Milwaukee Launches its own Congregation School Initiative

Feb. 03, 2009

Source: The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle


The Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s Coalition for Jewish Learning has launched a three year program to nurture excellence in synagogue schools. In collaboration with the Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA), CJL has adapted features of the Nurturing Excellence in Synagogue Schools (NESS) developed and implemented in Philadelphia, in creating its Congregation School Initiative for six participating Conservative and Reform congregations.

With funding from the Jewish Community Foundation, the Helen Bader Foundation and Partnership for Effective Learning and Innovative Education, CJL created the local program which includes:


  • A leadership team composed of the synagogue education director and some combination of the rabbi, the assistant rabbi, the cantor, the head of the education committee and the synagogue president.
  • An action team composed of other synagogue members that works with the leadership team to ensure that the school is well-integrated with the synagogue as a whole.
  • A vision of excellence and an implementation plan for that vision, created by the leadership and action teams working together.
  • Seminars for educational directors.
  • Classes for teachers.
  • Trained assessors who can give synagogue schools a snapshot of a range of important aspects which can be compared to the program goals.
  • A community advisory committee, which takes a global look at synagogues and offers suggestions.
  • An evaluator from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, who will appraise the entire program.
  • The services of a facilitator who is expert in strategic planning and group dynamics.

The implementation of the CSI aims to provide support and direction to congregational schools and their directors helping to provide quality Jewish education to the 900 children enrolled in synagogue schools in the Milwaukee area.

Updated: Feb. 12, 2009