$1.8 Million Grant Awarded Towards Creation of Groundbreaking Trans-Denominational Leadership Institute for Synagogue School Principals - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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$1.8 Million Grant Awarded Towards Creation of Groundbreaking Trans-Denominational Leadership Institute for Synagogue School Principals

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Monday, November 1, 2004

$1.8 Million Grant Awarded Towards Creation of Groundbreaking Trans-Denominational Leadership Institute for Synagogue School Principals

New York, NY, September 24, 2004 - A $1.8 million dollar grant has been awarded towards the establishment of the groundbreaking Leadership Institute for Congregational School Principals, a joint project of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) and The Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS). Initiated by UJA-Federation of New York's Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal (CoJIR), this grant marks an important trans-denominational effort to address the need for professional growth in Jewish educational leadership.

The goal of the Institute is to build leadership capacity in Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist congregational and communal schools in New York, Long Island, Westchester and the greater metropolitan region that serve nearly 35,000 students. Forty congregational school directors will be selected to participate in the two-year program. The core faculty will be drawn from the scholars and educators at JTS and HUC-JIR.

In a resounding affirmation of the concept of Klal Yisrael (world community of Jews), Rabbi David Ellenson, HUC-JIR President, and Dr. Ismar Schorsch, Chancellor of JTS, issued this statement:

"The mission of the Institute is to ensure that congregational school principals master critical competencies in the core areas of Judaism, leadership and pedagogy, and develop the attitudes and skills for further professional development. HUC-JIR and JTS will approach this Institute with mutual respect, a shared inquiry into the commonalities and differences between the movements and a commitment to early resolution of potentially problematic issues.

"Furthermore," they continued, "HUC-JIR and JTS - institutions training the professional leadership for the Reform and Conservative Movements of Judaism, respectively -- share the Commission's belief that strengthening the educational leadership of congregational schools is vital to transmitting Jewish identity and knowledge, building Jewish community, and continuing development of Jewish education as a professional field. We are grateful for UJA-Federation of New York's recognition of the need for continuing education for Jewish educators and its investment of human and financial resources toward this visionary project."

"UJA-Federation of New York is delighted to support this historic, pluralistic project, linking the denominations of Judaism on behalf of the larger Jewish community," said Sara Nathan, chair, UJA-Federation of New York's Task Force on Congregational Education of the Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal. "CoJIR has made a serious commitment to innovation in strengthening congregational school education . This project is central to our mission to foster excellence in Jewish identity-building and dissemination of Jewish knowledge to our children."

The Leadership Institute will be jointly administered by Jo Kay, Director of HUC-JIR's New York School of Education, and Dr. Steven M. Brown, Dean of JTS's William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education and Director of its Melton Research Center for Jewish Education, Evie Levy Rotstein, a doctoral candidate at JTS' Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education, has been named Project Director. A congregational educator for twenty-six years, including fourteen years as principal of Temple Sholom of River Edge, NJ, she is an adjunct professor at Fairleigh Dickenson University School of Education and a consultant for the ECE RE-Imagine project. Rotstein has also served as regional director for Hadassah's Young Judaea youth movement and summer camps and as Hebrew coordinator for a community high school. She will be assisted by Aviva Schwartz, who holds a MA and MSW degree from the JTS/Columbia Jewish Studies and Social Work program. Her professional experience includes positions at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin and Ramah Israel Seminar, and religious school teaching at Temple Beth Sholom in Framingham, MA, and Congregation B'nai Jeshurun in New York City.

An Advisory Board comprised of scholars in Jewish education and Judaic studies from HUC-JIR and JTS, congregational educational leaders as mentors, congregational rabbis and cantors, synagogue lay leaders, and UJA-Federation of New York representatives, will advise on trends and new developments in research, training, and scholarship.

Founded in 1886 as a rabbinical school, The Jewish Theological Seminary

today is the academic and spiritual center of Conservative Judaism 
worldwide, encompassing a world-class library and five schools. 
JTS trains tomorrow's religious, educational, academic and lay leaders 
for the Jewish community and beyond. www.jtsa.edu

The world's largest local philanthropy, UJA-Federation of New York 
strengthens community and helps 1.4 million persons in New York City, 
Westchester County, and Long Island, as well as 3 million in Israel 
and 60 other countries. Funds raised by UJA-Federation sustain the 
activities of more than 100 health, social-service, educational, 
and community agencies. Every day, these community-based organizations 
provide a multitude of services that improve and enhance people's 
lives. For more information, visit the UJA-Federation website 
at www.ujafedny.org.







