experiments, instruments & measurement book

Report: The Impact of New Models of Congregational Jewish Education

From 2009-2015, The Jewish Education Project, in partnership with the Experiment in Congregational Education (ECE), designed and implemented a strategy aimed at reimagining congregational education for children in grades K-8. The initiative, supported by UJA-Federation of New York, operated on the assumption that the prevalent model of “religious school,” as a weekly 2-6 hour classroom model, was flawed by design and inherently produced poor, limited results. Efforts at improvement typically affected little more than isolated programmatic components, and resulted in little to no change overall. (Aron, Lee Weinberg, 2002). The ultimate goal of The Jewish Education Project’s strategy was to generate positive learner-impact by supporting congregations in creating new models of Jewish education. The purpose of this study is to answer the question, what is the impact on learners of new models of congregational education?

To achieve positive learner impact, The Jewish Education Project first supported congregations’ efforts to redesign their educational models from the ground up through provision of consulting, funding, and communal professional development. Following initial redesign, the Jewish Education Project helped guide congregations’ realignment of professional development, leadership roles and responsibilities, and learning design and assessment to support new models. Congregations were also supported in efforts to change when and where learning takes place, in considering who should be regarded as a ‘learner,’ and in training educators to service each congregation’s stated goals. New models emerged as a result of this process, which can be aptly categorized as follows: Camp/Chavurah models, Shabbat models, Online/Blended learning models, Family models, Intergenerational models, and Cross-Congregational models. For the purposes of this report, the term “model” should be understood as referring to a yearlong educational program in which children (and sometimes their parents) participate.

Throughout the 6 years that The Jewish Education Project provided support to congregations for re-imagining models of Jewish education, it conducted frequent assessments of how well congregations were developing aspects of their new models. Studies evaluated leadership capacity for change, the quality of teaching and learning, the degree to which congregations’ leadership had achieved their stated goals, and whether congregations had conducted self-assessment and provided professional development opportunities. In a complementing effort, the ECE conducted a study that rated the extent to which congregations had changed when and where learning took place, identified learner and teacher profiles, and assessed whether organizational structures had developed in support of congregational goals. These research studies reflected a developmental approach to the creation of new models. They are illustrative of a fundamental belief that, in order to eventually achieve the goal of learner impact, congregations first need to build, at least to an extent, the foundations of a totally new model. A congregation, for example, with strong leadership and well-designed professional development could not expect significant impact on learners as a result of its efforts, unless it also changed the ‘when,’ ‘where’ and ‘why’ of the learning experience. In autumn 2014,

The Jewish Education Project began assessing the outcome of its efforts to ultimately achieve positive learner impact through model redesign, the results of that study can be Impact Now Study (564 downloads) .

New Beginnings: Familiarity and Freshness

 

By Suri Jacknis, Co-Director, Congregational Learning

It is Hodesh Elul.  Time to prepare for the High Holidays emotionally, spiritually and physically.  It is a time for reflection on our lives and taking stock, for reconnecting with our personal vision for how we want to live.  It is also a time for connecting with and sending holiday greetings to family and friends, preparing for setting or joining a holiday table and doing some cleaning so we feel like we are making a clean and fresh start.  Doing these preparations connects us with the cycle of Jewish time as we remember with familiarity doing these things in other years.   This gives us comfort and continuity. At the same time, engaging in these pre-holiday activities is exciting and energizing as we anticipate the new start ahead.

As an educator, I feel like my Jewish self and my professional self are in sync as I also prepare for the start of the new school year.  I reflect on the past school year and the lessons learned and focus on the things I have decided to revise for the future.   I also think about my vision for myself as an educator and resolve to do certain things that will bring me closer to my aspirations. There are elements of familiarity and comfort with my rituals in leading up to the opening days of school.  At the same time, I can feel the adrenaline flowing and the anticipation growing.  I am a little nervous, but mostly joyful as I am lucky to be doing what I love.

This New Year in particular also brings the excitement of being able to build on Cyd Weissman’s amazing legacy for our Coalition of Innovating Congregations.  Cyd gave us the courage to work on new models for 21st century families, to attend to the whole person, to pay attention to outcomes and assessment and to embed the design principles for powerful learning. For many of us, these concepts are familiar and comfortable, as we have worked with and on them in past years.  Yet, they are also alive and exciting as there are new goals to set and new ways that we can deepen our work aligned to these important foundational ideas.

