Life Coaching Coming To Jewish Ed Circles


The notion of a life coach seems to exist in the pop culture province of Gwyneth Paltrow and her Goop crowd. But as a technique for Jewish educators?

In Miami next December, the answer will be yes.

Miami’s Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education is using a grant from the Covenant Foundation to set up Jewish Education and Life Coaching for Youth Professionals, which will offer a 60-hour training program that will give participants a life coaching certification with a specialty in Jewish education. The Foundation is providing a $50,000 grant for the first year with the possibility of two additional $50,000 grants over the following two years if mutually agreed upon benchmarks are met.

Carly Orshan, CAJE’s director of teen education and engagement, came up with the idea several years ago. “I saw that there was this niche that wasn’t being served,” she said. “I think life coaching is a big field,” she said, but one that hasn’t yet benefitted from “bringing in a Jewish component.”

Teens, she told The Jewish Week, are plagued with worries. According to a 2016 study by the Jewish Education Project, 82 percent are worried about doing well in school, 61 percent about their future and 57 percent are preoccupied by a range of other worries including bullying, body image, a feeling of not measuring up induced by social media and a fear of school shootings.

Coaching, Orshan said, gives teens a way to put these worries into “a framework that is more digestible,” helping teens be “more mindful” and “less overwhelmed.”

“What’s very different about life coaching,” she said, “is we’re not trying to get someone to do something” as in “this is what happened to me and this is what I think you should do,” but rather, it’s an “opportunity to guide them” to decide what they want to do for themselves.

The goal is to teach a cohort of Jewish communal professionals a way to mentor teens that helps them increase the teens’ “sense of connection to and ability to find meaning in Judaism as well as guide them on the next steps in the Jewish journey,” according to CAJE’s project proposal. Not only will the program be the first Jewish life coaching program, it will also be the first life coaching program designed specifically for people who work with teens, the proposal said.

Orshan is working with the International Coach Federation, which will give the new coaches official certification. CAJE’s plan is to have three cohorts of 12 students each. The first cohort will begin training in December. The participants will pay a token fee of $180 for the program.

Since word of the program has gotten out there’s been a great deal of interest, Orshan said, mainly from rabbis who work with youth as well as Jewish youth professionals working for such organizations as Hillel and the high school youth organizations BBYO (pluralistic), NCSY (Orthodox), NFTY (Reform) and USY (United Synagogue Youth, Conservative).

Of the 17 projects to receive funding for Jewish education from the Covenant Foundation this year, five are focused on the arts, two on historical topics, two on inclusion, two on training Jewish communal professionals, two on programming for young children, one on parenting techniques, one on Israel education and one on civic engagement.

The Covenant Foundation announced the recipients of $1.6 million in grants last week. Since 1991, the Foundation has provided more than $33 million to support Jewish education in North America.