HUC-JIR Launches Inaugural Cohort of Executive M.A. Program :in Jewish Education with Student Debbie Massarano - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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HUC-JIR Launches Inaugural Cohort of Executive M.A. Program :in Jewish Education with Student Debbie Massarano

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Friday, September 2, 2011

The Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education inaugural cohort with Lesley Litman,
Program Coordinator (top left), and Dr. Jonathan Krasner, Assistant Professor of the
American Jewish Experience (top right)


The Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) launched its inaugural cohort of students on May 31, 2011 with a three-day intensive seminar on its Cincinnati campus, followed by a two-week Summer Institute at the New York campus from June 20-30, 2011.  The newly established Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education, a 24-month-long program of study, is made possible by the generous grant support of the Jim Joseph Foundation.  The Jim Joseph Foundation has provided $15 million 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 over the next five years.

“The Executive M.A. Program builds on the ‘wisdom of practice’ that the students have developed during their years of service to schools and congregations.  The program enables them to enhance their knowledge about Judaism, strengthen their understanding of education, and refine their leadership capacity,” stated Dr. Michael Zeldin, Director of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles.

Lesley Litman, Coordinator of the Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education, explained, “Student excitement about their learning was palpable as they engaged in their first two courses on the HUC-JIR New York campus.  This cohort is deeply inspiring both intellectually and spiritually.  They blend the wisdom of their experiences with their coursework, thereby enriching both their academic learning and their workplaces.”  

Debbie Massarano is a member of the inaugural cohort of the Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education.  She grew up in Southern California involved in Jewish camping (URJ Camp Swig), Temple Youth Group, and NFTY.  She earned her B.A. in Child Development at California State University at Fullerton.  In addition to her teaching experience in public schools, she has worked in several Jewish Day Schools as a teacher and Judaic Studies Coordinator and in congregational schools.   Her teaching experiences include a specialty in working with students with learning differences.  She served as Regional Educator of the Southwest and Midwest Councils of the Union for Reform Judaism consulting with congregations on educational programming from early childhood through adult education.  In her current position as Director of Lifelong Learning at Temple Shalom in Dallas, she coordinates all the educational programming for the congregation and is the spiritual leader for the Shabbat morning minyan.  Debbie has three children – Nathaniel, Micah and Abby.

The Executive M.A. Program is designed for educational professionals with a minimum of five years of experience working in the field who seek advanced academic and professional training through a part-time program that allows them to strengthen their skills and knowledge while continuing to live and work in their own communities throughout North America.  The Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education offers a course of study that utilizes the cohort-based approach of many executive M.B.A. programs and high-quality doctoral programs in Education.  Through a series of intensive on-site seminars at HUC-JIR’s campuses in Cincinnati, Los Angeles, New York, and Jerusalem, cohort learning with long-distance courses, and mentorship by veterans in the field, the students will emerge with enhanced knowledge, honed educational skills, and strengthened leadership capacity that will enable them to transform Jewish education in their own institutions.

The inaugural cohort’s 16 students hail from throughout North America, span in age from their early 30’s to late 50’s, and reflect a diversity of professional experience ranging from congregational educators to a Hillel assistant director and synagogue executive director.

From May 31 to June 2, 2011, the inaugural cohort studied with HUC-JIR’s leading education faculty, including Dr. Michael Zeldin, Director of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education in Los Angeles; Professor Jo Kay, Director of the New York School of Education; and Rabbi Samuel K. Joseph, Professor of Jewish Education and Leadership Development in Cincinnati.  In addition, they studied with Dr. Gary P. Zola, Director of the American Jewish Archives and Professor of the American Jewish Experience, and Dr. Mark Washofsky, Freehof Professor of Jewish Law and Practice, and met with their mentors who are  guiding their journey throughout the program. 

The goals of this first intensive learning experience were to build cohort relationships and connections with the academic and clinical faculty; establish familiarity with HUC-JIR’s research resources, including the campus-wide system of the Klau Library, the second largest Jewish library in the world, and the American Jewish Archives, the renowned center of study, research, and publication in the field of American Jewish history; and synthesize and take home new learning in Jewish studies and education.

The cohort began their learning in earnest at a Summer Institute in residence at the HUC-JIR/New York campus with two intensive courses during the final two weeks of June.  Dr. Jonathan Krasner, Assistant Professor of the American Jewish Experience, offered a course in the Jewish Historical Experience and Dr. Adriane Leveen, Senior Lecturer in Hebrew Bible and Lead Judaica Specialist in the Jim Joseph initiatives at HUC-JIR, taught a course on the Jewish Textual Tradition with a particular focus on Bible.  According to the instructors, students have brought their great wealth of experience to bear on the learning thereby enriching the experience for all involved.

At the conclusion of Dr. Krasner's course, one student commented on the "paradigm shift" she underwent when it comes to teaching History:  "I understand it totally differently now.  I have to look at everything I do, everything I've been doing and rethink it in light of this course.  History will never be the same for me, in a good way.”

Beginning in August, students will continue their studies in an online course on Teaching and Learning with Dr. Lisa Grant, Associate Professor of Jewish Education.

The Jim Joseph Foundation Education Initiative at HUC-JIR expands HUC-JIR’s education programs to reach a wide variety of people from across the United States with a broad range of interests in the field of Jewish education.  In addition to generous scholarships, the initiative enables HUC-JIR to create an Executive M.A. Program; certificates in Jewish education of adolescents and emerging adults and in Jewish early childhood education; alumni induction and retention programs; and a joint rabbinical-education program in Cincinnati and cantorial-education program in New York (to complement the current rabbinical-education program in Los Angeles and New York).

For more information about the Executive M.A. Program and to inquire about becoming a member of the second cohort, please contact Lesley Litman, program coordinator, 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.