Just Solutions: The Idea School Civic Engagement Program

      My remarkable friend, Rochelle Shoretz (A”H), who died in May 2015 of breast cancer, was fond of saying, “There are no problems, just solutions waiting to happen.” Anyone who knew Rochelle, or Rochie, as we called her, will recognize the determination, pragmatism, and sheer will to plow through any problem that this maxim of hers revealed, and it led her to create Sharsheret, an organization she founded the first time she was diagnosed with breast cancer, at the age of 28. Wanting to connect with other young women and mothers who had the disease, she created the support system she needed for herself, one that continues to benefit thousands of others, too. 

      As part of the The Idea School academic program, students will engage in solving real-world problems. They’re going to explore issues that face their local, state, American, Israeli, and global communities, as well as particularly Jewish concerns in those realms. They’ll find the problems that interest them, prod and poke at them, and get them motivated to act, as Rochelle did -- from a burning desire to improve the world in some way. 

      Just Solutions, The Idea School’s Civic Engagement Program, will be intertwined with our academic curriculum. In their Humanities, STEM, Judaic Studies, and Hebrew Language classes, students will study traditional academic content -- Talmud and Tanakh; the history and literature of myriad civilizations as well as Jewish history; scientific principles and knowledge; engineering; and modern Hebrew. 

      Because The Idea School uses project-based learning (PBL), also sometimes called problem-based learning, these subjects will become connected to contemporary problems, so students apply their knowledge, using their fresh and individual perspectives, to find solutions for them. Idea School students will be challenged intellectually by tackling current issues, and empowered, as Jews and as conscientious citizens, to make a difference in their communities and in the world. They’ll discover that they can create just solutions -- fair and equitable ones -- for what ails the world. 

      Of course, discovering that one can change the world is extremely gratifying on emotional and spiritual levels as well, something that Rochelle knew and experienced. Rochelle saw that Sharsheret’s work, first in her local community, and then throughout America and Israel, deeply impacted the people it touched, and that was something that continually nourished her as well. What we give, we get. 

      Pirkei Avot 1:14 states, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” The Idea School Just Solutions Program will show students that the things they learn and grow to care about are not only connected to the real world, but to problems that they can find solutions for -- right now. 

Tikvah Wiener

July 2017