experiments, instruments & measurement book

Phantom Minyan

Phantom Minyan
Posted by Ben Alpert in Uncategorized


Amy Cohen is the 2014 Eduardo Rauch Artist-in-Residence at the Heschel School in New York City. This project, “Phantom Minyan”, created to commemorate Yom HaShoah, is one of several she has created at the school. More about Amy Cohen’s work can be seen on her website at: www.amyartcohen.com.

Phantom Minyan 7 Phantom Minyan 8 Phantom Minyan 9. Phantom Minyan 3 Phantom Minyan 4 Phantom Minyan 5 Phantom Minyan 6

Have You Shared Your Story?

Posted by Ben Alpert in Uncategorized


By Ellen Rank

The belief in the power of telling and sharing our own stories is supported by Beit Hatfutsot as described in The Museum of the Jewish People’s Response to the Pew Study on Jewish Americans: Tell the Story and Record it for Generations to Come. According to the article, “Beit Hatfutsot, The Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, has recommended a simple family practice to keep Jewish identity alive and well. The practice is to tell the family story, connect it to the compelling narrative of the Jewish people, and record it for future generations.” Read full article HERE.

I treasure the stories of my parents’ and grandparents’ journeys, their challenges and successes, and appreciate how these stories are strong fibers in the weaving of my own Jewish identity. We all have stories to share, stories that will build connections to family and Am Yisrael, stories that “often prepare children for facing life’s challenges, developing self-confidence, and character building.”

We are in a wonderful position as educators to create opportunities for learners to hear the stories of their parents, grandparents, and other relatives.  Let’s take advantage of this and design experiences in which children ask, hear and learn about their family’s journey. And, while you’re at it, why not make a point this week of telling your own story?



I*MOVE Applications for 2014-2015 are Here!

Posted by Jessica Rothbart in Resource, Uncategorized


We encourage you to being thinking about your next I*MOVE now. For the first time, we are offering an online submission process. We have also extended the deadlines since the webinar!

Application Deadline – April 1, 2014
Exploratory Conversations Scheduled – April 11, 2014

A Word Doc version of the applications is available for download. When you are ready to submit the application, click here to complete the online form.

Application for Individualized Consulting 2014-2015

Coalition Incubator Application 2014-2015 (NYC-Metro Only)

Coalition Start-Up Application 2014-2015 (NYC-Metro Only)

I*Express Application 2014-2015     I*Express Roadmap

Peer Consultancy Application 2014-2015

There are several ways to plan your next move:

1) Contact your congregational consultant.

2) Contact a Regional Consultant or the Congregational Learning main office:

Long Island: Suri Jacknis – 631-462-8600, sjacknis@jewishedproject.org
Long Island: Ellen Rank – 631-462-8600, erank@jewishedproject.org
New York City: Rabbi Michael Mellen – 646-472-5342, mmellen@jewishedproject.org
Westchester Region: Rabbi Jennifer Goldsmith – 914-328-8090, jgoldsmith@jewishedproject.org
Westchester Region: Susie Tessel – 914-328-8090, stessel@jewishedproject.org
Congregational Learning Main Office: Jessica Rothbart – 646-472-5347, jrothbart@jewishedproject.org

3) If you missed the Webinar or would like to share it with your colleagues, you may view it here: innovatingcongregations.org/resources


Posted by Ben Alpert in Uncategorized


How will you MOVE Jewish education in 2014 – 2015?

Webinar for current & perspective members of The Coalition of Innovating Congregations

Please join one Webinar to MOVE your innovation plans forward in 2014-2015 and learn to MOVE!

1. Models of Education: Beyond the Classroom
2. Organizational Culture & Resources: How we Get Things Done
3. Vision and Priorities: Shared Horizons & Directions
4. Educational Approach: Whole Person Teaching, Learning & Assessment.

Four Opportunities to Attend:
Wednesday, January 29th, 4:00-5:15pm EST
Register Here

Thursday, January 30th, 2:00-3:15pm EST
Registration FULL

Tuesday, February 4th, 10:30-11:45am EST
Registration FULL

NEW TIME SLOT: Thursday, February 6th, 2:00-3:15 EST

Register Here

  • To ensure a spot, please sign on at least 15 minutes in advance.
  • If more than one person is logging in from your location, please share a computer to allow space for others to access the webinar.
  • Feel free to invite others to join you at your computer station.