This year, I am excited to partner with my wonderful colleague, Rabbi Jennifer Goldsmith to lead the work in congregational learning as we continue some of our successful initiatives such as I*Express, Coalition Peer Networks, and Congregational Consulting as well as begin to imagine new possibilities.  Collaborating with Jennifer is helping me to grow, to hear new perspectives and to appreciate the great talents and strengths that she brings to this work.

I am also very happy to continue working with our congregational learning team of wonderful professionals including core staff members, Ellen Rank and Susie Tessel, our project manager, Catherine Schwartz, and our consultants Jo Kay, Mike Mellen, Susan Ticker and some other talented educational leaders that will be contributing to our work.  Our main goal remains to offer thought leadership and skilled consultancy to our congregations.

In honor of this New Year, I want to share something inspirational that has both familiar and new elements.  I read an interesting article on Edutopia about the work of Bernajean Porter, a teacher interested in digital storytelling.    Bernajean has a project called I-Imagine:  Taking My Place in the world.  She asks learners to produce “vision videos” in which they star as protagonists of the lives they are living, 20 years into the future.  This process includes asking learners about their hopes and dreams and what gives them joy and energy and “fires up their engines.”  Porter adds, “We ask students to tell the story of how they will shine their light for good in the world.”  Students reflect on what is special about them and what their gifts are.  http://www.edutopia.org/blog/start-school-year-awakening-your-dreamers-suzie-boss?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=081915%20enews%20ibl%20ngm%20remainder&utm_content=&utm_term=fea1hed&spMailingID=12173425&spUserID=NDYxNTY5OTMzODAS1&spJobID=601358453&spReportId=NjAxMzU4NDUzS0

This kind of a project captured my imagination as a wonderful way to start the year by building relationships with learners.  At its heart, it is about listening to learners share their hopes and dreams and what they are passionate about.  It gives us a chance to learn about each learner’s special gifts.  It gives us educators the opportunity to encourage each learner to embrace his/her own uniqueness and value in this world.

This kind of project is also about putting learners at the center, empowering learners to take charge of their own learning and their own lives. It is a way to develop the idea of having a personal vision for the way that you live your life, of having long-term goals and aspirations for yourself that can be about careers but can also be about Mitzvot, doing acts of Kindness and showing responsibility for others and for this planet.  And it can be about Midot, developing desired character traits/virtues and being the type of person that you want to be.  What a great way to start the school year both with reflection and aspiration.  How very fitting for this Rosh Hashana season in which we both rejoice in the familiar and welcome in fresh ideas and possibilities.

May this New Year Ahead, 5776, be one of good health and many blessings for each of you!  My best wishes for a Shana Tova U’metukah, a Good and Sweet Year!

 

Suri Jacknis

August 2015

Elul 5775

TEXT ME MAYBE?!

Posted by Catherine Schwartz in Innovation, Relational Judaism, Resource, Susie Tessel

by Susie Tessel, June 18, 2015

 

Did you really go to that concert if you didn’t take a selfie?

If something isn’t documented by a digital photo did it happen?

 

Dr. Jeffrey Schein, a beloved Cleveland educator and the retiring Cleveland Shinnui representative, has been exploring the issue of technology and its impact upon us for years.  He has created a myriad of engaging, thought provoking, interactive curricular materials called “Text me!”.  He won a Covenant Grant for his materials – endorsing the quality of construction and efficacy of these provocative materials.  He is now- most generously sharing these many, many strategies and techniques.  They are suitable for all ages, in a variety of forums, with or without parents.

How do we achieve a balance of technology to enhance our lives? How do we identify and acknowledge the benefits and detriments that technology offers us?  How do we converse about the use of technology to our greatest advantage?

Last week, staff members at The Jewish Education Project and Rabbi Schein explored some of his materials in “Text me!” that he has successfully used in a variety of settings for all ages. These interactive materials generate valuable discussion through a variety of engaging vehicles to help us examine our positions on technology. His goal, as is ours, is to assist educators to think about these issue.  Without being dogmatic, Rabbi Schein offers a myriad of engaging techniques to explore our relationships with technology and the unintended consequences on our lives. For example, he culled the internet for a variety of “Awkward pictures posts”.  In pairs, we then had to consider which of these “awkward” photos we would want circulating around the internet about us for time immemorial!!? The conversations were rich, and thought provoking.  I can imagine students of all ages considering, perhaps for the first time, the story their internet pictorial history tells, and what certain pictures say or reflect about them.  In another exercise, they are asked to ask how well they balance their desire to be connected with their desire to connect with both animate and inanimate objects and beings.   They reflect on the statements like following: In the 21st century, “I think therefore I am.” becomes “I share therefore I am.”

