By Robin Kahn
“I need to hire another teacher.” This is my August refrain. My colleagues around the country share it because there is a shortage of Jewish educators in the US. Year after year, I have lamented the dearth of qualified religious school teachers. So when I was asked late last August to direct the Mandel Center’s Undergraduate Fellows program, I jumped at the opportunity to foster the professional growth of young adult Jewish educators.
And so my journey with a group of Brandeis undergraduates began. Each fellow had committed to teaching in a local supplementary school in 2020-2021, which was a commitment to waking early on Sunday mornings, preparing lessons in their free time, and arranging their course schedules to allow for mid-week teaching.
The fellows and I met 12 times over the year, over dinner, to explore teaching and learning in a supplemental Jewish educational setting. We covered such topics as the Hawkins Triangle, multiple intelligences, social, emotional, and spiritual learning, teaching Israel, talking about God, studying Jewish texts with young children, child development, and choosing materials.
From the very beginning I was inspired by the fellows’ passion for engaging their students in Jewish life. I was confident that over the year, they would become more thoughtful and better Jewish educators. I also knew this experience would be an opportunity for me to learn. Continue reading