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January 17, 2014

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w HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 17, 2014 By Erica Brown (This is part of a series of essays on Jewish day schools being published by the Sus- tainable Stories project of PEJE, the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Educa- tion.) SILVER SPRING, MD. (JTA)--I don't know about you, but as a Jewish day school graduate, parent and former board member, I am a little tired of hearing about how excellent we are. This is not because I embrace mediocrity but because I am increasingly unsure of what it means. I do see the word "excel- lence" strategically placed in development materials all the time. It is used in speeches to describe everything from preschool standards to board commitments. But if we know one thing about excellence, it's that it never surfaces in the telling, only in the show- ing. And if we do not define excellence, it becomes virtu- ally impossible to achieve. Major companies known for excellence do not assume that their employees under- stand what they mean by the word. Instead, they create Educational excellence in day schools: What it is and how we get there core principles, behaviors and standards; train employees to attain them; and then evalu- ate performance relative their articulated criteria. This is true at Disney, Zappos, Nor- dstrom and L.L. Bean. Some companies, notably the Ritz-Carlton chain, make their employees regularly re- cite their principles or carry them in wallet-size cards. Everyone is expected to know and embody what the com- pany stands for. Ignorance can never be an excuse. Great customer service is consis- tent and shared across all levels of employment and in all departments. Training is no guarantee, but it creates the force of a shared language and high expectations. It is in the arena of shared language, expectations and consistent service that we often find ourselves failing. The receptionist is friendly, but the first-grade teacher pretends you're invisible. The librarian is eager to help, but the principal responds to your emails two weeks late. A parent is treated with respect, but the student is told off in front of other students. To be an excellent institution means that excel- lence permeates the entire environment. Here are four different understandings of excellence that come from worlds far outside education. Relative excellence: We are probably not excellent, but we're a lot better than any oth- er game in town. This can best be summed up in the words of Dolly Parton: "It's hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world." In a rhinestone world, a really good fake might nQt be exposed for what it really is. And relative excellence involves no striving or driving ambition for greatness. Instrumental excellence: We're not committed to excel- lence for its own sake but for the sake of efficiency. This is not a bad motive, but it's not inspirational enough to create true excellence. It's just easier to do it right the first time, as captured by basketball coach John Wooden: "If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over?" Aspirational excellence: We set our standards so high that they become unattainable. Some people believe that unrealistic standards should not be a problem because if you create a really high bar, you can get closer than if your bar is too low. Football coach Vince Lombardi put this sentiment into his own winning words: "Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence." But if your standards are so pie in the sky that they cannot be measured, you might as well have no standards at all. Focused excellence: We cannotaccomplish every goal, so we need to determine what we can really do best and be laser-focused on it, share the same objectives and subse- quently take deep the results together. This is em- bodied not only in the words of Steve Jobs but in the products produced by his company. His theory ofexcellence:"We don't get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life." Our uniqueness emerges from the Jewish knowledge, identity and values-based community we are trying to build. The Jewish piece of the equation is often our most mediocre component. We might have a few teachers who shine or a good curriculum on a subject, but on the con- sistency front we consistently fall down on the job. Excellence cannot be measured solely through the lens of high scores on stan- dardized tests rather than high marks in differentiated learningcharacter develop- ment, or multiple modalities of learning. We even defend our mediocrity by excusing the quality of teaching, the tedium of th'e prayer services or the confusion around school identity and ideology. This is not focused excel- lence. It is not even relative excellence. Ron Berger is an elemen- tary school teacher. He is also a carpenter. In his book "An Ethic of Excellence," he describes how carpentry influences his approach to education: "In carpentry there is no higher compliment builders give to each other than this: This guy is a craftsman. This one word says it all. It con- notes someone who has it all. It connotes someone who has integrity and knowledge, PAGE 5A who is dedicated to his work and who is proud of what he does and who he is. Someone who thinks carefully and does things well... I want a classroom full of craftsmen." In the mishnah that we read traditionally each Friday night, we refer to a passage in the Talmud with a clever word- play (Brakhot 64a): "Students of Torah bring peace to the world, as it is stated, 'When all your builders are studying the teachings of God, then the peace of your children will flourish' [Isaiah 54:13]. In- stead of reading children read builders [al tikrei banaiekh ela boneiakh]." Our children are our build- ers-our craftsmen--build- ers of our future. We want them and the entire school community to have integrity and knowledge, dedication and pride. And when you put that all together, you get focused excellence. And that's what we have to deliver every day. So let's stop talking about excellence, and let's start achieving it and measuring it. Erica Brown is the author of eight books, including her newest, "Leadership in the Wilderness." A 1,000-year German Nazi Reich--Africa, blacks and the Shoah By Aaron Braunstein USFSO (ret.) center in Ayatollah Iran, an axis through North Korea, and reaching out worldwide through various terror net- WOtkS. On Jan. 27, too many loose-thinking people will be asking, "What is so 'interna- tional' about the Holocaust?" They may even accuse the Jews of incessant crying over "their" Holocaust (Shoah) even after 70 years. "Enough is Enough!", they would say, "Millions have since died in one genocide or another-- in Cambodia, in Rwanda, etC.lbUt no one cries more than the Jews!" What these detractors too easily forget is that the hate and evil that go around, come around, that unlike other genocides, the industrial extermination of As we again approach U.N.