From Inspired Teens to Passionate Professionals: Building the Pipeline

Yehuda Chanales
Jewish Educator Pipeline

Almost three years ago, I was tasked by Yeshiva University to research and develop proposals for how to encourage more students to pursue careers in Jewish education in North American Jewish day schools. When speaking to leaders in the field, I often heard a similar hypothesis about why fewer young men and women were choosing to become teachers. There were two key factors: the rising cost of living in Jewish communities, combined with teacher salaries that have not kept pace; and the generally negative communal attitude towards teachers and the teaching profession.

If indeed these were the two primary factors, I wondered if much could be done to tackle them by simply working with college and graduate students. How could we possibly make a difference without large-scale community-facing initiatives to tackle day school affordability, teachers’ salaries, and the way parents, boards and teachers interacted?

Focus groups and individual conversations with young men and women during that research phase pointed in a different direction. Students often wondered how they could “make it work” as Jewish educators, but they also expressed a passion and desire to make a difference. Inspired by their own teachers or personal experiences in informal settings, these students expressed a desire to share their passion for Torah learning with others and pursue careers where they can feel they are living and passing on their values on a regular basis. Yes, work needs to be done to tackle broader communal issues, the inhibitors that may hold people back from (to borrow language from the 2019 CASJE study), but that did not mean that parallel work could not also be done to increase the stimuli and self-awareness that bring them into the field.

Over the past two years, the work of the Chinuch Incubator at Yeshiva University has reinforced this theory. Established by RIETS (YU’s rabbinical school) and the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education, the Chinuch Incubator seeks to identify, inspire, prepare and support young men and women as they consider careers in Jewish education. How do we do this?


Identify and Inspire

 In individual conversations with undergraduates, many have pointed to either specific shiurim they attended or personal conversations they had that inspired them to consider a career in teaching. Someone either noticed their talent and encouraged them to explore further, or ideas they heard pushed them to consider the possibility of teaching more seriously. Educators must proactively look for opportunities to unabashedly share with older students what they love about their work and encourage those that demonstrate potential to consider whether it is for them.


Inspire and Prepare

Instead of allowing young men and women to make career decisions based on their personal experience in school or theoretical conversations about teaching, we need to facilitate opportunities for them to teach, observe and experience the energy of schools. Over the past two years, the Chinuch Incubator has done this through the MafTeach program. The program sends college and graduate students to school communities around North America for a series of weekends (with some variations on length) throughout the year. The core component of all programs includes significant time in schools—observing classes, teaching regular or informal classes and meeting with teachers and school leaders. For programs that extended over Shabbat, fellows either join students on a shabbaton or are hosted in the local community where they run programs or continue interacting with students, teachers or other members of the broader school community.

Fellows walk away from their experiences with a greater appreciation for the profound impact teachers make. They learn of the incredible professionalism, thought and care teachers invest in their lessons and relationships with students. They experience ways in which schools and communities influence each other, and the important challenges and joys that come with working in a field where the boundaries between professional and personal life are often blurred.

Fellows also deepen their own sense of self-awareness, exploring through experience the unique strengths and weaknesses they might bring to a career in teaching. By interacting with teachers of varying personalities and styles, students of different ages, and in different types of schools and communities then they may have grown up in, fellows broadened their sense of how, with whom and where they might succeed.



One of the most gratifying parts of my work with the Chinuch Incubator over the past two years has been my personal or small group conversations with students. Providing those even remotely considering a career in Jewish education with an address to turn to for questions and guidance helps translate theoretical possibilities in their head to something they can take action on.

Countless conversations have begun with, “I think I may want to be a teacher. What do I do now?” By connecting mentorship with a broader view of the pipeline years, I have been able to put a student in touch with particular teachers, recommend MafTeach and other experiences, or simply reflect back what I was hearing from them and give them some questions to consider. We simply can’t afford to lose potential teachers with passion, talent and interest because they are receiving clearer guidance in how to pursue internships in finance, computers or medicine and don’t know what comes next in education.


Clearing the Path

Till this point, as mentioned earlier, the Chinuch Incubator has focused on helping students develop their understanding of themselves and the field, increasing the “stimuli” that may draw capable students down the path of exploring Jewish education as a career. Tackling day school affordability, teacher salaries and communal perception may feel too large to tackle. At the same time, our work with those considering teaching has uncovered smaller scale inhibitors that get in the way of the inspired, passionate high school senior making it through undergraduate, graduate and/or semichah studies with sustained excitement that has translated to commitment.

When students (and their parents, potential spouses or potential in-laws) know that the field they are considering will present financial challenges, the costs related to professional preparation feel even more daunting. Investing in those most likely to enter the field through finding undergraduate and graduate scholarship or providing living stipends can go a long way to helping talented students feel that if they are willing to make a sacrifice for the community, the community is willing to invest in making it as easy as possible for them to become the best teachers they can be.

We have found that, at least in the YU-affiliated Modern Orthodox community, a significant number of graduates of yeshiva high schools and yeshivot and seminaries in Israel enter their undergraduate years considering careers in Jewish education. We do not need to create interest “yeish m’ayin,” where it does not exist. Instead, we need to nurture and support those who demonstrate curiosity and talent.

Investing in increasing these students’ connection to, appreciation of and skills in teaching—together with clearing barriers during decision making years—can double or even triple the number of candidates entering the field over the coming years. We should be proud of the idealism, values and sense of mission that our communities are instilling in the next generation and do all that we can to ensure that those willing to translate that passion into a career can succeed in doing the same for the next generation.

Improved Mentorship for Greater Faculty Retention

Shara Peters
Yonatan Rosner
Erica Rothblum
Jewish Educator Pipeline

Having high-quality and mission-appropriate teachers in every classroom is ultimately the most important factor in the success and sustainability of our school, Pressman Academy, a K-8 Conservative day school in Los Angeles. And as is likely the case for many of you reading this article, it is becoming harder for us to find those same high-quality teachers. While recruiting continues to be a challenge, retention is also challenging. Of the eight faculty members leaving our school this year, seven were hired in the last two years. Although each story is complex, we recognize that part of our pipeline solution is to focus our efforts on acclimating, investing in and retaining the teachers we find by improving our mentorship program.

In the past, new teachers to our school were assigned a veteran mentor. This person was intended to be their point person for questions; the mentors met regularly with the new teacher, observed them in the classroom, and gave feedback to the new teacher’s supervisor. However, there was little shape or direction given to those meetings, and there was no accountability or structure given for the observations or feedback. Many times, the mentoring program resulted in coffee together before school started and some conversations driven by the items on the top of their minds. Momentum often tapered off by November.

