CASJE’s Research Digest: Timely Analysis Post October 7th

In the immediate aftermath of October 7th and the subsequent rise in antisemitism, a plethora of new research emerged focused on the needs, feelings, and opinions of American Jews. Jewish communal professionals wanted to make sense of these often-complex data and trends for their own practical purposes. Responding to this need, CASJE (Collaborative for Applied Studies in Jewish Education) developed a Research Digest to serve as an educational tool that made research more accessible and applicable for professionals busy planning and practicing in a new, post-October 7th world.

Over the last ten years CASJE has helped stakeholders in Jewish education develop and use high-quality, applied research to improve their work. The CASJE Research Digest built on this proven record, providing reliable, meaningful, and timely information to support communal leaders and funders benefit in their decision making.

At CASJE, we believe that Jewish communal decision-makers should be guided by the highest quality knowledge. A core aim of our work is to help Jewish communal and foundation professionals put research to good use. In the wake of the October 7 attack on Israel we saw the launch of a number of important data collection efforts here in the U.S. focused on the attitudes and experiences of American Jews. In this challenging and pivotal time we designed the Research Digest to both facilitate access to this growing body of research evidence and give insight into how to read that evidence in contextually appropriate ways.
– Arielle Levites, PhD, Managing Director of CASJE at George Washington University

A key aim of the digest was to help the field improve its collective capacity to be smart consumers and users of research. All studies have limitations, and the digest illuminated those limitations without judgment. Interpreting sophisticated research for a general audience, and unpacking where data can and cannot be applied, aligns with CASJE’s mission to see research applied effectively. Examining study limitations in the digest also enabled the reader to answer critical questions: What do these findings mean for me and what I am trying to accomplish for the people I serve, in this place where they are, at this time that we’re in, and with the resources I have. To that end, CASJE also shared a discussion guide in each digest for use with colleagues to frame discussion about the featured studies and their applicability in various Jewish communal settings.

CASJE, the Jim Joseph Foundation, and certainly many others were hearing a real need to help make sense of this immense amount of new information. Leaders and practitioners in the field had to pivot so quickly; they didn’t have time to comb through new studies and determine what information was most pertinent to them. CASJE stepped in to help these professionals quickly make sense of them and think about the contexts in which these new findings were most relevant.
– Stacie Cherner, Director of Research and Learning, Jim Joseph Foundation

The Research Digest’s 11 issues featured studies on American Jews and timely topics around the Israel-Hamas war and/or antisemitism. The studies, conducted by professional researchers, were already being discussed and circulated in the Jewish communal space and the general public. Two issues of the Research Digest also featured interviews with experts on how to interpret public opinion polls.

Beyond the digest, CASJE’s ongoing work continues. The CASJE Small Grants Program supports studies of Jewish educational processes and outcomes. These grants are intended to stimulate research that investigates Jewish education and its effects, and that is well-positioned to inform practice. Previous Small Grants projects have investigated learning across the wide variety of settings where Jewish education happens and focus on learners of any age across the lifespan. Other current CASJE projects include its Applied Research Fellowship, an advanced training program for scholars, and its Research Use Group, which empowers Jewish educational and engagement professionals to build their capacity to lead research-informed initiatives. CASJE also is a proud member of the fifth cohort of Project Accelerate, a unique program that guides and supports high-performing organizations poised to enter a new stage in their growth and development.

CASJE’s work is guided by an Advisory Board made up of highly accomplished scholars and practitioners in Jewish education and general education. Access the Research Digest issues here. Learn more about CASJE’s other current projects here.

 The Jim Joseph Foundation is a supporter of CASJE.

Institute for Jewish Spirituality Poised to Reach More Young Adults and Jewish Professionals

Since 1999, the Institute for Jewish Spirituality has helped individuals and communities experience greater awareness, purpose, and interconnection through Jewish spiritual practices. Over the last few years, amid hyper-polarization, the pandemic, the Israel-Hamas war, and other challenges, IJS’s efforts to develop and teach Jewish mindfulness and spiritual practices have taken on increased urgency as demand for these experiences increases. 

To meet this demand now—and to engage more people in the years ahead—IJS is focusing on three pillars of its work:

  • Supporting Jewish spiritual leaders–clergy, educators, chaplains, and others–who do so much to support, lead, and guide individuals and communities 
  • Deepening relationships among IJS’s large and growing community of participants through daily, monthly, and long-term programs 
  • Expanding access to Jewish mindfulness and spiritual practices and helping even more people, particularly young adults, engage with Jewish life through them

IJS’s impact on me is inestimable. It is not an overstatement to say that my engagement with IJS changed my rabbinate and my life. The tools, insight and sense of community with participants and faculty have been an invaluable sense of mooring and meaning–not only in the challenging time of Covid, but in all the years since. – Rabbi David Stern

Of the more than 10,000 people IJS engages annually through its programs and resources, 90 percent of participants say that IJS supports their learning and growth. Eighty-eight percent express interest in further developing their Jewish spiritual practices. For many people, Jewish mindfulness serves as a vital entry point into Judaism and a pathway for meaningful Jewish connection and engagement. This is particularly true for young adults who have come of age as practices like meditation and mindfulness have been familiar for their entire lives. IJS’s offerings reflect its growing audience, with programs and resources that are vast and varied, designed to meet the needs, time constraints, and level of knowledge of different people. 

