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 (755 downloads) .

What’s the Secret Ingredient?

What’s the Secret Ingredient?
Posted by Ben Alpert in Benchmarking Report


By Anna Marx

This post is 1st in a series on Accomplishments and Lessons Learned, a cumulative report demonstrating 5 years of evaluation and research about the Coalition of Innovating Congregations. The report is available online and for download at innovatingcongregations.org/all.

Can anyone establish powerful learning models? Is there some special formula that makes it possible for congregations to fully integrate a model into their systems? We took a look at 32 models in the Coalition to see if we could find out what makes a model established in congregations (read the full report innovatingcongregations.org/whole-person-learning-models/).

We looked at congregations’ movements, size, leadership tenure (or turnover), and how many models they operated. It turned out that none these things made a difference. Reform and Conservative congregations were just as likely to have fully established models, as were small and large congregations and those where one model or multiple models are operated. Even tenure didn’t make a big difference — congregations with rabbis and educators that had been in place for many years were just as likely to have fully established models as those with new rabbis or educators.

We found one secret ingredient in all the congregations with well established models: time. The longer the congregation had been working on innovating, the more established the model was. And the more opportunities for support along the way (RE-IMAGINE, the Leadership Institute, LOMED), the more established the model was.

So, can anyone establish a powerful learning model? Yes! But it takes time, determination, and maybe a little bit of help.

Look out for the next post in this series: “Relationships, Relationships, Relationships”.


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