In order to strengthen the mentoring program and to incorporate our new teachers into our faculty culture in a lasting way, we have worked to build a system that teaches about our school in theory and in practice, while also providing the ongoing support that all first-year teachers need in a new school, regardless of prior experience.

The result is a new program, starting in the fall, that contains three components:

  • Mentor-mentee dedicated work
  • A mentor cohort
  • A mentee cohort


Mentee-Mentor Dedicated Work

Each week, the mentors and mentees will meet one-on-one, following a prescribed curriculum that intersperses observation and feedback cycles with professional reflection, regular engagement with the faculty handbook, previews of upcoming events particular to our school, and mini-PDs intended to be engaged with chevruta-style. The curriculum is divided into six units, inspired by our Portrait of Professional Excellence:

  1. Foundations (August)
  2. Communication (September–October)
  3. Professionalism (October–December)
  4. Teaching and Learning (December–February)
  5. Mission and Values (March)
  6. Siyyum (April–June)

The units are structured to match the school calendar in a way that we have seen new teachers need support. For example, although mission and values are most important to us, we realize that new teachers might need more grounding work first. Our hope is that this work will speak both directly and proactively to the new teachers’ needs.


Mentor Cohort

Choosing the right mentor is critical to the success of this program. Each identified mentor is a teacher who meets the expectations in our Portrait of Professional Excellence. Each potential mentor was approached through an individual conversation in which we established that they are ready to take on more responsibility and expand their skillset.

The mentors will form their own cohort. This group will meet after school once per month with the principals. During those meetings, we will preview the month’s curriculum. This will ensure that the mentors are prepared for their mentees and that there are consistent understandings of the work and the expectations.

There is a modest stipend for this work, but that’s not the draw for the mentors who have agreed to serve in this role. They are excited to learn with their peers and to talk with the group and principals about what they are seeing work at our school. More than anything, they are looking forward to being part of a leadership cohort that has responsibility for influencing our school’s staff and future.

This mentor cohort also provides the benefit of ensuring that the principals invest their time in the right places. (According to McLeod and Lotardo’s article “Noble Leadership,” supervisors should be spending their time with the people who can have the most impact on culture and performance. Impacting those people will impact the culture of your organization without burning out your leadership.) In our previous model, new teachers met with their supervisors regularly, less so with our more established teachers. Now our goal is to empower our top performers to take on this work, in a way that will increase our new hires’ performance and alignment with school culture.


Mentee Cohort

For the past three years, we established a new faculty cohort we call “Pressman 101.” This group meets about eight times a year and creates a cohort of new faculty members. Pressman 101 has endowed the new faculty with a sense of camaraderie while also giving them a preview of upcoming events. While these meeting have been important, we believe that they are too short and infrequent to have the desired impact.

In this new iteration, the Pressman 101 curriculum is more robust and integrated. It weaves together with the weekly content of the mentor-mentee meetings. We identified topics that should be addressed in individual settings, where we hope there can be a higher level of vulnerability, and evolved the mentee cohort for professional development topics. Many of these will involve guest speakers; for example, our director of wellness will teach a session on self-regulation, our Rav Beit Sefer will teach on Jewish practices and jargon, and our head of school will speak about mission and values.


The Details

We are excited to launch this program in September 2024. In order to ensure the expectations are clear, we drafted this Mentor Agreement to map out the framing, time commitment and compensation for mentors. Our Program Guide is the bread and butter of this program.

We are proud of what we have created, but now we need to implement it, see it in practice and measure its efficacy. We know that it will need tweaks and iterations, and we are already thinking about ways to differentiate the program, including teachers who may need more than one year of this in order to thrive. But for now, if we notice a stronger culture among our top performers, a higher retention rate among new hires, or ideally, both, we will consider this effort to be a success.

The Camp-to-School Pipeline

Adam Benmoise
Allie Hauser
Jewish Educator Pipeline

For several years, it has been the vision of our school, San Diego Jewish Academy, to have our own summer camp. Our goals were to further engage our Jewish community through the ruach of Jewish summer camp and to generate much needed non-tuition revenue during a time when our 56-acre campus is generally underutilized. This past summer, that vision was realized with the launch of Camp Carmel Creek.


The program opened with 125 campers, a staff of 22, and a program designed to provide campers with a specialized experience in areas such as arts, sci-tech, athletics and nature. From the standpoint of the camp operation, our first summer was a big success; campers were engaged, parents were happy, and our staff felt supported and appreciated. In building the camp, we had initially thought that our school would be a feeder for campers, which it is.

We also anticipated our school being a feeder for camp staff, as is widespread. In the end, the opposite happened. Through our recruitment of camp staff, we were able to identify talented young professionals in the onset of their careers, with precisely the skills we were looking for in young teachers and teacher assistants. With the pipeline for teachers being at an all-time low, this connection to summer camp is a blessing for our school in so many ways. 


Camps as Feeders for Jewish Organizations

The Foundation for Jewish Camp has been at the forefront of research and data on why Jewish summer camps work. Through programs like The Character at Camp Initiative, the Foundation seeks “to understand how Jewish camps develop exceptional human beings with high levels of character and prepare them to go into the world and make it a better place.” But in speaking with Rabbi Avi Orlow, vice president of innovation and education, he shared that while there is a lot of research on the benefits of going to and working at Jewish summer camps, very little research exists on the benefits to day schools of hiring camp staff as teachers: “The door doesn’t really swing the other way.”

FJC has a current 21-month fellowship program for young camp staff to work directly with the Foundation, and in the majority of the cases, these individuals continue on in the Jewish world. Future iterations of this fellowship will seek to place fellows in other Jewish organizations in addition to work with the Foundation. As Orlow observes, “Camps have an abundance of wealth in amazing young staff who just want to stay at camp as long as they can, so placing them in jobs during the year as value-add is a win-win.” 


Observing Counselors as Educators

In the landscape of a nationwide teacher shortage, forging a strong connection between camp and school has been a unique opportunity for us to recruit and retain high-quality educators—both those who came to the profession through traditional pathways and those who have a passion for working with children but do not yet have formal teacher preparation training. Our camp-to-classroom pipeline has improved hiring outcomes and morale, and attracted new and unique talents to our faculty.


Having our camp on our campus through the summer also provided our day school leadership with a window into their skills and abilities that far outweigh what can be viewed on a resume or in an interview. When reading resumes and hiring, our team often talks about the “teacher magic,” the non-quantifiable qualities that make a great teacher that are so challenging to assess from a resume and educational background alone. Positive rapport and the ability to connect with students beyond solely their academics is a keystone of the Jewish day school experience and the teacher quality that most directly correlates with long-term success at our school.

