My Sheva Journey
The practice of gematria, or the spiritual interpretation of numbers, is common in Jewish tradition and is one technique for understanding sacred texts in Judaism. Commonly, we think of the number 18 for its meaning of Chai or “life.” We often gift a new baby, Bar/Bat Mitzvah child or bride and groom $18, $36 or other denomination of Chai to signify a good omen for life. The Jewish tradition of gifting, contributing, or donating in increments of $18 is considered a good deed, or mitzvah.
The number seven is also one of the greatest power numbers in Judaism, representing Creation, good fortune and blessing. The letters in the Hebrew word for luck, gad, adds up to seven and the word for luck, mazal, equals 77. In Hebrew, the word for seven is Sheva, but to me the word Sheva means so much more. The magical power of Sheva has been instrumental in changing my life.
Three years ago, while I was teaching preschool at ‘Z’ Frank Apachi, Leanne Nathan, who is the director and also my mentor, colleague and friend, invited me to apply to be a part of the Sheva Covenant Early Childhood Directors Institute. The Institute was created by Mark Horowitz, Vice President and Director of the Sheva Center for Innovation in Early Childhood Jewish Education and Family Engagement for JCC Association of North America (JCCA), to address a national shortage of qualified, experienced, professional leaders in early childhood Jewish education.
The three-year fellowship included in-person retreats to various cities across North America, long-distance learning, mentoring programs and a study trip to Israel. Fellows also worked to obtain their national director’s credential, Aim4Excellence, through the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership at National Louis University in Chicago. I was honored to be selected from over 100 JCCs in North America to be one of 20 Sheva Covenant Early Childhood Directors Institute Fellows.
The Sheva Framework identifies seven Jewish lenses that help guide discussions, resolve challenges that arise, and inspire and inform educators. The Sheva lenses open windows to Jewish values, create a learning platform, and are lived in the classroom as well as throughout the extended school community every day. The lenses provide a shared language and perspective for building communities, piquing curiosity, enhancing relationships, and making the world a better place.
One of the seven Sheva Jewish lenses is Masa, meaning journey. I was humbled and honored to begin my journey as a fellow to enrich our early childhood programs at JCC Chicago.
I’ve had the opportunity to travel to many high-quality early childhood centers throughout North America with my Sheva cohort, and learn with some of the brightest, most talented early childhood professionals in the field. I was privileged to study the seven Sheva lenses by reading and discussing Jewish text and relating them to our critical work with children and partnerships with families. I feel blessed to bring my learning and experiences to life for JCC Chicago, in our classrooms and in partnership with my colleagues.
I am excited to begin my new role as Manager of Curriculum and Professional Development, and formally incorporate the Sheva framework throughout our centers. Please stay tuned! I plan to take you on a journey of your own as we reimagine how the seven Jewish lenses can enrich our interactions with one another, develop our children’s capacity to be confident and contributing members of our community, and strengthen the connection between home and school.