Rabbi Schein is a consummate professional who articulately, and passionately presented thoughtful, engaging and interactive experiences for educators to share with learners of all ages.  His mastery of the literature about technology and its effects on us is dazzling.  I was sorry when our time together was over. I was consoled by his generosity in making these materials available on our website. Click here to explore for yourself the materials Rabbi Schein created, as you share his work- albeit virtually!! Thank you Rabbi Schein!!

Introducing Project 613

Posted by Ben Alpert in Innovation

1/29/15

By Ellen Rank

We often hear, “It takes a village.” At a recent Long Island Educators Peer Network meeting, Faye Gilman of The Reform Temple of Forest Hills shared the fascinating story of her community coming together to imagine, design, create and implement a new way of learning and building Jewish identity. Faye described how a team of educators, parents, clergy and students have created Project 613, a new digital badging program that extends Jewish learning from the religious school into homes. Part of the process is to continually ask: “Where are our families? Where can we get them to?” Faye underscored that the congregation understands and values experimentation.  To learn more about Project 613, visit: www.rtfh.org/Project613

Congratulations to The Reform Temple of Forest Hills for receiving a Covenant Foundation Signature Grant to continue developing and implementing Project 613.

You can learn more about the Project 613 Badge Categories below:

 

 

Building Community at Park Avenue Synagogue

Building Community at Park Avenue Synagogue
Posted by Ben Alpert in Bold Models, Innovation, Suri Jacknis

1/15/15

Sarah Lipsey Brokman is an inspiring educator from Park Avenue Synagogue who actively participates in Titchadesh, a Coalition of Innovating Congregations Peer Network made up of Jewish educators who support innovative advancements in congregational learning. With the support of their peers, the Titchadesh network empowers young, dynamic professionals to experiment with fresh ideas and bring their visions to life. All of the educators in the Titchadesh network are full time educators in congregations.  This new staffing structure enables congregations to adapt new models of education – like fully engaging parents as well as children. Our network congregations now have a better capacity to launch programs that fulfill the hopes and dreams of their communities.  

 As the facilitator of Titchadesh, I have the pleasure of engaging regularly with these young leaders. Through our protocols and shared conversations, I witness the incredible work taking place at our participating sites. To widely share their successes, I recently asked participants to share their stories by submitting a blog post to InnovatingCongregations.org,  and I am so thrilled that Sarah heeded this call.

You will enjoy “meeting” Sarah in this post and you’ll gain a glimpse into the amazing model she and her colleagues have built. Here is her powerful story. 

– Suri Jacknis, Associate Director of The Coalition of Innovating Congregations

 

Building Community

By Sarah Lipsey Brokman with an introduction by Suri Jacknis

As a kid, I was lucky enough to grow up in a vibrant Jewish community.  I loved being in shul and spent many hours of my childhood feeling loved by my shul community.  One winter Shabbat, when I was nine years old, both of my parents went home separately after kiddush, thinking that the other parent had taken me home.  They arrived home twenty minutes later to realize that they had left me at synagogue.  My dad drove back in a panic, sure that I would be sitting outside of the building terrified that I had been left alone.  When he arrived, he couldn’t find me because I was inside playing hide and seek with all of my friends.  Since I was so comfortable at my shul, I hadn’t even noticed that my parents had left.  In the event that I had noticed my parents weren’t in the building anymore, there were a dozen other adults I could have gone to for help.  Being connected to this type of synagogue community is why I decided to become a Jewish educator.

Four years ago I began working at Park Avenue Synagogue (PAS) as one of the Assistant Directors in the Congregational School.  I walked into an environment of creative innovation and change at PAS, where the leadership challenged me to dream as big as possible.  I began to reflect on why I became a Jewish educator and I knew I needed to find a way to create that feeling of “home” for the families of PAS that I had for my home shul.  I envisioned a group of families with children in third and fourth grades who were looking for a deeper connection to both the PAS synagogue community and their own individual Jewish identities.  The goal would be to bring these families together to share their values, feelings and thoughts about raising Jewish families.  I decided to call this group, The Covenanting Group because, I wanted people to know that they were joining a group which honored their brit, their covenant, to their Jewish identities and to the PAS community.  I spent the summer reaching out to families and advertising to the whole community. By September, twelve families signed up.  Since I had already decided that I would have run the program with five families, this was a huge success!

