President David Ellenson has announced the appointment of Michael Zeldin, Professor of Jewish Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in Los Angeles, to the newly created position of Director of Day School Programs and Projects. “I am appointing Professor Zeldin to this new post,” said President Ellenson, “in recognition of the vital role he has played in working with Jewish day schools since the Reform Movement signaled its official approval of day schools seventeen years ago. In his new position, Dr. Zeldin will continue to work on behalf of the College-Institute to foster the liberal day school movement.”
There are currently nineteen Reform Jewish day schools in North America, educating approximately 6,000 children from more than eighty Reform congregations. Approximately 100 additional Jewish day schools enroll children from families who belong to Reform congregations. Day schools thus provide an educational option for families who want their children to participate in a Jewish environment on a full-time basis during their formative years.
Currently, Dr. Zeldin heads three HUC-JIR programs devoted to helping Jewish day schools realize their enormous potential. The schools involved in the projects, whether they are Reform or community day schools, educate children from Reform Jewish families. Jewish Day Schools for the 21st Century (JDS-21) has worked with thirteen day schools across North America to examine their Jewish mission and deepen their Jewish character. Funded by the AVI CHAI Foundation, JDS-21 engages parents, teachers and board members in conversation about the guiding Jewish values of the schools. These conversations emerge from the study of Jewish texts and a careful examination of life at the school. Participants in the schools then envision how they might make these values come to life in programs for children and adults, in the daily life of the school, and in policies and procedures.
Dr. Zeldin is also Academic Director of DeLeT: Day School Leadership through Teaching, a national fellowship program to recruit, prepare and retain teachers for Jewish day schools. DeLeT fellows participate in two summers of study at HUC-JIR in Los Angeles and are placed in a Jewish day school classroom where they are mentored by an experienced teacher. During the year they continue to study at HUC-JIR as they prepare to assume positions as general studies and/or Jewish studies teachers who can help children prepare for rich and fulfilling lives as Jews in America. Funded by a philanthropic fund headed by Laura Heller Lauder, DeLeT is situated at two academic sites (HUC-JIR in Los Angeles and Brandeis University in Boston) and works with nine cooperating day schools in Los Angeles, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Boston and Providence.
Under the joint mentorship of Dr. Zeldin and experienced day school leaders, HUC-JIR also offers a Post-Graduate Residency in Day School Education for graduates of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education. Funded by the Righteous Persons Foundation, the residency offers select graduates of HUC-JIR’s school of education the opportunity to learn about professional life in day schools. Residents are currently serving at Temple Israel of Hollywood Day School and the Abraham Joshua Heschel West Day School, both in the greater Los Angeles area.
“In his new position as Director of Day School Programs and Projects, Dr. Zeldin will continue to foster the growth and improvement of day schools which educate Reform Jewish children,” said Dr. Lewis Barth, Dean of HUC-JIR’s Los Angeles campus. “The College-Institute will thus continue its pioneering work in Jewish day school education by helping day schools grow and improve, and by preparing teachers and educational leaders for the future.”
Professor Zeldin is principal author and co-editor of Touching the Future: Mentoring and the Jewish Professional. His many publications include articles on Jewish day schools appearing in The Journal of Jewish Education, Religious Education, Studies in Jewish Education, The CCAR Journal, Reform Judaism, Compass, CAJE Jewish Education News, and The Jewish Educational Leaders Handbook. He is annual guest editor of the Journal of Jewish Education, a member of the Editorial Board of the UAHC Press, and curriculum consultant to the UAHC’s new CHAI Curriculum.
Dr. Zeldin is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. He received his M.A. in Hebrew Education from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California.