experiments, instruments & measurement book

17 New Models

This report was originally produced as part of a larger report of findings entitled Spreading and Sustaining Innovation: Accomplishments and Lessons Learned. Background information about the Coalition of Innovating Congregations, the partner organizations, and the initiatives for congregations are found in the full report. The full report and executive summary are available online and for download at www.innovatingcongregations.org/all.
Download this article as a pdf or view the full report


17 New Models of Congregational Education

Before LOMED, the predominant model of providing Jewish education was Hebrew School. Since 2009, Coalition congregations have created and adapted 17 different educational models that allow children and families to learn on Shabbat, on the streets of New York City, in soup kitchens, and in their homes.

An education model is a structure within which educational experiences take place. A model has an overarching purpose for its participants. To achieve its purpose a model delineates when and where learning takes place, who the learners are and who guides the learning. In contrast to a program, an educational model operates on a regular and frequent schedule. It introduces a set of roles, rules, regularities and processes that together form a “grammar” of how learning and learners are organized; it can be thought of as the ongoing “outer architecture” of educational experience. Models alone do not produce educational outcomes, but they provide a configuration in which learning happens. Certain models are better suited to particular educational goals and experiences than others.

Since the middle of the 20th Century, most congregations have provided education through a model known as religious school or Hebrew school. The purposes, structures, and procedures of this model borrow from and resemble American public schools, created during the industrial age and designed for acquisition of academic knowledge. LOMED challenged and supported congregations to revisit the goals for their educational endeavors and to move toward education that addresses the whole person, speaks to the existential questions of learners, builds relationships, connects to daily life, and is content-rich. The traditional school model, designed for children learning by age cohort in classrooms with a teacher, is not the most effective way to embed these principles or to achieve Jewish educational goals such as those targeted by LOMED congregations:

  • Learners will be on a journey of applying Torah to daily life.
  • Learners will be on a spiritual journey rooted in Jewish tradition.
  • Learners will be in an ongoing dynamic relationship with Am Yisrael and/or Eretz Yisrael.
  • Learners will be on a journey of mending the world, guided by a Jewish moral compass.

Key researchers in Jewish education and identity formation identify qualities of models that develop the whole person: they enable experience and reflection, attend to each person, engage the family, build relationships and community and redefine the role of the teacher. Through their work in LOMED and Express Innovation, congregations created or adapted models that are more conducive to new goals and aspirations for learners, guided by these principles.

The chart below outlines the types of models Coalition Congregations have developed or adopted— sometimes with adaptations—and the number of congregations using each type of model.


No. of Congre-gations

Shabbat Family Celebration


Jewish education focuses on family learning and growing Jewishly through shared study, observance, and celebration in “real Jewish time”—on Shabbat. It involves experiencing Shabbat, not simply learning about Shabbat. Families come together in some regular rhythm (e.g., weekly or bi-weekly) on Shabbat (Friday and/or Saturday) in homes or in synagogue for learning and celebration. The model includes a combination of adult time, children time, and family time; often a combination of meal, worship, and learning. An emphasis on creating connections within and among participating families (and with the congregation) drives much of the educational design.In most cases these experiences are augmented with some other form of learning for children such as regular peer classes, tutoring, or Skype lessons.
Family (non-Shabbat) Learning


This model focuses on families learning and growing Jewishly through shared experiences and study. Families come together on a regular basis in homes, synagogue and/or the larger community to learn, worship, and/or share a meal. Sometimes the meetings follow the rhythm of holidays. Sometimes the focus is on a specific learning theme (e.g., Jewish New York) and learning takes place in sites that support the learning (e.g. Ellis Island). An emphasis on creating connections within and among participating families (and with the congregation) drives much of the educational design.In most cases these experiences are augmented with some other form of learning for children such as regular peer classes, tutoring, or Skype lessons.
Multi-age Learning


Jewish education brings together learners across lines of age and stage of development. It might involve children working with adult congregants not related to them, older and younger children, children and teens, or teens and adults. The model provides all learners with the opportunity to build relationships and learn with and from other members of the community with whom they would not typically have contact.
Home-Based Learning


Home is seen as a sacred learning place. Individual families are supported to learn in their own homes with materials or staff. Or, families gather in one another’s homes for learning supported by materials and/or staff of the congregation. The model can include social activity and meals as well as learning. By meeting in homes, the model shifts some of the responsibility for setting goals and determining content to the learners, and also provides flexibility for scheduling. The home setting provides a natural context for learning about subjects ranging from sibling rivalry to kashrut, and encourages the possibility of extending or transferring the learning to day-to-day living.
Jewish Service Learning