The first Covenanting Group event took place in the sanctuary with Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove.  As Rabbi Cosgrove and I welcomed the group, a shiver of electricity ran through me.  The idea had come to fruition.  Rabbi Cosgrove asked each family to spread out in the sanctuary and discuss their goals for the year in The Covenanting Group.  The families all expressed one common value: community.  The group’s purpose became clear.  We spent the year learning together and creating a community within our already vibrant PAS community.

10479736_362655890572202_8166552869148709356_n

As we began to plan for a second cohort of The Covenanting Group, I reflected back on the pilot group’s experience.  I realized that we needed to increase the time spent doing Jewish learning – so we partnered with ShalomLearning and made once-a-month online learning part of The Covenanting Group experience.  The communal programming was centered on Shabbat and holidays, a decision which helped our group connect to the Jewish calendar in a more meaningful way.  The biggest learning from that first year was the recognition that the group needed an immersive experience to culminate the year.

This capstone experience was a retreat that occurred in April filled with learning, food and fun.  The adults were able to schmooze, while the kids played and intensified their already strong friendships.  During one activity, the families created a “values map” using strips of paper with 15 different Jewish values, which each family ordered according to the importance in their family’s life.  These conversations were by no means easy, but the buzz of immersive family learning was one I had never experienced before.  After the families finished working with their own values maps, each family shared their map with another family.  I watched as a major goal of The Covenanting Group came to life: families sharing their Jewish values with one another. Since we grappled with big questions of Jewish identity, values and meaning, the families were now able share their answers with each other, in hopes of inspiring more meaningful Jewish engagement as a community.

As I work with the 21 families in the third cohort of The Covenanting Group, I remember being a 9 year old child playing in shul.  Creating a space within the synagogue community to play, learn and connect is a necessary component of Jewish life.  As we look to find ways to keep Jews involved in synagogue and communal life, these connections are at the core.   Helping people connect to one another on a deep Jewish level is the most rewarding and important thing I have done thus far in my career.  This group is a vehicle for connection, a way for families to find “home” at PAS.

Listening for Innovation

Listening for Innovation
Posted by Ben Alpert in I*MOVE, Innovation, Noticing

7/17/14

By Tamara Gropper

Being a parent requires many things.  For me, one of the most exciting things that parenting requires is also the most challenging – listening carefully to my children and believing deeply in their ideas no matter what path those ideas might lead them to follow through life.  It turns out that if I can do that consistently I may just be able to provide a key ingredient in raising an innovator. 

In his book, Creating Innovators, Tony Wagner explores what it takes to provide an atmosphere in which innovators and innovation can grow and thrive.  He profiles a number of individuals to see what elements of their life journey contributed to their ability to innovate from a young age.  Over and over again he finds that parents who really hear their children, who take the time to listen to and support their passions even when it means taking an unorthodox path to learning, significantly contribute to creating an environment of innovation for them.  The same can be said of the teachers and mentors with whom these young people engaged at various points in their development many of whom are innovators themselves.

So, what does innovation sound like to you?  Whose innovative voice have you heard this summer?  What gets in the way of hearing innovation when it’s expressed by our children, by our learners, by our colleagues? And what would it take to shift your response?

Learn more here!

42-15655213

Worthwhile Change: New Models of Congregational Education

Posted by Ben Alpert in Innovation, Protocols

4/29/30

by Anna Marx with Cyd B. Weissman and Rob Weinberg

Worthwhile Change: New Models of Congregational Education

Banking on Strategies for Synagogues

Banking on Strategies for Synagogues
Posted by Ben Alpert in Innovation

3/17/14

By Cyd Weissman

“The train is crowded, mind if I sit here?” My usual Don’t sit next to me on the train strategy of coughing or eating smelly foods didn’t deter this twenty some young woman from sitting down.

