Jewish learning Responding to the Needs of Jewish Educators Today

By Sydney Gross

Each week since March 2020, Hebrew College, with support from CJP, has convened a Thursday morning conversation for Jewish education directors in the Greater Boston Area to connect and commiserate during this unprecedented time.

Educators have shared the challenges and demands that they have faced, and the opportunities they see for the future—and Hebrew College has listened and responded.

Now Hebrew College is launching two new timely, accessible, and affordable programs to meet the needs of Jewish educators today: “Thought Partners for Equity and Justice: A Learning Community,” a monthly reflection session with David Rhodes, an educator at Facing History and Ourselves, and “Navigating the Discourse about Israel: Historical Context and Contemporary Conversations,” a six-week seminar taught by Dr. Rachel Fish, a celebrated academic with 20 years of experience in the fields of Israeli history, Zionist thought, and Middle Eastern Studies.

“By coming together every Thursday for the past two years, people really shared their challenges and struggles in honest and genuine ways,” said Marion Gribetz, Director of Educational Initiatives at Hebrew College. “These classes emerged from the immediate challenges that our teachers and educators are facing. They’re not just academic classes. They’re crafted to help people in practice. And they’re being offered at a price point that our local educator can afford, thanks to generous support from CJP.”

“Supporting teachers and educational leaders in congregational schools in growing their practice will improve the educational experiences of the students and families in their programs and communities,” added Dr. Susie Tanchel, Vice President of Hebrew College. “By focusing on the intellectual and pedagogical growth of all the professionals who interact with students, week in and week out, we are investing in further developing the teaching and learning in these institutions. Our work is guided by a belief that teaching is a complex and dynamic process that demands continual improvement.”

These programs are part of MaTaRot: Hebrew College’s Center for Jewish Professional Learning & Leadership. In Hebrew, matarot means “goals.” At Hebrew College, it is an acronym for “Mentoring, Teaching, Reaching Together.” Since its founding as Hebrew Teachers College in 1921, Hebrew College has been committed to training educators to teach in Jewish schools and congregations. MaTaRot’s new professional development offerings, launched as the College celebrates its centennial, broaden the College’s work with teachers and educational leaders.

“The MaTaRoT professional development opportunities lie at the center of Jewish life and learning,” said Susan Morrel, Senior Advisor and Director of Field Experiences in the Graduate Program in Jewish Education at Hebrew College and one of MaTaRoT’s organizers. “In reimagining Jewish learning and leadership for an interconnected world, MaTaRoT opens the doors of possibility to strengthen, support and re-envision the future of Jewish education.”

CEI
Jewish educators came together for a virtual Hebrew College professional development program in Fall 2020.

Along with the new programs, MaTaRoT will continue to offer its weekly conversation of Directors of Education in the Greater Boston Area to share, explore, and critically respond to the opportunities and demands of their important work—which up to 30 people often attend—as well as monthly seminars that it launched last year on current topics such as equity and justice in Jewish education; inclusion in Jewish life; Jewish arts; as well as book discussions. Educators can register individually for these programs.

In addition, Hebrew College will continue its Program in Instructional Leadership, a two-year professional learning community for a cohort of congregational school leaders to learn and practice mentoring, share experiences, and identify and discuss key challenges and opportunities in the field of Jewish supplementary education. Hebrew College will also continue to work with selected teachers and educational directors from schools to introduce project-based learning into their curricula and structure, as well as individualized coaching sessions and customized professional development workshops where educators can develop and deepen skills in areas such as change management, interpersonal communication, supervision, and leadership. In addition, through its partnership with the Institute of Jewish Spirituality, Hebrew College will continue to work with congregational schools on integrating mindfulness and meditation into their classrooms and communities.

“During the pandemic, like many other industries, we, the Jewish educational ecosystem, adapted,” Gribetz said. “Education directors and schools upped their game in so many significant ways. Hebrew College has concurrently upped our game to support them in a deeper and more robust way, and to respond to the challenging times that we’re all living through. We are excited to provide even more opportunities for educators to reflect on their practice, to increase their subject matter knowledge, and to develop new pedagogical skills.”

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