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What We Are About

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then an object is worth a thousand pictures. I was recently reminded of the tremendous power of objects in education, at the opening of an exhibit of fine contemporary Judaic art entitled “Heaven on Earth” at the JCC of Greater Washington. It was an exhibit of ritual and non-ritual Judaic objects in styles ranging from the traditional to the ultra-modern.

As an interesting contrast, in the lobby outside the gallery is a wonderful collection of reproduction and authentic antique Judaica—some of the same objects from an earlier time.

I went with a non-Jewish friend who had an interest in Judaism. In the role of teacher, I realized how much easier and more stimulating it was to talk about Jewish customs with the aid of this wonderful collection of objects. And my friend found that seeing the objects by which customs and rituals are performed made it immeasurably easier to visualize and understand the traditions to which they pertained, unfamiliar as they were to her, as compared to reading or hearing about them.

How much more so, when the student can actually participate in the making of such objects and share in the creative process!

In developing teaching tools that make that process possible, I have drawn on my experience as a Jewish educator in a variety of settings, following a strong belief in hands-on involvement; in the need to create and re-create the materials and experiences of Jewish culture, history and observance, so as to instill in children a feeling of ownership of the ideals and customs of their people.

It is one thing to tell a child he/she has been given a culture, a tradition, which he must learn and follow. This creates an obligation, often perceived as a burden. It is another thing for him to take possession of that tradition by participating in it, by creating it anew for him/herself. This becomes an accomplishment; a source of joy and pride. This is the process we wish to foster with our products.

Ownership of a culture and a history may be a large concept for a small child, but ownership of a pair of candlesticks, a kiddush cup, or dreidel is not. Taking possession of a ritual by actively participating in it means acquiring stock in the culture; one of many small steps by which we build a positive identity and the motivation to seek a fuller understanding of ones heritage, and sustain creativity and growth within it.

An Invitation
Our goal is to provide educational tools that fill a gap in the way we teach Jewish customs, traditions and history. How that gap is filled should be determined not just by someone who comes up with a new product to sell, but by what you, the educator say is missing from the array of available instructional tools and materials.

As a producer of new educational materials, I value your experience and seek your input. The better I can understand the problems and needs of Jewish educators, the more I can contribute toward meeting those needs. A number of you have generously taken time to tell me what works for you and what doesn’t; what you are looking for and what your ideas are. I would like to hear many more of you.

I want to share with you the principles that guide my involvement in Jewish education and keep you informed as to new ideas and products which are in the works here at Dreidelmaker.
I would like you to share with me your ideas about curriculum design; about tools that can help you to meet your goals as in educator. I also need to hear from you about the pluses and minuses of craft products currently available and the problems you have in adapting them to the situations in which you work.

Of the over 3,600 schools and organizations on my mailing list covering most all of North America, over half have used our craft kits at one time or another. Each year, about two-thirds of our clients are repeat customers, and the rest are trying my products for the first time. Still, that leaves a lot of folks that have never used our products. So where do the problems lie?

Perhaps the product was useful only once, in a unique situation. Or possibly it just didn’t “fit” into the system. Or maybe there was a design flaw which caused some difficulty—certainly there is room for improvement. This information can only come from you.

So, I invite you to share your thoughts and experiences whenever we might have the opportunity to talk or correspond. We use many of the practical suggestions we receive, including some product ideas. We can now make your comments and ideas available to others on our website. More importantly, I will be able to incorporate them into new educational tools as I develop them, so as to better meet the needs of educators.

By cooperating to create effective and innovative products, we can improve the educational process, and I can expand my catalog offerings to serve you better. Thanks for your help!

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Copyright 2005, Marc Glickman, PO Box 1904, Frederick, MD 21702. Phone/Fax: 301-695-4375