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

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) launched its third cohort of fifteen students on May 21, 2013 with a three-day intensive seminar on its Cincinnati campus, followed by a two-week Summer Institute at the New York campus from June 16-27. 

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 professional.

“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, Senior National Director of the Schools of Education, HUC-JIR.

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.”  

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 21-23, the cohort studied with HUC-JIR’s leading education faculty, including Rabbi Samuel K. Joseph, Professor of Jewish Education and Leadership Development at our Cincinnati campus; Dr. Michael Zeldin; and Dr. Evie Rotstein, Director of the New York School of Education.  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, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati, 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 HUC-JIR/New York with two intensive courses during the final two weeks of June.  Dr. Michael Marmur, Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Provost at HUC-JIR, taught a course in Modern Jewish Thought 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.  The instructors noted that the learning was substantially enriched by the great wealth of experience students brought to bear on the learning.

In early November, students studied at the Jack H. Skirball Campus in Los Angeles, where they engaged in a three-day intensive as part of the Teaching and Learning course with Dr. Lisa Grant, Professor of Jewish Education at our New York campus.  Upon their return home from the intensive, two students had the following to share:

"This program invites practitioners to a conversation at the intersection of leadership, teaching and learning.  The content is excellent; but this program is particularly remarkable for its depth, relationships, and systematic, competent modeling of excellence in education." Anna Hartman, The Paradigm Project

"The Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education has handed me a kaleidoscope with many new lenses through which I can view Jewish education.   Every class, every assignment turns the kaleidoscope so that a new image emerges filled with ideas and possibilities.  At the same time, the program continuously refers back to the reality of our current professional lives.   I am growing, learning, exploring and considering how to apply all this to my work." Louise Riddell-Kaufman, Congregation Beth Israel, Carmel, CA


The fifteen students of the third cohort of the Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education hail from throughout North America, span in age from their late 20s to late 50s, and reflect a diversity of professional experience ranging from congregational educators to a Hillel assistant director and synagogue executive director.

Anne Berman-Waldorf is the Director of Lifelong Education at Congregation Beth Chaim (Princeton Junction, NJ.  In her role, she is responsible for overseeing an Early Childhood program (130 students), a Religious School (over 500 students), youth groups, college outreach and adult education.  Anne serves on the Executive Committee of NATE (the National Association of Temple Educators).  Anne received her undergraduate degree in Religious Thought from the University of Pennsylvania.  She and her husband, Joshua, live in Yardley PA with their two children, Sam (a freshman at Lehigh University) and Lily (a sophomore in High School).


Kim Bodemer is the Director of Education at Temple Chayai Shalom in South Easton, Massachusetts.  She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Education and Psychology from Hofstra University in New York.  While working in an inner city elementary school, Kim also began teaching at her childhood synagogue teaching Hebrew and Jewish history.  This experience sparked a love of Jewish education that has blossomed into a career spanning 20 years.  Kim has worked as a classroom teacher in a Jewish Community Center, a supplementary school teacher, a Lower School Coordinator, a b’nai mitzvah tutor, Rosh Chinuch at Camp JRF Family Camp and Director of Education.  Kim and her husband Brian live in Taunton, Massachusetts with their three daughters.


Stacey Frank is currently the Parent and Child Education Coordinator at Temple Judea of Bucks County in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.  In addition to envisioning and implementing Jewish education programs for children and their families, she has taught students of all ages at Temple Judea’s Religious school, developed and implemented new religious school curricula and is a B'nai Mitzvah tutor. Stacey graduated with a B.S. degree in Quantitative Business Analysis from The Pennsylvania State University.  She and her husband John live in New Hope, Pennsylvania with their two children Aaron (age 13), Samantha (age 11) and their menagerie of rescued pets.


Gail Greenberg has worked as a Senior Staff Associate in Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit’s Alliance for Jewish Education since 2001.  She currently works as a Family Education Specialist for the Jewish Experiences for Families (JEFF) department as well as the Assistant Director of the Florence Melton School-Detroit and FedEd (adult education).  She received a B.A. in Music Therapy from Wayne State University, and is a graduate of the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School.  Gail has worked in various roles in Jewish education, including family education, community wide events (including PJ Library programming), adult education, liaising with congregations and other Federation departments, and curriculum development.  Gail lives in Oak Park, Michigan with her husband, Howard and has two children, Seth, 22, and Tami, 19. 


Anna Hartman is a consultant with the Paradigm Project.  In this capacity, she works with early childhood educators in Jewish settings around the country to expand their vision for what is possible and support them as they take next steps.  A graduate of Emory University, Anna was a fellow for four years with the JECEI-Covenant Early Childhood Leadership program.  In 2011, Anna won the Covenant Foundation's Pomegranate Prize for exceptional emerging professionals in Jewish education.


Nicole Jahr joined Temple Kol Ami as the Religious School Director in 2012.  Most recently she was the Interim Director of Education at Congregation Beth Shalom, a in Oak Park, MI and before that the family educator at Adat Shalom Synagogue, a conservative shul in Farmington Hills, MI.  For over 10 years she served as Assistant Education Director, teacher mentor and teacher at Temple Beth El, in Bloomfield Hills, MI.  She has trained over 80 teachers in the Detroit area as a Professional Development for Teachers facilitator with the Congregational School Improvement Initiative (CSI2) a program of the Alliance for Jewish Education, part of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.  Nicole also spent four years as a certified teacher at charter schools in the Detroit metro area teaching third and fifth graders in Title I districts.   Nicole earned her bachelor’s degree at California State University, Fresno, and her teaching certificate from Oakland University in Auburn Hills, Michigan. She lives in Southfield, Michigan with her husband and two daughters.


