Experiential Jewish Education for All

October 5, 2014

Source: eJewish Philanthropy


In 2011, thanks to the generosity of the Jim Joseph Foundation whose support commenced our five year Experiential Learning Initiative, The Davidson School of JTS launched a new program: a specialized cohort of graduate students who concentrated on the study, experiences and training of Experiential Jewish Education (EJE) on a much grander scale. These thirty-four brave souls over the three cohorts of our two-year Experiential MA were, essentially, our guinea-pigs, our participants in our grand experiment.


They were fully part of the larger MA class. In addition, the cohort was charged with additional course work and new field-based projects including workshops and trips specifically crafted to experience EJE in-action, reflect and learn. The objective was to dive deep into EJE theories, enhancing each student’s own understandings of EJE and professional growth as a result. Our goal has been for each student to graduate from our program as a truly exceptional Jewish educator with cutting-edge skills and creative approaches to facilitation, reflection, leadership and engagement. Truly, our work with these three cohorts has been innovative, challenging in the best way possible, and a lot of fun. Most are already excelling as star professionals throughout the field from Hillel to Jewish camp, synagogues, and day schools.


However, as we engaged in this process an obvious question arose: why aren’t all of our MA students participating and gaining from these new, exciting, and innovative programs? Certainly, the Jewish educational world has come to a consensus now and much more than when our initiative began in 2010 that the power of EJE is not limited to certain settings, and those who focus on day school teaching and synagogue educational leadership would also benefit immensely from the experiences and learning that our experiential MA students did. In fact, many of our EJE cohort graduates have earned exciting new roles in day schools and synagogues where their EJE training and expertise is highly valued and a key rationale for their hire. Moreover, our rabbis and cantors, who are entering career paths in which education is part and parcel to their work, would certainly gain tremendously from this graduate training as well.


We are now integrating and infusing EJE training components throughout the MA program so EJE training at Davidson is for all. Beginning this fall and solidified further in the semesters ahead, every MA and Doctorate student at Davidson is exposed and connects to the theory, experiences, reflections and educator growth from engaging in the numerous EJE training and program components we provide: annual cohort retreats, attending and reflecting at Jewish educator conferences within and outside of JTS, diving in deep to our rich core course work and electives in EJE, immersing themselves in expanded field projects and internships and engaging in one-on-one focused career development, just to name a few.


Read more at eJewish Philanthropy.

Updated: Oct. 22, 2014