HOT TOPIC: Is experiential learning too demanding for Jewish schools?

Gabe Goldman


Experiential education / learning (EE) is not new.  It has been a part of American Jewish education for decades.  Years before EE entered the lexicon of Jewish education with the publication of Bernard Riesman’s The Jewish Experiential Book: The Quest for Jewish Identity,1  Jewish schools offered field trips, model seders, sukkah programs and weekend Shabbaton retreats.   Over the past three years, however, EE has been become increasingly popular, the newest “new initiative” in American Jewish education.  EE programs and professional positions are popping up across the country.  And many Jewish educators are discovering that it is far more difficult to implement experiential education than they had anticipated.

As the Director of Experiential Learning at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles (and a Jewish experiential educator for 30 years), I worked with Jewish schools and camps across the United States to develop EE programs and to train their staffs in the best practices of  EE.  Rarely have I found that implementing any kind of new curriculum is easy — and experiential education is no exception.

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