- spBnsord International+Ho - locaust Remembrance Day on Jan.27, it is fitting for all peoples, not just Jews, to reflect on its significance. The threat to the world is as present today as it was in the 1930s. Humanity didn't succeed very well when confronted then by the so-called master race, so we all get to take teacher's test again to see if we have learned anything 'in class.' Today, everyone is called to struggle against a new form of regime evil and totalitarianism threatening the world--master jihad, an aberration of Islam, with its the majority of European Jewry was conceived to be to- tal and cross-borders as part of a master German Nazi plan for world domination. Andwoe to all who say that such horror was only the concern of Jews and will not again overtake one and all. All those who did not see this in 1939 paid the ultimate price. And yet much more evil would still have come internationally to all had Nazi Germany achieved total vic- tory in the World War II. Yes, Jews continue to cry--we cry also for all of humanity so that history does not repeat itself. Discussion of the German onslaught during World War II occasionally mentions the more than 40 million killed and murdered on European soil. But such discussion rarely touches on what would have happened elsewhere in the world had the Third Reich been victorious. What would have been the logical conse- quences of German racism after such victory? Several novels in the "What If" genre have appeared over the years. One of the most searing is Philip Roth's 2004 novel, "The Plot Against America," in which the au- thor postulates victory of renowned aviator Lindbergh over Roosevelt in the 1940 U.S. presidential elections. And the logical consequences fol- low-"President" Lindbergh makes his first trip abroad to confer with his friend Hitler. This genre is a telling way to present issues for today. In dealing with the af- termath of a postulated German victory, some have dealt with the results in Europe and America--a fascist-leaning Britain and Ukraine, an enslaved Poland, and German alliance with a virulently segregationist United States. The millions of Jews murdered would be only a footnote in rewritten European history. Few, however, have dealt at any length with the fate of black Africa, as well as blacks around the world, under a 1,000-year German Nazi Reich and its racist allies. The successful application of Nazi ideology during World War II would then seek new frontiers. Most important, that ideology of superiority would appear to have been vindicated in the minds of tens of millions of whites around the world--some- thing to be declared from every podium and taught in every school--something to be advanced under imported and home-grown Nazi guid- ance in other frameworks for the "noble goal of improving the human race." Yes, even in America. ButAfricaand blacks? Dur- ing WW II there were very few blacks living under German occupation in Europe and therefore of little concern. This is not to belittle the pre- monitionary tie-in between Jews and blacks made by Nazi paranoia as witnessed Braunstein on page 14A 'Inside Llewyn Davis' and Jewish roots Dry Bones By Rabbi Andy Bachman CBE, Brooklyn "Folk song calls the na- tive back to his roots and prepares him emotionally to dance, worship, work, fight, or make love in ways normal to his place." --Alan Lomax, Folk Songs of North America Over sushi in Brooklyn the other night, I was asked to justify why we made the kids see"Inside Llewyn Davis," the Coen brothers new movie. The answers flowed easily. One: The creators of the film are geniuses and as far as art is concerned, kids, go with the geniuses. They always have something to say. Two: The movie is a snap- shot of an historical moment in your hometown, New York. It's important to know these things. An appreciation for the context of your life is important. And three (which took a TEL AVIV bit more time to explain): There was once this guy named Alan Lomax whose father John Lomax was the grandfather of the folk archival project for the Li- brary of Congress and the WPA, who was a friend of your late great aunt and who gave her a copy of his book which we have at home, one of a number of essential cata- loguing efforts that, believe it or not, changed the face of music history. There are Harry Smith's recordings to talk about too, but the kids usually still complain when those go on. The third, surprisingly, took no heavy lifting. For good measure we reviewed other facts about this rebel aunt: She stepped over her mother blocking the doorway to prevent her from going to college (UW-Madison in the 1930s, take a bow, please) and worked in DP camps for the JDC after the Holocaust before returning to a practice in New York. So you see, folk song does call "the native back to his roots." Jews are about roots, of course. How could it not be? Meaning: who are we with- out them? And yet the often derided roots (and the igno- rance thereof) gives me great anxiety in our age. I suppose it helps explain why it is that for me, in a world of increasingly surface encounters, where the immediacy of experience and digitally rendered, character- limited responses (the idiot wind of discourse) which are prized over long-held beliefs and practices, I fear for the future. We're all so cosmopolitan, I know, I know. The grand melding that is taking place in our Digital Age has allowed for a greater confluence of cultural mixtures that pushes the boundaries of creativity to new heights, it's true. Bieber has Hebrew tattoos and One Direction apparently "love" Jews. On balance, these are wins for our side. But not so much in a world where the tides are turning and leaving their marks on the shores of Jewish history: Too much distinction is a bad thing. Even Dave Van Ronk thought so: "We banded together for mutual support because we didn't make as much noise as the other groups, and we hated them all--the Zionists, the summer camp kids, and the bluegrassers--every last, dead one of them. Of course, we hated a lot of people in those days." It was powerful to watch Llewyn Davis sing into the hurricane of popularizing forces that he knew he could never join; and it was down- right energizing to hear a young Bob Dylan ascend at precisely the moment Llewyn Bachman on page 14A THO00A005 01: AFRICANS WHO GOT TO ISRAEL TH2OUGH EGYPT P0Lm0L rtFr. OS,COM ASKEO WHY THEY OION'T MAKE OEAAANO5 WHILE 5TILL IN EGYPT q