Today, Jon A. Levisohn, the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Professor of Jewish Educational Thought at Brandeis, becomes the Mandel Center’s second director. Founding director Sharon Feiman-Nemser will continue at the center as senior scholar and continue to teach at Brandeis. In honor of the occasion we offer these thoughts from Jon about the Center’s future direction.
What is the biggest challenge facing Jewish education today? And how can we address that challenge and contribute to a thriving, vibrant Jewish community? We’ve been thinking about these strategic questions over the last eighteen months or so. As we planned for our leadership transition, we knew that we wanted to take advantage of this moment to clarify what we want the Center to be and do.
Our answer to the first question, about the biggest challenge facing Jewish education, is this: We believe that Jewish educators, policy makers, lay leaders, and curriculum and program designers are flying blind.
What does this mean?
Morton Mandel and Sharon Feiman-Nemser at the Mandel Center’s 10th Anniversary Celebration
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The future of Jewish educational leadership will depend on creating environments where professionals can continue to learn and grow, according to Rabbi Marc Baker, head of school at Gann Academy in Waltham, who spoke recently at the 10th anniversary colloquium and celebration of the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education.
Educators should be able to work in “environments where learning is part of the work: learning the craft of teaching, learning the basic skills of running an organization, and deep, meaningful compelling Jewish learning,” Baker said. “If we’re not actively constructing our own Jewish identities and living engaged Jewish lives, there is no way we’ll be able to transmit it to the next generation we’re trying to inspire.”
This story is reprinted from Brandeis NOW.
Four new books by Brandeis faculty members offer insights resulting from many years of research into questions about what really happens between teachers and learners in classrooms. At a recent book party, Sharon Feiman-Nemser and Vivian Troen of the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education and Helen Featherstone and Susan Jean Mayer of the Education Program shared some highlights from their latest works with an enthusiastic audience of faculty members, staff, students and friends.
Moderator Marya Levenson, director of the Education Program, said the books “provide depth and understanding. We need to talk about what teaching is, and what we need to do to support teacher development.” Continue reading
Ever wonder where an idea goes? It might just travel half way around the world!
Last week we had the pleasure of hosting a small delegation from the Israeli Ministry of Education. Gila Nagar, Deputy Director General responsible for teacher education and professional development, and Shlomit Amichai, director of Teach for Israel and former Director General at the Ministry, joined us at the Mandel Center for a morning of lively conversation about their work and ours.
Sharon Feiman-Nemser, Sarah Birkeland, Shlomit Amichai, Gila Nagar
They came to discuss recent reforms to teacher preparation, induction and professional development in Israel, including much tighter integration among these three previously separate processes. New teachers now receive three years of mentoring and professional development targeted toward their specific needs. Experienced teachers pursue individual growth plans within a shared overall framework of effective instruction. The changes they described were far reaching and impressive.
Where did the impetus to rethink Israel’s approach to teacher development come from?
Today we feature a timely and important piece from the AVI CHAI Foundation blog this past summer. Susan M. Kardos, a former Mandel Center post-doctoral fellow and now senior director for strategy and education planning at The AVI CHAI Foundation, reports on the new Consortium for Applied Studies in Jewish Education. Mandel Center Director Sharon Feiman-Nemser serves on the national advisory board and we look forward to seeing what emerges from the consortium’s work.
It’s an uncontested fact that any strong field has—in addition to strong institutions, skilled and talented people, sufficient resources, and standards of practice—a knowledge base upon which policy and practice decisions are made.
Though chronically underfunded, the Jewish education field has done some serious foundational work to build an evidence base. Continue reading