Zooming Toward the Future: The Challenges, Strategies, and Opportunities of Distance Learning

To help the Jim Joseph Foundation and the field better understand how pivoting to distance learning has unfolded for Jewish education and professional development organizations, Rosov Consulting interviewed nine program providers from the Jim Joseph Foundation Professional Development Initiative (PDI) cohort, along with five other Foundation grantees that operate in overlapping fields. The interviews explored the initial choices organizations made and how those choices evolved over time. We investigated the challenges that programs faced when moving online, whether and how they were able to address those challenges, the positive “silver linings” of being forced to reimagine how they do their work, and which dimensions might continue once people can gather in person again.

This report synthesizes the key themes we heard in these conversations, categorized into the challenges programs have faced in the pivot to distance learning, the strategies to overcome them that have proved most effective, and the opportunities (both predictable and surprising) that have emerged from the crisis. We conclude by sharing organizational leaders’ perspectives on how they envision the “new normal” in a post-COVID world.

Zooming Toward the Future: The Challenges, Strategies, and Opportunities of Distance Learning, Rosov Consulting, September 2020

Virtual Engagement Research

Supported by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation and Jim Joseph Foundation, the Benenson Strategy Group surveyed 1,001 American Jews nationwide, ages 18-40, from June 29 – July 15, 2020. The research objectives of this projects were to:

  • Assess how Jewish young adults are responding to the ongoing pandemic and how they are engaging (or not engaging) with virtual programming from organizations right now.
  • Understand what kinds of virtual programming Jewish young adults are seeking out right now, and why: what appeals to them about certain programs and/or organizations, what kind of needs they fill, and what it is about a program that makes it worthwhile or meaningful.
  • Identify how organizations can enhance and expand virtual Jewish programming to best meet the needs of young Jews today.

View the full report and data

Read Emotion Before Content: Evidence Based Recommendations for Designing Virtual Jewish Engagement, by Rella Kaplowitz, Stacie Cherner, and Lisa Narodick Colton, in eJewish Philanthropy

Has Remote Learning Set Back Jewish Day School Students?

In July 2020, 16 Jewish day high schools fielded a survey to their students about their experience of remote learning since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey was developed with support from the Government of Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs as part of work for Unit.Ed—a day school initiative in Europe and Latin America. It was originally fielded in Jewish communities such as Milan, Paris, and Buenos Aires. Subsequently, it was slightly modified for students in North America. North American data were collected and analyzed by Rosov Consulting with the support of the Foundation and in partnership with Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools. After data analysis was complete, interviews were conducted with school leaders at the schools whose students had responded most positively in order to learn about their educational practices during this period.

This bulletin focuses on student responses to the question: “Do you feel that remote learning has set your education back in some way?” Possible responses, on a four-point scale, were: “Not at all,” “A little,” “Somewhat,” and “Very much.” Students were asked to explain their responses to this question in their own words; 1,112 did so.

In total, 1,383 students responded to the North American survey. All of these respondents were enrolled in 9th through 12th grade during the 2019–2020 academic year. Ten of the participating schools are Modern Orthodox; six are Community or Conservative high schools.

Has Remote Learning Set Back Jewish Day School Students?Rosov Consulting, August 2020

Let’s Stop Calling it “Hebrew School”: Rationales, Goals, and Practices of Hebrew Education in Part-time Jewish Schools

This CASJE-supported study investigated how Hebrew is taught and perceived at American part-time Jewish schools (also known as supplementary schools, religious schools, and Hebrew schools). Phase 1 consisted of a survey of 519 school directors around the United States, focusing on rationales, goals, teaching methods, curricula, and teacher selection. Phase 2 involved brief classroom observations at 12 schools and stakeholder surveys (376 total) at 8 schools with diverse approaches. These observations and stakeholder surveys were intended to determine how teachers teach, use, and discuss Hebrew; how students respond; how students, parents, clergy, and teachers perceive their program; and these constituencies’ rationales and goals for Hebrew education.

