Bringing it All Together: Networks Platform Launches on The Jewish Educator Portal

By Jonathan Fass

“The best way to predict the future is to create it,” shares Alan Kay, the noted computer scientist who helped to make the personal computer a reality. In March 2020, recognizing COVID’s impending impact on education, The Jewish Education Project harnessed this disruption as an opportunity to build for a better future.

In April 2020, The Jewish Education Project conceived of The Jewish Educator Portal, a virtual gathering place to connect educators around the globe to share resources, network around best practices, and provide opportunities for professional growth. 

And, since launching in August 2020, over 13,000 unique individuals have visited the Portal, representing visitors from the United States, alongside increasing numbers from Israel, Europe, South America, and Australia. 

Before COVID-19, The Jewish Education Project facilitated over thirty-five in-person professional networks and cohort learning programs each year, which brought together educators from Jewish organizations across North America. 

When the pandemic hit, these networks were forced online. Like every other program and initiative, this transition was abrupt – there was little time for proper design and strategy. But beginning this month, each network will have a new home on the Portal, with a set of features appropriately designed to make interactions and knowledge sharing among educators easier and more user-friendly. Within their private network space, educators will connect with other members, facilitate discussions, and share network-only resources. At the same time, these network pages seamlessly integrate with Portal features that are available to all – offering a one-stop virtual space for Jewish educators to share best practices while creating a vibrant online learning community.

Certainly, we know that Jewish educators have been participating in virtual networks for some time now. The network feature, however, of The Jewish Educator Portal is the first digital platform designed specifically with the Jewish educator in mind, integrating many functions previously only available on multiple, disconnected platforms.

As one network participant shared, “The thoughtfully designed network spaces of The Jewish Educator Portal readily facilitate meaningful virtual collaboration, bringing together a peer group of educators to discuss trends, challenges, issues, and strategies in a supportive and confidential environment.”

Today, in addition to our catalog of networks, the Portal offers access to professional development opportunities and a large and diverse collection of online Jewish educational resources, reflecting our collaboration with fourteen partner organizations. 

In the coming months, the Portal’s features will expand to include the opportunity for all registered users to upload and share resources with the Portal community, the addition of an embedded learning management system for asynchronous courses, and the opportunity for selected partner organizations to facilitate their own professional networks through private learning spaces and promote select professional development programming.

Every Jewish educator can access the Portal for free. More importantly, by creating a user account, also free, educators can build community with their peers as they share resources from a personal library and, in turn, learn what resources and content other educators find most useful.

The Portal will continue to evolve as the needs of the Jewish education community develop. It was conceived to address a pressing need at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we believe that the critical role technology has played in Jewish education will remain, and expand, in the foreseeable future. The Jewish Education Project understands the Portal as a launchpad for an expanding set of innovative approaches to engage Jewish educators in digital learning and professional growth. Once engaged in the Portal’s community of networks, we believe educators will appreciate its long-term value as a platform designed to amplify both the reach and impact of their work and the field of Jewish education as a whole.

Jonathan Fass is the Managing Director for Educational Technology and Strategy at The Jewish Education Project.

The Jewish Educator Portal was funded in part through generous support from the Jim Joseph Foundation and Maimonides Fund, through the Jewish Community Response and Impact Fund (JCRIF), and The GS Humane Corp.