Isa Aron - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Isa Aron, Ph.D.

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Professor Emerita of Jewish Education

HUC-JIR/Los Angeles

Rhea Hirsch School of Education, Los Angeles; Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education
Academic Field: 
Jewish Education
Research Interests: 
Congregational Education ; Professional Development ; Ideologies of Education

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Isa Aron is Professor Emerita of Jewish Education at the Rhea Hirsch School of Education (RHSOE) of HUC-JIR's Skirball Campus in Los Angeles. She was the Founding Director of the RHSOE’s Experiment in Congregational Education, and now co-directs the B’nai Mitzvah Revolution, a joint project of HUC-JIR and the Union for Reform Judaism.

A graduate of Swarthmore College, Isa holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education from the University of Chicago, where her dissertation concerned the moral education of adolescents.  After completing her Ph.D. Isa had a post-doctoral fellowship in community psychology and social change at the Albert Einstein Medical School.  Concurrently, she worked on the planning of the City College Campus High School in New York, and also founded (along with a group of teachers and parents) the Havurah School, an alternative Jewish school on New York's Upper West Side. 

After two years of post-doctoral work Isa moved to Los Angeles, in 1978, to direct the M.U.S.E. Project, at the HUC Skirball Museum.  This project, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, created museum-based curricular kits for public school children in L.A.  As the Skirball Museum began to expand, Isa became its Director of Education.

In 1984 Isa joined the RHSOE faculty.  She has taught courses in teaching, philosophy of education, organizational development, and research, and conducted extensive research on Jewish teachers, including the 1988 Los Angeles Teacher Census, which served as a prototype for subsequent studies in many Jewish communities. 

In 1991, upon receipt of major grants from the Mandel Associated Foundations and the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Covenant Foundation, and the Koret Foundation, Isa (along with her colleague Sara Lee, Director of the RHSOE) launched the Experiment in Congregational Education.  To date the project has worked with over 60 congregations throughout North America in their efforts to reconfigure their educational programs and transform themselves into learning communities. Isa continues to serve as a Senior Consultant to this project.

The B’nai Mitzvah Revolution ( founded in June, 2012, currently works with 90 synagogues to help them deepen the engagement of children and parents in bar/bat mitzvah preparation and observance.

Isa has published numerous articles on moral education, philosophy of education, educational change, and Jewish teachers in such journals as the American Journal of Education, Philosophy of Education, Journal of Jewish Education, Religious Education, Tikkun, and the CCAR Journal; in addition, she is the lead editor of A Congregation of Learners: Transforming the Synagogue into a Learning Community, published by the UAHC Press in 1995.   She is the author of two books published by Jewish Lights Press: Becoming a Congregation of Learners (2000) and The Self-Renewing Congregation (2002). Together with Steven M. Cohen, Lawrence Hoffman and Ari Y. Kelman, she is the author of Sacred Strategies: Becoming a Visionary Congregation, , (Alban Press 2010), winner of the 2010 National Jewish Book Award.

Isa is married to the noted photographer of Jewish communities, Bill Aron; they have two adult sons, Hillel and Jesse.

Selected Publications and Edited Works

Sacred Strategies: Transforming Congregations from Functional to Visionary. (with Steven M. Cohen, Lawrence Hoffman and Ari Y. Kelman) Washington, DC: Alban Press, 2010. Winner of the 2010 National Jewish Book Award, in the category of Education and Jewish Identity.

The Self-Renewing Congregation: Organizational Strategies for Revitalizing Synagogue Life. Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, 2002

Becoming a Congregation of Learners: Learning as a Key to Revitalizing Congregational Life. Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, 2000.