Jack Wertheimer, Ed., Learning and Community: Jewish Supplementary Schools in the Twenty-First Century: Book Review

Published: 
Jun. 26, 2012

Source: Journal of Jewish Education, Volume 78, Issue 2 , pages 170-173

 

From Renee Rubin Ross' Review:

What can we learn from 10 of the nation's best Jewish supplementary schools? Learning and Community explores this question. Five research teams, each comprised of a researcher and an advanced practitioner, used the qualitative approach of portraiture to present detailed pictures of 10 supplementary schools from around the country. The book is organized by type of school: three of the schools in the study are small schools, including an afterschool program not connected to a congregation; five are larger suburban congregational schools; and two are community high schools….

 

In the introduction, editor Jack Wertheimer, explains that the schools were selected because they were reputed to “work,” and to be models of reasonable success. Each of the chapters is organized differently; nonetheless, they all include a section on the history of the school, the structure of the school, the curriculum, the staff, and a concluding section on what we might learn from the particular school…

 

Two main points about Learning and Community are worthy of close attention. First, the book presents case studies that could be useful for practitioners and lay leaders working to make individual congregational schools or community high schools stronger. Second, in terms of the field of congregational education, the cases together paint an honest picture of the structural challenges that congregational schools face, even if the roadmap for addressing these structural challenges is somewhat ambiguous…

 

The diversity of research sites—which include Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Chabad schools in addition to the non-affiliated afterschool program—emerges as a strength of the project and a unique feature among works of this type. One message is that stakeholders in congregational education should look broadly to new models, just as Jews themselves are now looking beyond denomination in selecting a congregation or congregational school….

 

The concluding section explores the conditions that might build a successful school—such as the importance of a strong Jewish community around the school, a high level of engagement with Judaism, the alignment of the curriculum and teaching staff with the school, the engagement of families, a clear vision for the school, and a staff imbued with a strong Jewish mission.

Updated: Jul. 04, 2012
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