JData: a Powerful New Tool for Educational Organizations

JData.com, a groundbreaking online database that promises to revolutionize data management and sharing for Jewish communities and their education organizations, today launches its 2010-2011 national outreach, calling on Jewish camps, schools, and early childhood centers to enter their organization’s data into the site.

Conceived and funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation and developed by the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, JData.com is partnering nationwide with Jewish federations and local and national agencies to offer unprecedented high-quality, reliable and practical information to the world of Jewish education.

JData’s mission is to strengthen the Jewish education sector by making available high-quality data that support fact-based decision-making in four key ways:

  • helping local Jewish educational organizations improve their planning and increase their grant activities;
  • helping Jewish federations and central agencies manage allocations and grant making more efficiently;
  • adding to the national agencies’ capacity to support the growth and development of their member organizations;
  • and supporting the efforts of advocates and researchers to advance knowledge and stimulate action in the field of Jewish education.

“JData is a much-needed source of information in Jewish education,” according to Professor Amy Sales, associate director of the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies. “It answers research and planning questions for educational organizations, community agencies, funders, researchers, consultants, and community members. A few simple clicks gives them clear, concise information on key indicators related to Jewish educational organizations.”

“A school or camp’s part is to put their organization’s data into JData.com,” continued Sales. “They then can generate reports for planning, recruitment, communications, and fundraising – all at no cost to them.”

Participating organizations also put in information about program expertise and innovation. Users of the website can search for organizations doing work of  particular interest to them, whether in teen programming, family education, special needs, professional development or other areas of practice.

JData is organized by type of organization, ranging from part-time and day schools to summer camps to campus organizations. Each organization’s data are completely confidential, but aggregated, anonymous information is available to all users. Organizations can use JData to benchmark their tuition, enrollment, and other key indicators against those of similar programs.

JData is also organized by community so that Jewish communal leaders can use it to draw a picture of Jewish education in their community and to assist their local agencies in planning, developing, and promoting their programs. JData is a longitudinal tool that over time will provide trend data. Some communities and national agencies are adding special summary reports, professional network meetings, as well as use of JData profile for funding requests.

“Communities and national umbrella agencies that are using JData as a ‘common app’ can replace their myriad requests for information with a single JData request,” added Sales. For example, the Foundation for Jewish Camp recently announced that they will use JData for their annual camp census.

JData.com was conceived in a collaboration between the Jim Joseph Foundation and Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies. In 2006 the Foundation’s board engaged the Cohen Center to “map” the field of Jewish education, a project that led to a prototype database. Seeing its potential to display the world of Jewish education not only to funders but also to practitioners and researchers, the foundation decided to invest in what would become one of its signature projects.

Since 2009, JData has been working with local Jewish federations and central agencies for Jewish education to gather data from all Jewish educational organizations within their catchment areas. JData is currently active in communities throughout North America including Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Northern New Jersey, Palm Beach County, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco, St. Louis and Washington, DC.

JData consults with participating Jewish federations and central agencies on ways to analyze and interpret community-level data. “We will regularly validate a community’s data, review missing or improbable information, and contact organizations for additions and corrections,” added Sales. In addition to support from the JData research team, the federation or central agency can go to Research on JData.com and download the dataset for their community.