Camp is not only a means to observe potential candidates with children in a more authentic context than an individual model lesson, but also a way to naturally attract individuals who have the capacity to develop meaningful relationships with children. Camp is all about relationships, camp is about growth beyond the classroom, camp is about experiential learning in an environment that encourages experimentation. Camp is like one big sandbox to play in all summer long, as true for staff as for campers. 


Onboarding New Teachers

A key piece of the success of our camp-to-classroom pipeline has been a purposeful system of new teacher induction and ongoing professional development for newly onboarded school staff. While camp brings its own unique and valuable set of skills, classroom teaching and our academic program demand different sets of specific knowledge and competencies. Luckily, unlike the “classroom magic,” which is very challenging to coach when missing, curricular, content-specific and even classroom management skills are highly teachable.

Our formal new teacher program supports educators in their first three years on our campus. This model provides site orientation and resource assistance, fosters instructional development through ongoing coaching and peer observation, and promotes the personal and professional wellbeing of teachers during what can otherwise be a stressful transition period in their careers. For young professionals who join our faculty with the ruach of camp but without formal educator training, we offer additional pathways to expand their classroom experience in a supportive and reflective environment.

This year, several camp employees joined our faculty as assistant or associate teachers while pursuing state credentialing. Through their educational journey, they were supported both formally and informally by mentor teachers and colleagues. We expect that the time and care spent supporting these very early career teachers will pay dividends, as these professionals choose to stay and become long-term members of our faculty after completing their teaching degrees.


Expanding the Student-to-Teacher Pipeline

Beyond the young professionals we hired to work at camp, there were several high school juniors, seniors and recent graduates of the academy who felt an obligation to give back to the school community through camp. Their young spirit and energy was an important factor in our camp’s success, as it is for all camps; more importantly, we were able to forge cross-school connections that we had never been able to really explore before. It’s been wonderful watching little kindergartners and first graders see their camp counselors and run over to give them hugs, or having young campers attend a high school basketball game just to cheer on their counselors in the game. The biggest benefit is that we’ve created a job pathway for our young high school students, for many of whom this is their first real work experience. We’re preparing them in so many more ways than we ever have before.

Our journey in establishing a Jewish summer camp on our campus led us to an unexpected yet valuable discovery: At a time when the teacher pipeline is dwindling, our recruitment efforts for camp staff unearthed a pool of exceptionally skilled young professionals, possessing precisely the qualities we seek in budding educators. As our camp grows, we expect the pool to continue to grow as well, the benefits of which we are only just beginning to see.

From the Editor: Jewish Educator Pipeline

Elliott Rabin
Jewish Educator Pipeline

Make for yourself a teacher. Pirkei Avot 1:7 and 1:17

Perhaps unique in human history, the Jewish people regard their founder primarily as a teacher. Other nations were founded by generals, legislators, emperors, quasi-divinities; we Jews herald our founder as Moshe Rabbeinu, our teacher for all time. Moses combined the qualities of wisdom and humility that our greatest teachers exemplify. Unlike many other founders, he is not merely a historical personage; his teachings and his personal example live within us to this day as objects of study and emulation.

The Jewish tradition values the teacher above all other professions. The word rav means spiritual leader and teacher interchangeably; “rabbi” is a formalized acknowledgment that someone has the qualifications to serve as both. Jewish teachers convey knowledge and embody Jewish values simultaneously; in Abraham Joshua Heschel’s memorable expression, they are “textpeople,” who not only can understand and explain our sacred texts but who show people how to live them. No matter how wise we may be, it is incumbent upon us to find someone wiser to be our teacher, an injunction repeated twice in the first chapter of Pirkei Avot.

Judaism acknowledges that some people excel in wisdom and hence make superior teachers. But it also regards all people as both students and teachers. In the rabbinic worldview, study is a lifetime pursuit, and the purpose of study is to do—and to teach. Whether we are conscious of it or not, all of us are teachers, influencing others and sharing our thoughts and knowledge with them constantly. Teaching is part of the essence of our humanity. The more we are aware of that quality and reflect upon it, the better teachers we all will be, and the more we will prize those people who choose teaching our children as their profession.

This issue of HaYidion addresses the complex, interwoven challenges that our field faces in finding qualified teachers that our schools and our students need. We started to explore this challenge in our Fall 2022 issue on Affordability, where some of the articles spoke of the challenges of living on a teacher’s salary and ways that schools and funders are trying to make improvements. This issue takes a more holistic tack, spanning the entire career of an educator, with writers presenting suggestions and initiatives aimed to elevate the appeal, value and prestige of the profession, from the time students are starting to wonder about possible careers through keeping the work fresh and creative for senior educators.

Articles are grouped into four periods or aspects of a teaching career. “Inspiring” opens up ideas for bringing more talented people into the profession. Novick proposes that schools more forcefully advance teaching as a desirable path for students. Bader and Ezzes describe high school programs on opposite sides of the globe that have exposed many students to the excitement of teaching. Benmoise & Hauser suggest tapping the interest of camp counselors. Chanales shows how working with students from high school through their first job can reap substantial rewards. Gold suggests a method for expanding the pool of applicants far beyond the “usual suspects.” Ergas argues for ramping up the professionalism of day school Hebrew teachers.

The next section, “Attracting,” offers ways to bring more candidates into our schools. Knight reveals the powers latent in the job posting. Shpall & Shpall present a range of methods, including a form of pay transparency, that has succeeded in drawing and retaining more teachers. Katz & Fain offer a comprehensive process for welcoming, onboarding and maximizing morim shlichim. Berkowitz sees in a form of “teacher residency” a model that can speed up the system of teacher development. Friedrichs lays out a program for empowering general studies teachers to become Judaics faculty. Shadmi-Wortman portrays a comprehensive method for making small schools desirable and welcoming. Magagnosc & Pomson reveal data suggesting that retaining teachers is much more effective than recruiting new ones.

“Growing” looks at ways that schools can enable teachers to develop and refine their pedagogic skills. Bruder clearly spells out the profound impact that accrues to a school that takes teacher professional development as a top priority, while Farbman, Welsher & Abusch-Magder recount how one school achieves that aim. Baigel presents a program in London aspiring to spark fresh approaches among mid-career Judaics educators. Friedberg & Mentzer show how developing faculty skills in differentiation can avoid frustration and burnout. Goldstein, Kaslowe & Wiener portray the benefits of coaching, and Peters showcases a new mentorship program designed to improve teacher retention.

The fourth section, “Living,” displays approaches in other areas that can fruitfully improve teachers’ standing and wellbeing. Ritter lays out a data-driven approach to improving school culture for teacher retention. Silvestri addresses the culture beyond school walls, among families, that can harm teacher respect and prestige. Ahuja, Broms & Ploff relate a teacher-led process that transformed and clarified the pay scale. Halon introduces her school’s support group enabling teachers to open up with each other about challenges in their work and professional lives. Silberstein shares the role of a curriculum leader as a vehicle for teacher professional growth, and Ablin captures the qualities required of a head of school to manage effective teacher support.

