New Institute to Professionalize the Field of Experiential Jewish Education Through Multiple Initiatives

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By Shuki Taylor

Since its inception in September 2016, M²: The Institute for Experiential Jewish Education has provided training programs to more than 100 educators in Israel and North America.

With a vision toward elevating the reach, impact and depth of experiential Jewish education by harnessing current research, cross-disciplinary expertise, cutting edge methods, and Jewish values, texts and traditions, M² will serve the global Jewish community by:

  1. Developing dynamic and innovative training materials (content, theory, methods and resources) that will inform the work of experiential Jewish educators and help them sharpen their practice.
  2. Disseminating this new material to educators over the course of their careers through myriad professional development opportunities.
  3. Providing professional development opportunities that both inform the work of experiential Jewish educators, and inspire them to feel a deep sense of purpose in their profession, and make a long-lasting commitment to it.

As a result of these carefully crafted professional development opportunities, the educators trained in M² programs possess a strong sense of pride in and commitment towards their work, a clear and articulate vision, and the knowledge and skills – deeply rooted in theory and in Jewish values and texts – that enable them to create powerful educational experiences that strengthen individual and communal Jewish identities.

Shuki Taylor, Founder and Executive Director of M², describes the meaning behind the name: “M² represents Machshava and Ma’aseh – Intention and Action – two values whose interplay is at the core of Jewish life. At M² we believe that these values are the foundations of experiential Jewish education. M² is also Melechet Machshevet – Deliberate Craft – an idea that guided the building of the Mishkan – the Tabernacle – Judaism’s greatest act and expression of experiential Jewish education.”

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M²’s flagship program is the Senior Educators Cohort (SEC), a 10-month program that includes three immersive seminars as well as customized mentoring and coaching. Launched in November 2016, the inaugural cohort is comprised of a diverse group of thirty-one educators from North America, Israel, and Australia, working on campuses and in camps, youth movements, day schools, federations, community agencies, foundations, and organizations dedicated to service learning, Israel education and community teen engagement.

Recognizing the need to significantly invest in the professional development of experiential Jewish educators, the Senior Educators Cohort is generously supported by the Maimonides Fund. “Investing in a cadre of excellent senior educators who are plying their craft in non-formal settings is more critical now than ever before,” notes Mark Charendoff, President of the Maimonides Fund. “We used to think of Jewish education as something that was mainly experienced in a classroom. But today, tens of thousands of young Jews are educated in the Negev via Birthright and Onward, at weekend retreats via Moishe House and BBYO, and at Havdallah by the lake at Jewish summer camps.”

The Senior Educators Cohort challenges participants to completely re-examine their approach, regardless of how much field experience they already possess. “As someone with nine years of experience as Jewish Chaplain at Brandeis University, and upon entering a new position at Combined Jewish Philanthropies, I was looking to hone my craft. What I got at the M² Senior Educators Cohort was a revamp of my entire philosophy of Jewish Education and a stellar group of new colleagues,” says Elyse Winick, Director of Adult Learning at Combined Jewish Philanthropies.

M² also partners with communities and organizations to form Community Cohorts – intensive and immersive professional development programs that promote and develop local talent. The Community Cohorts include a series of three convenings that blend intensive theory with immediate practical application.

Community Cohorts serve as a laboratory for educators to experiment with their learnings in a cohort environment. “One of the central pillars of Chicago’s teen initiative, Springboard, is investment in our community’s Jewish Youth Professionals (CYP). When we thought about ways to engage CYPs in high-level professional development and learning, we partnered with M² to create a cohort model that provides skills and knowledge while helping participants create a strong network of peers from other organizations,” describes Hallie Shapiro, Associate Vice President for Community Outreach and Engagement at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. “The Chicago M² Cohort is providing local CYPs the building blocks of Experiential Jewish Education, while facilitating that strong peer network. My overlapping participation in the Senior Educators Cohort further supports Springboard by equipping me to help lead future local cohorts as well as standalone workshops.”

M² currently operates community cohorts in Miami, Chicago and Denver, and in Israel in Yerucham and with Masa.

In addition to cohort based programs, M² also offers a range of short and long-term consulting services, partnering with organizations to help craft unique educational approaches and methods. Organizations that M² currently works with include, among others, Hillel International’s Office of Innovation and the Bronfman Fellowship.

“After thirty years of running a successful program for outstanding Jewish teens, we decided it was time to take a step back and re-examine the goals and ideas that underpin The Bronfman Fellowship,” explains Rebecca Voorwinde, Executive Director of The Bronfman Fellowship. “M² was the natural choice for facilitating the creative process that allowed us to better identify areas for growth, and ensure that our work is based on concrete and sustainable pedagogic and methodological principles.” Of their partnership with Hillel International, Chief Innovation Officer Dan Smokler adds: “M² are extraordinary partners for educational planning.  They are both visionary and intuitive, professional and competent.  They amplify our current projects while catalyzing new possibilities.”

M² is shaping the vision and practice of educators across the field of experiential Jewish education. To bring M² to your community contact: info@ieje.org.

Applications for Cohort 2 of the Senior Educators Cohort open on January 11.
Visit www.ieje.org to learn more.

M² is a partner institute at the iCenter.