Here are some of the study’s key findings:

  • Most schools emphasize decoding (sounding out letters to form words) and recitation of Liturgical and Biblical Hebrew without comprehension for the purpose of ritual participation. Many schools also incorporate some Modern Hebrew, but only a small percentage teach Modern Hebrew conversation through immersive teaching techniques.
  • In addition, most schools practice Hebrew infusion—the incorporation of Hebrew words, songs, and signs into the primarily English environment. The (unstated) goal of infusion is to foster a metalinguistic community of Jews who value Hebrew. This is reflected in the high importance of affective goals—such as associating Hebrew with Jewishness and feeling personally connected to Hebrew—for all constituencies, especially school directors.
  • A major challenge in Hebrew education is the small number of “contact hours” that most schools have with their students. On average, schools spend 3.9 hours per week with 6th graders, including 1.7 hours on Hebrew. Multiple stakeholders consider this limited time the most significant challenge. Even schools on the high end of contact hours wish they had more time.
  • School directors, clergy, teachers, parents, and students have diverse rationales and goals for Hebrew education, which at times can create tensions. School directors believe parents are only or primarily interested in bar/bat mitzvah preparation. This is true for many parents, but some parents also have other goals for their children, including gaining conversational Hebrew skills. Parents and students value Hebrew for reasons besides bar/bat mitzvah more than school directors and clergy expect them to.
  • School directors express less interest in some Modern Hebrew-related goals than do parents and other constituents. Perhaps this reflects school directors’ more realistic sense of what is possible with limited contact hours.
  • Students generally express positive feelings about their school and learning Hebrew. Their responses suggest that schools are generally succeeding in affective goals more than school directors believe.
  • School directors are more likely to feel they are accomplishing goals that are important to them when certain factors are present: when they have been in their positions longer, when they have realistic goals based on the contact hours they have, when their schools do much of their Hebrew learning in small groups, and when their schools assign a small amount of homework.
  • Many schools have trouble finding teachers with sufficient Hebrew knowledge, as well as teachers with adequate pedagogical skills for teaching Hebrew.
  • Schools are making changes in opposite directions. Some schools are adding more Modern Hebrew instruction; others are shifting their focus solely to Textual Hebrew.
  • Hebrew Through Movement and other elements of #OnwardHebrew have become popular. Many school directors consider these approaches successful.
  • Online Hebrew learning is gaining some traction. Online options include gamified activities and one-on-one Skype/FaceTime tutoring sessions (this study was conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic). School directors generally feel that these individualized and technologically based approaches are effective.
  • Many school directors and teachers are not aware of the resources for Hebrew education in part-time Jewish schools.

Based on these findings, researchers recommend several actions for schools to take:

  • Initiate a comprehensive process of collaborative visioning regarding rationales, goals, and practices involving teachers, clergy, parents, and students.
  • Make explicit the primacy of affective goals and expand Hebrew infusion practices to accomplish those goals.
  • To teach decoding, spend less class time in large groups and more time in one-on-one and small-group configurations.
  • With parent buy-in, offer a small amount of gamified homework.
  • Offer multiple tracks or an enrichment option for families interested in conversational Hebrew.
  • Change the informal nomenclature to stop using the misnomer “Hebrew school,” except where Hebrew language proficiency is the primary focus.

View the full report, Let’s Stop Calling it “Hebrew School”: Rationales, Goals, and Practices of Hebrew Education in Part-time Jewish Schools and an infographic on the key findings.

Preparing for Entry: Concepts That Support a Study of What It Takes to Launch a Career in Jewish Education

CASJE is in the midst of a multipronged project to study the Recruitment, Retention, and Development of Jewish Educators (RRDOJE) in the United States. For the purposes of this study, Jewish educators are defined as individuals who work for pay, either part time or full
time, in an institutional setting geared to Jewish educational outcomes. Or, they’re self-employed individuals intending to achieve the same outcomes. They design and/or deliver experiences for the purpose of facilitating Jewish learning, engagement, connection, and
meaning through direct contact with participants.

The Preparing for Entry strand of this inquiry addresses a set of questions that will shed light on what it takes to launch a career in Jewish education and, in turn, what interventions might encourage promising candidates to seek and take up employment as Jewish educators.
These questions include: What attracts people, after they have completed a college degree or its equivalent, to work in the field of Jewish education? What deters them from the field? What pathways into the field are most likely to yield committed and qualified educators? And what might make the field more attractive to promising candidates?

In this paper, Rosov Consulting explores the central terms in this inquiry: What is a career? How different is someone’s perception and experience of their work when it is seen as part of a career rather than a job? What factors and forces are salient in shaping the desire to pursue a career, and specifically a career in Jewish education? What experiences and resources are understood to prepare individuals psychologically and materially to enter a field of work? What do we mean by deterrents and obstacles to pursuing a career?

