Professional Development: Systemic and Community Wide
Jewish Community of Montreal Introduces New Model for Educator Training

By Natana Shek and Clare Goldwater

As Jewish professionals involved in delivering professional development to experiential educators, we operate from the assumption that powerful and impactful Jewish education will only be as good as the educators delivering it. And despite the expanding reach of online learning frameworks, we believe that in-person and immersive professional development is integral to how we support the educators that we know are the lynchpins in creating engaging education that focuses on identity development.

Even with high-quality professional development, however, we know that a perennial challenge is for educators to actually implement their new learnings “back at home.” Educators return to their work environment inspired by their new learnings, only to discover that their colleagues, upon hearing them, do not have the same language or new knowledge,making it difficult to implement new ideas. Ultimately, while individuals gain a lot from professional development, the impact could be far greater if, instead of experiencing the learning as an isolated representative of their organization, they participated with their colleagues or, even better, a supervisor.  

The Montreal Jewish community is taking these challenges seriously and launching – in partnership with : The Institute for Experiential Jewish Education – a new community-wide, systemic professional development initiative that invests in educators and organizations across the city. Over the course of the next two years, the Passport to Jewish Life Fellowship will engage educators and their supervisors from a diverse range of institutions and organizations across the community. Through a series of in-person seminars, supported by an ongoing Community of Practice, these educators will gain a shared language and new tools for experiential education. When they return to their own organization, they will have the support of a cohort of educators, as well as their supervisors, that can help them navigate implementation within the context of Montreal and a shared understanding of communal impact. Ultimately, they will learn that they are not defined by which organization they work for but by their identity as Jewish educators and that the skills and language they share can be applied in numerous settings, all toward the common purpose and strategy that is driving their community.

This initiative is indeed part of a larger strategic initiative, Passport to Jewish Life, which aims to revolutionize the Jewish communal landscape by investing in people, programs and innovative technology to ensure continuous relevant engagement opportunities for its diverse and changing Jewish community.

“The front-line workers in this field are the role models for those we aspire to engage. The approach being taken by Passport for Jewish Life, in partnership with M², is so important in establishing professional development as one of the initial programs being supported by the funder’s coalition. We are looking forward to the outcomes that will be achieved with enhanced training of experiential Jewish educators and their supervisors.” ~Shawna Goodman Sone, Chair, Morris and Rosalind Goodman Family Foundation

We are convinced that it is of critical importance to help all Jewish educators (and we define educators in the broadest sense of the word) learn and grow on a continuing basis. The initiative will teach us a great deal about how to build ongoing, high-quality professional development that can be applied in a systemic way so that not only will the individuals involved be impacted, but also the broader community context will see change. Creating a shared approach to professional development in Montreal will enable educators to grow and learn and impact the community overall.

This community-wide change program is initiated by Federation CJA and the Passport to Jewish Life funders and will be operated by : The Institute for Experiential Jewish Education.

Participation in this program is by invitation only. For more information, please contact Natana Shek at natana.shek@federationcja.org or 514-734-1397

Passport is generously funded by a collaborative, led by Federation CJA and powered by the Sylvan Adams Family Foundation, the Azrieli Foundation, the Claudine and Stephen Bronfman Family Foundation, the Morris and Rosalind Goodman Family Foundation, the Alvin Segal Family Foundation and The Jewish Community Foundation of Montreal.

Natana Shek is the Director of Federation CJA’s Generations Fund and Passport to Jewish Life.

Clare Goldwater is the Director of Partnerships and Consulting Services at : The Institute for Experiential Jewish Education. She can be reached at clare@ieje.org.