Jewish Education at The Davidson School

The Blog

Mark Young's articles to be focus of Jewish Ed Lab webinar

Posted by Ben R on October 29, 2013 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (0)


Mark Young, the Program Coordinator of the Experiential Learning Initiative, at JTS’s William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education wrote two very interesting articles that were published in the Journal of Jewish Communal Service and were re-published in


These articles, “The $54,000 Strategy: A Bold Solution to Undervaluing our Jewish Professionals” and “The $54,000 Strategy Step 2: Making ‘Change’ Happen” focused on strategies to attract and retain talented young Jewish professionals in Jewish communal service careers.

The JEDLab (Jewish Education Lab) Facebook group decided to host their first webinar conversation based on Mark’s articles.

Join Mark and JEDLab on Wednesday, November 20, 2013 from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m.:

The $54,000 Strategy Step 2: Making Change Happen Webinar with JedLab

The webinar will include a short presentation from Mark Young followed by responses from Ken Gordon of PEJE, Liz Fisher of Birthright-NEXT, and Dr. Jonathan Krasner of HUC. Our very own Sara Shapiro-Plevan will moderate.



Davidson Students Experience Community, Text, and Ruach at JTS Haar Family Kallah

Posted by Ben R on October 15, 2013 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

 By Frani Goodman (CS and DS)

The Davidson School students and faculty joined with the larger JTS community this past Shabbat for a Family Kallah (Shabbat weekend) that focused on the theme “My Body, My Self.” We studied Jewish texts with the amazing JTS faculty, walked leisurely around the Morningside Heights area that surrounds our campus, and celebrated together as a community with spirited tefilla (prayer) and communal meals.

After this Shabbat of words of Torah, prayer, song, food, laughter, and wine, we joined together for Havdalah (closing service for the Sabbath). I was saddened for the experience to end. This kind of Shabbat left me eager for The Davidson School and the JTS community to reunite again soon. I left the building and wished, "may it be this way next Shabbat!"


(Frani Goodman is pursuing a M.Mus. in Sacred Jewish Music at The H. L. Miller Cantorial School, as well as a M.A. in Jewish Education at The Davidson School.)



Kesher Hadash 2013 Participants Unveil Original Films

Posted by Ben R on October 1, 2013 at 11:20 PM Comments comments (0)

by Josh Jacobs (DS '14)


MA students who participated in The Davidson School Kesher Hadash Semester-in-Israel program in spring 2013 will present seven original films they produced in collaboration with the Maaleh School of Film, Television and the Arts at a special screening on October 2 at JTS, at 8:30 a.m. in Wingate auditorium.


One of the films is Beyond the Wall, created by Davidson students Josh Jacobs and Mollie Andron. Josh and Mollie (in a photo from the film above) share some thoughts about creating the film:


“The idea for Beyond the Wall stemmed from our trip with Encounter to Palestinian territories in the West Bank. One of our tour guides used the word "the Wall," which sparked an entire new understanding and narrative of Jerusalem and Israel. The film is rife with ‘walls’ and differences—religious, political, and ideological. The two main characters, Tamar and Yonatan, fail to see the perspective of the other and they realize that good will may not be sufficient to truly carry a dialogue or try to understand each other.”


Check back for photos from the screening later in the week.



School Year Draws to a Close

Posted by Danny on May 6, 2013 at 6:50 PM Comments comments (0)


The 2012-2013 school year is drawing to a close here at JTS. Students are hard at work preparing final papers and studying for exams. Looking back at the blog posts of the last 9 months reveals what incredible experiences Davidson students have had the opportunity to participate in this year: from the Visions and Voices Israel program, to Jewish cultural events here in New York; from leaders in the field of Jewish Education who came to JTS to share with us about their work, to dinners conducted entirely in Hebrew.


 Also impressive is the wide variety of students and faculty who make up the Davidson School community, who we've seen profiled in the blog. It's clear how talented and passionate they are, how dedicated to bringing their unique voice and perspective to the field of Jewish Education. To those students who are graduating this year we say, "b'Hatzlachah!" We wish you every success! And to those will return to JTS next year - have a wonderful summer, see you in the fall!

