Noted in an article written by Gary Rosenblatt on Sept. 19 (“JTS Chancellor To Step Down Next June”), Chancellor Eisen of the Jewish Theological Seminary will be stepping down from his position at the end of this academic year. The article was a wonderful tribute to the work the chancellor has done, and I along with many others, have benefited from his vision and dedication to the institution and to Conservative Judaism.
The article also states that despite a “decline statistically” in the Conservative movement, “the seminary, which trains rabbis, cantors, lay leaders, and scholars, continues to attract quality faculty and students.” What Rosenblatt failed to mention is that JTS also trains Jewish educators, who attend the William Davidson School of Education at JTS.
Unfortunately, the omission of “educators” from Rosenblatt’s list is not uncommon. Few people associate JTS with the Davidson School. Whereas I don’t believe this oversight was intentional, it does perpetuate two narratives: that the seminary is a school solely for clergy and academics, and that Jewish educators are somehow “less than.”
Each year the Davidson School accepts students into their program who are interested in making a difference in Jewish education. These students graduate and become teachers and directors in synagogues, day schools, Hillels, JCCs and Jewish summer camps. They also pursue careers in organizations such as OneTable, Moishe House and the Jewish Education Project, to name a few.
I do not know why Mr. Rosenblatt did not mention “educators.” I do know, however, that by not doing so, he is perpetuating a narrative that many of us would like to see changed. JTS also trains Jewish educators. As the largest pluralistic school of Jewish education in North America, Davidson graduates have touched the lives of countless people of all ages, in all the denominations, in both formal and informal settings. They have helped redefine Jewish education for the 21st century and continue to make an impact both in and out of the classroom. Davidson graduates are “more than” educators. They are leaders, entrepreneurs, and teachers. Let’s make sure that is the narrative that is told.
The writer is an educational consultant and the founder and CEO of JTeachNOW. She received her master’s in Jewish Studies and Education in the William Davidson School of Education at JTS and is currently earning her doctoral degree there.