Opportunities and challenges

New Mandel educational leadership program confronts big questions

Jewish education in North America faces a breathtaking array of opportunities and challenges. The field needs leaders with big ideas and the capacities to bring them to life which is why The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation launched a new fellowship: the Mandel Educational Leadership Program, a cohort-based fellowship, which will function as a leadership development program, a forum for theoretical and programmatic innovation and a catalyst for the weaving of networks. 

Led by a core faculty, including Tova Birnbaum, Jonathan Krasner and Devora Steinmetz, fellows will confront big questions about the purposes and forms of Jewish education: Should Jewish education primarily foster a sense of belonging to the Jewish people, religious commitment or learners’ social/emotional well-being? Should we prioritize textual and cultural fluency or inspiring acts of social justice and civic engagement? What should be the place of Israel in Jewish education? What content foci and pedagogies best serve these various purposes, and what are the areas of overlap and synergy? 

In a signature element of the program, master educators will lead the fellows in Jewish learning experiences that express their distinctive visions and purposes. Fellows will unpack and critically examine the learning experiences and the visions that undergird them, and imagine how they might integrate the work within their own educational settings. Fellows will have the space to synthesize and refine their own visions and communicate them to the broader field. 

The program will also support the fellows in their growth as leaders. Fellows will share their leadership challenges, ideas and aspirations with each other as they engage in an expert-guided leadership growth curriculum, emphasizing relational leadership, emotional intelligence, organizational change and cross-setting collaboration. 

The mixed-setting character of the cohort will enrich the conversations and leadership growth, as leaders from different educational settings bring different perspectives and areas of expertise. The program aims to cultivate networks of relationships and broad-minded approaches to leadership that will stimulate cross-setting cooperation, such as day school faculty teaching in supplementary schools or camp counselors feeding the pipeline for the next generation of supplementary school teachers and youth group leaders. 

Applications for the new fellowship remain open through late October. The fellowship seeks candidates who currently hold leadership/supervisory roles, but exceptional teacher leaders will also be considered. We aim to establish cohorts that span the denominational spectrum (and beyond) and represent the diversity of the Jewish community.

Rabbi Jethro Berkman is a program officer in Jewish education for the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation. Inquiries can be directed to him at: jberkman@mandelfoundation.org.