In the school feature, we invited senior educators to reflect upon the conditions that have motivated them to remain in the classroom. In their stories of their own development, earned career lessons, moments of inspiration and opportunities for creative practice, these teachers model the same qualities of wisdom and humility conveyed by Moshe Rabbeinu at the founding of the Jewish People.

Coaching Strengthens the Teaching Profession

Smadar Goldstein
Tavi Koslowe
Tikvah Wiener
Jewish Educator Pipeline

Research clearly shows that one-off workshops have little to no impact on classroom practice and student learning. What seems to work better is to allow teachers the opportunity to utilize what they’ve learned in their classrooms and continually work on adapting methods to their disciplines. 

For this learning-by-doing to be most effective, teachers need to be supported by coaches who can provide specific guidance on how to implement particular strategies in their specific disciplines and redirect them if things go wrong. In a 2022 study by Harvard University and the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, Heather C. Hill and John P. Papay find that “coaching supports teachers’ day-to-day practice by starting with existing practice, then working outward from it to integrate new instructional techniques. Coaching can also be personalized to teachers’ needs, celebrating areas of excellence and working on areas for improvement. Additionally, many coaching models allow teachers to identify problems of practice jointly with their coach, increasing the relevance of coaching to teachers’ personal growth.” Coaching also creates accountability, because teachers know they’ll need to report on their progress.


Successful elements of PD that Hill and Papay highlight are collaboration time for teachers, particularly around instructional improvement; 1:1 coaching; and follow-up meetings so teachers can ask for and receive feedback to improve implementation of new strategies and tools. Hill and Papay also relay that PD in subject-specific instructional practices is better than building content knowledge alone, and that another key to successful implementation of new practices is “concrete instructional materials like curricula or formative assessment items.” Effective PD also has to include explicit ways to help teachers navigate and strengthen their relationships with their students. 


Coaching Judaics Teachers

These findings are borne out by our coaching experiences in Jewish day schools. One familiar problem in Tanakh classes is that teachers want to improve students’ textual reading skills, but students’ level of Hebrew proficiency and desire to tackle text and commentaries in Hebrew vary widely. At the same time, Tanakh teachers want students to find Jewish texts meaningful and resonant. How to do it all?

A BetterLesson Judaic studies coach, Leah Herzog, works with a Tanakh teacher who has been using differentiation to improve textual reading skills and engage students. Leah and the teacher experimented with different ways of allowing students to understand commentaries, either by using English translations or with peer coaching. In both cases, the teacher saw greater engagement; when students were able to use an English source and when they were able to help each other engage with a Hebrew one, they became more animated in their learning. Though Leah and the teacher’s focus had been differentiation, their discussions on diverse learners widened to include what the teacher’s overall content and skills goals are, and how the teacher wants students to develop values based on their Tanakh learning. 

This anecdote illustrates why coaching is such an impactful professional development tool. It allows teachers to apply pedagogies developed in general education in ways uniquely suited to a Judaic studies classroom, and provides the time and space in which to experiment with the strategies, fine-tuning them for a particular classroom and group of students. Coaching with a mentor in a teacher’s school—either a peer or administrator—also creates close bonds and positive working relationships. Sharon Freundel, managing director of the Jewish Education Innovation Challenge, emphasizes, “Educators realize the importance of paying individual attention to each student in order to elevate their learning and develop a relationship with them. Teachers, too, benefit from the same kind of attention; they elevate their practice, and the student is the ultimate beneficiary."

In one school that Tavi and Tikvah work with, a middle school Judaic studies teacher has been using creative assessments in her class and wanted to try Socratic seminars. Many examples of them can be found online, all in general studies classes. With the teacher, we adapted the Socratic seminar guidelines for her Navi (Prophets) class, and after watching videos of history teachers using Socratic seminars, figured out how the teacher wanted to run hers.

The teacher reported that the students loved the seminar, asking to do it again, and said it taught them to actively listen to each other. Another outcome, one that touched her the most, was that a student who struggled socially shared an anecdote that captured the attention of her classmates, who peppered her with questions. The teacher had never before seen this student as engaged socially, and we remarked that it was powerful to see this in a Judaic studies class, where we especially want students to feel a positive connection to each other and their learning.


Coaching again played a key role in taking a strategy that a workshop might introduce and modifying and fine-tuning it so a teacher feels comfortable using it. This is particularly true for Judaic studies teachers who don’t have a bank of online resources where they can see a pedagogy being employed in their discipline. Both anecdotes also show how the coaching model fostered intellectual ways for students to engage with Judaic studies, and also social, emotional and ultimately spiritual ways. Additionally, coaching allowed the teachers to think more broadly and deeply not only about the specific tool or pedagogy they were trying, but about their larger aims as Judaic studies teachers. 


Coaching Administrators

Tavi is also a coach with the Jewish New Teacher Project, which provides mentoring to beginning teachers and administrators. Administrators new to their positions often enter their roles with a thoughtful vision of the learning environment they’d like to create. They graduated from classroom teacher to administrator with a passion to shape not only the classroom experience but their school at large. However, too many administrators quickly find themselves reverting to a daily schedule largely dictated by procedural meetings, behavior referrals and large-group supervision. Through ongoing coaching, these administrators have an opportunity to review the way they are prioritizing their day, consider their visionary items that are crucially important, albeit not urgent, and maintain a balanced leadership model that will serve their students, their teachers and their school needs well. 

For administrators to be able to carve out this time is critical if we want Jewish day schools to continue to improve and innovate. The Stanford study says, “Professional development tends to be more effective when it is an integral part of a larger school reform effort, rather than when activities are isolated, having little to do with other initiatives or changes underway at the school.”

Giving administrators and teachers the support they need as they grow professionally and realize their educational visions is one critical way to make education more sustainable and appealing. A robust professional development program that includes coaching and mentoring, and is part of a school’s overarching goals for improvement, gives educators the message that the school community is there to help them meet the many needs students have, and that it recognizes the key role educators play in shaping and invigorating the Jewish community.

Faculty Engagement to Improve Compensation Transparency

Vinita Ahuja
Adam Broms
Miri Ploff
Jewish Educator Pipeline

In 20232024, Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School of the Nation’s Capital launched a new salary scale for teachers. The scale was developed through a robust partnership between teachers and school leadership that sought to align school values, strategic resource allocation and competitive compensation. This integrated process led to a highly successful implementation that enhanced transparency and clarity around compensation (as evidenced by Leading Edge survey data) and deepened teacher commitment and connection to the school.