More Jewish children receive their formal Jewish education in congregational schools than in any other venue. To succeed, these schools need leaders who are well-equipped to develop vibrant cultures of Jewish learning, articulate clear goals accompanied by concrete activities, build effective lay-professional teams, and translate Judaism into educational experiences that engage children and their parents ever more actively in Jewish life.

There are approximately 250 congregational and communal schools in the metropolitan area, serving nearly 35,000 students" explains Jo Kay, Director of HUC-JIR's New York School of Education. "The creation of this Leadership Institute will offer these synagogue educational leaders new ways of thinking about their role as educators in the community. It will also offer opportunities to deepen their Judaic knowledge, which will immeasurably enhance the field of Jewish education."

Dr. Steven M. Brown, Dean of JTS's William Davidson Graduate School of Education and Director of its Melton Research Center for Jewish Education, adds, "As the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development centers for Reform and Conservative Judaism, respectively, HUC-JIR and JTS provide Federation with a unique set of resources and opportunities through combined capacities for instruction, research, outreach, and networking. Our seminaries' expert educators, known for cutting edge work in leadership training, world-class faculty, library and web-based learning programs, and direct access to congregational schools and educators of the Conservative and Reform Movements will enhance the skills, knowledge, and expectations for self-growth of the Leadership Institute's participants." The Needs of Congregational School Leaders:


This three-year, "learner centered" pilot project responds to the documented need among congregational school leaders for stronger training and background. Its goals, structure, and strategies incorporate the findings of recent academic research and reflect the expertise of nationally respected practitioners in the field.

This project was first conceived at the invitation of UJA-Federation of New York's Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal, which provided an initial $56,000 planning grant that supported a working group's evaluation of the professional needs of congregational school directors and an exploration of the feasibility and suitability of such a project for the two sponsoring seminary institutions.

A survey of the field and consultation with national experts in Jewish educational leadership determined that: (1) the career paths, responsibilities, and demographics of congregational school principals make their professional development needs distinct from those of other Jewish education specialists; and (2) a successful leadership development institute must incorporate intensive Judaica study and mentoring within a flexible structure, along with strong leadership and pedagogical components. The planning grant enabled HUC-JIR and JTS to define their relationship, roles, and responsibilities as co-conveners of this regional professional development program, which is a new program drawing on "lessons learned" from other related efforts.

The creation of the Leadership Institute is an initiative addressing the national shortage of Jewish educational leadership. Though qualitatively outstanding, most of the efforts to recruit such leadership have affected a relatively small number of individuals. Many more trained educational leaders are needed each year. Beyond recruitment, however, professional development in Jewish educational settings is weak on Jewish content, geared to broad rather than specific audiences, and short-term and episodic in nature, rather than systemic and a regular part of life in the congregational school. This situation is perpetuated because school leaders themselves are under-trained and have few professional development opportunities available to them. In a system where turnover and lack of success are common, newly appointed educational leaders continue to require expert guidance and assistance.

The Mandel Foundation (formerly The Council for Initiatives in Jewish Education) undertook two studies in the late 1990s that summarize the state of education leadership in the United States. Profiling Jewish educational leaders in Baltimore, Atlanta, and Milwaukee, one study found that only a third had a formal background in both Jewish studies and educational administration, with half having a formal background in Jewish Studies and 41% having formal training in educational administration. The second study profiled Jewish educational leadership development programs across the country and identified 8 degree-granting programs, focusing primarily on pre-service preparation and 19 non-degree-granting programs, concentrating on professional development. Findings indicated that directors of the degree-granting programs were concerned that the inability to recruit individuals with a high potential for long-term success into the field leads to a severe shortage of qualified Jewish educational leaders. In addition, they pointed to an increasing number of students entering degree programs without a strong background in Jewish studies, thus necessitating a shift in focus away from general educational issues including leadership development.

Up to 50% of all new congregational school principals rise through the ranks of the teaching staff. These educators require professional development to acquire the necessary leadership and management skills for their synagogue schools to succeed. A 1996 evaluation of the Institute in Jewish Educational Leadership for New Principals sponsored by Brandeis University and JESNA indicated that such training advanced Jewish educational leaders' professionalism and commitment, expanded their professional networks, enhanced their confidence as leaders, and strengthened their understanding of the larger context within which their professional lives were embedded, thereby potentially leading to increasing responsibilities.



The first year of the project will focus on establishing the Institute's staffing, training of mentors, curriculum development, marketing, logistics, evaluation, and research planning. Forty congregational school directors representing the major movements will be selected to participate in the two-year professional development program. At least half and up to two-thirds will be school leaders in UJA-Federation of New York's catchment area of New York City, Long Island, and Westchester. The balance will be drawn from directors of schools in communities in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania within commuting distance to the partner's Manhattan campuses.