The model uses the three-part experiential learning approach of preparation/action/reflection. Learners engage with a variety of Jewish texts to deepen their understanding of relevant mitzvot and Jewish values. They also regularly participate in hands-on social service in a variety of settings, most often outside of the congregation, to put their learning into action. A key component is reflection on action, allowing learners to make deeper connections between the values they have studied and the action they have performed. Core to this model is the belief that tikkun olam (repairing the world) is not a project to be completed but an ongoing responsibility in the life of a Jew. This model can be used with children, teens or families.
Congregation-wide Theme-based Learning


Learning is centered on a core curriculum that is pertinent for children and adults throughout the congregation. All congregational learning (e.g., rabbi’s sermons, family programs, classroom study, communication with congregation like newsletters) focuses on selected content. Often the curricular focus is one or several Jewish values.
Mentoring Self-Directed Learning


The model employs self-paced learning in a beit midrash format or open classroom format. Learners gather together in a space, and engage in learning individually, with a partner, or in small groups. The goals and materials may vary from learner to learner. Teachers and/or tutors are available to support the learners in meeting goals.
Retreat-Based Learning


This model uses intensive experiences held over an extended period of time (like a full day or weekend), occurring throughout the year, usually off-site. Learning is supported by preparation before and reflection afterwards. Children’s retreat-based learning is typically augmented with some other form of learning like regular peer classes, tutoring, or Skype lessons.
Distance Learning & Technology (including Skype Hebrew)


In this model, technology is used to support distance learning, enabling learners to have either more control over the content, time and pace of their learning or to eliminate logistical challenges like transportation. This model can employ available online content (e.g., Hebrew learning games, MyJewishLearning) or can facilitate interaction with a tutor or teacher. The approach is usually integrated with regularized peer or family learning.
Choice-Based Learning


In this model, congregations establish a broad set of learning requirements and opportunities for fulfilling them. Families, teens, and/or children select the time, the content and/or the approach to learning that interests them in order to meet those requirements. Learners select from a wide array of possibilities from family travel, to visiting museums, to study groups provided by the congregation.
City as Locus of Learning


Children and/or families seek out alternative geographic locations to support the content of learning (e.g., a museum, a mall, a yoga studio) or select goals and content for learning based on rich resources in the surrounding community (e.g., because Ellis Island and the Tenement Museum are nearby, the decision is made to explore issues of immigration and resettlement).
Holiday Celebration/ Observance-Based Learning


In this model for families and/or children, the program revolves around the celebration of holidays in the home and congregation. Experiences include learning, worship, and meals. Often includes preparation, communal celebration/observance, and reflection.
Project-Based Learning


Learners engage with a real-life need or a problem of the community, identified by the educator, the community, or the learners. Learning is structured so learners understand the need/problem, develop a solution through study, deliberation and consultation, implement it, and reflect on the process. A critical piece of the learning process involves creating and sharing a product with a wider public or audience, generally a solution to the problem explored or the fulfillment of the need addressed.
Camp, Camp-like, Camp-linked or Camp-Inspired


This model is executed in one of two ways. In some cases it is held during school vacations and holidays and is led with the active participation of congregational teens as counselors.  It includes formal and informal activities for learning. Or, the model uses a camp-like format on a weekly basis and includes experiential activities in camp-like spaces within the congregation. Emphasis is placed on building rich, meaningful community while also deepening Jewish knowledge, understanding, values and skills.
Havurah (small groups)


Learners meet in small groups with a facilitator/teacher usually in homes or other settings. Often the agenda for learning is set by the decision and/or interests and questions of the group in consultation with the teacher. Small groups are often linked with some regular Shabbat, holiday or social gathering.
Leadership Development for Teens/Teens as Educators and Mentors


Teens are trained to be leaders and role models for educational programs for other learners in their congregations. Teens may lead social activities, worship, experiential learning, formal learning, tutoring, or some combination.
Family Coaching / Concierge


This model involves the training of congregants as coaches to work with other families in the congregation. The coaches support learning in those families, based on the interests of the families.


This report represents nearly five years of data collection, analysis, and reflection. We wish to thank our consultants Cindy Reich (the Experiment in Congregational Education) and Anna Marx (The Jewish Education Project) for their work in compiling this report as well as collecting and analyzing much of the data presented in the report. We also gratefully acknowledge Cyd Weissman, Director of Innovation in Congregational Learning at The Jewish Education Project, for her leadership, The Experiment in Congregational Education and its director, Dr. Rob Weinberg for taking the lead in coordinating the evaluation efforts for the Collaboration to Sustain Innovation, and Dr. Bill Robinson, Chief Strategy Officer of The Jewish Education Project for his guidance and insight.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

geriatrics books