Lilach, Director of International Education and Jewish Engagement, NY
Lilach is the Director of International Education and Jewish Engagement at AJWS and lives in NY with her fiancé, Paco. She was interviewed with Paco by their friend, Erin.
Think about a kid in your life who you care about a lot – 1) describe that kid, and 2) tell me what you want for them for their life.
I think I’ll choose Luca – my best friend’s kid. He’s three years old now. So, in 27 years I hope he’s had opportunities to go down paths based on what he’s most interested in and that his parents and community have supported him to push forward in what excites him.
I want him to continue being a multi-lingual, international kid.
I hope he’s in a diverse classroom and learns to care about others who aren’t like him. I feel strongly that I am not just here on this planet to care about me and my family; I’m an inhabitant of this city and this world and country and everyday I walk around and I feel obligated to other people. I hope Luca has that identity too, as a 30-year-old. I hope our future children also have that value because it’s so important.
Knowing he’s truly a digital child, I also want him to be able to have un-digital opportunities and connections with humans. I truly worry about that with kids being born now. I write Luca a letter every year on his birthday and I can easily document it because of the technology, which is the positive aspect. But on the other hand he’s photographed and video-d every day and I’d like him to have days without any devices in his life and real human interaction. Which sometimes feels like an insurmountable challenge.
When you think about what you want for them, what is the role of school in getting them there?
What I want at a macro level is that whether you’re in rural Brazil or in Prospect Leffert Gardens in NYC that you would have the same opportunity to education, and that education would have an equalizing effect - though that’s not the case right now. Right now, if you’re of a certain echelon, or run with a certain type of people, then you’re often not mixing with other students from other areas or backgrounds - and then you’re just keeping those kids within their own isolated part of society and reinforcing inequality.
I also think the role of school changes as the child gets older. When you’re younger the focus is on play and exploration, and then when you get older it’s more on content. I appreciate, at least from what I can see, that there’s been a change from an exclusive focus on curriculum to appreciating the soft skills and characteristics we want kids to have. That’s all a part of school.
Do you think school will play the role it should for/ for all kids?
I feel it really shouldn’t matter where you’re born as a precondition for the kind of education you can get – how you can develop your critical thinking skills or how you are able to nurture your creativity and your curiosity. But right now it does matter.
Do you think it’ll change when it’s about your kid?
I think I’ll have a more specific understanding of what’s out there – not just “good school or bad school”. I wouldn’t be just looking on the internet, I would be going to visit schools and take my theoretical understanding and my own training and asking myself and the schools what instruction looks like in the classroom and at what ages are different things most important to me for my kid? Okay, for pre-k and kindergarten, we’re okay with play and we’re okay with the public schools approach, and then for first grade, this matters. What are the values we want our own children to have? So what’s the responsibility of a teacher in a school and what’s the responsibility of the parent?
Do you think other people agree with you?
I’m not sure who this “the other people” is, so I’m not sure. But especially in NY, from what I’ve seen, there seems to be this understanding that you get your kid into the pre-k to get them into the elementary school to get them into the right college. And it feels like you’re either on the track or you’re not. It’s a false binary to say that you’re on the track to success or you’re not.