One newer offering, Flourish, is designed especially for Jewish professionals. The 12-week program, taught by well-known mindfulness teacher Yael Shy and IJS Core Faculty member Rabbi Miriam Margles, aims to renew and deepen participants’ meditation practice, reduce stress and suffering, deepen joy, and provide Jewish mindfulness tools for leadership, resilience, and wisdom in the participants’ workplaces and communities. It features digestible, clear instructional videos, journaling prompts, guided meditations and weekly live practice sessions to develop connections with other participants and support their Jewish spiritual growth and leadership. As another example, IJS’s President and CEO Rabbi Josh Feigelson hosts the weekly podcast, Soulful Jewish Living: Mindful Practices for Everyday, produced in partnership with OpenDor Media’s Unpacked podcast series. Designed to be easily accessible, Rabbi Feigelson guides listeners with ancient wisdom and modern mindfulness practices to help center their soul and ease into their week. 

I looked up from my morning coffee and saw the view from my window with fresh eyes, with gratitude and amazement. Thank you for your words, both inspiring and comforting, at a time when we are in such need of inspiration and comfort. – podcast listener Laura Gussin Zinker, Newtown, PA

In the years ahead, IJS will grow and expand its offerings, with a specific goal to reach more young people and help them develop a deeper sense of belonging in Jewish life. Rebecca Schisler, who joined the IJS faculty in 2022, is planting the seeds for reaching younger populations through Jewish spiritual and mindfulness practices. Her multi-year plan offers models for in-person, local programming in the East Bay that may be brought to scale, as well as national efforts to engage young adults in Jewish spiritual practices.

Torah study isn’t just an intellectual experience. If we come away only to say, ‘That was interesting,’ we’re not doing it right. Torah study is, first and foremost, about connection: to our heritage, to our ancestors, to our study partners, to our community, to the Holy One, to ourselves. – Rebecca Schisler, IJS faculty member focusing on engaging young adults

 

The Jim Joseph Foundation is a supporter of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. Learn more at jewishspirituality.org.

SRE Network Unveils New Strategic Plan

Over the last five years, SRE Network has worked toward creating safer, more respectful, and equitable Jewish workplaces and communal spaces. SRE Network pursues this vision through network building, resource sharing, and community investments. Following nearly a year of listening, learning, reflecting, and dreaming together, SRE Network recently shared its 2024-2026 strategic plan.

With SRE’s powerful support, we’ve been able to amplify our voice, and we’ve been able to engage our partners with the very difficult but needed work of accountability and repair, finding a path forward. – SRE Member

 

VIEW SRE NETWORK’S STRATEGIC PLAN

The plan captures the goals below that SRE Network knows are needed to successfully sustain this budding ecosystem of positive workplace and communal culture change over the next three years:

  1. Support network growth, accountability, and impact through three engagement pathways (members, affiliates, and partners) and new membership benefits.
  2. Embed safety, respect, and equity values and the SRE Standards across its sector by highlighting and expanding learning, resources, and strategic guidance across safety, respect, and equity.
  3. Expand its collective impact by awarding $3 million to affiliates and members over the course of the next three years.
  4. Drive greater awareness of safety, respect, and equity issues, and SRE Network’s work and services by investing in communications and thought leadership.
  5. Ensure sustained growth and impact by building SRE’s organizational capacity.

    Panel discussion on equity at SRE Network’s 5 Year Anniversary Celebration, courtesy Shulamit photo + video

SRE Network believes that these efforts can have larger, positive ripple effects across the Jewish community that build on current successes. Already, since its launch in 2018, the organization has grown to include more than 170 Jewish organizations and has seeded more than $5.5 million in grants to support organizations’ efforts toward change. Its annual report of nearly all member organizations tracks progress they make toward building safer, more respectful, and equitable workplaces and communal spaces. Throughout the year, SRE Network’s events, programs, and resources help organizations improve and deepen efforts to that end.

[The most valuable part of being a SRE member is] is having someone and someplace to turn to when we have an incident, and knowing we are not alone going through this work, as well as the materials and tools to utilize to increase the safety, respect, and equity at our organization. – SRE Member


The Jim Joseph Foundation is a supporter of SRE Network. View the organization’s new strategic plan.

 

Yom Rabin: Jewish Day of Healthy Argument

A powerful and timely initiative will enable people to mark Yom Rabin, October 26th, as the Jewish Day of Healthy Argument. For the Sake of Argument, Pedagogy of Partnership, A More Perfect Union, Pardes’ Mahloket Matters, and Resetting the Table are collaborating to provide educational resources, including a video guide to healthy arguments, event guides, and workshops for rabbis and educators to help people of all ages understand and experience that arguments can be productive.

On November 4, 1995 (12 Cheshvan), Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a fellow Israeli at a peace rally in Tel Aviv. The months preceding his murder were darkened by discord, incitement, and hate speech. For the Sake of Argument says that “it was disagreement in its most destructive form.” Every year since, Israelis and Jews around the world have struggled to mark Yom Rabin, the Hebrew date of Rabin’s assassination. Some teach of peace, some learn about democracy, some ignore its significance altogether.

