The Top 11 Reasons Why EVERY Rabbi Should Consider a Career in Jewish Day School

By Micah Lapidus I’m writing this post because I’m something of an anomaly - I’m a rabbi that works at a Jewish day school. Most rabbis, especially Reform and Conservative rabbis, don’t work at Jewish day schools. They work primarily at synagogues - which is great. If they don’t work at synagogues they work at a host of different worthy organizations - also great. But rabbis are radically underrepresented in Jewish day schools. I have some thoughts about why that’s the case (compensation, perceptions, seminary training - to name a few), but this post is dedicated to a different topic: why EVERY rabbi should consider a career in Jewish day school. Rabbi means Teacher. While day school rabbis have an array of duties and varied portfolios one thing that is consistent is that our primary focus is … [Read more...]

A National Catalyst for Jewish Education

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By Marcie Orley When we ask our local Federations what is most important to them - what the single highest priority is for their communities - the response is nearly unanimous. Across North America, local leaders know that nothing is more important than the success of Jewish education. Local Federations reflect this by devoting 30 to 50 percent of their domestic budgets to education, which is either their top or second largest area to which they allocate funds. In this prioritization, they are heirs to centuries-old traditions of making learning a central focus of Jewish life. Each Federation community proudly has talented, passionate, and caring teachers and administrators engaged with students and families in synagogues, day schools, camps, special education programs, and other informal … [Read more...]

Jewish Day School and the Early Childhood Landscape

By Rabbi Elliot Goldberg Recently, I attended a session at an early childhood conference in my community. Attending this session got me thinking about the landscape of Jewish early childhood education. At the session, we learned about a study that described the factors that influence parent decision making to enroll in a Jewish early childhood program. We talked about improving accessibility to our programs by expanding our hours to meet the needs of today’s families. We affirmed the imperative to hire trained educators and commit resources to retain them. We explored the ways in which we could work together as a community-wide system to engage more families and children. There was strong agreement that Jewish early childhood education is a key gateway into the Jewish community and enhances … [Read more...]

Judaism is Resting on Your Shoulders. No Pressure…

By Jessica Downey This weekend thousands of teenagers will pour into Atlanta from across the country both to B’nai Brith Youth Organization (BBYO) International and the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) conventions (BBYO here and NFTY here). They will arrive at hotels and throw themselves into arms belonging to people they know from camp, conclaves, Israel tours and social justice trips. They will laugh, sing, pray, flirt, learn, socialize and skip programs together. They will be told that they are the future leaders of their movements. They may even be told that they are the future of Judaism. No pressure, right? As the director of a supplementary school, I get calls from different parents that generally say the same thing: “Susie Student can’t come to Hebrew school today … [Read more...]

The Third Stage of Jewish Education

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By Aryeh Ben David Jewish education has experienced 2 distinct stages during the last 40 years. The first stage was educating for content. Beginning in the early 70s, centers of Jewish learning opened up throughout Israel and the US. Men and women sought to take control of their Jewish identities by becoming literate in classic Jewish sources. Our goal was to become knowledgeable Jews with educated Jewish minds. Soon the Jewish book-publishing world took off. Formerly inaccessible works became available and accessible to the masses. The Talmud had a Hebrew translation, then a user-friendly English one. Annotated commentaries on the Torah, the Zohar, and Jewish thought, as well as online Jewish education classes, proliferated. Jewish content became accessible, overnight, for both the more … [Read more...]

Avoiding “Excellent Sheep” in Jewish Day Schools

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By Rabbi Noam Silverman, Ph.D. Have you ever wondered why so many Biblical characters were shepherds? The original Big Three: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Rebecca, and Rachel. All of Jacob’s sons. Moses and even King David. All shepherds. Not one farmer, weaver or innkeeper. According to one traditional interpretation, the shepherd embodies important qualities that are also central to leadership, such as the ability to lead others and care for individual and communal needs. Working as shepherds helped our Biblical forefathers nurture the capacities to be leaders of people. But this comparison is also troubling - because people aren’t sheep. Sheep are meek followers. Sheep do what others tell them to do. Sheep lack autonomy and creativity and fiery independence. Do we really want people to act … [Read more...]

Using Group Norms in a School Setting

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[This is the final piece in a series of articles written by participants and alumni of the YU Certificate Program in Experiential Jewish Education (EJE), highlighting EJE related ideas and practices.] By Sarah Gordon When working with groups of student leaders, educators often jump right into event planning or skills training, hesitating to first set aside valuable time to focus on community-building and group dynamics. This year, I decided to dedicate time to discussing “group norms” with the student leaders at Ma’ayanot and to implement group expectation discussions modeled on those that I experienced with my cohort of the Yeshiva University Certificate Program in Experiential Jewish Education. When students have the opportunity to share expectations of how their group should work … [Read more...]

A Parent’s Perspective on a New Era for Jewish Early Childhood Education

By Kerem Szczebak [This piece is the second of a series examining Jewish early childhood education and a new initiative, BUILDing Jewish ECE.] Denver parents are fortunate to live in a city with an abundance of early childhood programs. Here, it is possible to send children as young as infants to top ranking early childhood education (ECE) centers and schools, many of which are nationally accredited, schools that deliver cutting-edge and research validated programming for infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged children. As a mother to two young boys, I appreciate the educational strengths of these top-ranking schools. But, I also value the singular importance of Jewish ECE as a gateway to engaging my family in Jewish life. I am all too aware of the need for quality Jewish education and … [Read more...]