Jewish learning MaTaRoT Helps Jewish Educators Thrive

By Josh Polanski
dutch-matarot cohort

Hebrew College is strengthening the world of Jewish education one professional at a time through our MaTaRoT, Center for Jewish Professional Learning & Leadership. In the first year of the program, almost 300 teachers and educators participated in MaTaRoT offerings, from communities of practice, project-based learning, and workshops to short courses and private coaching. MaTaRoT, meaning “goals,” describes the work the Center does together with educators around the country: Mentoring, Teaching, and Reaching Together.

“The relationships with colleagues through this network have been truly invaluable, and I am pleased to partake in MaTaRoT experiences alongside many of these talented people,” added Rabbi Sam Pollak, the director of congregational learning at Congregation Kerem Shalom in Concord, Massachusetts.

One retired public school educator decided to adapt her special education training, particularly in teaching reading, in retirement to teaching Hebrew reading at a synagogue in a school setting. “I was most inspired by the dedication, commitment, knowledge, and passion of the other participants. It had been years since I was regularly involved in professional development classes. I missed the collegiality, which these classes provided and the sparking of new ideas and sharing of resources, also gained from these classes.”

The Center’s reimagined menu of professional development offerings is guided by a belief that supporting teachers and educational leaders in congregational schools serves to deepen and broaden the experiences of the professionals, and thus the students and the families in their programs. “MaTaRoT offers many opportunities for educators at all stages of their careers to participate in a supportive, professional learning community. Courses, workshops, coaching and communities of practice provide settings for collegial conversation and deepening of practice,” said Marion Gribetz, director of educational initiatives at Hebrew College. “Offered online, educators from around the world can join in the community of professionals all working on meaningful authentic learning experiences for their communities.”

“MaTaRoT is the go-to place for relevant and meaningful Jewish professional development and learning opportunities for educators at all stages,” said Susan Morrel, senior advisor and director of field experiences for Hebrew College’s Master of Jewish Education program.

Rabbi Pollak, a member of the coaching cohort for more than a year and a half, first fell in love with Jewish education growing up and working at the URJ’s Goldman Union Camp Institute. After becoming a rabbi, he pursued a rabbinate that focuses on learning with others of all ages—and has never stopped learning himself. “Having sources of learning and feedback beyond the walls of my own work setting is quite worthwhile. Often situations arise that benefit from outside perspectives, and there are resources out in the professional development world that expand my capacity in my work,” said Pollak.

Professional development is a task best done with others—and the educators at MaTaRoT know this best. “Our center promotes powerful professional learning and inspiring relationships with other educators in the field,” Morrel added.

“One of the amazing things about this group is the collegiality,” said Kim ​Bodemer, the senior director of congregational learning and engagement at Temple Shalom of Newton and member of the education director’s group. “Last spring a group of us partnered to write a grant to the Ruderman Foundation to support educators who in addition to the other roles we filled, took on some of the ‘pastoral’ work to our families and our staffs. We all felt like we needed additional tools and support. Coming together to write this grant not only pooled our financial resources but allowed us and our staff to come together to learn and support one another.” Bodemer added, “Without the benefit of this group, this would not have happened.”

“Each week, my coach helps me frame professional challenges as opportunities to practice my leadership, and we often rehearse strategies that make a direct impact on my work,” Pollak describes. “She has gotten to know me in a way that enables her to give me the kind of feedback I need to grow, and our conversations both ground me in the day-to-day busyness and orient me in my ongoing professional development.”

Learn more and register for winter/spring programs at hebrewcollege.edu/matarot.

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