HUC-JIR School of Education Faculty and Alumni Receive Grants from CASJE for Research on the Practice of Jewish Education - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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HUC-JIR School of Education Faculty and Alumni Receive Grants from CASJE for Research on the Practice of Jewish Education

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

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Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion's (HUC-JIR) School of Education is proud to announce that its faculty and alumni have received grants for research projects focused on the practice of Jewish education from The Consortium for Applied Studies in Jewish Education (CASJE), a community of researchers, practitioners, and philanthropic leaders committed to sharing knowledge to improve Jewish education.

“HUC-JIR faculty are proud to collaborate with alumni practitioner-researchers to produce highly sophisticated and relevant applied research in the field of Jewish education," stated Dr. Miriam Heller Stern, National Director, School of Education, HUC-JIR. "These projects promise to illuminate critical areas of teaching, learning and leadership in Jewish education."

Dr. Lauren Applebaum, Education Director of DeLeT: Day School Leadership through Teaching, a Program of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education, HUC-JIR; Dr. Sivan Zakai, Assistant Professor of Jewish Education and Sara S. Lee Chair in Jewish Education, HUC-JIR; and Anna Hartman, Director of Early Childhood Excellence at the Jewish United Fund and alumna of the Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education at HUC-JIR: 

Exploring How Preschool Children (3-4 Years Old) in Jewish Early Childhood Settings Think about Israel: While much communal attention is focused on how teens and young adults think about Israel, this study will address the very youngest learners in the Jewish community, asking “How do preschool children think about and understand Israel?” As this question is crucial for both scholarship and practice, this project is designed as a unique and powerful practitioner and researcher partnership. Researchers will create a developmentally-appropriate research protocol using group interviews, elicitation/provocation exercises, and teacher documentation. Early childhood practitioners from three Jewish early childhood centers will be trained to use it to uncover the ways that their students think about Israel. Multiple rounds of coding and analysis will allow both practitioners and researchers to shape and reflect on the analysis before findings are shared in both practitioner and scholarly venues.

Dr. Sarah Bunin Benor, Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies, HUC-JIR, and Rabbi Nicki Greninger, Director of Education at Temple Isaiah, Lafayette, CA, who was ordained in 2008 at HUC-JIR/New York, where she also earned her M.A. in Jewish Education: 

Hebrew Education in Supplementary Schools: This study will investigate how Hebrew is taught and perceived at American Jewish supplementary schools. Which types of Hebrew (Liturgical, Biblical, Modern) and which skills (decoding, recitation, conversation) are emphasized? Phase one is a survey of 250+ school directors around the United States, focusing on rationales, goals, teaching methods, curricula, and teacher selection. Phase two involves classroom observations and stakeholder surveys at 10 schools with diverse approaches. Researchers will first determine how teachers teach, use, and discuss Hebrew and how students respond. Researchers will then survey students, parents, clergy, and teachers about their rationales, goals, and perceptions of their program. This project represents a collaboration among researchers and practitioners committed to theorizing how Hebrew is and might be approached in American Jewish educational institutions. Understanding this will enable future interventions to better align goals and methods among educators, congregations, and families, thereby strengthening diaspora Hebrew education.

Learn more about the 2019 grant recipients here.

Lesley Litman, Ed.D., Director, Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education, HUC-JIR, and Michael Zeldin, Ph.D.,  Professor of Jewish Education, Rhea Hirsch School of Education, HUC-JIR, received a CASJE grant in 2018:

Enduring Dilemmas: The Pathway from Competent Administration to Inspired and Inspiring Leadership: This study will explore the capacity of educational leaders in Jewish schools to distinguish between problems to be solved and dilemmas to be managed. Through a series of interviews with Jewish educational leaders, Litman and Zeldin will examine how senior personnel understand enduring dilemmas in their roles and their leadership practices, and how mastery of a range of strategies to address these dilemmas contribute to their perceptions of  their capacity to be effective leaders. Jewish educational leaders face a steady stream of challenges, some of them requiring immediate responses and others calling for careful deliberation. This study addresses how educational leaders identify these dilemmas and manage them in complex and creative ways. 

Learn more about the 2018 grant recipients here.


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