On September 20, 2015, six teachers, one madrichim (teacher assistant) from Israel, Temple
Sinai Director of Education, Patti Kahn, and CTE teacher and Connected Wisdom Lecturer,
Mary Pennock, assembled for a Professional Development Training to experience the innovative
Connection Circle Method, a method that was developed based on ancient Jewish wisdom and
on modern science.
The circle, Mary explained, is the traditional form of Jewish connection, how Jews studied
together throughout history, how children were educated, how judges and sages chosen by
Moses studied together. The meetings of the historical Sanhedrin were also conducted in a circle.
Connected Wisdom has honed its unique Circle Method by blending the traditional wisdom of
the circle with breakthroughs in positive psychology.
The result is an innovative method for discovering new solutions to deal with today’s problems
in a practical and inspiring way. The Circle Method fosters a positive environment, collective
wisdom, and group creativity by facilitating connection and mutual agreement. By learning to
truly listen to one another and discover the center of the circle, we reveal something greater than
the sum of the participants. The Connected Wisdom Method is, in fact, a method that empowers
us to actually live the law, “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Words are one thing; feeling on the flesh is another. Connected Wisdom is not mere theory. The
Connection Circle is a dynamic phenomenon that can only be experienced firsthand. Mary
described to the teachers the Rules of the Connection Circle that would allow the discussion to
flow between them. Participants were guided on how to speak to the center of the circle, how to
use the Circle as a means to connect their students by truly listening to one another without
judgment to find common ground. The teachers related the importance of the sensation created in
the circle and sense of mutual support to their own life experiences that further enhanced the
feeling of unity they now shared, each participant’s words spoken from the heart. They learned
how to discover wisdom and meaningful connection in this unique forum for discussion.
With a deep level of sensitivity, each participant answered the question for the person sitting next
to them: “What is the ideal environment for your professional/personal success?” Answering for
another required opening up and tuning in to someone else’s needs and desires, the same
sensitivity that teachers hope to further instill in their students and further extend that level of
care among the families at Temple Sinai.
When Patti Kahn and the teachers shared their hearts and insights into connecting with one
another and with the students, it became clear that the Circles Method fully supports the mission
of Temple Sinai Religious School: “Inspire our students to feel at home in the synagogue and in
our Temple community.”
Your selection of quotes and exercises were perfect and had a very strong and contemplative effect on the faculty. You helped very busy, very different people contemplate who they really are and who they want to be. You reminded them of why they do this work. You connected them to one another, so that now they will want to do the same for their students. Thank you for forging the path for us. Your work in Connected Wisdom is very worthwhile and so important. ~ Patti Kahn, Religious School Director, Temple Sinai
To support the efforts of Temple Sinai to create the warm feeling of a neighborhood among its
community – the vision of Rabbi Stuart Gershon – Mary conducted a mini Connection session
for 17 madrichim to experience a taste of the Circle Method.
The teachers who experienced Connected Wisdom’s Circle Method summed up the Professional
Development Training with one word impressions: “Inspiring,” “Revealing,” “Insightful,”
“Thoughtful,” and “Transformational.” Jack, veteran teacher and madrichim coordinator
remarked, “This was the best professional development ever at the school.” Having learned an
empirically-based fact from Mary, the 10% factor of social contagion, one teacher commented,
“I influence a thousand other people.”
In other words, connection is the basis of all learning. Teachers came away not only with a
deepened sense of self and each other, but with the keen recognition that connection is crucial
beyond students and staff; it is crucial to the entire world.
Judaism must present something new to the nations. This is what they expect from the return of Israel to the land! … It is the religion of wisdom, justice, and peace.