New University-Wide Initiative Will Significantly Expand the Number and Quality of Jewish Educators YU Trains

The Jim Joseph Foundation Jewish Educator Continuum at YU will create and nurture exceptional Jewish educators.

Sep 8, 2009 — Jewish sages teach that “the very world rests on the breath of children in the schoolhouse.” Yet, without the finest quality teachers providing the “oxygen”—knowledge, skills, love of learning—that world rests on a shaky foundation. To help ensure a solid and secure foundation, the San Francisco-based Jim Joseph Foundation has awarded Yeshiva University an initial $4 million grant to produce a significantly larger cadre of the best trained Jewish educators to work with Jewish youth and young adults.

The grant, to be administered over the next five years, will develop the Jim Joseph Foundation Jewish Educator Continuum at YU, a University-wide initiative to create and nurture exceptional Jewish educators.

With both this and future grants from JJF, the University will identify myriad entry points to dramatically expand its capacity to train the very best young people for careers in both formal and informal Jewish education.

The foundation’s commitment to further increase the number of future educators and to improve the quality of professional preparation and Jewish education they receive extends beyond YU’s walls. In a bold move, it has made similar multimillion dollar grants to the Jewish Theological Seminary and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Indeed, the grants represent a $12 million initial investment JJF is making in these three institutions to propel forward the common purpose of advancing Jewish life through Jewish education.

Initially, the grants will be used by each school as financial aid for students pursuing education degrees or certification in programs of both formal and experiential Jewish education, and to assist each institution in planning new and enhanced programs that, with JJF support, will attract more educators to the field.

The grants will provide $700,000 to each institution for each of the next five academic years for such scholarships. The remaining grant funds will be divided among the institutions—$563,000 for YU, $221,900 for JTS and $212,110 for HUC—to be used in the 2009/2010 academic year for planning purposes and innovative programs that will both seed and sustain the field.

“The Jim Joseph Foundation is confident these three institutions will produce highly qualified educators who will inspire a next generation of young Jews to value Jewish learning,” said Chip Edelsberg, the foucation’s executive director. “The promise of this initiative is that it will enrich students in their respective programs of study, strengthen each individual institution and enable us to infuse the field with talented educators whose collective good work will positively impact the world of Jewish education.”

JJF will convene a steering committee comprised of the leadership of the three institutions to leverage its investment and facilitate increased cooperation. This group will monitor progress of the grant implementation and plan for additional initiatives that will be pursued with JJF’s support. Together, the institutions will work to foster best practices and identify areas of potential collaboration, the first of which will be the analysis and implementation of distance-learning technology at each school.

President Richard M. Joel sees JJF’s investment as a rising tide that will lift the capacity of the entire Jewish community. “The future of Jewish life depends on a Jewish people who know and own their story,” President Joel said. “The Jim Joseph Foundation’s extraordinary ongoing investment ensures that the best and the brightest are equipped to educate our children and to advance Jewish life. More than that, these four institutions can become a powerful advocacy voice to remind and encourage the Jewish community of the centrality of Jewish knowledge to Jewish life, and the essential nature of quality Jewish education to the advancement of the Jewish people.”

“The Jim Joseph Foundation’s extraordinary ongoing investment ensures that the best and the brightest are equipped to educate our children and to advance Jewish life,” President Richard M. Joel said. “These four institutions can become a powerful voice to remind and encourage the Jewish community of the essential nature of quality Jewish education to the advancement of the Jewish people.”

YU will apply the grant to both its graduate and undergraduate schools. Among multiple initiatives, the funds will support a new certificate degree in experiential education, the Center for the Jewish Future’s Eimatai Leadership Development Project, which runs leadership training programs for high school students, and undergraduate experiential learning missions.

On the graduate level, YU’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration will utilize funds to increase scholarships and make its training increasingly accessible with distance-learning courses. Funding will also help launch a Masters of Arts in Biblical and Talmudic Interpretation at Stern College for Women.

Reflecting YU’s desire to both seed and sustain the field of Jewish education, YU’s Institute for University-School Partnership will offer serious continuing education and intensive new teacher induction initiatives.

“To increase the number of better trained Jewish educators, mentoring, guidance and learning cannot end at graduation,” said Dr. Scott Goldberg, director of the Institute. “We see the Institute’s role as maximizing both Yeshiva’s and Jim Joseph’s investment in our students by providing serious new teacher induction and vehicles for ongoing training so that teachers remain in the field and continue to grow.”

“Our commitment is to Jewish education, and the partnership now established with these three institutions through these grants should contribute greatly to advancing this cause,” said Al Levitt, JJF president. “It is an exciting development for all who care about improving the quality of Jewish life. We’re simply playing our role in helping these institutions—and the educators they educate—reach their full potential and positively shape the lives of Jewish youth.”

Read article in The Jewish Week, JTA, Forward, Chronicle of Higher Education, and Religion News Service.

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