We believe it’s time for a new tradition. Our goal is to make Yom Rabin the Jewish Day of Healthy Argument. A day on which Jews worldwide host events and programs that embrace healthy arguments. Arguments that help us talk openly about our disagreements and understand each other’s perspectives. Arguments that build bridges rather than deepening divides. Arguments that teach us that we can live together, despite our differences.
– 
Leaders of Yom Rabin Initiative

Yom Rabin leaders hope the initiative helps identify “evangelists” around the world for healthy arguments. In this regard, the initiative is designed to support organizations and individuals planning their own events around healthy arguments, with or without the initiative’s specific materials. A healthy argument can include a conversation in which two or more people disagree, but are able to learn something new about someone or something else; a conversation from which one learns something from a disagreement; a disagreement in which one learns something new about themselves, about someone else, or about a subject matter; or a disagreement where the goal is to learn something new, rather than to try to agree or convince.

Rabin’s assassination stands as a stark reminder of what can happen when factions of a society come to see one another as ‘other’ and enemy. Healthy argument can provide one crucial antidote to such escalation, channeling societal conflicts into greater cohesion, problem solving, and capacity to find ways forward together. We are excited to join with others organizations in marking Yom Rabin as a Day of Healthy Argument and to offer tools to help communities confront, honor, and learn even from enduring and passionate differences.
– 
Rabbi Melissa Weintraub, Co-CEO, Resetting the Table

In Israeli society this day takes many forms, ranging from a day in which educational leaders talk about the dangers of deep fissures in society, to a more political day that bemoans the loss of a leader who pushed an agenda for peace that wasn’t accepted across the political spectrum. Outside of Israel, in Jewish institutions, this day is marked in a variety of ways as well, ranging from commemorating the person that Rabin was to studying about the history of the attempted peace processes in Israel.

 

Our initiative is intended to emphasize a different part of Yom Rabin. Founded on the fact that, too often, when words run out, violence begins, we strive to help change the way the Jewish community in North America talks about our differences of opinion. The values that we hope to highlight and strengthen are sharing, rather than hiding, our differences of opinion, Being curious about different opinions, Gaining new perspectives and insights, even when (especially when?) we don’t agree.
– Abi Dauber Sterne and Robbie Gringras, co-directors, For the Sake of Argument

Visit forthesakeofargument.org/yom-rabin to access Yom Rabin resources.

 

 

ElevatEd: A New Initiative to Transform Early Childhood Jewish Education

Early childhood Jewish education (ECJE) is critical for developing minds, engaging young Jewish families, and ensuring the Jewish community’s health today and in the future. For ECJE to succeed, the field needs to urgently address the shortage of early childhood educators, while also resourcing and supporting them throughout their careers. ElevatEd, a groundbreaking  collaborative initiative from  JCC Association of North America, Jewish Federations of North America, and the Union for Reform Judaism, aims to transform ECJE with a far-reaching strategy to attract, train, and support more educators in the field. In the new initiative, known formerly as Project-412, these three prominent Jewish organizations will collaborate with funders, practitioners, educators, and community leaders to address the critical educator shortage and work to expand the field of early childhood Jewish education in North America.

ECJE director and teacher at the ElevatEd educator reception in Houston, Sept 6.

In total, the JCC Movement and Reform Movement operate 475 early childhood centers serving more than 65,000 young children and their families across the country. Tens of thousands more remain on long waiting lists or simply choose not to even try due to the shortage of educators. The three-year ElevatEd pilot will focus on 14 pioneer communities across 14 states, with a goal of recruiting, training, and credentialing up to 30 educators in each community, amounting to more than 400 emerging early childhood educators in total. ElevatEd launched in the summer of 2023 with five initial communities: Boston, Massachusetts; Denver-Boulder, Colorado; East Bay, California; Houston, Texas; and Long Island, New York. With these new educators, ElevatEd hopes to leverage ECJE as a driver of deeper and longer-term family engagement in meaningful Jewish life. The educators will work in JCCs, synagogues across all denominations, and a diverse collection of other Jewish educational settings that reflect the unique demographic makeup of their area.

 

CJP is incredibly proud to join several other Federations in supporting ElevatEd on a local level. In Boston, we believe that a focus on families with young children has the potential to transform our communities and a critical component of this work is support for early childhood education and educators. Together with our early childhood education partners, we are working to identify and tackle challenges and make the most of important opportunities such as this one. We are tremendously excited about ElevatEd’s new approach to boosting early childhood Jewish education and look forward to all of the benefits it will bring young families and our community.
Marc Baker, President and CEO of Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP), Boston’s Jewish Federation

With the new school year underway, participating emerging educators in cohort one will soon start their year of learning, 18 months of mentorship support, and will receive funds to support their work toward a credential in early childhood education. Equally important, mid-career educators in each ElevatEd school also receive a stipend and will participate in a research-based mentor training program in partnership with the Jewish New Teacher Project to support the emerging educators in their schools.

