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Exciting News at Ayeka!

May 26, 2016

We are extremely gratified that the Jewish philanthropic world has taken notice of our activities, and we are pleased to announce that Ayeka has received grants from three prominent Jewish philanthropic institutions, The Avi Chai Foundation, Kohelet Foundation, and Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, which will enable us to continue our important work in high school education.  

Over the past few years, Ayeka has achieved success in developing and implementing an effective Soulful Education curriculum for Jewish high schools across North America. We’ve tested and tweaked our system, and following enthusiastic feedback from teachers and educators, are ready to scale our efforts and implement the system in leading schools. We hope our new paradigm for classroom teaching will foster deeper connection to materials learnt and stronger relationships between teachers and their students.

The three schools partnering with Ayeka are Milken Community Schools and Shalhevet High School in Los Angeles and Kohelet Yeshiva High School in Philadelphia. Over the next year, Ayeka’s staff will work closely with teachers selected by each of the schools to bring our Soulful Education program into their classes and their relationships with the students.

The grant process was long and serious, involving staff interviews, evaluations, and a 15 month-long observation period, and it ushered in significant organizational growth. This past March, we welcomed seven new educators to the Ayeka staff:

Ari Schwarzberg; Los Angeles, CA
Dasee Berkowitz; Jerusalem, Israel
Deborah Anstandig; Cambridge, MA
Jeff Amshalem; Sharon, MA
Mali Brofsky; Alon Shevut, Israel
Shawn Fields-Meyer; Los Angeles, CA
Zvi Hirschfield; Alon Shevut, Israel

Each of these educators brings their own unique talents and experiences to the team, as well as a mutual zeal for soulful education. They’ve all been trained in Ayeka’s innovative 6-step methodology, and are now ready to facilitate trainings for teachers in our partner schools. The expansion of the Ayeka staff is a remarkable milestone for our organization, and we are grateful for the opportunity to reach so many more teachers and students this coming school year.

New Ayeka educators at Glen Cove Training Retreat in March 2016.

Many of you are aware that nearly 10 years ago I left a secure position at a terrific institution to found Ayeka – a non-profit startup. It was a big risk. In many ways, the recognition by these foundations of our work validates my journey and confirms my belief that something new is needed in Jewish Education.

For our partnering teachers, undertaking Soulful Education will not be a simple matter. Educators often confide in me that they know something is missing in their teaching but they are afraid to change and experiment because of their fear of failure. What if they try something new in the classroom and the students don’t respond?

There is never a 100% guarantee of success and I understand their fear.

In life, there is no change without risk. It would be nice:

  • If we had a guaranty that our new steps would 100% succeed
  • If we could grow with complete security and assurance
  • If we could follow new paths without any risk of stumbling

But that has never – and will never – be the case!

We are now in the period between Passover and Shavuot. The Jewish People left Egypt and wandered toward Mt. Sinai and the Promised Land. They kept taking steps, marching and yearning, even though they knew their path was uncertain.

We need to create a culture in Jewish Education where teachers are celebrated for coming out of their comfort zone and venturing into the new and unknown. We need to support them and encourage their risk-taking. We need to give them the courage to imagine a new way.

To reach the Promised Land requires that we continually move forward, evolve and change. And there is no change that doesn’t entail risk.

I applaud our funders and partnering schools for their courage to support Ayeka’s novel approach to Jewish Education.