Gary Rosenblatt, in his article “JTS Chancellor Eisen To Step Down Next June” (Sept. 27), describes the Jewish Theological Seminary as an institution “which trains rabbis, cantors, lay leaders and scholars,” neglecting to mention that JTS has, virtually since its inception, been training educators.
The William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at JTS has trained more than 1,000 Jewish educators who every day work to raise up new generations of engaged, connected and inspired Jews. Woven into this network are educators trained by the Graduate School (prior to the founding of the Davidson School), those trained by the Teachers’ Institute founded in 1909, and all participants in the Davidson School’s extensive network of field programs. We have paid tuition, we hold certificates of completion and degrees, and yet we are too often invisible.
This omission contributes to a systematic erasure of educators from the Jewish communal ecosystem. For 25 years, I have been affiliated with JTS, as a student (MA in Jewish Education, Graduate School, 1996), as an alumna, and as a returning student (EdD, anticipated 2020), and I have observed this erasure at all levels.
We claim to value education as a core value and educators as paradigms of leadership, yet Jewish community leaders and organizations do not pay them properly, regularly disparage them and their work, and deny them access to resources, professional learning and the proper tools to support their learners. We have created a system in which there is not only no financial benefit, but also no prestige.
It is a field populated by women doing what is perceived to be women’s work, and yet men advance to the top tiers of leadership more frequently, and at a faster pace. It is no wonder that educators discourage others from choosing education as a career. This issue is pervasive across all sectors of education — public and independent schooling, early childhood to higher education, in formal and experiential settings, in religious communities as well as in the secular world. In devaluing our educators, we erase their work and their service entirely. As a result, we signal to their students that their education has no value.
As JTS begins its search for a chancellor, it can take a bold step to select a leader who embraces a vision for our community that recognizes that power is shared, and communal institutions, synagogues, schools, and camps are led by interdependent systems made up of many different kinds of people.
Principal/Lead Consultant, Rimonim Consulting Co-Founder, The Gender Equity in Hiring Project