Going Forth | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

by Eli Goldstein, Shimon and Sara Birnbaum JCC, Bridgewater, NJ

Parashat Lech Lecha

Editor’s Note: Welcome to D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog! Most weeks throughout the year, you’ll be hearing from the JOFEE Fellows: reflections on their experiences, successful programs they’ve planned and implemented, gleanings from the field, and connections to the weekly Torah portion and what they’ve learned from their experiences with place in their host communities for the year. Views expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily represent Hazon. Be sure to check back weekly! 

P.S. Interested in being or hosting a JOFEE Fellow? Applications for cohort two are now open for both prospective fellows and prospective host institutions and will continue to be reviewed as positions are available.

Exploring nature art at the JCC | Photo credit: Eli Goldstein

There is an entire world around us if we just open our eyes, ears, and mouths. In our new enrichment nature class here at the Shimon and Sara Birnbaum JCC, we are working on using the learning cycle shared by our BEETLES Instructors during JOFEE Fellow training – Invitation, Exploration, Concept Invention, Application, and Reflection – to do just that.

This is a class challenging on many levels for me and the students. When you think of nature you may think about petting animals, making art projects from tree leaves, or even going on simple nature walk. So many of the kids had this mind set before they even started the class. There are many levels to nature – how do we get explore all of them?

In this week’s Torah portion, Lech Lecha, we are told to leave what we’ve known behind to build a new life in the unknown. We are challenged to move forward, despite leaving comfort behind. These kids every week are exploring new avenues that they have never every experienced. Nature is a world that we see every day but a clearly untapped learning avenue.

Swinging forth | Photo credit: Eli Goldstein
Swinging forth | Photo credit: Eli Goldstein

As a JOFEE Fellow, I teach two classes every Tuesday. One class is for three and four year olds and one class is K-4th grade. Each class is unique to the kids that are participating. Some of the recent activities have included Micro-parks, cheese making, learning about lichen, time with pet hamster, and journaling. We hope soon to partner with a local farm to expand our work to learning about food justice and connect to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to provide our community with access to and support for local food producers. Lech lecha means “go forth.” Here are at the JCC, we are going forth, and excited to do so.

Eli Goldstein is the Youth and After-school Director at Shimon and Sara Birnbaum JCC in Bridgewater, NJ. In his prior life, he worked in banking before going forth into Jewish communal work and JOFEE. See his full bio here.

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