During the second and third year of the project, the Leadership Institute will implement its two-year professional development program. The curriculum stands on three pillars of success: Leadership, Judaism, and Pedagogy. The goal of the Leadership curriculum (vision and reflective practice, school management, culture of the school and congregation, process of change, lay-professional relationships) is to strengthen the professional identity and effectiveness of educational leaders by introducing the current research on educational leadership and practicing leadership skills. The goal of the Judaica curriculum (text study, theology, and ideology, role modeling, personal religious growth, building a community of learners) is to empower congregational school principals to communicate and infuse Jewish values, skills, and practices in their schools effectively and consistently. The goal of the Pedagogy curriculum (curriculum and instruction, supervision and mentoring, professional development, action research) is to strengthen the identity and effectiveness of congregational school principals as mentors by introducing current research on learning and practicing critical supervisory and pedagogical skills.

Institute participants will complete two intensive 10-day summer seminars (focusing on "Vision, Reflective Practice, Judaica," "Process of Change, Culture of the School/Congregation, and Judaica," "Professional-Lay Relationships, Professional Development for School Staff, Judaica," and "Creating a Community of Learners, Action Research, Judaic Knowledge;" a 6-day seminar in Israel (placing Israel education at the heart of the curriculum and modeling the central place it should hold in Jewish education and congregational schools); eight 1- and 2-day skill-building workshops; and 4 site visits to successful congregational schools. In addition, each participant will fulfill the requirements of an approved Individual Education Plan and undertake a funded change project within their school. The program will conclude with a siyyum (conference) at JTS, at which principals who have met all of the Leadership Institute requirements will receive a personalized certificate of completion.

Dr. Steven Brown notes that "upon completion of the program, it is expected that participants will be able to lead and sustain change in their school, shape and influence the partnership between the school and the congregation, involve lay leaders and clergy in the school in new ways, identify a personal path and resources for continued professional growth, and translate Judaism into meaningful educational experiences that enrich Jewish life and learning for children and adults alike."



"HUC-JIR, JTS, and its evaluation partner, the Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA), anticipate that the project will generate invaluable new research on the state of the field and will justify national expansion," adds Jo Kay.

The Mandell L. Berman Jewish Heritage Center for Research and Evaluation in Jewish Education at JESNA has been designated to design and implement a comprehensive evaluation of the proposed project using state-of-the-art qualitative and quantitative measures. Results will be used to make mid-course adjustments, as needed, as well as to determine the impact of the Leadership Institute on individual participants and its overall success.


The core faculty will be drawn from the scholars and educators at JTS and HUC-JIR. JTS instructors will include: Dr. Steven M. Brown, Dean, William Davidson Graduate School of Education and Director, Melton Research Center for Jewish Education; Dr. Aryeh Davidson, Assistant Professor of Jewish Education; Dr. Neil Gillman, Professor of Jewish Philosophy; Dr. Barry Holtz, Professor of Hebrew Literature; Dr. Carol Ingall, Professor of Jewish Education; Dr. Jeffrey Kress, Assistant Professor of Jewish Education; Dr. Marjorie Lehman, Assistant Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics; Dr. Adina Ofek, Associate Professor of Jewish Education; Dr. Alex Sinclair, Assistant Professor of Jewish Education; and Dr. Jack Wertheimer, Professor of Modern Jewish History. HUC-JIR instructors will include Dr. Isa Aron, Professor of Jewish Education; Dr. Carole Balin, Assistant Professor of Jewish History; Dr. David Ellenson, President and Grancell Professor of Jewish Religious Thought; Dr. Lisa Grant, Assistant Professor of Jewish Education; Dr. Lawrence Hoffman, Friedman Professor of Liturgy, Worship, and Ritual; Dr. Samuel Joseph, Professor of Jewish Education and Leadership Development; Jo Kay, Director, New York School of Education; Dr. Aaron Panken, Dean, Lecturer on Rabbinics; Dr. Nancy Weiner, Clinical Director, Blaustein Center for Pastoral Counseling; Dr. Andrea Weiss, Instructor in Bible; and Dr. Wendy Zierler, Assistant Professor of Modern Jewish Literature and Feminist Studies. In addition, Dr. Alisa Kurshan, Vice President of Strategic Planning and Organizational Resources, and other UJA-Federation staff will provide training in professional-lay relationships and grant writing for education projects.

Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates leaders to serve North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, museums, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu