Friday, January 11, 2013

About My Work

About my work:

Interdisciplinary Studies

I began my work in interdisciplinary studies at Frisch by meeting with Torah and Nakh teachers to see where in their syllabi students would benefit from and appreciate a look into the cultures that form the backdrop of the Biblical books. The interdisciplinary units that resulted from that planning and which AVICHAI funded include:

  • Paganism vs. Monotheism: A comparison of the ancient Near Eastern pagan worldview with Abraham’s monotheistic one
  • Fertility and Wells: Wells as fertility symbols and Isaac’s well digging
  • Jacob on the DL (disabled list): Achilles, Oedipus and the significance of leg injuries (one of my personal favorites)
  • Joseph in Egypt: A comparison of Mesopotamian and Egyptian lifestyles (adapted for elementary school as well)
  • God attacks Egypt: The might of the Egyptian empire and God’s response (a 2-part series)
  • The Hammurabi Code and Biblical Law
  • The Mishkan and Art in the Ancient World
  • Ancient Military Encampments vs. the Israelite Encampment in Numbers
  • Purity in the Camp: A look at Sotah and ancient adultery law
  • Prophecy and Divination in the Torah and the Ancient World: Balaam and his powers
  • The Power of Shema: Deuteronomy’s Message
  • Solomon’s Temple vs. Temples in the Ancient Near East
  • Assyrian Might in the Books of the Prophets
  • Jonah, Pinocchio and the Meaning of the Foray into the Fish’s Stomach
  • Palaces and Parties: The Achaemenid Court and Esther
  • What Ruth Corrects in Levirate Law: A comparison of levirate law in the ancient world and its significance in the Ruth story
  • Co-taught with a Nakh teacher: a three-part series on literature, art and music in Judaism; I prepared the art and most of the literature part of the sessions

Here is a link to many of my integration units:

As Chairman of the English Department, I've overseen the establishment of set standards in grammar and research in my school's four-year program; combined Honors American Literature with AP English Language in the junior year, making the course both literary and media-based; and planned, taught and continue to teach an integrated senior elective called Hot Topics, which uses literature, art, film and Judaic sources to look at medical ethics and racism today. Here is a link to the wiki page that best features the interdisciplinary and multi-media nature of the Hot Topics course:

[If you want access to any of the links to the Frisch wiki, please contact me at The wiki is password-protected, but I have a guest password for educators.]

As Coordinator of Interdisciplinary Studies, I’ve worked with each department in the school to learn how the topics in each course might fit into a theme I selected for each grade. I co-created and wrote the content for a school wiki, where each grade can interact with different topics pertaining to that grade’s theme. The grades' themes:

Freshmen: Identity
Sophomores: Exploration
Juniors: Conflict
Seniors: Integration

The wiki pages aren't divided by course, but rather by topics common to myriad classes. Freshmen, for example, under the theme of identity, can learn about the topic of leadership by studying it through the lens of their literature, history, and Tanakh classes. I co-wrote an article with Rabbi Tzvi Pittinsky about the school-wide wiki in the Lookstein Journal, Jewish Educational Leadership:

I also created, organized and now oversee interdisciplinary days of learning for grades 9-11, ones that pertain to each grade’s themes. The ninth grade integration day is fate and free will, the tenth grade day is censorship and book burning, and the eleventh grade day is the Holocaust. We planned the eleventh grade integration day with a school in Israel, enabling us to have a global classroom.

I grew a week-long integrated study of the Greeks into Frisch Greek week, where ninth graders focus on what the Greeks contributed to the world and learn where to draw the line between what secular cultures can give Judaism and ways in which secular environments harm our religion.

In the tenth grade, I developed the Frisch Africa Encounter, a month-long study of the African continent that culminates in an evening for parents, students and teachers. As part of the month-long program, students read either The Posionwood Bible or Little Bee and complete a research project in history that they then convert into digital media for the presentation night. Students also learn about the integration of Ethiopian Jewry into Israeli society; debate what Israel should do about African refugees; repurpose discarded materials into works of art; and raise money for Innovation: Africa, an organization that uses sustainable Israeli technologies to improve life in African countries. At the evening for the Frisch community, sophomores share their exploration of African art, culture, economies, and social entrepreneurs with the school community.


The modern world needs people with a complex identity who are intellectually autonomous and prepared to cope with uncertainty; who are able to draw inferences and can control their behavior in the light of foreseen consequences, who are altruistic and enjoy doing for others, and who understand social forces and trends."

-- Robert Havighurst, 20th-century American psychologist

Last year I began RealSchool (RS), a program that advocates for and models education reform by having students engage in self-designed, collaborative, inquiry-based learning. The teams in the club are formed based on students’ interests and generally include subjects not taught in the traditional classroom. RS teams include App Making, The Arts, Fashion, Finance, Graphic Design, Health and Environment, Marketing, Religious Identity, Social Action and Entrepreneurship, Video Production and Web Design.

The club has organized events such as a student-run Yom Iyun; a pre-Shavuot program called Detox for the Decalogue; a student-run discussion series on prayer; and a day devoted to doing 26 Acts of Kindness for the 26 victims of Newtown. Club members are now involved in 

*  creating a green cookbook that will be made into an app
*  a fashion and dance show that raises awareness about ethical food and fashion, the oppression of women worldwide and female entrepreneurs
*  an education reform movement
*  a video series based on the prayer discussions the Religious Identity team is having.

RealSchool’s student-designed website: 
RS's FaceBook page:

An article about RealSchool appears in the Spring 2012 volume of The Lookstein Center’s Jewish Educational Leadership Journal and can be found here:

Frisch LEADs

This year I decided to imbue the academic curriculum with more of RealSchool’s values. I worked with my fellow AP English Literature teachers and developed Frisch LEADs (Learning. Exploring. Analyzing. Designing.), a project that has students choose their own topic for study and research. Students blog about the discovery and planning process of this year-long undertaking and must complete a 25-page paper or a multi-media project by March. For more information, see

Two particularly good examples of student blogs from the project can be found here:

The Global Classroom

As a proponent of global learning, I’ve also connected entire grades, my classes and particular students to students across the globe. I mentioned the junior integration day, which Frisch conducts with a school in Israel. I’ve also had my sophomore classes interact and converse on wikis with a school in Gush Etzion, Neveh Channah.

In addition, as a result of last year’s Frisch Africa Encounter, six sophomore girls became interested in building relationships with Ethiopian children in Israel. My sister Smadar Goldstein of JETS, an online learning provider based in Israel, presented the Frisch program on Ethiopian Jewry as a webinar. Smadar arranged for my sophomore girls to Skype with Ethiopian students, and one of my students, who is going to Israel in February 2013, is arranging a meeting with her Ethiopian friend.

Additional Resources

I’m a lover of social media, blogging, tweeting and posting on Facebook about my work and RealSchool’s. In addition to RealSchool’s blog, I also have an AP Art History blog and one on which I post about education, interdisciplinary studies and English.

For AP Art History:

For my education blog:

Here are three blog posts I particularly like:

The Greeks, Qohelet and the Importance of Beginning Again

A Jewish Response to Hedonism and Narcissism

Sacred Space: Contemplating Colorado, Diablo III and the Destruction of the Temple

(You can discern my Sacksian and Heschelian worldview in those posts.)

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