Exploring the Importance of Reform Jewish Day Schools during HUC-JIR’s 2019 Reform Day School Externship - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
Skip to main content

Exploring the Importance of Reform Jewish Day Schools during HUC-JIR’s 2019 Reform Day School Externship

Main Content
Friday, June 14, 2019

2019 Externs

From left: Dr. Lesley Litman, Externship Coordinator and Director of the Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education, HUC-JIR; Tami Weiser, Head of School, Wise School; Reform Jewish Day School Externs; Dr. Michael Zeldin, MAJE ’77, Professor of Jewish Education, HUC-JIR; and Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback '96, MAJE '98, Senior Rabbi, Stephen Wise Temple

The 2019 Reform Day School Externship, a professional development program for Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) rabbinical, cantorial, and education students, took place on May 19-24, 2019, at Wise School in Los Angeles, CA. Co-sponsored by the HUC-JIR School of Education, Wise School, and PRIZMAH: the Center for Jewish Day Schools, and led by Dr. Lesley Litman, Director of the Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education at HUC-JIR, and Dr. Michael Zeldin, Professor of Jewish Education at HUC-JIR, the externship explores the impact of the immersive educational design of Reform day schools on children and families as a lever for strengthening Jewish living. Students investigated what it takes to lead a school, deepened their own leadership capacities and gained an understanding for the ways in which day schools cultivate their learners as future Jewish leaders.

The 2019 cohort of externs gained a holistic view of day school operations, culture, and administration at Wise School and Stephen Wise Temple. They met with the administration, faculty, clergy, and human resources and finance professionals, among others. Externs spent much of their time with the children and in the classrooms, witnessing the Wise School’s Early Childhood Education Hebrew immersion program and the unique and deeply embedded Wise Learning Process. They also spent an afternoon at Milken Community Schools, where they observed a Hebrew class on the topic of Jewish perspectives on lying, conducted entirely in Hebrew at a sophisticated level; they also participated in a rabbinics class, where Milken students eagerly engaged the externs in the learning.

Dr. Lesley Litman stated, “Without exception, this year's externs came to see day schools as an important option for both their own families and their congregants. Many came in skeptical and were surprised at how moved they were. The team at Wise School and Stephen Wise Temple went above and beyond to make us feel welcome and to be utterly transparent with us. I was inspired by the whole experience.”

Dr. Miriam Heller Stern, National Director of the School of Education, added, “HUC-JIR students are fortunate to learn firsthand, with the guidance of our faculty, expert practitioners, and clergy, what it means to lead and educate in every sector of Jewish education. The externship is a valuable immersion in the unique setting of Jewish day school, which inspires our graduates’ careers and leadership in the future.” 

Cantorial student Danielle Rodnizki, a 2019 extern, stated, "I am inspired by my visit to the Wise School and my learning in the Externship. The thing that most amazed me during this visit was that students at the Wise School don’t just learn Jewish and secular content, they learn how to think. Through the Wise Learning Process, developed in partnership with USC, students regularly use the helpful frameworks given to them in every subject as a lens through which to understand the world."

"I am grateful to Wise School and to the HUC-JIR Reform Day School Externship for introducing me to the world of Reform Jewish Day Schools," said rabbinical student Deena Gottleib, a 2019 extern. "I was impressed by the caliber of both the secular and Judaic education, the warmth of the entire community, and the strength of the leadership. Wise School and Stephen Wise Temple serve as models of dynamic and engaging Jewish environments and I am excited to bring this experience back to communities I serve."


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