Dr. Sivan Zakai has been promoted to the Sara S. Lee Associate Professor of Jewish Education at the Rhea Hirsch School of Education at HUC-JIR's Skirball Campus in Los Angeles as of July 1, 2020. She was appointed to the HUC-JIR faculty as Assistant Professor in 2017.
Rabbi Andrea Weiss, Ph.D., Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Provost, stated, “Dr. Zakai has earned an outstanding reputation as engaging and supportive teacher, a rigorous and sophisticated scholar, and a groundbreaking researcher committed to translating her scholarship in ways that are useful for educators in the field and the public at large.”
Dr. Zakai received her M.A. in History (2006) and her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Teacher Education (2009) at Stanford University, where her dissertation focused on “Learning Our History: History and Identity at Jewish Community High School.” She received her B.A. with honors in Government and in The College of Letters, an interdisciplinary program combining history, philosophy, and literature at Wesleyan University (2000), with a thesis entitled “Liberating the Agunah: The History and Politics of Israeli Divorce Law.”
Dr. Zakai has led several significant research and training initiatives, including the Children’s Learning About Israel Project, the Teaching Israel Fellowship, and Project ORLI: Research and Leadership in Israel Education. She is an Affiliated Scholar at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education at Brandeis University. Dr. Zakai previously served as Assistant Professor of Education in the Graduate Center for Jewish Education at American Jewish University. Additionally, she has taught in a range of Jewish educational institutions including Jewish day schools, supplementary religious schools, camps, and youth programs. She consults schools, camps, synagogues and Jewish agencies on visioning, strategic planning, curriculum design, and program evaluation.
Dr. Miriam Heller Stern, Director of the School of Education, stated, "Dr. Zakai is one of the leading authorities on how Jews at different life stages – the range of childhood through educators and parents – learn and think about Israel. Our students and alumni are fortunate to have a front seat in her courses, workshops and consultations.”
Dr. Zakai has published articles on Israel education, history education, and the history of Jewish day schools; among other topics. Her articles have appeared in the field’s leading publications, including Teachers College Record, Curriculum Inquiry, The Social Studies, Journal of Jewish Education, History of Education Quarterly, and AJS Review as well as popular outlets such as eJewish Philanthropy, The Jewish Journal, The Jerusalem Post, The Jewish Daily Forward, Kveller.com, HaYidion, Times of Israel, JWeekly, Sh’ma, and in edited volumes. Her forthcoming book, My Second Favorite Country: American Jewish Children and the State of Israel (NYU Press), explores how Jewish children in the United States develop ideas and beliefs about Israel and its place in American and Jewish life. Dr. Zakai is also an Associate Editor of the Journal of Jewish Education.
Dr. Zakai has presented her scholarship broadly including at the Network for Research in Jewish Education, the American Educational Research Association, and the Association for Israel Studies. In addition, she regularly gives research-based workshops for practitioners who seek to understand and improve their practice.
She has been honored with awards from the Journal of Jewish Education and the Network for Research in Jewish Education for outstanding publications in Jewish educational research, and has received numerous research grants including from the Consortium for Applied Studies in Jewish Education and the Network for Research in Jewish Education. She was the recipient of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship, and the Dorot Fellowship in Israel.