Day Schildkret Discusses the Fire Circle and the Helen Diller Family Awards for Excellence in Jewish Education

This post is the second in a series on the Helen Diller Family Awards for Excellence in Jewish Education.

In May 2013, Day Schildkret, a Jewish educator at Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael, was one of four outstanding Bay Area Jewish educators to win the prestigious Helen Diller Family Awards for Excellence in Jewish Education. Schildkret won the award for his project, the Fire Circle, a weekly gathering for teens at Rodef Sholom to experience ritual around a fire and connect in a meaningful way with their own – and each other's – lives and our natural world. Each week, the Fire Circle focuses on a reflective theme that makes Judaism a relevant and vital part of their lives. His award brought him a $10,000 cash prize and $2,500 for the Congregation.
"Our Jewish teens are hungry for personal time for reflection and connection," Schildkret explains. "They are asking big life questions during this major life transition and are searching, consciously or unconsciously, for deeper relationships with peers, mentors and with nature."
One fire circle event, entitled Calling in Our Life Dreams, had the teens envision what life dreams or accomplishments they see themselves experiencing in one year, five years, twenty-five years, and fifty years; what kind of person they want to be at each milestone; and, what they expect will be important to them then. "By looking into the future," Scheldkret says, "we helped the teens imagine the life they want to live in the present." Speaking about their life dreams allowed the teens to crystallize their core Jewish values: peace, love, acceptance, community, trust.
We checked in with Schildkret this winter, asking him to reflect upon his experience winning this esteemed award. He says the award has broadened his teens' small circle to a much larger one in the Jewish community. "We now feel more connected and resourced to continue our work knowing that the broader Jewish community is honoring and supporting us," he notes.
The recognition of the Fire Circle has also given Schildkret and Rodef Sholom the opportunity to appreciate that they have created something special and has inspired them to cultivate and model it for the larger Jewish community. They are now imagining a fire circle as part of a larger Jewish Rites of Passage program that invites parents and potentially other earth-based Jewish organizations into the process.
Schildkret feels honored and grateful to be recognized by leaders and colleagues in the field of Jewish education, and by the Helen Diller Family Foundation. He is thankful for future opportunities to collaborate with other award winners, connecting with an inspiring network of innovative educators. "I'm imagining how that would continue to transform the field of Jewish education," he adds.
If you know an outstanding educator you would like to nominate for the 2014 Helen Diller Family Awards for Excellence in Jewish Education, nominate online today. Nominations for this year's awards close March 7.
For further information or questions about the Helen Diller Family Awards for Excellence in Jewish Education, please contact Galya Segal or call 415.512.6242.


January 21, 2014