For more information contact Jessica Rothbart

URJ Biennial Raises Up The Jewish Education Project

URJ Biennial Raises Up The Jewish Education Project
Posted by Ben Alpert in KDBB, Lomed, Uncategorized


By Rabbi Jennifer GoldsmithCommunal Education Consultant, Westchester

This is my third URJ Biennial, the Reform movement’s national conference, but it is the first time I left feeling so proud of the work I do.

The Jewish Education Project’s Congregational Learning Department got great press at the URJ Biennial in San Diego last week. Our work was raised up in many sessions including a lengthy description by Dr. Rob Weinberg on our partnership with the Experiment in Congregational Education over the last handful of years. This included not only slides with our logos, an in-depth description of whole person learning with a great picture of Levi, but also a viewing of the latest video which shares a letter write by Carly a student at Community Synagogue of Rye. Mindy Davids RJE, Director of Religious School and Educational Innovation at Temple Shaaray Tefila, one of our grant recipients, also sat on a panel of educators with innovative models. She discussed her MASA program talking not only about the structure of the program, but the change process her synagogue went through to get there.

Dr. Robert Weinberg at URJ Biennial

Dr. Robert Weinberg at URJ Biennial


In addition to the formal opportunities to hear about our work, I had a chance to catch up with many of our grantees. Including a big hug from Rabbi Mara Young at Woodlands Community Temple where she announced “I love peer consulting!” Peer consulting groups, new for many members of the Coalition of Innovating Congregations this year has grouped synagogue educators from across New York. Groups come together either in person or via phone every couple months to share dilemmas and engage in a rich conversation aimed to offer suggestions and new ideas to the presenter. I was also able to speak with at least 50 people from all parts of the country during my time, sharing with them the work we do. Everyone was captivated with the way we are helping innovation and change happen in our synagogues. People were especially intrigued by the idea that we have a large number of tried and true models and that one focus we have is helping synagogues become excellent adaptors. I even had three different people, one from CA, one from NJ and one from CT ask if they could hire us to do consulting work. I said with a smile… “maybe in our next grant cycle!”

In President of the URJ Rabbi Rick Jacob’s address to the biennial he spoke of “audacious hospitality,” a theme that was carried out and revisited throughout my time in San Diego. Audacious hospitality is the idea of welcoming, being in relationship, sharing, partnering, all values that we work hard to help our congregations realize. From the grant initiatives to the innovative models, from the values we embody to the feeling of camaraderie I was proud to see that so much of the work we do has been embraced by my movement. 

Meet an Innovator: Jessica Rothbart

Meet an Innovator: Jessica Rothbart
Posted by Ben Alpert in Uncategorized


Jessica is the Project Manager for the Department of Congregational Learning at The Jewish Education Project. She heads the nerve center of the department: the metaphorical motor oil to the educator’s engine of innovation. She loves working as a team and having a sounding board to make ideas stronger.

Being an innovator means always staying open to new ideas. It means never settling for ‘that’s how we’ve always done it.’


Jessica’s professional drive comes from a focus on organizational behavior and Jewish professional leadership.  After twenty-five years of Jewish education and engagement as both an educator and a learner, Jessica earned an MBA in Non-Profit Management and an MA in Jewish Professional Leadership through the Hornstein/Heller Joint Program at Brandeis University. Post graduate school, Jessica was the Program Director at Congregation B’nai Torah in Atlanta, shifting the 150-program line-up to reflect the congregation’s mission and vision. Her redesigned Youth High Holy Day program was the feather in her cap, with over 700 kids in attendance – and some even wanting to voluntarily return for the 2nd day of Rosh Hashanah. With her on-the-ground experience in congregations, Jessica hopes to further best practices and innovation to the Coalition in the role of Project Manager.


She and her husband Isaac live in Jersey City, and enjoy musical theater and traveling. You can contact Jessica at jrothbart@jewishedproject.org

Staking Claim: What I Learned From All This Jabber about the Pew study

Posted by Ben Alpert in Uncategorized


We’re continuing to gather responses to the webinar discussing the educational implications of the Pew StudyEtta King, the Educational Program Director at Jewish Women’s Archive, wrote a thoughtful response that addresses the question of what now?

Here are some of Etta’s reactions:

Last Thursday I listened in on a panel discussion hosted by the Jewish Education Project about the implications of the recent Pew Study Jewish Education. Many of us (Jewish educators) had questions about how to improve, how to do our jobs better, and how to serve American Jews more fully…
…What if the end goals of Jewish education were not that every Jew knows how to recite the Sh’ma, celebrate Passover, love Israel, and remember the Holocaust, but instead our goals were that every Jew wants to be Jewish, wants to own that part of their identity, and wants live Jewishly in a way that feels personally meaningful? What if our goal was that Judaism would provide a lens through which we build relationships, make decisions, and take action within our communities?