New Models of Professional Development for Teachers

Posted by Danny on May 1, 2013 at 10:10 PM Comments comments (2)

Today, at the Davidson School's final Lunch and Learn of the year, we were very pleased that Dr. Jennifer Lewis of Wayne State University presented to us on the topic of professional development. 

Recent research has shown that millions of dollars of professional development are spent every year in this country, but these vast expenditures have led to few gains in teacher or student learning. Yet we know that teacher learning is crucial to quality instruction. Dr. Lewis presented a model of professional development that she observed in Japan: Lesson Study.

In this model, all the teachers in a school meet weekly over the course of a year to plan a single lesson. They research the topic, bringing in experts on the topic and its instruction. They collaboratively create and revise the lesson plan. Then, in the presence of all the teachers, one teacher presents the lesson to a group of students. Finally, the lesson and the resulting student work is used by the teachers to critique the lesson. The point of Lesson Study is for the teachers to gain insight into student learning and to become more effective teachers. 

In the Lunch and Learn session we explored how this long-term, ongoing, and content-rich model might be adopted in this country and how we might measure its effects. We thank Dr. Lewis for telling us about Lesson Study and its exciting potential.

Inside Jewish Latin America with the JDC

Posted by Danny on April 29, 2013 at 10:45 AM Comments comments (0)

This past Thursday Dr. William Recant, Assistant Executive Vice President of the International Development Program of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), came to JTS to speak to Davidson students about key issues and trends in the Latin American Jewish world. 

From the diverse threads of Judaism throughout Argentina to the budding Jewish life being nurtured in Cuba, JDC has worked to foster stability, self-sufficiency, and reliable care for the needy in Jewish communities throughout the region. The discussion emphasized broad trends in Jewish life across Latin America, and focussed on the ways in which the JDC has helped to rebuild and sustain Latin American Jewish communities. 

Of interest to young Jewish professionals and Jewish educators working with young adults, JDC's Global Jewish Service Corps, "Entwine," is currently accepting applications for service opportunities in countries such as Morocco, Argentina, Cuba, Israel, Ehtiopia, and more. 

Thursday's event was the third in a four-part series, Inside the Global Jewish World, organized by Davidson student Nessa Geffen ('13), together with the JDC. This unique set of intimate discussions for Jewish graduate students in Jewish professional leadership will feature expert conversations about key issues and trends in Jewish communities around the world. Nessa hopes this series can continue for years to come and hopefully eventually more Jewish professionals will have a deeper level of understanding of global Jewish issues.

Davidson student Nessa Geffen ('13)

How To Open A Can Of Worms - Jewish Dialogue Group Shows The Way

Posted by Danny on April 23, 2013 at 10:35 AM Comments comments (0)

How can one successfully facilitate a group of Jews discussing matters of heated conflict? For too many, the experience of talking with family, friends, or other community members about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been exhausting. "Opening a can of worms," as one participant of the recent Jewish Dialogue Group Facilitator Training workshop described it. Ten participants from the Davidson School attended the three-hour workshop this past Sunday, April 21st, to help them help others engage the diversity, complexity, nuance, and humanity of controversial topics.


For over ten years the Jewish Dialogue Group (JDG), led by its founding director and trained mediator Mitch Chanin, has taught community members how to facilitate small groups meeting together to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Facilitators in these conversations help to protect the conversation, keep participants speaking within pre-established time constraints and a common communication agreement.


 You can read a reflection on this past Sunday's JDG workshop here, written by Davidson student Aharon Varady.


The Jewish Dialogue Group Facilitator Training workshop was co-facilitated by Mitch Chanin and Chanel Dubofsky. The session was organized by first year Davidson students Sigal Hirsch and Joe Robbins, following JDG work with Davidson School Rabbi in Residence Jonathan Lipnick's Mifgash circle. 


For educators and facilitators interested in learning more, please check out the Jewish Dialogue Group website and especially their recently published Guidebook for Deliberation about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (JDG 2012). You can also download the JDG Facilitator Manual, ""Constructive Conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict."

