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Miriam Berk of Congregation Tifereth Israel Kicks Off Learning with Cohort Seven of HUC-JIR's Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education

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Monday, February 26, 2018

Cohort 7 of the Executive MA Program in Jewish Education at HUC-JIRThe Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) is proud to count Miriam Berk, Education Director of the Samuel M. Melton Religious School at Congregation Tifereth Israel in Columbus, as a member of the program's seventh cohort. The cohort, consisting of fifteen students from throughout North America, was launched with a three-day intensive seminar at HUC-JIR's Cincinnati campus in February. The 24-month-long program of study is made possible by a grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation.  The launch of Cohort 7 marks the beginning of a newly reimagined program. Building on the strengths of earlier years, along with creative design partners theatre dybbuk and Jewish Studio Project, students will expand their capacity for creativity and engage with the arts more extensively as part of their leadership.

“At HUC-JIR’s School of Education, we envision educators guiding the Jewish people in weaving Jewish wisdom into creative thinking that strengthens humanity and uplifts society,” stated Dr. Miriam Heller Stern, National Director of the HUC-JIR School of Education. “The Executive M.A. is designed to prepare and embolden mid-career professionals to achieve our mission of preparing top-tier leaders who can bring about a creative Jewish revolution through their work throughout the field of Jewish education and with a wide variety of learners.”

Dr. Lesley Litman, Director of the Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education, explained, “This group of students is particularly diverse in terms of the Jewish educational settings in which they serve.  The unique perspective each student brings to the Executive M.A. experience is already apparent after just three days together at HUC-JIR’s Cincinnati campus. This cohort is both intellectually and spiritually inspiring as they bring the wisdom of their collective experiences together with their coursework, thereby enriching both their academic learning and their workplaces.”  

The Executive M.A. Program is designed for motivated working Jewish educational leaders with a minimum of five years experience in a Jewish educational leadership position who are seeking advanced academic and professional learning and who are ready to be at the vanguard. This part-time program enables students to continue to live and work in their own communities throughout North America as they strengthen and acquire skills and knowledge and apply these in real-time.

The program offers a course of study that utilizes the cohort-based approach of many executive M.B.A. programs and high-quality doctoral programs in education.  Through a series of intensive on-site seminars at HUC-JIR’s campuses in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York; cohort learning with long-distance courses; and mentorship by veterans in the field; students emerge with enhanced knowledge, honed educational skills, and strengthened leadership capacity that will enable them to transform Jewish education in their own institutions.  The cohort experience and deeply invested faculty provide the confidence and support structure educators need to take bold risks and succeed.

Headshot of Miriam Berk

Berk, with her rich background, personifies the ideal Executive M.A. student. She has been working in the field of Jewish education for over 25 years, having begun as a Bar/Bat Mitzvah tutor and teacher in Religious School as a teen. She has run regional youth groups, taught at summer camp, worked with American teens in Israel, taught in and run multiple congregational schools throughout North America, and worked in a central educational agency on the East Coast. She finds herself back at her home congregation running the Religious School 35 years after she graduated from its Hebrew High. Miriam holds a B.A. in Judaic Studies from The Ohio State University and several certificates in Jewish Family Education and Principal Leadership from the former University of Judaism and JESNA/Brandeis. Miriam lives in Columbus with her husband, Rabbi Arye Berk, and has successfully launched three children, two of whom now live in Israel.

Berk and her fellow Cohort members began their academic coursework in late February with their first interactive, online course, "Ideologies of Jewish Education," with Dr. Lesley Litman, in which they explore their unique voices and visions for Jewish education and Jewish educational leadership. In late June, students will gather at HUC-JIR’s New York campus for 10 days of in-person learning with Rabbi Jan Katzew, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Education and Jewish Thought and Director of Service-Learning at HUC-JIR.

Reflecting on their initial experience in Cincinnati, Sarah DeWoskin of Temple Bat Yam, East Ft. Lauderdale, FL, had the following to share:

I am incredibly excited to be a part of the Executive M.A. Program because I am eager to better develop language that promotes what I innately believe about educating our youth. Our time in Cincinnati started with us as unsure strangers, and ended with a cohort of learners and supporters ready to carry one another through this meaningful journey.

Susie Wexler, Director of the Early Childhood Program at Congregation B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim, Deerfield, IL, noted:

The EMA program at HUC-JIR is a chance to develop myself as a Jewish educational leader.  Being a professional in Jewish Early Childhood Education allows me to make a difference in the lives of young children and their families each day. Being enrolled in the EMA program exposes me to the best of educational practice and Judaic learning through cohort learning, outstanding instructors, high quality clinical guidance and a stellar national reputation all combined in one great program.

For more information about the Executive M.A. Program, click here or contact Lesley Litman, Ed.D., RJE, Program Director, at

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 men and women for service to 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.