Elana MacGilpin began using TAG: Daily Living through a Jewish Lens™ at the Mandell JCC in West Hartford, Connecticut three years ago. At the time, she hadn’t had any training in using the units, comprising stories and activities to trigger discussions of values in both Jewish and universal contexts.
“You don’t need a lot of Jewish training or background,” says MacGilpin, an assistant camp director during summer and the J’s director of community engagement during the year. “You don’t have to be a rabbi to do this, it’s accessible to people who have limited knowledge, and to those who have a lot.”
Since then, with TAG training under her belt, she has expanded her use of the program, developed by JCC Association’s Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Jewish Education (MCJE). Today, she employs it not only in the camp program but also in the JCC’s after school program and in staff training.
TAG — which is winding up a celebration of 10 years — got off the ground with initial funding from George Blumenthal, a leader in the cellular communications industry with a passion for Jewish antiquities and Zionism. Today, JCC Association is working on making it even easier to use, by breaking out the individual activities from each of the existing units, resulting in a fully searchable database on JCCA.me. Try searching for TAG-tivities next time you visit the site.
Known as “TAG-tivities,” about 100 have been completed already and released to the field, according to Dr. David Ackerman, senior vice president and director of MCJE.
“MCJE’s goal is to allow JCCs and JCC camps to mix and match and create their own customized TAG units on themes relevant to that particular moment.” he says. “There are about 55 units, comprising some 500 activities. Each will be separated, tagged with search terms, and posted to JCCA.me, making the entire TAG library more useful.
“This also allows activities that might not be used as often to come into their own, he says.
“They are a lot easier to handle because you’re not looking at a whole book,” says Matt Abrams Gerber, COO of the Riverdale YM-YWHA. Gerber previously worked at JCC Association, overseeing the TAG initiative. “The intention was to create engaging and user-friendly activities; you can hand them off to someone and they can run with it on their own.”
Ackerman points out that more JCCs, such as the one where MacGilpin works, are using TAG in their after school programs, outside the confines of camp. By creating TAG-tivities, JCCs will be able to adjust TAG for use in varied contexts.
“It’s adaptable; you can use as much or as little as you want,” says MacGilpin. “You can use every question, or you can pick and choose. You can modify it so that it works for you.”