Prior to the pandemic, a salary scale existed at the school, but data showed that faculty neither understood the scale nor felt a sense of transparency around it. Even as the scale was implemented, certain teachers were awarded additional stipends without standardization. Further, teachers with experience at Jewish day schools earned more credit than those from secular or public schools, which felt inequitable to many. Leading Edge data showed that 76% of employees either felt neutral (22%) or negative (54%) about the compensation and benefits, and just 13% felt that they understood how salaries and raises were determined. In addition to the opacity of the scale itself, teachers expressed that they felt they were undercompensated relative to their colleagues at peer institutions.



We are well attuned to the evolving landscape of teacher recruitment and retention, including some of the challenges in retaining excellent teachers post-pandemic. Although we were proud of our retention rate coming out of the pandemic, the qualitative data from the employee focus groups held during spring 2022 and quantitative data gained through surveys indicated a need to bring transparency and clarity to our compensation and benefits programs. 


Faculty Leading

We set out to change that through one of our faculty working groups. With a newly released strategic plan placing teachers at the center of our strategy, we sought to engage in a robust process that would be data-driven and turn the concerning trends around. Leveraging data from Leading Edge employee engagement surveys, individual and collective internal conversations, and discussions with colleagues in the field, within both the Jewish and broader private school world, we set out to design a better system, one that embodies the school’s values, carefully stewards the school’s financial resources, and ultimately leads to deeper satisfaction among the faculty.


Our first step was to convene a voluntary working group of faculty and staff representing diversity of departments, teaching experience, life stage and subject matter. Led by our HR and strategy department leads, the working group was tasked with identifying priorities, designing a clear process and ultimately recommending a new compensation model to the head of school and board of trustees.

As representatives of the broader faculty, the working group defined the values of the teaching scale. The group debated various factors, including teacher tenure, experience at other institutions, advanced education degrees and more. They discussed how our school values professional growth, how much we wanted to prioritize the recruitment of new staff, and how much we needed to honor the dedication and service of long-time teachers at the school. The working group pored over data made available via Prizmah, DASL and the NAIS databases. They also discussed structure: Should there be concrete steps on the scale, or should we utilize pay bands?

Finally, they created definitions for how and what experience should be counted. The HR team ultimately collected up-to-date resumes from every teacher to place them on the new scale. Each employee received a customized document with their contract demonstrating the exact calculations that determined their placement.


The Rollout

Once complete, the working group members—not management—introduced the new scale to staff during staff meetings. They explained factors considered, issues contemplated and ultimately the rationale for how we made the difficult decisions we did.

The process was not without challenges. The introduction of the scale necessarily meant that some teachers’ current salaries fell well below their projected placement, while others were well above the scale’s definition. This spurred frustration about “lost wages” from years past, even if the imbalance was being corrected for the future. 

Another challenge concerned constrained resources. One goal of the committee was to increase competitiveness in the private school market. The committee sought to raise the overall average salary at the school.


Together with the board of trustees and finance team, the committee agreed to phase in the new structure over two years, gradually raising salaries of those previously undercompensated according to scale, and slowing the salary increase of those the school determined to be above-scale. Although teachers who were “above” scale understood the need to suppress their salary increases in a move toward equity, they were understandably disappointed to take a smaller raise than typical. The board of trustees and finance team sought ways to create budget space for increased compensation spending to accommodate the new model through a larger-than-typical raise in tuition for one year.



The results have been significant. In a short time, retention has increased, and teachers articulate a better feeling around understanding and transparency of compensation. Just two years later, the Leading Edge survey celebrates the results: Fifty-four percent of staff feel favorably, and only 22% feel unfavorably, about compensation and benefits. (The number of people with a neutral feeling towards salary and compensation increased slightly to 24%.) Sixty-one percent feel the organization takes action to improve the approach to compensation. 




For management, the ability to point to a scale when speaking with teachers improves the contracting process for both new and returning staff. To further transparency, a copy of the scale for the majority of roles at the school and a document titled “How Milton counts years of experience” are attached to our annual employment letters.

Even with our successes, we know there is still work yet to be done. We eventually would like to establish a new working group to look specifically at non-salary compensation models including leave, retirement, health insurance and other forms of benefits. We also would like to address non-faculty salaries again. Included in this conversation are topics surrounding equity in teaching time and duties such as lunch and recess. 

No system is perfect. However, we found that by engaging the staff and leaning into the school’s values, we could develop a system that was more clear, understandable and ultimately successful in recruiting and retaining top-tier teachers in the field.

Building Resilient Classrooms: The Crucial Role of Social-Emotional Support for Educators

Michelle Halon
Jewish Educator Pipeline

Recognizing the vital role that support plays in fostering teacher wellbeing and professional development, educators are increasingly turning to teacher support groups as invaluable platforms for collaboration, mentorship and shared learning experiences. These support networks serve as sanctuaries where educators can exchange ideas, seek guidance and find solace in the camaraderie of like-minded peers. In this article, we delve into the significance of teacher support groups, exploring their benefits, structure and impact on individual growth and the broader educational community.

Teachers, the backbone of any education system, are facing increasing levels of stress, burnout and mental health challenges. It’s time we recognize the pressing need for dedicated mental health support for educators. Now, more than ever, heightened by a post-Covid world, teachers are asked to stand in as parents, behavior therapists and emotional healers. 

Teachers frequently lack the emotional availability, training and support necessary to feel competent in caring for the social and emotional wellbeing of their pupils. This, on top of their already difficult job of educating a class of diverse learners, often brings them to the breaking point. While many schools integrate social-emotional learning into staff meetings and professional development days, creating an environment for trust and support between administrators and teachers is paramount to a positive school environment. 

We’ve come to understand that a large part of what kids need to learn in school does not fall under the 3 Rs, but rather social appropriateness, anxiety management and executive functioning. The spotlight on the needs of mental health roles in schools is expanding by leaps and bounds. In 2024, our jobs are incomplete in offering our kids the opportunities for emotional expression and not offering our staff the same.


Support for Teachers

Effective mental health support for teachers begins with creating a culture of wellbeing within schools, where educators feel supported, valued and empowered to prioritize their mental health. This can involve initiatives such as providing access to counseling services, promoting work-life balance, offering professional development on stress management and resilience, and fostering a sense of community and collaboration among staff members.

The Well Being In School Environment (WISE) program, launched in Washington, DC, provides mental health care to every adult in the school, concentrating recruitment efforts on teachers and administrators, rather than students. At school leadership meetings, clinicians are introduced and services are promoted. This helps address the two main barriers that prevent teachers from seeking therapy: the stigma associated with it and the uncertainty of what to anticipate. The obstacle of cost is also eliminated. School administrators cover the cost of a clinician’s services one day each week, believing that this preventive measure would save the expense of employee burnout and attrition. 


