagree with me?
- What distinguishes a mahloket le-shem shamayim from a mahloket lo le-shem shamayim?
- Why do good people sometimes disagree with each other on moral issues?
- Unit 2 – Showin’ Up!
- Who or what torpedoed the potential conversation between Moses, Dathan, and Abiram in the Book of Numbers, chapter 16?
- What physiological clues can help me identify whether or not my brain is ready to engage productively in a difficult conversation? If I am not ready, how do I become ready?
- When I am emotionally triggered, how can I re-regulate my nervous system so that I can access reason, empathy, and critical thinking?
- How can I identify my needs and motivation in order to create a clear and productive intention for engaging in a difficult conversation?
- How do I craft an invitation to a difficult conversation that is welcoming, honest, and non-aggressive?
- How might the setting – where, when, how, and who – impact the development or outcome of a difficult conversation?
- Unit 3 – Constructive Conversations
- What are some of the crucial skills necessary for engaging productively in a difficult conversation?
- How can the procedures of the ancient Sanhedrin (the Jewish High Court) model for us how to disagree constructively today?
- How can we constructively communicate with someone with whom we are upset in ways that will both address the issue and not hurt the relationship?
- How does the power of human connection factor into constructive communication?
Abra Lee, Director of Jewish Education & Learning Initiatives, Congregation B’NAI JESHURUN (Short Hills, NJ)
I have been teaching a teen class using this curriculum. Last night, one of my teens said, ‘Abra, it was the weirdest thing! I was having a fight with one of my friends, don’t worry, we’re all good now, and we just don’t agree and out of nowhere, I blurted out “49/49!” and she just laughed. She’s not even in this class so I don’t know why I said it.’
This student made my night. They really understand the “49/49 concept” from the midrash about the importance of multiple perspectives. And that concept is going to be so useful as we move into the next unit. They have requested to learn more about Israel, specifically the issues surrounding conflict, and I’m using these tools to shape and guide that conversation.
Sefi Kraut, Director of Education for Mahloket Matters Schools. Sefi taught middle school Tanakh at Yavneh Academy in New Jersey for eight years before moving to Israel in 2013. She went on to teach Judaic Studies to post-high school students in several gap year programs. In 2017, Sefi joined the faculty of the Pardes Center for Jewish Educators (PCJE) where she serves as a mentor for teachers in training and as the Educational Director for the Pardes Mahloket Matters Schools project.
Rebecca Schisler, Mindfulness and Social-Emotional Learning Instructor. She is on the teaching faculty of Or HaLev Center for Jewish Spirituality & Meditation and Awakened Heart Project, and directs the SHEFA Initiative for Health & Wellbeing at Stanford University Hillel. Rebecca is a rabbinical student at ALEPH ordination programs. She is passionate about integrating ancestral wisdom traditions with innovative approaches to individual and collective liberation, and teaches Jewish spirituality as a transformational path of tikkun olam from the inside out. Find out more at www.rebeccaschisler.com.
The Pardes Center for Jewish Educators trains and empowers experiential educators, day school teachers and adult educators to serve as knowledgeable, skilled, reflective and passionate professionals for the Jewish world.
In Jerusalem, the Pardes Center for Jewish Educators offers the pre-service Pardes Day School Educators Program (degree or certificate options) and the Pardes Experiential Educators Program (degree or certificate options), integrating Jewish text study, educator training, Israel education and personal and professional development within the open, inclusive learning community of Pardes.
The Pardes Center for Jewish Educators also provides in-service training programs, in-service support, professional development and curricular programming.
Graduates of the Pardes Center for Jewish Educators teach and inspire youth and young adults in Jewish day schools, Hillels, synagogues, camps, environmental education venues and experiential settings in communities across North America.