The second cohort of communities will launch in early 2024 and help cement the long-term model for improving ECJE and making it more widely available. Each pioneer community will pair their own funding alongside a substantial initial investment from philanthropic foundations, which will build a long-term financial model for improvement and growth.  To provide the foundation for the year of learning, ElevatEd is partnering with nationally recognized educational experts, Teaching Beyond the Square and the K’ilu Company, for the general and Judaic studies framework for emerging educators, respectively. 

We need a national strategy to address systemic challenges in the early childhood Jewish landscape, which is why we are excited to launch ElevatEd, a groundbreaking partnership to address these issues on a national scale in the Jewish community.
Sasha Kopp, senior director of education and engagement, ElevatEd

ElevatEd teacher reception in Houston, Sept. 6

The launch of ElevatED is an ambitious and timely development for ECJE that reflects the urgent, large-scale needs of the field. Early childhood Jewish educators are integral to thriving Jewish life–they nurture children, families, and their Jewish communities. With this expansive effort to recruit, train, credential, and mentor ECJE educators, more families will have opportunities to engage in Jewish communal life.

This collaborative approach among national partners, national and local funders, and key stakeholders in each local community also reflects a powerful, shared vision of meaningful ECJE accessible to all. To shed light on the program’s impact, Rosov Consulting will measure its outcomes. Through iteration and experimentation, ElevatEd plans to use this pilot phase to become a long-term model for the growth of ECJE and for powerful ECJE experiences led by talented educators.

 

ElevatEd is a pilot initiative funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation, Crown Family Philanthropies, and the Samuels Family Foundation, as well as from local Federations, foundations, and local philanthropists in each pioneer community. Visit elevatedtogether.org for more information.

Top picture: Representatives from Houston’s JCC, Federation, and the URJ at ElevatEd’s first retreat Sept. 6 discussed how to leverage the time that families spend in ECJE to connect them deeply with the greater Houston Jewish community for lifelong engagement and learning.

JIMENA: Expanding its Role as an Educational Leader

As the leading voice for Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, JIMENA is expanding its role as a thought leader and resource hub for the Jewish community and the field of Jewish education. While JIMENA has always worked to educate alongside its advocacy efforts, today the organization is in the midst of a strategic plan designed to deepen and grow its role in this critical area so that Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews and their histories are more fully included in American Jewish life.

JIMENA’s newest resource, Distinctions: A Sephardi and Mizrahi Journal, addresses contemporary Jewish concerns through a classical Sephardi and Mizrahi lens. The online quarterly publication offers fresh and impactful content that elevates the perspectives and raises the profile of Sephardi and Mizrahi people and communities. Distinctions’ inaugural Summer 2023 issue focuses on antisemitism, with a special introduction by Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, the U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, as well as a featured story by Sharon Nazarian, who has worked on international affairs as a senior vice president for the Anti-Defamation League. Each issue of Distinctions will be framed around a theme of communal interest to Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews. 

Distinctions is designed to push our community forward, to uncover people and perspectives on issues that for too long have been ignored. JIMENA believes that to genuinely change internal Jewish narratives and attitudes — and to become more inclusive and respectful of Sephardi and Mizrahi people and communities — we need this new platform.
– Ty Alhadeff, JIMENA’s director of education and director of JIMENA’s Sephardic Leadership Institute

JIMENA’s growth as an educational leader and expert is timely and fills a previous void in the field. To help advance the White House’s recently released U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, JIMENA curated a collection of lesson plans and educational units on antisemitism and Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews, all of which are available at no cost to state departments of education, school districts, and individual schools.

These resources will help students understand the many ways antisemitism manifests and the diversity of Jews impacted by it. We were privileged to be a part of the development of the National Strategy. Now we need to play a role in its implementation. It is our hope to raise the funding to produce more lessons on Nazi camps in North Africa, the Farhud in Iraq, Convivencia as a model to fight antisemitism and bigotry of all forms, and other country-by-country lessons.
– Sarah Levin, executive director of JIMENA

JIMENA also has undertaken major efforts to help New York and Los Angeles Jewish Day Schools better integrate Sephardic and Mizrahi students, culture, and content. The projects began recently with an assessment of Day Schools in those cities to determine what types of interventions school administrators and educators need to create more inclusive classrooms. The assessments’ findings will enable JIMENA to design the right training for Jewish educators and administrators.

Over the next few years, as JIMENA grows, so too will its leadership development programs and knowledge-base it can share with the field. In particular, JIMENA commissioned a research team under the direction of Dr. Mijal Bitton to conduct the first-ever demographic study of Sephardic Jewish Americans. The research is designed to help inform professionals, educators, leaders and scholars about who Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews in America are and recommendations for their representation and inclusion in Jewish life, among other key outcomes.  

Learn more at jimena.org. The Jim Joseph Foundation is a supporter of JIMENA.

The Israel Educational Travel Alliance: A New Model Professionalizes a Field

At the height of the pandemic, leaders and organizations involved in Israel educational travel scrambled to stay up to date on travel policies and regulations. During that chaotic period, the Israel Educational Travel Alliance (IETA) was born. Today, it is housed at the Jewish Federations of North America and includes over 100 partner organizations and funders across North America and Israel—who share a commitment to learning from and with each other to provide innovative, effective, relevant, and impactful Israel educational travel experiences.