Teacher Support Groups

To this end and in recognition of the significant challenges facing educators today, both in and out of the classroom, our school launched a Teachers Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Support Group. This group aims to provide a safe, confidential space where educators come together to share experiences, discuss challenges and access resources to support their own social-emotional wellbeing. The group is intentionally not a professional development platform but rather an opportunity for faculty members to share. The group is moderated by a mental health professional who ensures the efficacy of the group’s purpose.

The group’s objectives are the following:

a) Provide a supportive community, where teachers can connect with peers facing similar challenges and share strategies for coping with stress, burnout and other social-emotional concerns.

b) Promote self-reflection and awareness, helping teachers identify and understand their own emotions, strengths and areas for growth.

c) Equip teachers with tools and strategies to build resilience and effectively manage stress, adversity and uncertainty both in their personal and professional lives.

d) Offer workshops, discussions and resources focused on developing social-emotional skills such as empathy, communication, conflict resolution and mindfulness, which can enhance both personal wellbeing and classroom dynamics.

This support group operates through biweekly in-person meetings scheduled at an allotted time available to all faculty. These meetings feature professionally facilitated discussions covering various topics pertinent to social-emotional wellbeing, including stress management, self-care practices, relationship building and cultivating a positive school culture. Additionally, the group periodically hosts guest speakers and workshops to provide expertise on relevant subjects. Resource sharing is encouraged among members to exchange articles, books, podcasts, apps and other tools related to social-emotional learning and teacher self-care. Confidentiality is emphasized to create a safe environment where participants can freely share their experiences and concerns without fear of judgment or fear of backlash from school administrators. 

Regular evaluations are conducted to assess the effectiveness of the support group in meeting the needs of participants and achieving its objectives. Feedback is solicited from group members through surveys, focus groups and informal discussions, and adjustments are made based on the feedback we receive. To date, teachers have reported feeling calmer when faced with difficult students. They report having acquired tools to manage their own anxiety and an increased frustration tolerance. 

Teacher support groups serve as invaluable tools within the educational community. Offering a sanctuary for educators to express feelings, share experiences and seek guidance fosters personal and professional growth. Teacher SEL groups create solidarity and camaraderie among teachers facing similar challenges. 

As we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of education, it is imperative to recognize the significance of these support networks in promoting teacher wellbeing and ultimately enhancing student success. Teacher support groups are not merely forums for discussion; they are lifelines that nurture the spirit of teaching and learning. By investing in the creation and sustenance of these communities, we invest in the wellbeing of educators, the success of students and the future of education as a whole. It is through unity, collaboration and support that we can truly transform our schools into vibrant centers of learning and inspiration.

Why I Stayed in the Teaching Profession

Jewish Educator Pipeline

Calling, Growth and Satisfaction

Clara Gaba, Judaic Studies Teacher, Hillel Day School, Farmington Hills, Michigan

In today’s world, filled with headlines about teacher shortages and demanding careers, many might wonder why someone would choose to stay in the classroom for decades. The answer, for me, is simple: It’s the most rewarding profession imaginable.

I was born and raised in Israel. I studied Bible and archeology, but never intended to be a teacher. Moving to the United States, I dreamed of a career in accounting until someone asked me if I was willing to be a guest teacher for them in an afternoon school. I was never in a classroom before, neither did I have the credential to be a teacher. The initial experience as a guest teacher ignited a realization that this was my calling, motivating me to pursue the necessary education and certification. 

Over the years, the joy of touching young souls, witnessing their growth, and contributing to their education became a lifelong mission that continues to energize me. The impact on students’ lives and the deep connection to my calling have been enduring reasons for my commitment to teaching. I started as an afternoon school teacher 38 years ago; six years later, I became a day school teacher and remain one today, energized to go as many years as God will allow me.


I stayed in the teaching profession for so long because I found a deep sense of purpose and fulfillment in shaping young minds through Judaic studies. The experience of unexpectedly discovering my passion for teaching and the impact I could make on students’ lives became my driving force, leading me to continue and thrive in this meaningful career.

As with many other teachers, I often cite the satisfaction of witnessing my students learn and grow as a key motivator. Seeing the “lightbulb moment” when a student grasps a new concept, or the confidence they gain over time, can be incredibly rewarding.

Forming positive connections with students and their families is another reason I kept on teaching. With some families, I gained friendships that would last forever, and I am in touch with many of my former students. These bonds can be incredibly meaningful and contribute to a fulfilling career.

Teaching allows for continuous learning. I stay updated on my subject matter, adapt my instruction to new challenges, and often collaborate with colleagues to share ideas, keeping the profession intellectually stimulating. I always felt a strong sense of purpose in my work. I truly believe I am contributing to shaping the future by educating the next generation and preparing them for their lives ahead.

My journey in the teaching career exemplifies the multifaceted reasons I find longevity in the profession. It’s a testament to the rich and varied motivations that kept me dedicated to my mission / holy work over the years.

Recovering My Purpose

Rabbi Eric Yaakov Traiger, Jewish Studies Faculty, Upper School, Golda Och Academy, West Orange, New Jersey

I have been a Judaic studies teacher for 34 years. Currently, I have the opportunity to introduce 7th and 8th graders to the world of Talmud and Halachah. I teach because I am very committed to the Jewish people and our collective national and religious enterprise. While I knew that teaching was my calling, the experience of the past three years has made the question “Why I stayed in the teaching profession?” all the more poignant.

In October of 2020, six weeks into the new school year, my second year in this school, as we were returning to in-person teaching after online teaching during the first months of Covid, I was suddenly stricken with a condition known as Guillain Barre Syndrome. This is a rare autoimmune disease where the body literally attacks its own nervous system, affecting the peripheral nerves and the muscles. I was left paralyzed from the shoulders down, unable to move my arms and legs. I spent four weeks in Hackensack Hospital and then 12 weeks at the Kessler Rehabilitation Center in West Orange, New Jersey.


During the 12 weeks of intensive in-patient occupational and physical therapy followed by six months of outpatient therapy, I had to relearn all the basic skills we take for granted. I had to learn how to stand up, walk, feed and dress myself. The blessings we recite as part of Birchot HaShachar each morning have taken on a whole new dimension for me, as I now realize these brachot acknowledge God’s role in allowing us to perform these seemingly mundane activities.

This experience of illness and recovery has given me the opportunity to think, read and reflect. Halakhic Man by Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s God in Search of Man and Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning were most resonating. I came to see that there had to be a reason for this. I had served as an administrator for a few years, but perhaps I needed to go through this struggle, this journey, in order for me to realize my place is indeed in the classroom teaching Torah. 

