From May 15 to May 16 Jewish day school educators, partners and funders met to discuss the nature of Jewish day schools and their role in helping young Jews embrace their Judaism. The conference was organized by the Jewish Education Innovation Challenge (JEIC), a program of the Mayberg Foundation.
“JEIC is providing a platform for Jewish educators and innovators in the field to really test new models of conveying Jewish education and really providing a source of leadership for the Jewish education field,” said Manette Mayberg, trustee of the Mayberg Foundation.
The conference’s theme was “Values Illuminating Actions.”
“What we see now is that there’s often an emphasis on evaluative processes in Jewish schools that focus on grades and scores and rankings,” Mayberg said. “But it doesn’t capture at all whether that student is building a lifelong love of Jewish learning, of Jewish life, participation, leadership. A strong Jewish identity that will carry them through life.”
The conference had a unique set up, said Sharon Freundel, managing director of JEIC. “We don’t have normal sessions. There are no plenaries. There are no guest speakers. The first session [we had participants analyze] a bunch of policies from actual Jewish day school handbooks [to see if they matched espoused values.]”
One of the attendees, Leslie Ginsparg Klein, Ph.D, academic dean at Women’s Institute of Torah Seminary, said that the conference was a great place to get new ideas for her own institution’s projects.
“My institution is in the process of creating a new science lab and I have spoken to people at this conference and gotten great ideas,” Klein said. “I met new people who I will be keeping in touch with and continuing conversations.”
Amian Kelemer, CEO of the Louise B. and Morton J. Macks Center for Jewish Education (CJE), who was attending the conference for the first time, said that the conference helped expand her thinking beyond the conference itself.
“I have a 10 year old at home who goes to day school…I was telling him about this session on tefillah,” Kelemer said, “and we had this incredible conversation…that’s what this conference did…it was like lighting a spark and you started to think about ways it impacted your own professional work. Whether conference participants were educators or donors, there was a ‘meeting of the minds’ in that our focus is always the student and the Jewish values we want them to be inspired by.”
JEIC and the Mayberg Foundation’s plans for future include more conferences and more partnerships. While next year’s conference dates has been scheduled, they’re still deciding on a location, Freundel said.
As for partnerships, JEIC has been sponsoring new and innovative models in Jewish education at a select number of schools across the country.
“We’re focusing now on implementation and helping those models to scale up to be embedded in other schools,” Mayberg said.
Disclaimer: Louis Mayberg, one of the trustees of the Mayberg Foundation, is also an owner of Mid-Atlantic Media.