A multi-year, comprehensive research project addressing the recruitment, retention, and development of educators working in Jewish settings in North America is underway, led by CASJE (Consortium for Applied Studies in Jewish Education) and conducted by Rosov Consulting. The research program consists of three main components that examine the career trajectories and experiences of Jewish educators from multiple vantage points. On the Journey (OTJ), the first phase of this study, focuses on the career trajectories and lived experiences of educators employed in the field. The research will build on a Working Paper authored by Rosov Consulting that was released earlier this year from CASJE and The George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development (GSEHD). The new study will explore eight yet-to-be-selected communities representing diversity of Jewish population size, geographic region, and Jewish educational infrastructure.
Over the next 18-20 months, OTJ will investigate 1) Jewish educators, 2) the settings and sectors in which they work, 3) the kinds of professional development and other supports available to them (and whether they have taken advantage of these opportunities), and 4) how these interventions contribute to key outcomes that have implications for professional performance: job retention (length of tenure and career commitment), job satisfaction, and a sense of professional self-efficacy.
In parallel with OTJ, the research project will continue with two additional phases: Preparing for Entry, which will study the career plans of people in the settings from which Jewish educators have tended to come (such as summer camps, longer-term programs in Israel, and college fellowships) to determine the factors that contribute to recruitment into the field; and Mapping the Market (MTM), which will focus on identifying available pre-service training and in-service professional development offerings for Jewish educators, as well as challenges faced by employers and training providers who are coping with personnel shortages and/or saturation.
“Since the overall research program will synthesize data from all three of its strands, the research has the potential to dramatically amplify the field’s understandings of the whole cycle of the recruitment, retention, and development of Jewish educators across multiple sectors,” says Arielle Levites, Managing Director of CASJE.
In order to build on prior studies of Jewish education professionals, the research takes a broad approach in defining who is a “Jewish educator.” Thus, researchers will include a spectrum of professionals involved in designing and delivering experiences for Jewish learning, engagement, connection and meaning.
OTJ in particular will study professionals who work directly with people of any age who identify as Jews, in settings – whether virtual, brick-and-mortar, or outdoor – that aim to help participants find special meaning in Jewish texts, experiences and associations.
This includes five primary sectors within which these professionals work: 1) formal Jewish education (day schools, early childhood education centers, supplementary schools); 2) informal/experiential settings including both immersive (e.g., camp) and non-immersive (e.g., youth organizations, JCCs); 3) those involved in engagement, social justice and innovation; 4) communal organizations that may employ someone in an educational role (e.g., scholars in residence at Federations or Jewish educators at Jewish Family Services); and (5) non-organizational networks and online learning platforms (e.g., independent B’nai mitzvah or Hebrew tutors). By including all these sectors, the researchers’ goal is to not only provide unique insights about the nature of educators and their work, but also to test existing paradigms that see these sectors as distinct from and even exclusive of one another, rather than part of a larger whole.