Project-Based Learning Takes on a New Form at HBHA: Podcasts


Tali Gortenburg, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Image by Tali Gortenburg.

In a room filled with books of Torah and a class time devoted to Jewish Studies, ninth-grade students stare at their screens and discuss statistics, musicians, and technology. You might be asking, “What’s happening here? I thought this was Jewish Studies class?” But Jewish Studies class it surely is, and the answer is that these students have been working on Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy’s (HBHA) first ever student-led podcast, titled, “The Good Jew Project.” This podcast not only takes project-based Learning to a whole new level, but it also carries with it an entirely new way to look at Jewish Studies.

The class teacher, Adam Tilove, who also happens to be HBHA’s head of school, shares his inspiration for the project. He talks about the majority of the students’ first semester that was devoted not strictly to Torah study (although Torah study was included), but to learning different views people have towards Judaism. 

Student are interviewing prominent Jewish sources. Image by Alex Rubin.

This eventually turned into an idea; “[w]e could interview different people that had different perspectives on Judaism and see what it means to them, and think about what it means to be a Good Jew,” says Tilove. 

Now don’t get the idea that the reason Tilove chose this non-traditional course for student learning was due to his dislike of Torah, for this is certainly not the case. He even testifies to his deep love and passion for it. 

Tilove’s reasoning is as follows, “[a]s painful as it is, MeAymatai Omrim Et HaShma (the first words of tractate Berakhot of the Talmud) is not going to be how we reach them,” he says, “The question is what’s the access point.”

He understands that in our current world, knowledge of and passion for Judaism among Jews has greatly decayed as time has gone by. He seeks to reignite that spark of pride and passion for Judaism. Tilove says that for some people, their access point to learning more about Judaism might even start from a Hanukkah song written by Adam Sandler. He stresses how important it is for Jews to love and be proud of their religion, aside from just having knowledge of Torah.

“I hope that I can have a school where the kids come out and feel so proud to be Jewish whether they’re observant, whether they’re not observant,” Tilove says, “Judaism is big enough that we all can choose something that we find fascinating and learn it. In the end, I think one of the most important things is what are you able to bring to the Jewish people.”

The podcast has helped improve the interaction skills between students and adults. Image by Ava Gortenburg.

Two students in the class, Noah Bergh and Noa Levine, recently interviewed Rabbi Elan Babchuck for the podcast. They reflect on their experience.

 “We learn a lot of people skills, a lot of communicating with people much older than us, important people. And also all the skills of contacting people and writing formal emails, and just a wide variety of communication skills,” says Bergh. 

Levine also had thoughts on the importance and value of the project. Aside from learning important life skills, she is grateful for the opportunity to learn and be exposed to different opinions people might have, as well as the opportunity it provides for people who don’t do as well with the traditional way of how subjects are taught to succeed and learn in a unique way. 

Project-Based Learning (PBL) is a new addition to many classes at HBHA. Many different paths have been taken, this one surely the most daring. The positive feedback from students as well as the life-lessons acquired could change the way these projects are thought about, and the idea of making PBLs meaningful instead of simply a class requirement could be revolutionary for the future of PBLs at HBHA.