I teach for that student who said I helped her understand the foundations of Jewish tradition. I teach for those aha moments when a student has understood a piece of Gemara. I teach because this is what I can do for the continuity of the Jewish people. 

 At the start of therapy, when I was asked about my goals, I said, “To return to the classroom.” Though I now need braces on my legs and a walker, and I have limited arm movement, as my disability is permanent, I achieved that goal in September of 2021 when I walked into room 203 for my 7th grade rabbinics class. 

 I have tremendous gratitude to my wife Lisa, my therapists at Kessler, many friends and my school, Golda Och Academy for their continued support. I am grateful to the One who bestowed blessings upon me to help me understand why I have remained a teacher.

Professional Development Helped Me Up My Game

Stephanie Samuels, Middle School Judaic Studies Teacher and Grade 6 Dean, Maimonides School, Brookline, Massachusetts

I taught high school Jewish studies for seven years. Then I was trained to be a master teacher and mentor by several veteran professors of theory and practice in the field of Jewish education. This experience changed my view of the profession and inspired me to seek out many more growth opportunities throughout my almost thirty years of teaching.

In 2000, Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter arrived at Maimonides School as the founding director of the Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik Institute. One of the missions of the Institute was to create mentorship programs for the rabbinate and for Jewish education. I and four colleagues were accepted into the first cohort of the Rabbi Soloveitchik Teacher Training Program at Maimonides School. 

For the first year, we were trained as master teachers by Rabbi Dr. Chaim Feuerman from Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate School of Education. Once a month, we met with Rabbi Feuerman for a seminar on pedagogy, and then we were each observed in our classrooms, replete with pre- and post-observation conferences each time. That year, we were also observed in our classrooms by Rabbi David Eliach, the founder and principal emeritus of the Yeshivah of Flatbush.


The observations and the seminars helped us each to find our own unique voice in the classroom, and to fine-tune our pedagogical skills. We learned how to chart out student engagement and the importance of setting an objective for each class. We learned “MBWA” (Management by Walking Around) and how to create note-taking guides that support student growth and success. 

What I learned during that year and the year following established for me what it means to be a professional educator and mentor. It was a gift for which I am eternally grateful because it taught me to be a reflective practitioner.  It came at a pivotal time in my career in education, and set me on a course to continually seek out opportunities for improving my teaching practice and skills in the years to come, and how to share this wisdom with colleagues, especially teachers at the beginning of their own careers. 

I have thought about this early opportunity of mentorship much this past year as I have participated in Prizmah’s YOU Lead program. The YOU Lead program focuses on teaching the skills of being a leader within a school setting. The combination of one-on-one mentorship, monthly small group meetings, and in-person gatherings has challenged me to up my game in my teaching and teacher leading. These two opportunities, and many others in between, combined with my love of learning and love of my students, have solidified and refreshed my commitment to Jewish education and continuing my professional development as a Jewish educator.

Aerospace STEM Keeps Us Aloft

Melinda Viteri and Chaya Shinensky, Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School, Washington, DC

STEM education has proven to be an important component in education to best prepare students for 21st-century jobs. As certified NASA STEM educators, we have developed unique curricula and programming for educators, schools and camp settings, infused with Jewish values and tradition.


Melinda has always been of the mindset that teaching is a vocation and is devoted and highly committed to giving her best to the children, parents and colleagues. In 2019 she attended the JNTP two-year course in mentoring new teachers. When teaching in the UK, it is a government requirement that all new teachers have a mentor assigned, and she has mentored and trained literally hundreds of educators, including convincing teaching assistants to push themselves and go for it by obtaining a degree in education as it will open up career opportunities for you.

As a veteran educator and mentor, it is always delightful to learn that a student teacher you mentored once upon a time becomes a senior leader within a school or remains happily as a classroom teacher. It is a hard job, and we must acknowledge this early on.

Melinda’s educational accomplishments include Global Educator of the Year Award 2022, the upcoming Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award from President Joe Biden for her dedication bringing educational opportunities to all students and underserved youth and underrepresented communities across the US and internationally. Melinda is also recognized for the development of engaging aviation and space curriculum for students globally throughout her cofounded nonprofit called Aviation Youth Mentoring Program.

Melinda, though not Jewish herself, has been an incredible supporter and advocate for Jewish causes during her international travels through her nonprofit aerospace organization, where she often meets with influential figures.

Why I Stayed in the Teaching Profession

As a STEM educator, Chaya’s true passion lies in developing curriculum that integrates STEM, robotics and design lab projects with Jewish tradition and core values. Chaya currently teaches STEM and design lab for 2nd through 4th grade, alongside Melinda who provides a robust elementary science and space program. Together, we forged a space education community within Milton, taking along many students and educators to create a broader Jewish aerospace STEM community.

Our passion for aerospace STEM science and engineering education can be seen in the programs and curricular content that we have developed over the years. In 2019, Melinda founded the Milton aerospace camp, and Chaya joined in 2020. Over the past few years, Chaya and Melinda have worked together to develop a unique curriculum integrating Jewish concepts and tradition. Some examples include the Jewish signs of the zodiac and the Rosh Chodesh moon cycle.

Last summer, we brought the aerospace camp program to the Brawerman East Jewish Day Camp in Los Angeles, and we are working on expanding it to other Jewish day camps, internationally. Two years ago, we presented our students’ work at the annual Explore Mars, Humans to Mars DC conference.

Thanks to Melinda connections, astronaut Jeff Hoffman recently led Milton students on a private tour of the NASA Goddard satellite clean room building facility, followed by a private screening of the “Space Torah” documentary created by producer Rachel Raz, featuring Jeff’s incredible space career and how he celebrated his Jewish tradition by spinning a dreidel in space and reading from a Torah. We were joined by a movie producer of Space Torah, a children’s author and NASA administrator Charlie Bolden. 

As part of our core mission to connect student learning to Jewish tradition, we participate in an annual Holy Space Challenge run by the Israeli-based aerospace STEM program “Out of the Box.” Students select a ritual Jewish object to bring with them to space as an astronaut, just like Jeff Hoffman did on his space missions. 


In late October, our school took in some Israeli students who came to the US for a break from the intense war environment. Over the December break, Chaya visited the class of her Israeli student who had returned. The second-grade class participated in a Mars helicopter lesson and activity, with the students literally jumping off their desks to launch their helicopters. 

When Chaya returned, Melinda came up with the idea to create a STEM Aerospace Israel Camp for the summer of 2024 to help provide Israeli children affected by the war with a fun aerospace experience. Thanks to Milton’s generosity in sponsoring flights and helping to coordinate the program, the camp is taking place. 

If you are interested in learning more, please reach out to [email protected] or [email protected].