You can read her entire post here.

The Pew Webinar: Chat Questions & Quotes

Posted by Jessica Rothbart in Uncategorized

The Chat during our Webinar was overflowing with great thoughts and questions. With the limited time, we weren’t able to discuss more than a few questions. Here are some of the highlights of the Chat – both questions and quotes. We’d love to hear your thoughts and responses:


  • What are some specific policy recommendations that you could make in the realm of Jewish education in the wake of this survey? (Ted Merwin, Carlisle, PA)
  • What about the God taboo? (Daniel Victor)
  • You can “rescue the world” as an American – so what happens to the kids of those parents; with no Jewish education, what’s the impetus to stay Jewish? (Bess Adler, Hackensack, NJ)
  • We keep on speaking about “Jewish Education.” Forgive me for my naivety, but how would we be dealing with this issue re:standards and benchmarks for good Jewish education? Can this way of thinking guide us and be generic and comprehensive enough to serve all the diverse Jewish educational frameworks? Does this form of consensus help us or detract from moving forward? (Michal Morris Kamil, San Fransisco, CA)
  • Has the Pew Study done more harm than good, given many of the critiques presented to it – AND – is there a better way for us to be evaluating the breadth of the American Jewish scene? (Jess Paikin, Jerusalem)
  • Since SO MUCH is missing from the study – are we missing the point a bit? What AREN’T we asking? I think we know the answer to this… so why aren’t we asking the questions? (Jess Paikin, Jerusalem)
  • The study reads “This shift in Jewish self-identification reflects broader changes in the US public.” What can we learn from outside the Jewish community? (Yoshi Fenton, San Fransisco, CA)
  • Is there some point where we’ve decided we’ve created TOO many communities and no longer have a feeling of klal yisrael? (Karen Stein, Forest Hills, NY)
  • Are institutions still the best purveyors of our educational values and wares? (Janis Knight)
  • How did Jewish education happen before the Industrial school model? (Lori Rubin, Philadelphia, PA)


  • In the famous words of Ha Rav Billy Joel, “The good old days weren’t always good; tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.” (Kate O’Brien, The Workmen’s Circle)
  • …We’ve rejected next gen Jews for a variety of reasons, in a myriad of ways, for so long that its not on them anymore. It’s our fault. As a “Next Gen Jew”, I need people to reach out and tell me they want me, and ask me what I want. Then maybe we can recreate something together. (Emilia Diamant, Boston, MA)
  • These “Jews without religion” are happy where they are and are growing in this cultural educational model. We help them grow and become who they are meant to be – whatever that means. (Kate O’Brien, The Workmen’s Circle)
  • We should capitalize on happy Jews. (Dan Brosgol, Newton, MA)
  • We are teaching people to be, as Kate said, “responsive and responsible citizens” and if we can do that through Judaism and through bolstering their identities with the richness of our tradition, then we are succeeding. (Etta King, Jewish Women’s Archive)
  • I think we need to relook at membership and what it’s doing to our communities. We are overly concerned with people “belonging”. (Rebekah Raz, Stamford, CT)
  • We need to be mindful as both Kate and Emilia suggest that today’s children have parents and extended family who are not Jewish — and that a Jewish “embrace” needs to reflect the respect and fairness that children intuitively want. Certainly the dual faith families I serve want respect and not marginalization for both backgrounds. The exclusivity can be off-putting. (Sheila Gordon)
  • I think what we need is a new narrative. For too long the narrative was about the Holocaust and the establishment of Israel (that was my childhood narrative). We are seeing that it’s time to change it. What is our new narrative (more than meaning and purpose because that’s empty). (Daniel Gropper, Rye, NY)
  • Both ignoring and hand-wringing are cop outs. (UJAFedNY)
  • Where we stand depends on where we sit. Very hard to break out of that! (Amy Asin, Palo Alto, CA)
  • Every kid doesn’t have the chance to participate, these decisions are being made by their parents long before they can speak up for themselves. (Shari Weinberger, Providence, RI)
  • I think we need the teachers who have the ability to engage and inspire. We need to be given the dedicated time to do engagement work. (Iris Koller)

The Pew Webinar: Dr. Jonathan Woocher’s Notes

Posted by Jessica Rothbart in Uncategorized

This is an outline of Dr. Jonathan Woocher’s presentation in yesterday’s webinar – The Pew Research Study: Implications for Jewish Education Webinar. Dr. Woocher covered five big ideas:

