Third Space Conference


Download a PDF of the ThirdSpaceProgram.

Jump to the Teaching the Third Space Block Session Descriptions.

The Third Space Conference emerges from two premises:

1. That Jewish emerging adults (18 to 35) are searching for meaning and wisdom as they try to form an adult self; and
2. That the study of Torah, when done properly, can provide a powerful source for the meaning and wisdom these adults seek.

These assumptions grow out of the work of Hillel’s Senior Jewish Educator Initiative and the work of other organizations that are also working with Jewish young adults. We believe the time has come to more fully develop the conversation of Jewish education for emerging adults.

At this conference a diverse group of educators, academics, and Jewish professionals will ask the following questions:

1. What does Jewish emerging adulthood look like in North America?
2. How can Jewish emerging adults be engaged in the study of Torah that speaks to them personally?
3. How does this approach resemble and differ from other more familiar forms of Jewish education?
4. Who is doing this kind of education in the field today? What does their practice look like and how can we learn from their experience?

Monday, June 21
This day will focus on the theory that guides our work.  In particular, we will examine (1)  Emerging Adulthood as a discreet phase of human development and the unique forms of meaning-making at work during this time; (2) The study of Torah with an orientation toward personal meaning.

9:00 -10:00am Registration and Breakfast

10:00-10:15am Introductions and Welcome

10:15-1:15pm Meaning Making in Emerging Adulthood: A Conversation in Three Parts
This session will feature an interactive conversation with Dr. Sharon Daloz Parks, our keynote speaker, in dialogue with Rabbi Scott Aaron, and is formatted to maximize interaction with the speaker and among participants.

Part 1: “How We Grow Up: Cognitive and Affective Development of Emerging Adults”
Part 2: “It Matters How We Think: Critical-Connective Thought in a Changing World”
Part 3: “Envisioning a Jewish Mentoring Community”

Note: Throughout this extended session we will have short breaks with coffee and snacks available.

1:15 – 2:00pm Lunch Break
Boxed Lunches served. Participants can take their lunches outdoors to enjoy Battery Park City.

2:00 -3:00pm
Rabbi Daniel Smokler will transpose some of Dr. Parks and her colleagues’ scholarship to the field of Jewish education for emerging adults. You may download by clicking on the lecture title above.

3:00-3:30pm Pause
This is a space for reflection, conversation, networking and relaxation among participants.  We believe one of the most important aspects of a gathering of this sort is “unplanned interaction” that occurs during moments of free time when ideas are shared and conversations ignited.  It reflects our commitment to quality of interactions and programs rather than quantity.

3:30 -4:45pm Small Group Discussions
An opportunity to process what we have heard through discussions with colleagues.  Participants will break into pre-assigned small groups, each with a facilitator.  Each group will be made up of educators, academics, and professionals.

5:00 – 6:00pm Cocktail Reception
Please join us for wine and tapas on the Museum terrace with views of the New York City harbor.

Tuesday, June 22
Yesterday we discussed the theory of emerging adulthood, meaning making and the study of Torah.  Today, we will focus on what that looks like in practice.  In two blocks we will showcase an array of talented teachers, asking them to demonstrate their craft and to reflect on their practice.

8:30 – 9:30am Breakfast

9:30–10:30am Student Voices: “Learning in the Third Space”
We will begin our second day by hearing from several students who have experienced “Third Space learning”.

10:30 – 12:00 pm “Teaching in the Third Space” Block 1
Participants will choose one session from the choices below to attend:

• Universe of Obligation

Aaron Dorfman

This session introduce the concept of the universe of obligation as the community of people (or other living things) for whom one bears some measure of responsibility. Using visual models, chevruta learning and thought experiments we will illustrate some of the challenges of putting into practice a deeply morally compelling formulation of the universe of obligation.

Aaron Dorfman is the vice president for programs at American Jewish World Service.

• Finding Home

Lauren Holtzbllatt

This session will explore the idea of finding “nahala”- homestead in contrast to the endless wanderer- “na v’nod”.  We will look at the story of Adam being created from a single spot of dust as a vehicle for asking “where is home?” “What about communities, rituals, relationships, space – makes a place feel like home?”  We will then look at the 20’s as, in the Mishna’s words “a time of pursuit” to ask how in this decade of journeying do we find home?

Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt is Director of Campus Initiatives at Hillel International

• Ayeka: A Spiritual Check-Up

Aryeh Ben David

The goal of this session is to enable us to take one small step forward in personal and spiritual growth by reflecting on our spiritual lives and to leave with concrete personal, albeit small, steps on how to deepen them. This session will have 3 components: learning, writing, and personalizing chevruta. I hope to offer this word “Ayeka” (“Where are You?”) as a mantra that can be used to enable us to become more fully present in their lives.

Rabbi Aryeh Ben David founded Ayeka, Jewish Spiritual Education, in 2006. This initiative came after almost 20 years of work in formal and experiential Jewish educational settings.

• Practice and Transformation

James Jacobson Maisels

This session aims to bring the participants through the first steps of a transformative experience through the exploration and practice of the quieting technique of the Hassidic master, R. Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, the Piaseczner Rebbe (1889-1943). Through text study which focuses on the experiential, psycho-spiritual and performative aspects of the text, meditative practice, group processing and reflection, we will together raise questions about our sense of self and place in the world and explore new possibilities of self-understanding and self-transformation.

James Jacobson Maisels is a faculty member at The Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, Mechon Hadar and The Hannaton Educational Center.

• “Do I Believe in God?” is the Wrong Question: Moving from God to Godly

Michael Uram

The goal of this session is to shift the question from ‘What do I believe about God?’ to ‘What have I experienced?’ by confronting a profound and often overlooked biblical story as well as some contemporary ideas.  By reflecting on these texts in concert with our own experiences, we hope to uncover new understandings of what it means to be connected to the Divine.

Rabbi Michael Uram is the Director of Penn Hillel

12:00 – 1:00pm Lunch Break
Boxed Lunches Served. Participants can take their lunches outdoors to enjoy Battery Park City.

1:00 – 2:30pm “Teaching in the Third Space” Block 2

• Unlearning God

Will Berkovitz

During this session we will explore Jewish ideas of God. By using the story of Moses and the Burning Bush as a guide we will explore how we might both encounter divinity and begin to develop an evolving adult theology.

Rabbi Will Berkovitz is Vice President of Partnerships and Rabbi in Residence for Repair the World.

• Hardened Against, Softening Into: Lines of Conflict and Connection

Miriam Margles

This session will be an exploration of aspects of conflict, the ways we harden against others and the possibilities available in choosing yielding, softening in its place.  Rooted in the Talmudic story of Rabbi Elazar and the Ugly Man and the dynamics of “hardness” and “softness” offered here, this session will integrate a close reading and discussion of the text with exploration of its images and ideas through movement and personal narrative.

Rabbi Miriam Margles is co-founder of Encounter, fostering understanding through face to face encounters between diverse North American Jewish leaders and Palestinians in the West Bank.

• Ode to Joy

Danya Ruttenberg

This session will be an investigation of various texts that discuss (and sometimes command) joy and/or happiness.  We’ll discuss these texts in light of our understandings of contemporary American culture and our own understandings of happiness and joy.  Hopefully, we will gain some insights about what it is to be happy, and how a person might go about getting there.

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg is Senior Jewish Educator at Tufts University Hillel.

• Watercooler Dramas and Power Plays: Hagar, Yosef and Generation Y at Work

Sara Bamberger

In this session we will use core biblical texts to look at power dynamics in the work place. The stories of Hagar and Yosef depict characters whose given status (the concubine, the youngest son) exists in tension with their own ambition and sense of self. What can we learn from these texts about the challenges of being a young and ambitious employee?  What can we learn about supervising Millennials, who often have a strong sense of empowerment and even entitlement?

Sara Heitler Bamberger is the founder and director of Kevah, a new initiative that supports pluralistic study of classical Jewish texts.

2:30 – 3:30pm Small Group Discussions
Participants will convene in a final small group with facilitators.  The focus of this conversation will be on the two “Teaching in the Third Space” blocks.

3:30 – 4:30pm Closing Conversation
A panel of colleagues from the Academy, campus and service learning – Josh Feigelson, Will Berkowitz, Yehuda Sarna and Sharon Daloz Parks – will discuss the implications of our conversation for their fields.