Lisa Pleskow Kassow is the Executive Director of Trinity College Hillel in Hartford, CT. She lived in Jerusalem from 1978-1990, where she was an award-winning photojournalist. Before becoming Trinity’s full-time Hillel director in 2001, she worked at the Greater Hartford Jewish Community Center (JCC) in West Hartford, CT. During her tenure at the JCC, Kassow directed adult education and later assumed the post of director of arts, culture, and education. Kassow is the founder and former director of the Hartford Jewish Film Festival. Kassow holds a BFA in art from Carnegie-Mellon University and is a graduate of the Beit Midrash program in West Hartford, CT. She was the recipient of the 2008 Jewish Vision Award of the Charter Oak Cultural Center in recognition of her involvement and work in the Greater Hartford Jewish community.


Jenn Katz is the Director of Youth Education and Programming at Congregation Darchei Noam in Toronto, ON. She earned her Bachelor of Music Education with a minor in Mathematics from the University of Illinois. She has worked in various roles in Jewish education across North America for the past 10 years including classroom teacher, youth group advisor, post B’nai Mitzvah program coordinator and retreat coordinator. Jenn and her husband live in Richmond Hill, ON with their two dogs.


Oren Persing is currently the Assistant Director of Jewish Student Life at UC Berkeley Hillel. Having been at Berkeley Hillel for 6 years, he has had ample time to find creative ways to put his undergraduate degree in Building Materials and Wood Technology to use in the context of Jewish education, but is excited to pursue a degree that more directly supports his current and future work in the Jewish community.   Oren takes pride in being a talented generalist and his career experience is as varied as his interests. Past experience has included leading guided kayak and mountain bike trips, community outreach for REI, computer repair at MIT, teaching Leave No Trace to inner city youth, administrative support for the Social Security Administration, safety and security detail aboard the Boston Odyssey cruise ship, manager of the UMass theater scene shop, intern at the MIT robotics lab, and more.


Hadas Rave is the Coordinator of Israel Education and of Service Learning for the K-8 program and a Jewish Studies teacher at the Contra Costa Jewish Day School in San Francisco's East Bay and.  She earned her Degree in Elementary Education from Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina before moving to Israel and working there at an alternative school on Kibbutz Beit Oren for over 10 years.  Hadas now lives in Walnut Creek, CA with her husband and their three children, Noga, Na'ama and Omri.


Louise Riddell-Kaufman is the Director of Education at Congregation Beth Israel in Carmel, California.    She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Wesleyan University and holds a Certificate in Mediation through the University of California.  Louise was a religious school classroom teacher for 6 years before took on her current role in her congregation, a position she has held for the past 15 years.  Louise and her husband live in Carmel Valley, California.   They will celebrate the marriage of their older son this summer and their younger daughter is in her junior year at UC Berkeley.


Zachary Rolf is the Director of Youth Engagement & Outreach at Central Synagogue in New York Citiy.   Zach spent 12 summers as a staff member at the Union for Reform Judaism’s Eisner Camp and as Assistant Director of the Eisner Day Camp for six summers.  Zach graduated from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY, where he majored in Education.  After college, he taught in the New York City public schools as well as in different religious schools in Massachusetts, New York, and Michigan. 


Rabbi Phyllis Sommer has served as the associate rabbi at Am Shalom in Glencoe, IL for the past 10 years. Ordained in 2003 from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, she also holds a Certificate in Jewish Education from HUC-JIR. She is nationally recognized for her blogging and work in integrating social media and technology into Jewish life and learning. She is married to Rabbi Michael Sommer and they have four children, David, Sam, z"l, Yael and Solomon. 


Lynn Tallan is the Community High School Coordinator and Special Needs Coordinator at Congregation Tifereth Israel.  Lynn also teaches the Etgar classes for the sixth grade in the Samuel Melton Hebrew School. She graduated from The Ohio State University with BS and MA degrees. Lynn has worked as an Education Director, Family Education Director, Youth Group Director and loves working at camp. Lynn lives in Pickerington, Ohio with her husband Mitchell and two dogs, her family says the dogs have replaced her two college aged boys, Aaron who is graduating from Miami University Spring 2013 and Lex who is a sophomore in the Columbia/List Joint Program. 


Vicki Weber is a partner in Behrman House, where she serves as Director of Communications and Customer Support.  She is also an author and editor whose latest book, a collection of values-based children’s stories from the Jewish tradition called It’s Too Crowded in Here, won the 2011 Sugarman Family Children’s Book Award. After earning her BA in Economics from Bryn Mawr College, as well as a Financial Analyst Charter from the CFA Institute, Vicki worked for over a decade on Wall Street as a securities analyst. Over the past 15 years, Vicki has developed a variety of Jewish educational materials for adults, children, and families, including The Jewish Holiday Home Companion, Tradition: Celebration and Ritual in Jewish Life, Let’s Discover Mitzvot, and Teach Me Torah. Vicki is a trustee of the Winston School, a grade 3-8 school in Short Hills, New Jersey serving children with language-based learning disabilities, and is a former trustee of Bryn Mawr College. Vicki and her husband live in Summit, New Jersey, where they have raised three children and two Seeing Eye dogs.


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.