The field of educational travel to Israel has grown to become one of the cornerstones of Jewish identity building in North America. It is the most effective educational tool we have, and that is why Jewish Federations remain committed to our investment in IETA.
– Eric Fingerhut, President and CEO of Jewish Federations of North America

In just a few years, IETA has evolved from a space focused on travel policies to become a critical source of leadership, support, and information for the field. More than 80,000 people come to Israel each year through IETA partner organizations, representing different age cohorts, target audiences, and travel experiences. Of course the common link is each partner’s dedication to Israel educational travel.

Israel educational travel plays a critical role in nurturing a strong sense of Jewish identity among North American teens and young adults, deepening ties between the global Jewish people and Israel, and inspiring allyship between Jewish and non-Jewish communities. IETA is committed to serving the professionals and organizations in this field so that they can be most effective and operate at the highest levels of professionalism.
– Tal Gozani, Founding Executive Director, IETA

Thanks in part to the IETA, the field is both growing and becoming more sophisticated as a space for knowledge sharing and skill development. The IETA hosts convenings, trainings, and enrichment opportunities for professionals in the field, and advocates on behalf of the field. It also engages funders to better align the interests, concerns, observations, and investments of the philanthropic community with the field.

Being part of a professional alliance with other organizations in the Israel educational travel space has helped to elevate the field in important ways. Enabling valuable information sharing and collaborations as well as raising awareness about important policies is proving to benefit the entire field. When the quality of Israel educational travel is raised, each of our member organizations are stronger.
– Elizabeth Sokolsky, Executive Director, Birthright Israel North America and co-Chair, IETA Steering Committee

This past year, the IETA conducted important, timely surveys about cross-organizational Covid policies and pain points as well as about the field’s impact on Israeli society. IETA plans on conducting more intentional planning for the future, with an eye toward three strategic priorities that build and expand on current efforts:

  • Advocacy: raise the visibility of the field and understanding of the importance of Israel educational travel through advocacy efforts with the Government of Israel and the North American Jewish community among other stakeholders
  • Research: continue to learn about the field through mapping and research to better understand and communicate the impact of Israel educational travel and the potential for greater effectiveness and efficiencies
  • Elevate & Support: ensure opportunities for professionals in the field of Israel educational travel to network and learn from one another through gatherings and professional development opportunities

Prior to COVID, there was little cross-communication other than through professional friendships we might have had or through other meetings convened for those of us working in the field of Jewish engagement. As a coalition we have created a field of practice as professionals. We can focus on looking forward to how we work with the government of Israel, advocating a policy to support travel, funding training across the field and building up the infrastructure needed to insure our success.
– Mike Wise, Founder and co-CEO, Honeymoon Israel and co-Chair, IETA Steering Committee

All organizations under the IETA umbrella work to provide meaningful learning experiences that add value to the participants’ lives. As the only professional community that brings together these scores of diverse Israel educational travel organizations and professionals, IETA is committed to ensuring the wellbeing and resilience of this important field.

The Jim Joseph Foundation is a supporter of the Israel Educational Travel Alliance. Photos courtesy of Honeymoon Israel.

 

 

 

Prizmah: Using Data to Advance Jewish Day Schools

As the network organization of Jewish day schools and yeshivas across North America, Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools believes in the power of data-informed decision-making. Through knowledge curation, qualitative research, and financial and operational benchmarking, Prizmah empowers professional and lay leaders to help their schools thrive and tackle challenges on their paths to success.

To allow a better understanding of trends in North American Jewish day schools and empower school leaders to make strategic, informed, and data-driven decisions, Prizmah has led national enrollment studies, developed a salary data bank, and compiled benchmarking data and development reports that include annual fundraising benchmarks and data on day school endowments. Prizmah also partners with Jewish federations across North America to create community reports and provide dynamic dashboards that contain communal benchmarks with key operational metrics.

Being able to see the data from other schools regionally and nationally is incredibly valuable as it provides us with actionable insights into industry trends, benchmarks our performance, and empowers us to make data-driven decisions to stay competitive and deliver the best educational experience.
— Shmarya Gasner, Executive Director, Berman Hebrew Academy

student at laptopThese reports and tools are used by communities, foundations, and individual schools to optimize efficiency and maximize potential, often making a direct impact on decision-making. In one case, a school leader who was struggling to recruit new teachers accessed data from DASL (Data and Analysis for School Leadership), Prizmah’s financial and operational benchmarking tool, and realized that her school’s compensation structure put them on the very low end in the marketplace. Recognizing the impact this had on their ability to recruit talented educators, this leader and her board made the decision to increase teacher salaries.

Prizmah’s Knowledge Center is its central hub of data, research, and resources for Jewish day school and yeshiva leaders. In addition to curating existing resources for day schools, Prizmah also produces its own studies of the field and its needs. The Knowledge Center directs original research on a full range of topics integral to Jewish day school management, including compensation data, fundraising benchmarks, and student enrollment and retention trends. This important research allows school leaders, stakeholders, and foundations to understand the fieldwide landscape and place what is happening on the ground in communities and schools into the larger context of regional and national trends.

