Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s (HUC-JIR) School of Education received a Signature Grant from The Covenant Foundation for “Beit HaYotzer: The Creativity Braintrust.” This three-year $150,000 grant will support a project to enrich the learning experience of education students across all campuses, the Rhea Hirsch School, the Executive MA and DeLeT, through engagement with artist-scholars who will support students in expanding their creative capacities in their own teaching, educational design, and leadership.
Beit HaYotzer: The Creativity Braintrust will gather a select cohort of Jewish artist-scholars whose work is at the vanguard of confronting challenges in the realms of social justice, gender equity, anti-Semitism, and hate. The initiative will provide collegial support for the artists’ emerging creative projects while providing sustained opportunities for them to teach creative practice and Jewish texts, history, ethics, and culture in HUC-JIR’s graduate programs in education. Launching the project with Dr. Miriam Heller Stern, National Director of the School of Education and Associate Professor (blended track), are Rabbi Dr. Ariel Burger, author of Witness: Lessons for Elie Wiesel’s Classroom; Aaron Henne, founder and artistic director of theatre dybbuk; singer and songwriter Alicia Jo Rabins; and actor Jon Adam Ross, founder and Managing Director of the in[heir]itance project. Additional creative collaborators will participate in the initiative as well.
“Our goal is to launch this incubator to catalyze Jewish creative thinkers – artists, practitioners, and academics – in collaborative experimentation around what Jewish teaching, educational leadership, and learning can become in the creative age, and disseminate the teaching and the artistic works to individuals and communities everywhere,” Dr. Stern stated. “Our moment in history is filled with uncertainty and opportunity, and we want to foster a Jewish educational enterprise that prepares this generation of learners to think and act creatively as they face challenges and imagine a world they want to see.”
HUC-JIR’s School of Education cultivates Jewish educators who create inspired, substantive, connected Jewish learning experiences and guide their learners to weave distinctively Jewish wisdom into creative thinking that enriches people’s lives and the world around them. HUC-JIR is responsive to an immediate circle of influence in the liberal Jewish world, and the School of Education has historically been a leading voice in new thinking in Jewish education, broadly defined, cutting across educational settings. The integration of Jewish creatives from different spheres of Jewish life into this project will build new bridges and collaborative possibilities across Jewish institutions and denominations which have been heretofore disconnected, or not deeply engaged.
HUC-JIR’s grant is one of twelve Signature Grants announced by The Covenant Foundation in January 2020. These grants aim to highlight anew the diversity of strengths within the field of Jewish education in North America. “It is so exciting to watch each year as a new class of grantees gets started on building their dream projects from the ground up,” said Cheryl R. Finkel, Chair of the Board of Directors of The Covenant Foundation. “The ingenuity and heart behind each and every program design is incredibly encouraging, for we know that the educators driving these projects will undoubtedly seed and grow the field of Jewish education at large.”
“This year, the grants docket reflects hyper-current issues like democracy, technology, the climate crisis, virtual reality, and our screen-centered society,” said Harlene Appelman, Executive Director of The Covenant Foundation. “There are also many projects on this list that urge us to return to the fundamental blessings of our tradition, like arts and spirituality, music and Jewish learning. This combination of new ideas and age-old wisdom confirms our steadfast belief in the truly innovative nature of Jewish educators and their commitment to improving our world, one student at a time.” Since 1991, the Foundation has provided more than $33 million to support Jewish education in North America.