So I wrote this post for the Machon Siach blog. I’m kind of hoping that we may be on the cusp of some structural communal change.
Author Archives: Jonathan Kroll
Haggada as Tefilla
I felt like I needed to frame this year’s seder differently than usual. How to celebrate geula in a way that is responsive to the reality of the pandemic? What wisdom of previous generations can we tap into? Here’s pretty much what I said to my family before we began kiddush at the first seder. Continue reading
Rabbi Shmuel Hain has been asking his shul members to share reflections on our current situation. Here’s what I shared with our shul for שבת הגדול:
Perhaps it’s because I spent one of my formative years in Gruss Kollel in Jerusalem during a spate of bus bombings Continue reading
Graduation Speech 2019: Mountain Climbing
Below is the speech I delivered at last night’s graduation. Annotations are in red.
Mazal Tov, Congratulations, Felicidades. (In order to understand this speech you need to know that our senior class travelled to Guatemala last week for its senior trip. In order to understand why we travelled to Guatemala, I’ll need to write another post. Suffice it to say that the trip was extraordinary.) The past four years have been a journey that we have travelled together. I’ve sometimes felt like the dad driving, listening to the kids in the backseat say “Are we there yet?” Well, we are here now. You’ve made it and you should be very proud of yourselves. After learning to navigate the narrow pathways of our school in BRS for 2 years, you quickly learned how to travel the scenic highways of our new campus over your junior and senior years. In order to travel well, you’ve been guided by your parents, your teachers and your friends, all who together formed a GPS of sorts, a crowdsourced navigation system, much like waze. Let’s actually talk about navigation systems like waze for a few minutes. Continue reading
Shabbaton Derasha 2018: Mind the Mind
When Spanish photographer Antonio Guillem went to work one day in 2015, he had no idea that his work would become famous.
Graduation Speech 2018- annotated
Below is the speech I gave at last night’s KYHS graduation ceremony. My annotations are in red.
It lasted about 48 hours. Maybe 72. It was fascinating, frustrating, eye opening or more accurately ear opening, and if you were a normal person like me, of course you heard Yanny. Continue reading
Graduation Speech 2016 Annotated. Yes, 2016.
I just posted my graduation speech that I gave a couple of weeks ago and I realized that I never posted the speech from the previous year. Annotations in red. It’s not very fresh in mind, so the annotations are few:
This past weekend I had the good fortune of joining the seniors on their trip to New York. It was great. I found myself along with the seniors laughing and smiling the whole time. My highlight was our participation in the Salute to Israel parade down 5th Avenue. From 56th street to 72nd Street our seniors sang more loudly than the music blaring from the speakers on the floats and danced more energetically than the professional marching bands, as the spectators cheered for us approvingly. You guys were incredible. Your happiness, your laughter, your smiling got me thinking and I’d like to share some thoughts with you tonight about happiness. Continue reading
Graduation Speech 2017 Annotated
Here are my remarks from this year’s graduation. The speech I delivered is in black. My comments on the speech are in red.
When you were just in eighth grade, applying, it, like you had just begun. Now 4 years later, it like you is wildly successful, also surpassing high expectations. 4 years ago, it wasn’t sure what direction it would take, but now like you, it has matured and after some tweaks and a bit of reinventing, the addition of some new features and the fixing of certain bugs, it like you has found its place. Its market cap has recently been hovering around 30 billion dollars.
I refer to Continue reading
We’re on our way back from an extraordinary shabbaton in Orlando. The theme was “OurLANDo- Exploring our Connection to Israel.” I spoke in shul on shabbos morning. Below are my remarks:
Shabbat Shalom. I want to start this derasha by reading to you from a tattered old notebook that’s almost 30 years old. 29 years ago, when I graduated high school I went to study in Yeshivat Hakotel. I decided to keep a journal- and it was a great decision. Continue reading
Ranting and Ranking
It’s been a while since I last wrote anything here, but I’ve decided to jot down some thoughts about a question I received from parents of a prospective student a few days ago. Why, they asked, was our school not ranked high on a website that someone had showed them. I was actually glad that they asked me the question, because I had a lot to say on the matter. In fact, 2 weeks ago when I stumbled across the website in question (niche.com) I was so taken aback by the misleading (that’s being generous) nature of their system for ranking schools, that I decided to send a letter to our parent body alerting them to the site’s problems. But then I resisted sending out the email, figuring that it might look defensive and that it would be probably be smarter to just ignore it. Well, when these parents came to my office and raised the question, I figured it would make sense to share my thoughts on this blog, rather than in an official communication from my school. Here’s the substantive part of the letter I considered sending to the parents and students of the school. My purpose in sharing this is to encourage people to be discerning consumers of information and to resist the simplistic reduction of superficial systems of rankings:
Last week, a parent showed me a website (niche.com) that ranked high schools. I was surprised to see what seemed like a very odd assortment of schools ranked in a very odd order. A couple of days later I received an email from an account executive at this website asking if our school would be willing to pay a $4,000 annual fee for a premium profile on their site.
There are three basic reasons why I am avoiding this site and suggesting that you also avoid registering with them or sharing your personal information:
- I don’t think that sites which rank schools should make money off of those schools. It just doesn’t smell right.
- The method by which they rank schools is based almost exclusively on self reported, unverified data collected from anyone who registers on their website. When I asked the account executive from niche.com whether it is possible for suporters or critics of a particular school to either inflate or lower a school’s ranking by registering multiple times under multiple email addresses and skewing the data, she replied that while it is possible, the site uses algorthims that are meant to adjust for that possibility. I did not find this convincing.
- The site’s system of ranking is based on extraordinarily small sample sizes which make all the results of the rankings suspect. When I pointed this out to the account executive at niche.com, she responded that, “Niche is very transparent in terms of displaying the number of responses that make up a particular score or value when it incorporates self-reported data.” I don’t think that they are as transparent as they should be, but indeed if you look carefully you can see on their website how many self-reported responses are used for each school to compile a certain ranking. As I write this email, the school that is ranked as the number 1 Jewish school in the country is listed as having had 7 responses contributing data about it! Don’t get me wrong, I am certain that the school is terrific, but assigning a ranking based on seven responses is silly at best and misleading at worst.