Transforming the World Through Education: The Newest Cohort of the Master of Educational Leadership

Rabbi Laura Novak Winer and companyRabbi Laura Novak Winer, Ed.D.
Director, Master of Educational Leadership Program

Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) launched its newest cohort of the Master of Educational Leadership (MEdL). A program of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education, the MEdL is designed for passionate, forward-thinking educators who are eager to lead change, design meaningful Jewish experiences, and transform the world through education.

Throughout the program, students drive transformative professional work while pursuing graduate studies that advance their career opportunities. With access to and mentorship from world-class academics, researchers, and thought leaders, students engage in academic courses that integrate educational theory with deep dives into teaching and learning, aims and aspirations of Jewish Education, leadership, labs in pedagogical content knowledge, and Judaic studies.

The centerpiece of the MEdL program is a paid, part-time graduate residency in a partner educational institution. Students hold a Jewish education portfolio designed for them to lead innovation and change. They apply their HUC studies and bring their ideas, inspiration, and practice to life for direct impact in the field of Jewish education.

Sarah Nabagala is beginning her first year in the MEdL program.  Moving to Los Angeles from Mbale, Uganda to study on the Skirball campus, via two years of study in Israel, Sarah is learning valuable skills and developing the dispositions of a Jewish Educational leader in both her HUC courses and at her graduate residency at the Milken Community School. Among other responsibilities at Milken, she will be teaching Jewish studies, and assisting in implementing their global beit midrash which brings together the components of Jewish learning, social justice leadership, and celebration of community.

This year’s cohort of MEdL students also includes three Rabbinical students who complete a one-year version of the program. Julia Berg was motivated to pursue the MEdL degree by her vision of rabbi as teacher. “Having the MEdL will inform my future as a rabbi because it will give me the skills to be a better educator. The better I can understand my learners’ needs in any given situation, the better I will be able to facilitate their learning. This program will give me to skills to understand how to provide learners with the things they need to succeed and feel engaged in learning.”

Shirah Kraus, a rabbinic student on the Cincinnati campus, moved to Los Angeles to pursue the MEdL. She has jumped feet first into the learning.  “Even after just three weeks of classes, my brain is on fire (aka the neurons are firing a lot). I am learning so much in response to big questions and challenges I have faced in my teaching. For example, I am excited to learn more about training and supervising in our “Professional Learning and Instructional Leadership” class with Julie Lambert (RHSOE ‘97, ZSJNM ‘97). After working as the assistant program director at Eden Village West last summer, I am beginning to build on my experiential learning and the feedback I received to grow as a supervisor and educational leader. I am already beginning to imagine an intentional staff leadership program that could be implemented in a camp setting.”  Shirah is a MEdL graduate resident at Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas, CA.

Elana Ackerman Hirsch, rabbinic student in the one-year program, is a MEdL graduate resident at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills. While she has been working with Rabbi Adam Lutz, Assistant Rabbi/Director of Education (NY ‘16, MAJE ‘17), at Temple Emanuel for a few years as a Hebrew teacher, this year she will be applying her growing educational leadership skills to their evolving Hebrew education program, helping them launch a new phase of the program which includes Let’s Learn Hebrew Side by Side.  “This year,” says Elana, “I’m excited about the Hebrew programs we’re implementing–we’re trying to make Hebrew education more meaningful and interesting for students in a variety of ways.”

Are you or someone you know seeking creative, impactful, and spiritual work, and curious about pursuing a graduate degree in Jewish educational leadership? Learn more about the MEdL, and contact us at