Currently, Prizmah is conducting a research project to measure and quantify Jewish day school affordability programs and better understand how these initiatives affect enrollment trends across North America. Prizmah expects to be able to leverage this data to inform and advance affordability programs going forward.

In line with the traditional principle of tocho kevoro, keeping internal processes in sync with external appearance, just as Prizmah champions the use of data by schools, the organization itself make research and data a critical part of its operations.

Through the use of surveys, Prizmah gathers participant feedback on all its programs and gatherings in order to understand the impact these initiatives make on professionals and schools. This data also measures what program aspects were most successful and where there is room for growth. Similarly, Net Promoter Score, the popular metric used by businesses globally to score the customer experience that measures loyalty and is predictive of business growth, is tracked across Prizmah’s programs. Measuring outputs, outcomes and impact allows Prizmah to understand its greatest levers for change.

Alongside comprehensive evaluation of its own programs, Prizmah also utilizes research in the field of Jewish education, both to determine the best ways to support schools and how programs are designed and to enable school leaders, boards and philanthropists to understand emerging trends as they are happening. On an annual basis, Prizmah’s Year in Review Report aggregates and summarizes trends and data that inform the organization’s strategic functioning and can help schools in important areas, including student enrollment and retention, fundraising, affordability, teacher retention, professional development, and more.

Prizmah is dedicated to creating and implementing a strategic and systematic approach to research, data collection, and knowledge sharing—one that informs, inspires, and empowers individual schools and communities.

The Jim Joseph Foundation is a supporter of Prizmah. Learn more at prizmah.org/knowledge

Healthy Arguments: For the Sake of Argument Is Ready for This Moment

Founded on the belief that healthy arguments can be an important tool for learning and social growth, For the Sake of Argument (FSA) helps leaders and educators engage learners in open, trusting educational experiences. FSA’s materials, tools, and training – currently focused on Israel – spark healthy arguments in various settings, including homes, workplaces, synagogues, schools, and campuses. In its first year, more than 2,000 people have participated in FSA’s in-person or online workshops and courses.

It can be really hard to have a healthy argument with my peers and my family. I think one of the things we might take from it is listening…Not just jumping on someone, not just listening to respond, but actually listening, to engage and try and understand the conversation. I think my peers and I could benefit from taking a step back from a heated argument and being able to look at it from all sides.
Workshop Participant

As Israel faces deep internal divisions and political turmoil, FSA’s resources enable people to confront and discuss these challenges in  meaningful ways. Its book Stories for the Sake of Argument, includes 24 stories that provide opportunities to discuss some of the more controversial issues in Israel. FSA’s newest short story, Anything to Celebrate?, was released in advance of Yom Ha’atzmaut and grapples with the complexities of celebrating Israel at this time. Building on this, FSA will soon release a series of short stories that explore the proposed judicial reforms and the protests sweeping Israel. In the coming months, the organization also will release a short, theme-based curriculum for schools, youth movements, Hillels and other educational organizations to use in their settings and during their organization’s trips to Israel.

Many educators tend to stay clear of divisive issues so as not to cause unwanted conflict. But whether we like it or not, the topics of greatest interest today are also the most contentious. We lean into the arguments that arise when complexities are addressed rather than shying away from them. By harnessing the energy and passion contained in healthy arguments, we seek to create deep educational engagement.
Abi Dauber Sterne and Robbie Gringras, co-founders and co-directors of For the Sake of Argument

FSA offers many ways for educators and leaders to learn about this approach to education. A 90-minute introductory workshop models the FSA framework and tools, and in-depth courses for professionals provide a deeper mastery of engaging with contentious issues. FSA’s open online resource center has tips and specific language for healthy arguments, animated videos, and short written pieces sharing pertinent research. New stories cover all kinds of timely topics–Who is Welcome? delves into interfaith marriage and how different values affect family dynamics; Tweeting Israel covers the legitimacy of vocal criticism of Israeli politicians from Jewish leadership outside of Israel; and What is It All About? explores what Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Day means to different groups within Israeli society. FSA also offers consultations with individuals and organizations thinking about the role of arguments and disagreements in their work.

The session helped me to envision how facilitated conversations on Israel might play out in select communities who we are now approaching about hosting similar conversations. These would be less about navigating disagreement, and more about toeing into hard conversations about Israel.
Workshop Participant

While Israel education is the first subject matter on which FSA focuses, the organization may address others in the future, ranging from Jewish topics to broader non-sectarian issues. This year and next, FSA is researching the impact and educational effectiveness of different elements of its approach. As the research brings insights, FSA continues to hone its materials and tools and will structure and refine the ongoing direction and development of its work.

For more information, visit forthesakeofargument.org. The Jim Joseph Foundation is a supporter of For the Sake of Argument.

