Ready to Lead? A Look into Jewish Religious School Principal Leadership and Management Training

March 2018

Source: Journal of Jewish Education, 84:1, 79-106 


Although most Jewish supplementary religious school principals have graduated from various academic training programs, there are no data about how these programs sufficiently prepare educational leaders. This study examined the essential leadership and management skills of effective Jewish religious school leaders and assessed their preparation to undertake the key challenges of this complex job. This study also investigated the principals’ perceptions about their training and whether they experienced a knowledge gap as school leaders. The respondents felt unprepared to conduct essential tasks—such as working with lay leaders, managing human resources, and planning budgets—after completing their training programs.

The focus of this study was to collect data from principals about their perspectives on the leadership and management skills that are essential to their work as supplementary Jewish religious school principals. This study also intended to provide a better understanding of the level of preparation that Jewish religious school principals obtain prior to their first jobs as school administrators. These concepts of the study were articulated in two explicit research questions which guide the study. The first question focused on identifying the leadership and management skills and qualifications that Jewish religious school principals perceive to be essential for their roles as school leaders.

The second research question was composed of two parts. The first part addresses the respondents’ perception about their level of preparation to conduct various leadership and management tasks that are essential to their roles as Jewish religious school principals. The second part was designed to provide a better understanding of how the respondents’ level of preparation is different depending on the type of academic or professional training and number of years of experience working in the field.

This research study focused on principals and educational directors who work at either Reform or Conservative Jewish religious schools. Although the Reform and Conservative movements are philosophically and theologically different, their religious schools are operationally the same (Rosenak,1987). Moreover, the principals’ leadership and managerial tasks and qualifications are analogous.

In conclusion, this study presents a list of leadership and managerial skills and qualifications that are essential to the role of the Jewish supplementary religious school principal. The respondents, who completed a variety of academic and professional training programs, perceived their training programs as somewhat adequate preparation for the professional role of the job. However, in the areas of administration and policy leadership, the training programs were perceived as insufficient. These results are significant in three main areas: working with lay leadership; managing the school’s budget and finance; and administering school human resources. These three leadership and management skills were also ranked as highly important to the work of a Jewish religious school principal.

Updated: Mar. 13, 2018