HUC-JIR Executive Masters Student Lisa Isen Baumal Brings Creative Energy to Jewish Educational Leadership - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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HUC-JIR Executive Masters Student Lisa Isen Baumal Brings Creative Energy to Jewish Educational Leadership

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Thursday, March 5, 2020

Lisa Isen Baumal and fellow students in the eighth cohort of the Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) are expanding their capacity for imagination and risk-taking as they build momentum in their roles as Jewish educational leaders. Designed for educational leaders with at least five years of leadership experience, the Executive M.A. Program offers students the opportunity to broaden repertoires of thinking and educating by deepening their educational leadership skills with a unique focus on creative thinking and action. In this 24-month program, students pursue their graduate degree to apply sophisticated, rigorous academic studies that enrich the communities they serve.

Baumal, one of fifteen students who comprise Cohort 8, serves as Director of Youth Engagement at Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto, ON. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from McMaster University, and her diploma in Social Service Work from Seneca College. She has worked in various roles in Jewish education over the past 20 years including Hillel program director, school program coordinator, youth group advisor, camp faculty, and classroom teacher. Fellow members of the cohort serve in a wide range of Jewish educational settings across North America, including early childhood, camping, congregational education, Israel education, and central agencies. 

Dr. Lesley Litman, Director of the Executive M.A. Program, stated, “We look forward to nurturing our students through interactive, engaging learning and customized mentoring that is immediately applicable in their work. We are witnessing their deepened leadership capacities, hearing their unique voices as leaders, and getting a taste of how they are shaping the future of Jewish education in North America.”

Students kicked off their studies in Cincinnati with a deep dive into the cohort experience with Dr. Miriam Heller Stern, National Director of the School of Education; Dr. Sam Joseph, Eleanor Sinsheimer Distinguished Service Professor of Jewish Education and Leadership Development; and Aaron Henne, artistic director of theatre dybbuk. Together, they explored their upcoming journey in the Executive M.A. Program, their potential, and their aspirations through reflection, Jewish text, and drama. Dr. Litman and the Executive M.A. Program’s four clinical faculty mentors guided students in building a unique cohort culture through sharing each other’s talents and gifts, goalsetting, and shaping the group’s commitment to learn together. 

In the Fall, Cohort 8 worked with the Jewish Studio Project in a three-day creativity-themed intensive, where students engaged in a variety of arts-based activities to deepen their practices of reflection, communication, risk-taking and interpretation of Jewish texts.  This work was then integrated into a series of courses that included arts as pedagogic strategies, a model for professional learning and curricular design.  

Most recently, the group returned from a ten-day intensive Israel seminar in which they encountered a broad range of narratives about life in Israel and returned home ready to craft their own philosophies of Israel education in their respective settings. During the seminar, Executive M.A. Program students had the opportunity to go beyond the typical meeting between North Americans and Israelis through a deep arts-based encounter with their Israeli counterparts, students in the Rikma M.A. in Pluralism, Community, and Leadership in Jewish Education program at the Taube Family Campus in Jerusalem. Through the dual lenses of their roles as educational leaders in Israel and North America, they explored their shared values and their distinct perspectives through a collaborative creative project with world-renowned collage artist, Hanoch Piven. 

Meet the students in Cohort 8 of the Executive M.A. Program:

Lisa Isen Baumal, Director of Youth Engagement, Holy Blossom Temple, Toronto
Lauren Belferder, Director of Youth Engagement, Temple Sinai, Roslyn, NY
Elizabeth Bloch, Director of Education, Congregation Bnai Torah, Atlanta, GA
Amanda Campbell, Educator, Temple Chai, Phoenix, AZ
Jennifer (Jenn) George, Program Manager, Ta'am Yisrael, Chicago, IL
Zoe Goldberg, BBYO Regional Director, Memphis, TN
Betsy Kachel, Director of Education, Temple Emanuel, Andover, MA
Carly Kastner, Director of Youth Engagement, Temple Kol Ami, Scottsdale, AZ
Sarit Katzew, Director of Education, Havurah of Middlebury, VT
Joie Magnone, Regional Advisor, NFTY Northeast, Union for Reform Judaism
Mary Passell, Director of Early Childhood Enter, Temple Chai, Phoenix, AZ
Jennifer Quick, Assistant Principal of the Miriam Browning Jewish Learning Center at Congregation Beth Israel in Houston, TX
Hannah Richman Kearney, Director of Havayah, The Teen Community at TBE, Wellesley, MA
Robin Sheridan, Director of Beth Emet Early Childhood Center and Summer Camp, Cooper City, FL
Jane Tuv, RSJ Engagement Officer, PJ Library, New York

Members of Cohort 8 are the beneficiaries of a unique mid-career fellowship program funded by a private foundation. The Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education is also currently funded with generous grant support from the Jim Joseph Foundation. The Jim Joseph Foundation has provided a grant to HUC-JIR to increase the number and enhance the quality of Jewish educators working with Jewish youth and young adults through the development of new certificate and degree programs and training and mentoring new and practicing educational professionals. 

To learn more 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 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.