Transforming Congregational Education: Lessons Learned and Questions for the Future

Dec. 05, 2008

Source: Lippman Kanfer Institute - JESNA


This working paper, published by JESNA's Lippman Kanfer Institute, focuses on a broad scale, multi-faceted effort to rethink and re-imagine the educational work of synagogues so as to make the Jewish learning experience of children and adults a positive, engaging, and impactful one. It is based on a study of the work of 11 outstanding organizations and projects which have been working over the last fifteen years to improve and renew congregational education.


The report was formulated by studying and synthesizing the experiences of these organizations which have worked with hundreds of congregations across North America to bring about synagogue educational change over the last fifteen years.


The content of the paper is derived from two sources: 
  • a review of extensive material (published and
    unpublished) describing and in some cases assessing
    the thinking and work of the organizations and initiatives 
  • interviews with principals of all of the projects using
    a protocol aimed at eliciting their reflections on and
    lessons learned from their activity
The paper is organized around three questions:
  • What are the goals of congregational educational
    change? What can and should we hope to achieve
    through these efforts and for whom? What visions
    are guiding these endeavors?
  • what is the content of congregational education
    change? What is it that needs to be changed? What
    are the primary drivers of success in this endeavor?
  • What is the process for congregational educational
    change? What needs to be done, by whom, to make
    congregational educational change efforts succeed?
The final section of the paper looks briefly to the future, asking:
  • What may be next for the work of congregational
    educational change?
  • What challenges and opportunities lie ahead?
  • What issues need to be addressed if the substantial work already done and underway is to realize its full potential?
  • This section aims to set the stage for the next phase of the overall project which the Lippman Kanfer Institute and these initiatives have undertaken: envisioning the next decade of congregational educational change.
Updated: Jan. 22, 2009