Press Releases

October 27th, 2016

After $45 million investment, HUC-JIR, JTS, and YU Built New Landscape of Jewish Educator Training

Key findings include increased salaries, job promotions for many of the 1,500 educators  from Education Initiative Programs

 San Francisco, CA -- A $45 million investment over six years from the Jim Joseph Foundation to Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), and Yeshiva University (YU) has produced unprecedented numbers of graduate Jewish education degree and credentialed students, new and better trained Jewish educators, educator professional career advancement, and 20 new educator training programs at the three institutions, among numerous positive outcomes detailed in an independent evaluation by American Institutes for Research (AIR). The landmark investment, known collectively as the Education Initiative, supported increased institutional collaboration and improved marketing to prospective students that continue today.

“The Education Initiative significantly increased the number of Jewish educators and laid the foundation for new programs and approaches to train the next generation of Jewish educators and leaders,” says Mark Schneider, Vice President and Institute Fellow at AIR, and the principal investigator on this evaluation. “There is much to be learned from this initiative, especially with regard to the importance of experiential learning for improving learning outcomes.”

Chip Edelsberg, Executive Director of the Jim Joseph Foundation adds, “The 1,500 educators from these programs will influence Jewish life and learning for tens of thousands learners throughout their careers. Moreover, as the evaluation shows, the educators themselves experience a critical ROI in the form of salary increase and job promotions. The Foundation is deeply grateful for the leadership, vision, and commitment to experimentation and collaboration of HUC-JIR, JTS, and YU. It is a testament to their diligent work and institutional resolve that many of the initiative’s programs now are incorporated into core program offerings.”

The Education Initiative accomplished the following goals and revealed important learnings.

GOAL: Increase the number of highly qualified individuals who enroll in preservice and in service Jewish education programs.

  • The Education Initiative reached a large number of professionals across the United States and internationally. Between 2010 and 2016, the grant supported 1,508 individuals across the entire spectrum of Jewish education settings. Absent the funding, it was projected that fewer than 500 individuals would have earned certificates and graduate education degrees.
  • The Education Initiative targeted both experienced and aspiring educational leaders. About one half of the beneficiaries were teachers and administrators in Jewish day schools; one fifth were directors of education in congregations; and one in 10 were youth program directors in Jewish community centers, youth groups, or camps.
  • All of the new programs consistently met their annual enrollment goals and increased the institutions’ diversity of participants in terms of age, professional experience, geographical location, and career aspirations.

GOAL: Provide programs that prepare educators and educational leaders to teach, inspire, and enrich education experiences in a variety of settings.

  • Most of the master’s degree program participants were highly satisfied with the effects of their programs on their professional growth. Nearly all the participants rated their programs as effective or very effective in providing the knowledge and skills they needed to be successful at their jobs (90 percent).
  • Most of the professional development program participants judged that they were better educators and leaders because of their participation in the programs. The professional development programs significantly impacted participants by infusing Jewish values into programs (75 percent) and introducing new instructional practices (73 percent).
  • The program participants noted that particular aspects of their participation made them more effective. The programs provided under the Education Initiative taught teaching practices anchored in theory and research—which the nationally recognized experts teaching the programs were uniquely positioned to do.

GOAL: Increase the number of educators and educational leaders placed, retained, and promoted in a variety of settings.

  • The Education Initiative contributed to a significant number of career advancements and job promotions. Presently, almost one half of the master’s degree program participants advanced their careers after participating in the various degree programs. Even after factoring in the costs that students incur when earning their degrees (e.g., lost income), the average return on investment of a master’s degree in Jewish education was $348,045, which represents a net income gain that averages $12,000 per year.
  • The benefits from obtaining a master’s degree in Jewish education are moderated by the types of employment settings. The highest lifetime earnings gains were estimated for professionals working in immersive Jewish experience environments, ($457,981).Professionals who worked in congregations after program completion gained a relatively high return on investment in their education. Professionals who work in Jewish day schools gained the least ($183,061).The return on investment was similar for female and male professionals.
  • Induction programs supported both new professionals and their employers. The employer interviews revealed that the mentoring provided by programs under the Education Initiative improved the performance of their new hires.

GOAL: Develop the infrastructure that will sustain new programs.

  • The Education Initiative enabled the grantees to improve their enrollment management strategies. With support from external consultants, the grantees made changes in their key marketing and enrollment management practices. The grantees revamped their websites, replaced blanket policies of granting full tuition waivers with systematic processes for allocating financial assistance, and began building robust databases of prospective students. These efforts led to a dramatic increase in the number of inquiries.
  • Financial sustainability depends on donors who can sponsor scholarships to eligible professionals. Although enrollment increases revenue through tuition and fees, the majority of program operation costs must be recovered through fundraising.
  • The Education Initiative sparked comprehensive improvements in educational technology, especially in faculty support systems.

GOAL: Identify areas of programmatic and interinstitutional collaboration that can improve program quality.

  • The Education Initiative led to unprecedented collaboration among the three institutions. Four joint initiatives launched under the Education Initiative were eLearning Faculty Fellowships, Experiential Jewish Education Conceptual Work, The Experiential Jewish Education (EJE) Network—which connects EJE alumni from all three institutions—which held its and The Jewish Early Childhood Education Leadership Institute, now being adapted in Chicago.
  • Faculty members who supported intra-institutional collaboration also advocated interinstitutional collaboration. The survey data showed that the tendency to collaborate is a disposition that predicts partnerships both within and outside the institution with which one is affiliated.
  • Effective interinstitutional collaboration depends on the compatibility of the organizational structures. To fully engage all stakeholders, institutions should identify a common, compelling vision for interinstitutional collaboration.

Commenting on the increased intra-institutional collaboration, Arnold Eisen, Chancellor of The Jewish Theological Seminary notes, “It is quite remarkable. The school is more dynamic and open, and there is more energy now—if you can measure institutional energy—compared to 2008. The Jim Joseph Foundation has enabled that and it left its mark on the institution. I think that JTS is a better place now and more unified around a sense of purpose. A collection of schools without a unifying mission is not a recipe for success.”

Over the next two months, AIR and the Foundation will release a series of pieces that look closely at the evaluation’s findings and relevant learnings for other institutions of higher education, Jewish organizations, and Jewish educators, including: Promoting learning opportunities for Jewish educators and educational leaders; Programs that Prepare and Inspire Educators; and How a Master’s Degree in Jewish Education Can Launch Your Career.

“The Education Initiative was an ambitious, multi-faceted approach to significantly enhance the Jewish Education workforce,” says Dr. Yael Kidron of American Institutes for Research. “By any measurement, the three institutions not only accomplished this, but they laid the groundwork for continued enhancement through their efforts at building capacity, development of new programmatic financial models, and incorporation of new technologies into their programs. All of these developments also offer highly useful lessons for others in the field.”






The Jim Joseph Foundation invests in promising Jewish education grant initiatives. We partner with effective organizations that seek to inspire young people to discover the joy of living vibrant Jewish lives.