HUC-JIR Holds Town Hall on the School of Education

By David Scott and Rachel Barnehama,
Co-Chairs of the School of Education Alumni Association
January 25, 2024

On November 30, 2023, as part of a series of Town Hall events hosted by the Director of Alumni Engagement for HUC-JIR, Jason Rose, over a hundred Jewish educators, including many alumni of the HUC-JIR School of Education, gathered online for a special event. President Andrew Rehfeld, PhD., Provost Rabbi Andrea Weiss, Ph.D., and Director of the School of Education, Miriam Heller Stern, Ph.D., together with David Scott, MARE, RJE (’17), Co-Chair of the School of Education Alumni Association who served as moderator, responded to recent decisions made by the Board of Governors with respect to the School of Education. Specifically, at a recent board meeting, it was decided that the current programming structure for the school would need to be changed in the coming years to respond to the growing needs of the field and for the School of Education to remain relevant and viable. One of the most challenging decisions was to bring to closure the in-person graduate program for emerging Jewish educators, which will sunset in 2026.

The School of Education Alumni Association (SOEAA) leadership understands that the decision made by the Board was likely a necessary financial and proactive decision that will hopefully foster creative growth for the school. In fact, plans are underway to explore replacing the current in-person program with a hybrid pathway to allow emerging Jewish educators to receive degrees in Jewish education that will not require them to study exclusively in person on one campus. The means by which this news was communicated, however, was met with disappointment, especially given the amount of conversation and discussion that surrounded the termination of other programs across HUC-JIR (i.e., the Cincinnati campus). The Town Hall, however, provided an opportunity for President Rehfeld to address these concerns, apologize for how communications were handled, and to seek partnership with our alumni to help foster meaningful and long-lasting change. The SOEAA applauds this effort and is grateful to the leadership of HUC-JIR for providing this space. We look forward to future opportunities to gather and discuss these pending changes prior to their implementation. Our alumni are one of the greatest resources of HUC-JIR, and graduates of all the programs within the School of Education can provide meaningful feedback, wisdom, and guidance as these changes are being considered and implemented.

If you are interested in lending your voice to what lies ahead for the School of Education and participating in opportunities for professional learning and contributing to the future of the field, we invite you to get involved with the SOEAA. Our voices, experiences, and leadership are important for the future of the field of Jewish Education. Please contact co-chairs David Scott, RJE (’17) or Rachel Barnehama (’18) with questions, and we hope to see you in the spring in New York City for our in-person day of learning on April 7-8, 2024.