NEW YORK (Aug. 26)
Three Jewish communities — Atlanta, Baltimore and Milwaukee — have been selected by the Council for Initiatives in Jewish Education for an intensive three to five-year experiment in improving Jewish education.
The council’s endeavor, some three years in the making, is to bring to each of the selected communities the best available resources and to help them locate funding for innovative programs.
The council’s plan is for the three “lead communities” to function as laboratories, in a sense, in which new systems in community-wide collaboration will be tested and refined.
Members of the council hope the three projects will eventually produce a model for providing top-quality Jewish education that can be replicated in Jewish communities around the country.
“This is a partnership between the local community and CIJE,” said Dr. Shulamith Elster, acting director of the council, adding that “each partner has some specific responsibility.”
The council will be providing each lead community with access to both a team of consultants and the leadership of national agencies, all of whom will be available to assist with planning and programming.
For example, if a lead community defines as a goal attracting top education professionals and bolstering the training and retention of the professionals they already have in place, the council will bring in advisers from its co-sponsoring agencies to help work out a plan.
The co-sponsors are the Council of Jewish Federations, the Jewish Community Centers Association of North America and the Jewish Education Service of North America.
‘WILL PROVIDE ADDITIONAL MOMENTUM’
In addition, the council will have a full-time “field researcher” in each community to “monitor the process of change and provide the feedback that will make for more informed decisions,” said Elster.
“We want to document the process of answering the questions ‘What does it take to bring about change?’ and ‘How does change happen?’ “
CIJE is also in the process of compiling a resource for educators called “The Best Practices Project.”
The goal of the project, according to Elster, is to identify exemplary practices in various educational settings and to make them available, as role models, to educators across the country.
According to David Sarnat, executive director of the Atlanta Jewish Federation, the benefit of being a lead community “is not in terms of dollar resources, but the ability to engage in a process with the best around, which will remain available to us as we chart our course.”
But, he added, Atlanta has been working on a major restructuring of its Jewish education system for the last couple of years.
“This puts a sanction on what we’re doing. This is a very important kind of stroking that will provide additional momentum” for our plans, he said.
He added: “Much of what we’re planning to do (as a lead community) we would have done anyhow.”