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January 2022

Jewish Place and Positionality: A Choreography of Pedagogical Practice

Yoshi Silverstein
Founder & Executive Director
Mitsui Collective Cleveland, OH
A Choreography of Pedagogical Practice - By engaging intentionally with spatial dynamics, Jewish educators can elevate learning through powerful embodied practices.

Skilled Jewish educators are well versed in developing content and methodologies for Jewish learning, identity development, and community building. As we know, however, learning experiences do not happen in a vacuum—they occur within the context of physical spaces, imbued (whether intentionally or not) with cultural and ecological elements and psycho-social dynamics. As Jewish educators, the way we position ourselves and our students in relationship to each other and the physical spaces we inhabit during Jewish learning experiences has a material impact on the quality and efficacy of learning dynamics. This pedagogy of Jewish place and positionality articulates the use of a combination of prescribed physical preparations of space based on a range of Jewish typologies alongside emergent responsive positioning based on foundational Jewish narrative archetypes to more effectively shape and respond to interpersonal and spatial dynamics. Through use of these dually prescribed and emergent practices as a “choreography” for their use of space and positioning, Jewish educators “who know their place” (hamakir et m’komo) are better equipped to tap into powerful embodied practices that can elevate the learning and teaching experience and create stronger conditions for Jewish meaning-making and connection.

Yoshi Silverstein is founder and executive director of Mitsui Collective, a cohort six Schusterman Fellow, and director emeritus of the JOFEE Fellowship at Hazon. As a Chinese-Ashkenazi-American Jew, Yoshi is an engaged member of and advocate for the Jews of Color community. Selected as a 2021 “Grist 50 Fixer” building a more just and equitable future, Yoshi currently sits on the board of directors for Repair the World, is a member of the grants advisory group for the Jews of Color Initiative, and is Cleveland community organizer for Edot: The Midwest Regional Jewish Diversity Collaborative. Yoshi holds a masters degree in landscape architecture alongside graduate certificates in spiritual entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, permaculture design, and environmental education. He lives in the Cleveland area on Erie-Mississauga-Haudenosaunee land with his wife, daughter, and pup.


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