The religious school at Ellicott City’s Bet Chaverim Congregation welcomes Rabbi Faith Cantor as its new education director.
Prior to working with Bet Chaverim, Cantor, who has lived in Baltimore for seven years, did educational consulting for parents of children with developmental needs and also worked as the rabbi educator at Beth El.
Cantor said her goal for Bet Chaverim’s Sunday Jewish education program is to bring summer camp-style education into the classroom, with hopes that children will have so much fun, they won’t even realize they are learning.
“I am a huge proponent of experiential learning. You can learn about Judaism and you can do Judaism,” she said. “If we want it to stick and want kids to be Jewish adults, we have to teach them to do Jewish. We’re not learning by textbooks. We’re learning by doing.”
A native of Anaheim, California, Cantor grew up in a Chabad day school in the ’80s and ’90s. She said even for Chabad, which historically has hands-on, experiential approaches to learning, she was mostly taught with textbooks.
In the summers, she attended Camp Ramah in California, and worked at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires while she studied at The Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Cantor considers her experiences at camp, both as a child and an adult, as transformative.
“It took Jewish learning out of the textbooks,” she said. “In many ways, that’s the best practice in education these days.”
Additional ideas Cantor plans to implement in her experiential learning curriculum are to erect a “pop-up sukkah” on a farm, and teach an entirely oral Hebrew curriculum.
“Our Siddur program, for the younger kids, is going to be entirely by ear,” said Cantor. “I would much rather they can sing Shema and V’ahavta, and then when I teach them their aleph-bet and ask them to read it, the words and the sounds are familiar.
“What’s really going to set us apart from other programs right now is that we’re going to look at Hebrew as a modern language.”