Preparing for Entry: Concepts That Support a Study of What It Takes to Launch a Career in Jewish Education, Prepared by Rosov Consulting; Principal Investigator Michael J. Feuer, Dean, Graduate School of Education and Human Development, The George Washington University; CASJE June 2020


Unlocking the Future of Jewish Engagement

Research on the American Jewish population in recent years has measured everything from educational attainment to religious composition, attitudes toward the elderly, views on Israel, geographic dispersal, and political persuasion. Yet, studies to date have not deeply explored the nation’s Jewish young adult population.

Increasingly, young American Jews are being recognized as an independent group within the larger American Jewish community—one that engages with being Jewish in ways that differ from previous generations. Approaches to research, however, have not been updated to reflect that this cohort engages with being Jewish differently. As a result, young American Jews’ attitudes and behaviors are not adequately reflected in research that is based on more long-standing metrics related to ritual and religion. Just what these young people make of their Jewish upbringing and values, and how they self-identify, requires further exploration.

Seeking to fill these gaps and to provide a comprehensive and multi-faceted view of Jewish young adults, a consortium of Jewish philanthropies commissioned Atlantic 57 to conduct a rigorous study of Jewish young adults across the United States. For the purposes of this research, young adults were included in the study if they self-identified as Jewish in any way. By focusing on self-prescribed definitions of being Jewish rather than external measures of such identification, this study allows for a nuanced approach to understanding Jewish engagement. It also challenges definitions of what it means to be Jewish today.

The aim of this research is to provide practitioners and philanthropies with rich context on what being Jewish means to these young adults and on how they engage or aspire to engage in Jewish life. This research does not aim to assess the effectiveness of specific programs on Jewish engagement or to make a value judgment about right and wrong ways to be Jewish.

This research was funded by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Genesis Philanthropy Group, Jim Joseph Foundation, and Maimonides Fund.

Unlocking the Future of Jewish Engagement, Atlantic 57, March 2020 


Data File From Survey for GenZ Now: Understanding and Engaging Jewish Teens Today

The data file from the survey of more than 17,500 Jewish teens that was conducted for the 2019 report, GenZ Now: Understanding and Engaging Jewish Teens, is now housed on the Berman Jewish DataBank. This “public use” data set is available for anyone to use for future analyses and research.

  • Survey of 17,576 Jewish teens completed in December, 2017 and January, 2018 via an online questionnaire.
  • Study co-planned by The Jewish Education Project and Rosov Consulting.
  • Data collection online by Qualtrics supervised by Rosov Consulting.

Access the data here.

Are Jewish Organizations Great Places To Work?

Leading Edge piloted the first Employee Experience Survey for the Jewish nonprofit sector in 2016. This survey, which gathers feedback from employees about their experiences at work, has now been taken by 234 organizations in the Jewish nonprofit sector over the past four years. These organizations are using this feedback to ensure that their most valuable asset—their employees—are set up to succeed.

At the heart of the Jewish nonprofit sector is an innate desire on the part of 73,000 professionals to contribute to making the world a better place. These individuals are the engines powering the programs and services that strengthen Jewish communities and enrich society every day.

Are Jewish Organizations Great Places To Work? Results from the fourth annual employee experience surveyLeading Edge and Culture Amp, Fall 2019

Cross-Portfolio Research Study: Literature Review on Jewish Leadership

On behalf of the Jim Joseph Foundation, the Center for Creative Leadership is conducting a cross-portfolio research study of leadership development in the American Jewish community to support Jewish learning experiences. The Foundation defines Jewish learning experiences broadly as “experiences that draw upon Jewish wisdom, values, practices, culture, traditions and history to engage people in activities that guide them towards living more connected, meaningful and purpose-filled lives.” The primary research questions guiding this study can be paraphrased as follows:

  1. How have Jewish leaders developed through opportunities and learning experiences?
  2. What are best practices for leadership development in the Jewish community?
  3. How can understanding the learning journeys of Jewish leaders and state of the art practices in leadership development inform strategies to achieve greater impact through investment in leadership development in the Jewish community?

This literature review represents our first step to exploring these complex questions by researching the distinguishing features of Jewish leadership and highlighting the current day challenges faced by Jewish leaders.

Cross-Portfolio Research Study: Literature Review on Jewish Leadership, Executive Summary, Center for Creative Leadership, May 2019

Read the Foundation’s series of guest blogs reflecting on the CCL literature review:


GenZ Now: Understanding and Connecting With Jewish Teens Today

This study is animated by the vision that all Jewish teens in America will see their Jewish heritage as a source of wisdom, inspiration, and strength as they grow and discover their place in the world. Authored by The Jewish Education Project and Rosov Consulting, GenZ Now, Understanding and Connecting with Jewish Teens Today is the largest study of American Jewish teens ever conducted, with 17,576 teens participating. It deepens our understanding of the complexities of being a Jewish teen in the United States today.