1. Importance and limits of survey data

a. big picture, but static

b. only asks about a limited range of behaviors – can’t interpret what wasn’t asked

c. can see what they said, but not what they meant

d. in a diverse and dynamic community, what is happening in front of us may be more important than any survey results


2. Survey shows persistence and resilience of a positive disposition to Jewishness among a large majority of American Jews, including many in the categories associated with low levels of Jewish activity

a. Pride in Jewishness (97JR, 83JNR, 89I), strong sense of belonging to Jewish people (85, 42, 59), Jewishness very or somewhat important (90, 46, 67)

b. Accept that there are some Jews uninterested in Jewish involvement or expression

c. But, if reservoir of positive feeling is there, are there ways to activate it that we are not employing?


3. Clear that most Jews get that the category of “religion” is not an ideal fit for what Jewishness means

a. Even JRs choose ancestry/culture over religion by 55 – 17 (26 both)

b. Clear also in what respondents consider important in being Jewish


What’s Essential to Being Jewish?
% saying ____ is an essential part of what being Jewish means to them NET Jewish Jews by religion Jews of no religion
% % %
Remembering the Holocaust 73 76 60
Leading an ethical and moral life 69 73 55
Working for justice/equality 56 60 46
Being intellectually curious 49 51 42
Caring about Israel 43 49 23
Having good sense of humor 42 43 40
Being part of a Jewish community 28 33 10
Observing Jewish law 19 23 7
Eating traditional Jewish foods 14 16 9
Source: Pew Research Center 2013 Survey of U.S. Jews, Feb. 20-June 13, 2013.

4. Big question is whether the Jewish education we offer is in fact helping them pursue what they consider important in being Jewish in ways that deepen their connection to Jewish wisdom, historical experience, and contemporary community

5. Need more diverse options (including “non-religious”) – and are seeing the appeal of such options in areas like outdoor, food, and environmental ed, etc.

The Pew Study: Implications for Jewish Education

The Pew Study: Implications for Jewish Education
Posted by Ben Alpert in Uncategorized

By Cyd Weissman

From Jerusalem to LA to Dallas to New York, 150 computers and phones logged in today to a webinar at the Jewish Education Project discussing the educational implications of the Pew Study.

We are people of the study. We both respect and criticize serious research. We were at the ready.

Dr. Jonathan Woocher and Dr. Michelle Lynn-Sachs spoke with me.

Here are my three headlines:

1. Educators rise up and take a leadership role. It’s time to stop ranting on the internet and really understand.

We, as educators, are good at making meaning of text. Let’s convene the conversations that ask the study for its truth.

To make meaning of the text we have to make the space safe and set the table to bring the voices we know and the voices we don’t, to ask them what is your story?
What are your moments of connection and yearning? And in what ways are you the walking wounded from your Jewish experience?

As comments emerged from participants we need to be clear that there are multiple tables within as well as outside of our organizations. Only after we develop deeper understanding can we create shared insight and energy to do what’s next.

2. The future is our 1.8 million children who are being raised by at least one Jewish parent.

Let’s pay attention and honor the diversity of these children. Only half are being raised exclusively as Jews. 300,000 of them are being raised as Jewish and another religion.

We are already working to innovate for those who are engaged in an educational experience. Only 50% of parents with children said they had a child engaged in a Jewish program, camp or school in the past year. So what are we doing to see, know and engage the other 50%?

Before we rush to another program..think instead of this goal:

By 2020 80% of those 1.8 million children will have a Jewish adult who mentors them, acts as a role model for them, cares for them and accompanies them in some meaningful way. What does that look like? I’m not sure but I invite our creative energy so that when the next Pew study comes out people will check: I am present for one other Jew who is coming up behind me as an indicator of what it means to be a Jew.

3. Take on the taboo curriculum.
I think there are subjects we don’t know how to engage within a 2013 kind of way. We know finger-wagging doesn’t work but we’ve lost the comfort and ability to teach, to learn and generate meaning around things like:
1. Intermarriage and marriage.
2. Raising children and what our hopes and dreams for the children are.
3. Responsibility and commitment.. yes this is my passion and my interest and what is my responsibility to the people I’m proud to be part of?
Someone on the call added God.

What’s the 2013 way to stop with the taboo, bring it out in the open in a meaningful way?
What do you think about the implications?
What do you want to raise as something we need to chew on?


Click here to watch full webinar.

Click here to watch full webinar.


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