She parked herself, her winter coat, her tote and package right next to me. “The commute has been wild with all the snow, hasn’t it?” Oh boy – I was in for a talker. Usually on the Amtrak, reserved train folks keep up their Northeast reserve. The unspoken understanding is you open your electronic device and act as if there isn’t another human within miles. However, this blond with the bubble in her voice hadn’t read the manual. As someone trying to figure out how to adapt Jewish organizations to meet today’s challenges, I’m sure glad she didn’t.

“I do this commute four days a week, Philadelphia to New York. I’ve never seen the schedules so off.” Attention. I had to put my device down because that’s my story too. As the conversation went from slithering sidewalks to how to recreate the work of a traditional organization, I asked her “Do you mind if I take notes?”

Was she talking about banks or synagogues? This is what I learned from the Wharton graduate who works for innovative products at American Express.

“People don’t want to interact with banks the way they used to, the way their parents did. It used to be that people built a history and trust with the bank over time. The bank was a constant in the community. People physically walked in. They had credentials, birth certificates and documentation and a longstanding relationship with the bank. But the demographics are changing. From our research, we learned that 30 million people can’t get a traditional account. And, we learned they don’t want one. Today people want it their way.

She continued, “I work on creating new products that help people connect with banks. I used to work for another international bank. They are big… so big that they don’t really care what customers want or which new products they need. But at American Express they need to care.” She explained a lot of her work is, “Soliciting feedback. We need to be asking enough questions to hear what people need. People are getting their banking needs (wow, spiritual/ religious needs) in other non-traditional places. People are turning to Google and Pay Pal because they are listening to what people want. There are no hoops to jump through and a low barrier to entry.”

She explained how banks now have offer different levels of accounts. So if you don’t want to sign up or answer a lot of questions, you can still get a service. People don’t want to hear a minimum balance is required or that you are only open certain hours. They value technology. They move fast. “When I worked at the other bank they moved really slowly. We couldn’t move fast because there were so many committees. At American Express we have enterprise in order to survive. We know people are saying, ‘I like my coffee this way and they get it. So they are also saying ‘I want my banking this way.’”

“How do you figure out what products to test market?” I asked (Hey I took a course at Wharton once).

“We work closely with partners like Walmart, Target, Zynga along with other gaming and travel services. The best partnerships happen when you combine. Positioning is very important. Where do you fit in the customers mind? (GREAT QUESTION… Don’t love the answers that come to my mind.) Where is my position in the market? How can we combine ourselves in the consumers mind; Target and American Express? She went on, “With partners you say, what do I bring and what you bring to the table? And does this meet our goals? This leads you to try different things. And we get an immense amount of feedback. Trying something new every two weeks, we found we’ve had to invest in the emotional part of the product. We think about what the Experience will look like and then we get ten people off the street to go through the experience and, ask ‘What do you think?’”

I could tell that my train companion really wanted to shift the conversation and talk about her upcoming wedding at the Kimmel Center. Her dress was gorgeous and wow what a handsome groom! But, I wanted to spend the time before we hit 30th street getting her advice about how to create ways for people to connect with synagogues. I also know people now want it their way, not the way their parents wanted it, and who can get it from other sources on their own terms.

She had given me the right advice?

  • Try lots of things … every two weeks.
  • Work with partners, and bring what you have together to meet your goals.
  • Ask. And ask again – get lots of feedback.
  • Hit the emotional connection.
  • Be flexible.
  • Don’t get caught in committee.
  • What else?

Let go of that Northeast reserve once in a while. Look up from your electronic device. Something worthwhile may be right in front of you.

high-speed-train_00447579

Grace Hopper’s 107th Birthday

Grace Hopper's 107th Birthday
Posted by Ben Alpert in Innovation

By Ellen Rank

12/11/13

google

 

 

 

 

 

Did you see Monday’s Google doodle? Thinking about innovation, experimentation and failing forward lately it caught my eye. Seems like these are long honored methods that were practiced and encouraged by Google Doodle honoree: Grace Hopper (1906-1992), an amazing woman, US Navy Admiral and a pioneer in computer science. Hopper developed the first working compiler and developed COBOL, a programming language still in use today.

As an educator I was inspired by one of her quotes:

The most important thing I’ve accomplished, other than building the compiler, is training young people. They come to me, you know, and say, “Do you think we can do this?” I say, “Try it.” And I back ’em up. They need that. I keep track of them as they get older and I stir ’em up at intervals so they don’t forget to take chances.

 

geriatrics books