Among the key headlines from the report:

  • Participation in Jewish youth movements, youth groups and other organizations – collectively referred to as youth-serving organizations, or YSOs – measurably contributes to teens connecting to being Jewish, and to feeling good about themselves, their relationships, and their ability to make change in the world.
  • Jewish teens get along with their parents and often reflect their Jewish values and practices.
  • For Jewish teens, being Jewish is often about family, holiday celebrations, and cultural practices.
  • Jewish teens share the troubles and concerns of other American adolescents, notably managing anxiety and depression, and coping with academic pressure.

Perhaps the most important message that communities and organizations can take away from this study is that youth-serving organizations are awesome. Teens who participate in a youth-serving organization (or at least the organizations studied in the report) score higher on almost every outcome measured by our researchers, including affinity toward Israel and behaving with the intention of making world a better place.

The findings of this report suggest an imperative to invest further in youth-serving organizations as a model for teen engagement, both to champion the invaluable work that YSOs are already doing, and to imagine new possibilities, including opportunities that appeal to teens who are underrepresented and not yet engaged.

GenZ Now: Understanding and Connecting With Jewish Teens Today, The Jewish Education Project and Rosov Consulting, March 2019

The Future of Jewish Learning Is Here: How Digital Media Are Reshaping Jewish Education

Among the many ways in which the internet has irreversibly changed our lives is how it has enabled access to information with unprecedented speed and ease. By changing how we engage with information, it has also changed how people relate to information and how they negotiate its various meanings. Social media have accelerated this process by creating new ways to connect people through sharing information. These changes have influenced our communities, our politics, our consumption patterns, how we spend our leisure time, and even our definitions of “friend” and “like.”

Learning online does not look exactly like learning in classrooms or schools, summer camps or seminaries. Nor should we expect it to. And yet, people are learning online, and this report makes the case for understanding online engagements as educational. The question it answers is, “How are people learning online?” Combining leading research about secular online learning and new data about Jewish online learning, The Future of Jewish Learning Is Here offers a substantive, richly illustrative, and intimately informed account of Jewish learning online. It accounts for when, where, and how it happens, what people are learning, and how they are engaging with information alone and in relation with others. Jewish educational online media enable learners to:

Jewish educational online media enable learners to:

  1. Connect with others around Jewish learning
  2. Access Jewish knowledge beyond Jewish institutions
  3. Learn in sync with the rhythms of the Jewish calendar
  4. Utilize different platforms for different ends
  5. Integrate online learning and offline practice

Together, these key findings represent a portrait of Jewish learning online, with the understanding that learning online is more diffuse, less coordinated, more generally self-directed than learning in schools and other formal settings. The Future of Jewish Learning Is Here: How Digital Media Are Reshaping Jewish Education offers insights into how and what people learn online, as part of a larger conversation about what Jewish education looks like in the 21st century.

The Future of Jewish Learning Is Here: How Digital Media Are Reshaping Jewish EducationMarch 2019
(view as single pages)

Read a series of blogs in eJewishPhilanthropy on insights from the report:

Add comments and feedback on the report here:

ON THE JOURNEY: Concepts That Support a Study of the Professional Trajectories of Jewish Educators

This working paper released by The George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development (GSEHD) and CASJE (Consortium for Applied Studies in Jewish Education) is the first report of a multi-year, comprehensive research project addressing the recruitment, retention, and development of educators working in Jewish settings in North America. “On the Journey” shares preliminary insights on individuals who work as Jewish educators today and by comparison with educators who either transitioned to administrative roles or left the field. Stakeholders focused on quality and impact of Jewish education across the country believe that attracting and nurturing talent is one of the greatest challenges today.

The multi-year research project, being conducted by Rosov Consulting, is funded with grants from the William Davidson Foundation and Jim Joseph Foundation. The concepts reviewed in the “On the Journey” report lay the foundations for additional analysis of relevant data on experiences of working educators, and for other parts of the study, which will continue over the next 18 months.  GSEHD, CASJE, and the researchers welcome comments on the working paper, which can be submitted to Joshua Fleck, jfleck@gwu.edu.

ON THE JOURNEY: Concepts That Support a Study of the Professional Trajectories of Jewish Educators, Rosov Consulting, March 2019