When Ina Silverman announced her retirement as principal of Beth El-Keser IsraeI’s (BEKI) religious school after more than 20 years of service, the synagogue’s newly formed Education Visioning Committee set out to create a vision for youth education that matches the values of the BEKI community. Among its initiatives is Teen Kesher, a program for 7th-12th-graders that seeks to build a participatory and inclusive culture of warmth, welcome, and support, and helps BEKI youth feel connected with the larger community. The new school plan will interweave Wednesday/Sunday classroom instruction with Shabbat/holiday family programming. Teen Kesher will expand activities beyond the current b’nai mitzvah training and Kadima/USY youth groups, to include electives for each cohort (7-8 grade, 9-10 grade, 11- 12 graders), taught by BEKI Rabbi Eric Woodward and members of the congregation. “I hope that the conversations that this transition has prompted will help us find new ways to make education at BEKI even more integrated into the life of the shul,” says Sam Purdy, co-chair of the Visioning Committee. “I’m looking forward to the first family retreat, a ‘class Shabbat,’ and other special experiences that build connection and learning.” Another initiative created by BEKI’s Education Visioning Committee is the appointment of Annie Norman-Schiff—previously BEKI’s director of Youth and Family Programming and a Religious School teacher— as education director. "We are so excited to welcome Annie as our first-ever education director,” Purdy’s co-chair Rachel Light, said. “Annie has wonderfully fresh ideas for how to integrate religious school with family programming in a coherent curriculum, focusing on the holistic education of our children. The Shabbat activities and Sunday classroom experiences will now be partners in imparting the values and traditions of Judaism to our next generation.” BEKI spiritual leader, Rabbi Eric Woodward, says Norman-Schiff is the perfect fit to serve as the congregation’s first education director. “Throughout the process of hiring, the search committee found Annie to express passion, creativity, and an excitement to plan for the future,” said Rabbi Woodward. “Annie’s teaching skills, curriculum envisioning, and eagerness to work with children from birth through teenage years inspired us.” Norman-Schiff says she is “thrilled to take on the role of Education Director at such an exciting time for the BEKI community. It is an incredible opportunity to build on BEKI's successful existing programs, with more opportunities to connect our kids and teens and deepen their understanding of Jewish life and values. I am especially excited to lead the Religious School and to introduce Teen Kesher. I hope to bring children's education at BEKI from strength to strength.” Norman-Schiff studied classics as an undergraduate at Stanford University and Judaic Studies as a graduate student at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and at Yale University. An experienced teacher of children and teens in settings ranging from religious schools to summer camps to youth groups, she worked at Jewish nonprofit organizations in New York through a fellowship with the Lynn and Charles Schusterman Foundation. She started her new position at BEKI on June 1.
For more information about BEKI, contact beki.org