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February 27, 2004 - Image 17

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-02-27

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Plan Of Action

Educators, donors come together to ensure quality religious school teachers for the future.

Jewish Telegraphic Agency


oseph Kanfer deftly wrapped
wires and affixed pieces of
material to a truncated test
tube. Then he glued the
Hebrew letter shin to the creation, pro-
ducing a mezuzah.
While the scene resembled a preschool
project, it signified much more. Kanfer,
former chairman of the Jewish
Education Service of North America
(JESNA) and a major donor to Jewish
educational projects, was taking part in a
cutting-edge initiative called Avoda Arts
to elevate arts instruction in Jewish
The program so far has produced five
Jewish educators and helped dozens • of
college students create Jewish-themed
art works in disciplines ranging from
film to sculpture.
"We are absolutely a recruitment
process," said Carol Brennglass Spinner,
Avoda Arts' executive director.
Such efforts are part of a wider,
unprecedented campaign to attract and
hold onto Jewish teachers at a time
when Jewish education in North
America has grown into an estimated $3
billion enterprise — little of which goes
to educator salaries.
Kanfer, whose GOJO Inc. of Akron,
Ohio, manufactures PURELL hand
cleaner, was participating in JESNAs
first Jewish Education Leadership


Summit, held Feb. 8-10 in Fort
Lauderdale, Fla. The event brought
together many of the Jewish philan-
thropic world's biggest benefactors with
350 educators, administrators and com-
munal professionals.
Not everything at the conference
involved making mezuzot out of test
tubes. There were also intensive sessions
where megadonors like Charles
Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt sat
alongside teachers and school adminis-
trators and hashed out detailed propos-
als to recruit and retain a new genera-
tion of Jewish teachers.
"Whether you represent a $100 mil-
lion foundation or you're a teacher on
the ground, everyone has a seat at the
table," said Laura Lauder of Atherton,
Calif, who co-chaired the summit.
Many of the donors have contributed
millions of dollars to Jewish schools and
organizations. But, in, another big shift,
they now are calling for educators to
come up with serious business plans that,
as Lauder put it, spell out the tachlis, or
details, of overhauling Jewish education.
"We want plans with measurable out-
lines that we can be accountable for,"
said Lauder.

Local Successes

While the New York area has Avoda
Arts, the Alliance for Jewish Education
has an ongoing grant from the DeRoy
Foundation that funds special art proj-
ects in supplementary schools, said
Harlene Appelman, director of the
Alliance, a department of the Jewish


Kalson Cohen

Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.
"As far as retention, we have a very
successful program though the
Hermelin-Davidson Center for
Congregation Excellence, where we , pay
teachers for professional development,"
Appelman said. "We are very thankful to
both families, and to all of our donors."
Detroit-area Jewish educators receive a
stipend for participating in the JEEEP
(Jewish Early Education Enhancement
Project) and TEAM (Teacher Education
Advancement Model) programs, which
educate teachers in Jewish subjects and
ways to present the subjects to their stu-
dents. Each two-year program ends with
an 11-day trip to Israel at a cost to the
participant of only $500.
The NIRIM program (the word is
Hebrew for "a tilled and fertile field")
also rewards teachers for attencing class-
es, and, if they have competed the
NIRIM series, teachers receive a sub-
stantial subsidy to attend CAJE (the
national Conference for Alternatives in
Jewish Education).
"One thing we are lacking is a master
teacher program to reward teachers for
professional development," Appelman
To attract teachers, the Alliance
received a three-year grant from the
Covenant Foundation to give paid
internships in Jewish education to recent
college graduates. "We had five interns;
after they worked with us, two went on
to the [William] Davidson Graduate
School of Jewish Education at the
Jewish Theological Seminary, one con-
tinued in Jewish education, and the


other two chose other fields, but they
made a significant contribution while
they were with us," Appelman said.
She would like to continue the pro-
gram, if she can find a local donor. "We
know these paid internships work," she

Beyond Salary

Fredelle Schneider, who heads the Sarah
and Irving Pitt Child Development
Center, said the center benefits from
being a program of the Jewish
Community Center of Metropolitan
"We have the same benefits as all full-
and part-time employees at the JCC,"
Schneider said. We have in-service
training, including first aid and CPR
We bring in top-quality speakers in pre-
school education. Most of all, we have a
family environment."
Although salaries for public school
teachers are higher, Schneider said the
"extras" at the Pitt Center have been
enough to maintain its teachers for
many years. "It's a hard situation in
Jewish education — a lot of the young
kids aren't going into it," she said.
"Eventually, they need more monetary
"People don't generally go into Jewish
education for the money," said Steve
Freedman, head of school at Hillel Day
School of Metropolitan Detroit.
Before coming to Hillel last summer,
Freedman spent 12 years as educational


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