The iCenter’s iCON 2023: Where Israel and Education Meet

We engage with Israel today not only as subject matter, but as part of who we are, who we wish to become, and who we wish Israel to become. In 2009, 18 educators convened to explore what a field of Israel education could be. If someone would have said then that in just over a decade there would be a professional field of Israel education, as it is today, it would have seemed far-fetched. And so I reflect with gratitude to everyone whose collective efforts are helping lead to a steady, yet remarkable evolution of the field.
Anne Lanski, Founding CEO, The iCenter

As the field of Israel education continues to grow and advance, more than 500 Jewish communal professionals, day school educators, camp professionals, youth group leaders, lay leaders, and others gathered together at iCON 2023: Where Israel and Education Meet.  Hosted by The iCenter, participants experienced iCON as a laboratory, infused with the curiosity and courage to discover something new and to deepen relationships with one another, with Israel, and with education. Due to the pandemic, this was the first iCON since 2018.

iCON was curated to challenge, to provoke, to open new perspectives, to raise important questions, and most importantly, to inspire participants. We want people to embrace a diversity of perspectives and opinions; so we designed the convening to be a catalyst for meaningful conversations and transformative learning experiences. We hope these experiences enable participants to better understand Israel, its place in the world, and its place in our hearts in our lives.
Aliza Goodman, Director of Strategy and R&D, The iCenter

iCON participants engaged with leading-edge thinking about Israel education today, exploring the newest frameworks for integrating Israel into Jewish learning experiences, while also networking with a diverse crowd of practitioners and leaders in the field. Featured speakers included international figures in arts and culture, sports, nonprofit, education, science and technology, and more. Participants learned about the complexities of history, present, and future—because Israel education covers all of this and more. 

Anyone who cares about Israel is filled these days with concern, even angst, in light of the recent political and social turmoil. I believe staunchly that our educational work should rise to this occasion and address this complex reality thoughtfully. This could be the finest hour for us educators. We are not only capable of transmitting ideas, concept, values, or information; our deeper potential is to explore and traverse times, spaces, ideals, concepts, and values, and to share a story that is worthy of being remembered as a memory and creating a desire of learners to become a member of that story. In order to realize this goal the educator needs to think of themself first and foremost as a perpetual and passionate learner. The task before us is to flesh out and articulate the unifying foundational values that bind us together as a community and cement them as the stage upon which disagreements can be played out respectfully and responsibly. Let us remind ourselves, and the ones with whom we are in contact, that the purpose of education is neither resolution of conflict, nor the alleviation of all ambiguities; rather, it should focus on laying the ground upon which non-uniformity may exist, and be celebrated without threatening our sense of unity. Perhaps I dare say, where politics might divide, education may unite.
– Zohar Raviv, International VP of Educational Strategy, Taglit-Birthright Israel

The iCenter works with and supports educators in nearly all settings. As just a few examples, it offers a Master’s Concentration in Israel Education, which brings together graduate students at 14 different universities from North America and Israel. It offers a Graduate Degree in Israel Education in coordination with George Washington University. It provides expert training for Birthright-Israel staff who influence tens of thousands of trip participants. And it has numerous ongoing initiatives and resources, including its new Conflict Education toolkit and its long-standing Aleph-Bet of Israel education core principles.

For more information, visit theicenter.org. The Jim Joseph Foundation is a supporter of The iCenter.

Celebrating 20 Years of the Jewish New Teacher Project

Over the last ten years we’ve seen the quality of our teaching rise because of the impact JNTP has had on teachers and mentors. We believe this has had a direct impact on the learning and experiences that our students have every single day!
Rabbi Avi Greene, Director of Curriculum & Instruction, Scheck Hillel Community School

As the Jewish New Teacher Project of New Teacher Center celebrates its 20th anniversary, the organization looks back at its impact and ahead at new opportunities. In its 20 years, JNTP has supported more than 2,200 educators in over 200 Jewish day schools across North America, teaching and modeling the skills they need to become great educators, both in and out of the classroom. Through partnerships with schools, communal agencies, and donors, JNTP promotes excellence in teaching and leadership so that the next generation of Jewish day school students are engaged, inspired, and knowledgeable—and prepared to have active roles in their Jewish communities and beyond.

“The training and mentorship that I received through JNTP directly informs my work as a school administrator. I apply their methodologies every time I visit a classroom, facilitate a conversation with a student or colleague, lead professional learning for our staff, and design school systems that promote our educational vision. I am grateful to JNTP for providing me with this skill set, and I see the impact on student learning every day.”
Yael Cortell, General Studies Principal, Yeshiva of Greater Washington

JNTP offers two core programs—drawn from New Teacher Center’s research-based and field-tested work—that strengthen teaching, learning, and educational leadership. Its intensive Teacher Induction Program pairs new teachers with veteran teacher mentors for weekly mentoring conversations and classroom observations, utilizing a research-based and field-tested mentoring methodology and tools developed to improve teacher growth. JNTP’s Administrator Support Program helps early-career school leaders grow into their leadership roles through cohort-based learning and individualized coaching focused on leadership, culture, and supervision. Program participants develop into effective, quality teachers and school administrators with skills and support to create “Optimal Learning Environments,” in which students thrive through learning and social-emotional growth. 

