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  • RETHINKING HEBREW SCHOOL [Part 4] Teacher training programs find ways to educate the educators

    NEW YORK, Sept. 30 (JTA) — Last January, midway through his first year of teaching Sunday school, Dennis Niekro was tempted to quit. A convert to Judaism, the 30-year-old Niekro had initially agreed to take the part-time job teaching fifth grade at his Columbus, Ohio, temple because he thought it would be another way to…

  • RETHINKING HEBREW SCHOOL [Part 3] It’s back to school for parents as congregations focus on

    NEW YORK, Sept. 30 (JTA) — The school at Congregation Eitz Chayim boasted a unique curriculum, hands-on activities and had been cited in the Baltimore Jewish Times as one of the six best Hebrew schools in the country. But children were regularly traipsing in late, missing school, not doing their homework and demanding to know…

  • Agunot advocate urges prayer day as path to unbinding ‘chained wives

    NEW YORK, Aug. 31 (JTA) — Mattie Klein is a strong believer in the power of prayer. Three years ago she asked Rabbi Mordechai Tendler of Monsey, N.Y., to write a prayer for agunot, women unable to obtain Jewish divorces. Klein’s daughter recited the prayer under the chupah when she got married, and as a…

  • BACK TO THE BOOKS Opening of new Reform day schools signals growth along with ambivalence

    NEW YORK, Aug. 19 (JTA) — In many ways, Rodeph Sholom School looks like any other elite Manhattan private school. Walls are covered with colorful student art and the small courtyard playground is meticulously maintained. Dressed-for-success, cellphone-toting parents clamor into the kindergarten classroom for a special program where their children show off what they have…

  • PROFILE A ‘prophetess’ in adult education attributes success to perseverance

    COLUMBUS, Ohio, Aug. 17 (JTA) — What do removable shoulder pads, foam-lined slippers and a popular two-year program of adult Jewish learning have in common? All are the creations of Florence Melton, an indomitable 87-year-old inventor/businesswoman/philanthropist described by her admirers as a “prophetess.” In 1946, Melton’s foam-lined slippers revolutionized the footwear industry and jump-started a…

  • BACK TO THE BOOKS Bringing Jews in through the nursery: Educators rethink the teaching of the tots

    NEW YORK, Aug. 19 (JTA) — The Jerusalem Talmud recounts the story of Rabbi Joshua, whose mother carried him in his cradle to the Beit Midrash, or house of study, so that “his ears would become accustomed to the sounds of the Torah.” Early childhood Jewish education has changed a bit since then, and though…

  • FOCUS ON ISSUES Jewish institutions balance security with openness before High Holidays

    NEW YORK, Aug. 19 (JTA) — Armed security guards, doors locked during business hours, mandatory parking decals, name tags for visitors, staff trained in responding to bomb threats and regular security audits by the police. Such measures have long been routine at large Jewish organizations, particularly ones related to Israel, but smaller institutions are now…

  • World’s Jews discover Columbus and find it very rich in Jewish life

    COLUMBUS, Ohio, Aug. 17 (JTA) — In a matter of days, the Jewish population here grew by almost 20 percent. Then, as quickly as they had arrived, the 3,000 visiting athletes and educators who filled the Jewish community center, Ohio State University and quite a few houses packed up and returned to their homes around…

  • FOCUS ON ISSUES What to do with a blank check: Jewish teachers create wish lists

    COLUMBUS, Ohio, Aug. 17 (JTA) — Money may not buy happiness. But most Jewish educators and administrators believe it can improve Jewish education. At a conference of the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education, held here last week, teachers and administrators, mostly from synagogue schools, fantasized about what they would do if given a…

  • FOCUS ON ISSUES Jewish educators raise their hands to urge more pay, more appreciation

    COLUMBUS, Ohio, Aug. 17 (JTA) — Asked to complete the sentence “As a Jewish educator I feel…” a group of teachers and administrators recently volunteered the following: “overwhelmed,” “underappreciated,” “underpaid,” “exhilarated,” “hopeful and frustrated” and “a sense of emergency.” With the American Jewish community frightened by gloomy statistics on intermarriage and assimilation, Jewish education has…