Faculty Focus - Dr. Jeffrey Kress

Posted by Danny on April 16, 2013 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Our Faculty Focus series continues with an installment on Associate Professor Dr. Jeffrey Kress.



What do you find most exciting about the way in which Jewish Education has been evolving in recent years?


A growing number of people seem to be embracing Jewish Education as a real and serious topic area, one where excellent practice means more that winging-it-with-one's-good instincts (though that is a helpful tool to have in one's kit when needed...), and one that is generating its own important body of research. Of course, these things have been present beyond the "recent years" but I am excited by the expansion, as evidenced by the number of people seeking serious training in MA and EdD programs as well as other pre-service and in-service training programs. Also, the field is, to a growing degree, embracing the idea that principles of excellent Jewish education can apply to a variety settings - schools, camps, community programs, environmental, social action, etc. - and more people representing diverse settings are joining the conversation.


What is your greatest challenge as a professor of Jewish Education?


Aside from the challenge of constantly refreshing my repertoire of bad puns and jokes? I find the greatest challenge to be balancing the various parts of my job that I value and really love to do. I like to teach; I feel that as our students learn and grow, I am learning and growing along with them. I also have had wonderful opportunities to spend significant time doing fieldwork, to learn from educators doing cutting-edge work in a wide range of settings. I try to do both of these, but it does pose a challenge to my time-management skills!


What do you enjoy most about working with the JTS student population?


The students bring such a high level of passion, motivation, insight and creativity to their work here. It is inspiring and, as I said, I learn at least as much as I teach. Students also juggle a wide array of commitments, even beyond the classes and fieldwork. They get involved in the JTS and the broader NYC communities, as well as keeping their ties to their camps, youth groups etc. I am inspired by the efforts students put into their learning.


What is your current area of research?


I am working on a few projects in an area that I would describe as the intersection of "Jewish Leadership" and "Social and Emotional Learning." We often use the term "Jewish leadership" (or "leadership informed by Jewish values" or the like), and I am trying to learn more about different manifestations and models of this. Also, as a field we have done a lot of important work describing the types of conditions, or "active ingredients" of experiences or settings, that lead to participants' Jewish growth. I am interested in learning about how organizations can best move toward actualizing those active ingredients. Having a vision for Jewish learning in one's setting is important but not sufficient; I am very interested in the processes involved in organizing around such a vision.

Faculty Focus - Dr. Sarah Tauber

Posted by Danny on April 15, 2013 at 5:45 PM Comments comments (5)

This year in the blog we've posted several "Student Spotlights" highlighting the journeys and interests of Davidson students. Today begins an occasional series highlighting Davidson faculty members, called "Faculty Focus."


Our first Faculty Focus is on Assistant Professor Dr. Sarah Tauber.


What do you find most exciting about the way in which Jewish Education has been evolving in recent years?


A willingness to experiment with creating new models of educational organizations that link Jewish learning with issues of importance to the larger society, such as spirituality, environmental stewardship, and social justice represent those aspects of Jewish education that I find exciting. Jews from across the spectrum (age, affiliation, etc.) can find opportunities to blend learning and doing in creative and constructive ways.


What is your greatest challenge as a professor of Jewish Education?


As a professor of Jewish education the greatest challenge is having enough time to satisfactorily blend educational issues and Judaic content. My favorite courses are ones that integrate these two subject areas, but there never seems to be enough time to finish everything I want to accomplish with the learners.


What do you enjoy most about working with the JTS student population?


JTS students care deeply about Judaism, Jewish life, and education. They are open-minded and connected to tradition, which in today’s world is a combination harder and harder to find.


What is your current area of research?


My current area of research is adult Jewish learning. Although children and teenagers are the primary focus of most education happening in the Jewish world, adults are still the largest overall population. We know so little about what gets them exciting about learning and being a part of Jewish communal life in which learning plays a central role.

Chag Pesach Sameach!

Posted by Danny on March 27, 2013 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Dear Readers,

On behalf of the Davidson school, we wish you a happy and meaningful Passover. The Davidson School Blog postings will resume on Thursday, April 4. Until then, we hope you have a restful and enjoyable chag!