HUC-JIR's Second Cohort of the Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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HUC-JIR's Second Cohort of the Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education

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Friday, September 7, 2012

Cohort Two of the Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education

The Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) launched its second cohort of students on May 29, 2012 with a three-day intensive seminar on its Cincinnati campus, followed by a two-week Summer Institute at the New York campus from June 17-28. 

The 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, National Director of the Schools of Education (left).

Lesley Litman, Coordinator of the Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education (right), 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.”  

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.

From May 28-30, 2012, the cohort studied with HUC-JIR’s leading education faculty, including Rabbi Samuel K. Joseph, Professor of Jewish Education and Leadership Development in Cincinnati, and Dr. Adriane Leveen, Senior Lecturer in Bible Studies at HUC-JIR, New York and Jewish studies liaison to the Jim Jospeh Initiatives.  In addition, students studied with Dr. Gary P. Zola, Director of the American Jewish Archives and Professor of the American Jewish Experience, and Dr. Jonathan Cohen, Dean of the Cincinnati campus, 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 their intensive in New York, student Jeanna Gailar-Francis stated, "The only thing better than studying Torah with Dr. Leveen and history with Dr. Krasner, two of the finest teachers HUC-JIR has to offer, was spending every day  in the company of my cohort. I feel so fortunate and honored to be surrounded by such a knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and committed group of students. The entire experience was amazing!"

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

  The second cohort’s 12 students hail from throughout North America, span in age from their late 20’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.

Randee Bishoff is the Director of Religious Education at Temple Akiba in Culver City, California.  She graduated with a B.A. in history from UCLA and an MA in Education with an elementary teaching credential from Pepperdine University. Randee's experience in Jewish education includes directing summer camp programs, coordinating an early childhood center and serving as assistant director of education at Temple Akiba.  Randee has also taught children of all ages kindergarten through high school in the congregational school setting and at Jewish summer camps. She is married to Scott Bishoff and is the proud mother to Benjamin age 7 and Sarah age 4 1/2.

Lisa B. Frankel, after graduating with a B.S. in Business Administration from The Ohio State University in 1985, began her work at HUC in the Office of Admissions and Alumni Relations.  At that time, she taught a practicum in an “Introduction to Judaism” course and assisted in the direction of classes in continuing education for the alumni of HUC. Currently, Lisa is the Director of Programs and Administration at The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives (a division of the Hebrew Union College).   As Director of Programs, many of Lisa’s responsibilities involve the development of educational activities and initiatives including lectures, seminars, and tours.  In addition, Lisa works with archivists and historians to develop educational resources including curricula and lesson plans, educational exhibits, and activities for middle and high school students.  Lisa currently resides in Cincinnati with her husband Steve and their Basset Hound, Rosco.  They are parents to recent college graduates, Ellyn and Micah.
Jeanna Gailar-Francis will be celebrating her 20th year as Education Director at Temple Beth Israel in Fresno, California in December.  In addition to directing and supervising the Religious School at TBI, Jeanna is the Bar/Bat Mitzvah tutor and occasional Family Service and Tot Shabbat leader.  Prior to her position at Temple Beth Israel, Jeanna worked as Religious School Principal at Congregation Beth Jacob, the Conservative synagogue in Fresno, and as the Religious School Coordinator at Congregation Beth Israel-Judea in San Francisco, Ca.   Jeanna received her B.A. in Anthropology, with a focus on Archeology and a minor in Jewish studies, from University of Utah in Salt Lake City.  She has three wonderful children, two in graduate school and one a sophomore in college.  Jeanna is excited to join her two oldest children in pursuing an advanced degree!

Jennifer James is the Assistant Director of Education at Adath Emanu-El in Mount Laurel, New Jersey.  Jennifer previously served for five years as the Chair of the Religious School Committee at Adath Emanu-El.  In that capacity she partnered with the Director of Education in evaluating, writing and supervising curriculum; hiring and evaluating teachers; creating programming for religious school families; and developing educational policy.  She has focused her efforts on the religious school as a vehicle for building community within the congregation and bringing life-long learning to students and parents, and in that respect has served as a liaison between the Religious School and the Youth Activities, Social Action, and Ritual Committees.  Jennifer earned a B.A. at Rutgers College and a J.D. at Harvard Law School, and spent nearly 20 years practicing law in Philadelphia prior to moving into Jewish education.  Jennifer lives in Mount Laurel with her three children, Rachel (17), L.J. (13) and Emma (11).

Alice ‘Liz’ Levin is the Temple Educator at Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead, MA. As such, she is the principal of the religious school, the family educator, the B’nei Mitzvah tutor, and oversees the preschool and youth group programs. Liz graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in History and Religious Studies from McGill University in Montreal. There, she served as Education VP at the local Hillel, and has continued working in Jewish education. Liz has served as an Assistant Director at the ADL, a Jewish Programming Director at Hillel, and Youth Educator at a Conservative Temple. Liz lived in Israel for three years, where she worked as an English teacher. She is married to Avia Levin and they reside in Waltham, MA with her two (Hebrew-speaking) dogs.