I will forever be grateful for my experience as a participant in the first cohort of JNTP. When I entered this brand new program, I honestly had no idea what to expect. The framework that I was exposed to gave me a new way to listen, to think about language, to communicate, and to grow. My own teaching was transformed, and I learned how to empower others through mentoring.”
Shira Schiowitz, Founding JNTP Mentor, Current Mentor and Educator, SAR High School

Supporting teaching, learning, leadership, and culture in schools has been the heart of JNTP’s innovative work since 2003, when it received seed funding from The AVI CHAI Foundation to launch as an offering of the New Teacher Center in Santa Cruz, CA. Back then, 12 mentors in 7 schools, and 21 new teachers, formed the original Teacher Induction program. Today, JNTP’s offerings include that national induction program, the program for new school administrators, a pilot early childhood education (ECE) program in Chicago, professional learning communities in Brooklyn, and more. In total, 160 administrators, 690 mentors, and 1,609 new teachers will positively influence more than 40,000 students in North America this year.

JNTP is poised to continue to elevate the field of Jewish day school and early childhood education. With support from a range of funders, JNTP is building on past achievements to scale and expand its offerings to reach all teachers in Jewish day schools and early childhood centers, so that more students engage in meaningful education with talented, highly-trained teachers to build the Jewish community of the future.

Learn more at jntp.org/20th-anniversary. The Jim Joseph Foundation is a supporter of the Jewish New Teacher Project.

Repair the World’s Focus on Jewish Education

Every year, tens of thousands of Jewish young adults serve with Repair the World, addressing pressing local needs while tying their service directly to Jewish wisdom and teachings. For many of these young adults, service is their entry point to Jewish life; Repair engages them at the critical intersection of service, Jewish learning, and the shared passion for a more just world.

Repair’s approach to Jewish education has always been at the heart of their work. In recent years, they deepened their commitment to their Jewish educational strategy, elevating service as a bold expression of engaging in Jewish life. The organization set out to build a culture and strategy that centers Jewish education and works toward ingraining Jewish service in support of social change as a cornerstone of Jewish life.

Repair the World volunteers painting

Repair recognized at the beginning of this process that they would need to commit fully to this shift, naming their education strategy a top organizational priority and aligning budgets and hiring accordingly. They created new organizational values that centered the core Jewish values that drive their work, and built an adaptive strategic plan to ensure consistency in Jewish education throughout its programming. Repair’s multi-step process to evaluate, ideate, and create this culture led to new organizational partnerships, resources and education tools, and a multi-year educational strategy created in deep partnership with M²: The Institute for Experiential Jewish Education. Now, every act of service powered by Repair builds meaningful connections to Jewish service, Jewish culture and community, and participants’ commitments to their own Jewish selfhood.

There is no question that the education and learning component of our approach to service enhances the experience, creating an opportunity for young adults to learn more about justice issues and the many ways Judaism has addressed each of these issues. For many, Repair the World is their Jewish community, giving us the chance to draw meaningful connections and learning together, both from a Jewish educational standpoint and from one another. As our Jewish Education Team continues to provide us with incredible resources, I have no doubt our impact will only strengthen in the future.
– Samantha Berinsky, Atlanta City Director, Repair the World

Repair understood that to pursue this new strategy, its professional team would have to include people who are experts in Jewish education. In 2021, Rabbi Jessy Dressin joined Repair as the senior director of Jewish education. She received the support and resources to build a team of talented and experienced educators who are critical to actualizing the strategy. Under Rabbi Jessy and her team’s leadership, Repair collaborates with consultants and leading Jewish educators to facilitate learning for all Repair staff.

Repair’s new Jewish educational strategy focuses first on training and supporting staff to feel confident and empowered in developing andRepair the World volunteers cleaning up playground delivering Jewish service-learning content. One new resource for staff is the Repair Facilitator’s Toolkit, a 38-card deck of “grab and go” cards that equip facilitators with key resources to connect participants to Jewish service. This toolkit includes a series of “core tensions” cards that help to engage with the broader landscape of questions and considerations that arise when people participate in direct service. Repair explicitly leans into these core tensions, such as tradition vs. renewal, to deepen participants’ connection to their service and Jewish values.

This investment supports staff who lead Jewish learning on their journey from new to experienced facilitators. Other Repair investments in Jewish education include one-on-one chevruta learning through the Jewish Learning Collaborative (JLC) in partnership with Moishe House, quarterly facilitator workshops, monthly meetings for program staff to collaborate, regular Torah l’shma (learning for its own sake) opportunities for staff, and more.

My favorite part of Repair’s programming has always been the opportunity it holds to spark transformation. I can think of so many “aha” moments participants have had, not only during the service itself, but after being exposed to a new piece of contextual Jewish education. In my work now, I supervise alumni who are creating these gatherings for their own communities. I couldn’t be more excited to bring these new Jewish education resources to them. It’ll allow for a deeper and broader exposure to Jewish service-learning, as well as a more accessible leadership opportunity for alumni who have never facilitated something like this before.
– Rose Capin, Alumni Engagement Associate, Repair the World

This internal culture shift at Repair is resulting in a profoundly deepened Jewish experience for participants and partners. By investing first in building strong Jewish educators and facilitators, Repair is laying a strong and sustainable foundation for Jewish service nationwide. The effects of this investment are already shining through, as 84% of participants said that serving with Repair provided them with an entry point to do good in the world through a Jewish lens. By connecting participants’ service and experience directly to enriching Jewish education, Repair is creating a Jewish community coalescing around the commitment to repairing the world through service.

Learn more at werepair.org. The Jim Joseph Foundation is a funder of Repair the World.