Linda Silverman Levine
has served as the Director of Education at Temple Habonim in Barrington, Rhode Island for the past six years. Prior to this she was the Director of Adult Education and Programming at Temple Solel in Cardiff, California. Having spent most of her adult life working in Jewish education, Linda has taught every age group from a pre-school class of two year olds to an adult b'nai mitzvah program where she taught an octogenarian to chant Torah. Linda was also the Director of Pathways to Judaism, a twenty eight week program specifically designed for unaffiliated, interfaith families to learn about Judaism.  A graduate of Rutgers College, she also attended Machon L'Madrechei Chutz L'Aretz in Jerusalem. Linda and her husband Steven Levine have two young adult children, Andrew and Jesse.

Miri Levine is the Head of the Hebrew/Judaica Department at The Shalom School in Sacramento, CA. She graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Bible studies and Literature from Oranim/Haifa University, Israel.  Miri's experience in Jewish Education includes but is not limited to: serving in the Israeli Army as a soldier teacher teaching new immigrants who came from Russia and Ethiopia, training and selecting new soldier teachers, teaching in day school both in Israel and in the United States.  She is a engaged with Project "Sulam" ( strengthening Jewish learning with other professionals )-and is part of the "BASIS" (Israel Education) Leadership team.   Miri is married to Ariel Levine and is a proud mother to twin boys Adam and Daniel (8) and Sophia (3).

Valeria Michanie grew up in Cordoba, Argentina and knew from an early age that she wanted to study Jewish Education. Fluent in Spanish, English, and Hebrew, Valeria has studied in Argentina and Israel, where she met her husband, Yosi, an Israeli born in Argentina . She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Education. Prior to moving to the United States with her husband and three children in 2003, Valeria taught early childhood education in Israel and Argentina, acquiring a total of 20 years of early childhood education teaching and administrative experience. For the past ten years, Valeria worked as a teacher and then became the Director of the Early Childhood Center and Religious School of Temple Israel of Greater Miami. Throughout her career, she has written innovative curriculum, developed and facilitated a variety of hands-on family education programs, and supervised the youth group and NFTY advisors. As an Educator at URJ Camp Coleman in Cleveland, Georgia, Valeria was able to significantly increase the number of students from Temple Israel who could attend this Reform Movement summer camp. As a lifelong Jewish learner and professional Jewish Educator, Valeria has instilled her love and knowledge of Judaism and Eretz Yisrael in the children and families of the communities she has served. Her warmth, compassion, and creativity are undeniable, as is her commitment to Jewish education. Valeria is proud to be the new Education Director at Temple Solel in Hollywood, FL.

Susan Morrel is the Director of Education at Beth El Temple Center in Belmont, MA.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in International Marketing from the University of Massachusetts and her certificate in Jewish Family Education from Hebrew College.  Susan has worked in various roles in Jewish education over the past 17 years including family educator, assistant education director, b’nai mitzvah tutor, retreat director, and classroom teacher.  Susan and her husband Dean live in Sterling, MA with their four children, Alicia, Stephanie, David, and Shaina.   

Leslie Scheck is the preschool director of The Syndi Scheck Yad B’Yad Preschool at Temple Emanuel of Tempe.  She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with certificates in Early Childhood and ESL from Arizona State University.  Leslie’s experience in Jewish education includes teaching learners of all ages at Temple Emanuel’s Religious School and Preschool programs.  She is the creator and founding director of Chaverim Tovim, Temple Emanuel’s Summer Camp program.  She was the youth group advisor at Temple Emanuel for 7 years.  Leslie is an active member of the ECE-RJ and served on the 2011 Conference Planning Committee.  Leslie's passion is fostering a love of learning and a strong Jewish identity in the children of our Temple Emanuel Community.  Her hope is that the preschoolers of today will become the leaders of Temple Emanuel tomorrow.

Debbie Kardon Schwartz is the Director of Family Education and Community Life at Congregation B’nai Torah in Sudbury MA.  Debbie has over 20 years of experience as an informal Jewish Educator beginning as a Youth Advisor.   Debbie has a Masters in Social Work from Syracuse University. In recent years she has completed Hebrew College’s Me’ah program, Facing History and Ourselves seminar for Jewish Educators, and the Jewish Women’s Archives Summer Institute. This February Debbie received a teaching certification in Yoga and Jewish Spirituality.  Debbie currently serves on JWA’s Advisory Council and Mayyim Hayyim’s Educational Task Force.  Debbie, her husband and three children live in Framingham MA. Debbie is a regular volunteer at her children’s schools --Rashi—Boston’s Reform Independent School and Gann Academy.

Michelle Schwartz is the Assistant Director of Education at Temple Sinai in Denver, Colorado.  She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from University of Colorado. Michelle's experience in Jewish education began as B'nei Mitzvah tutor in Boulder, and has since included four years as the USY Director, classroom teaching grades 6-10, curriculum development and the implementation of a new Hebrew program at Temple Sinai.  This is her 17th year at Temple Sinai.   She is married to Brian and has two daughters, Macey age 8and half and Avery, age 6.


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, click here or 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.