Learning to Listen Made Me a Better Teacher

Danielle Rose Smith, Fourth-Grade Teacher, The Ramaz School, New York City

“Would you like me to scribe for you?” I asked one of my fourth-grade students.

Pausing for a moment, my student responded: “[I know] it will be quicker if you write; but if you give me time, I'd like to write it myself.”

The student’s reaction proved to be an epiphany in my 13-year teaching career. It wasn’t because his response was particularly unexpected or profound. Instead, it may have been the first time I truly listened with curiosity rather than listening to respond. 

Before learning the art of intentional listening—thanks to the support of my school, Ramaz, which nominated me to participate in the teacher leadership master’s program at Brandeis University—I would mostly listen to check my students’ understanding, identify misconceptions, track their skill acquisition and meaning making. I used to think that “it was enough” for me to acknowledge their ability to express understanding of what was learned in class, and then encourage them to dictate that to me.

One of my professors assigned an article on “intentional listening,” and it catalyzed a mindset overhaul—specifically, in the way I listen to the words my students say. Laura Baecher, associate professor in the School of Education at Hunter College, observes, “When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life.” 

Up until this point in my professional career, my listening was primarily focused on judging the gap between a student’s response and the preconceived “right” answer. 

Once I began listening to my students with an “open” ear, however, I “heard” what they were telling me in both their answers and questions. I suppressed my inclination to qualify their “correctness” or guide them to a predetermined “right” way of answering; then and only then was I able to embark on the journey of “intentional listening.” 

This has transformed the way I interact with my students.

Danielle Smith

“Would you like me to scribe for you,” was one of the well-intended questions I asked my young student, who presented as struggling with the physical act of writing and organizing his ideas on the page. He demonstrated strong inferential comprehension skills in discussions, but his written responses were not to the same caliber. 

 “I got this,” I thought to myself. Soon enough, I was offering to scribe his ideas as he dictated. 

But something got lost in my well-meaning process. His syntax, his punctuation, as well as his writing were no longer authentically his; it was mine. I had never asked my student what the experience of writing was really like for him. I formulated my “reply” to my perception of his problem without giving him agency in his own learning experience. 

Then, I asked my student the question, “How does it feel for you to express your reading comprehension in writing,” and I did something radical: I actually listened to his answer. 

If I’m being completely honest, I don’t really like doing that kind of stuff (responding to reading comprehension questions). Depends how much time you give me to write it down what I think because if you give me time, that’s gonna matter so I can write it neatly. So, I can read what I’m actually doing. When I saw the things that you gave back to my parents from parent conferences, I realized that, wait, is that mine? Because I couldn’t believe that if I could focus a lot and have time, then I could actually have good handwriting, and I was so proud of myself for what I wrote.

Once I intentionally listened to my student, once I stopped churning the cogs of intervention design on the premise that I knew him better than he knew himself, once I listened with curiosity; a world of opportunity opened. I became acutely aware of the power of listening: “What is my student telling me about his capabilities, his interests, his strengths, his learning style?” I learned to ask myself: “What can I learn from my student’s words to help empower him in his own learning journey?” 

The study and application of intentional listening has infused new energy into my practice as an educator, a mentor and even as a friend. Listening has become a powerful tool to help my students feel they are seen, needed and heard. Only when I intentionally listen do I learn that students want to be masters of their own learning. 

As Roy T. Bennett, author of The Light in the Heart, powerfully writes, “The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.”

From the Board Chair: Making Teachers

Lisa Popik Coll
Jewish Educator Pipeline

A new take on an old joke: The Presidential Award for Teacher of the Year was won by a social studies teacher from a local Jewish day school. Her mother was there for the ceremony at the White House, where the award was to be bestowed by none other than the President. The mother leaned over to the person sitting next to her and said, “You see that young woman up there getting the award?” The person responded, “The highest teaching award in the country? Yes! You must be so proud!” The mother replied, “Of course I’m proud! Her sister’s a doctor!” 

Every teacher I have told this to has said the same thing: This would be funny if it didn’t ring so true.

The pipeline for Jewish educators and educational leaders is no laughing matter. At recent Prizmah convenings of both lay leaders and school professionals, the issue has come up as a matter of urgency on par with affordability and recruitment. These issues are all related. Our schools need to maintain educational excellence in order to keep attracting students, and that excellence lies in the hands of first-class Jewish educators.

We know that the number of teachers entering the field is declining, across the secular, religious and ideological spectra. In exploring this problem, I had conversations with several teachers in search of the “secret ingredient” that led them to choose a career of Jewish education, and what they thought the barriers were for others.

The teachers I had the honor to speak with all had different paths, but there were some commonalities. Most of them knew they loved to teach from an early age, and many had opportunities as early as high school that supported this inclination. Working as a counselor at a Jewish camp seems to have been a pivotal experience. Several had other experiences as peer teachers through organizations like Gateways: Access to Jewish Education, or as tutors in high school and college. Staunch family values of education and a dedication to giving back seemed to be a common theme as well. 

One case stood out in particular: I met M when she was only 13 and a Junior CIT at my then-five-year-old’s day camp. At my son’s request, she became a frequent and beloved babysitter. I had a hunch then that she was destined to be a Jewish educator. She was a natural teacher, even at 13, but was obviously also on a Jewish journey. 

She told me that when she was in high school, she participated in a program through the local Bureau of Jewish Education where she received a few hours of basic pedagogical training a week and was then placed as an aide in a classroom. As a result, she knew just what she wanted to be. She sought out a college with an excellent education program; twenty years later, she is a rock star teacher at one of our local Jewish day schools.

I also asked about the barriers that keep young people from entering the field of Jewish education. Of course, the number one barrier is economic; many of the largest schools tend to be clustered in major metropolitan areas where the cost of living is very high, yet entry-level salaries are so low that it is hard for recent graduates to pay rent on a new teacher’s salary. Many also complain about the lack of prestige and respect for the profession. One teacher, an Ivy League graduate who intentionally chose teaching, often had her choice questioned by peers and family members who assumed it was just a phase or a placeholder in between college and a professional degree like law or business school.

One of the teachers I spoke with suggested that our best pool of candidates are day school alumni themselves. Those who are the products of Jewish day schools are well-attuned to the unique value of this type of education and often have role models they seek to emulate. We might consider ways of encouraging day school graduates to imagine and pursue a career for themselves as teachers.

In the library of Jewish texts, there are too many references to teaching and teachers to count. One of the most famous is in Pirkei Avot: “Yehoshua Ben Perachyah said, ‘Make for yourself a teacher, establish for yourself a friend.’” I have always been taken with the fact that the imperative is not to “find a teacher for yourself” but rather to make one. Teachers are not individuals who are meant passively to be “found,” but rather they are literally “made” by the community of those they teach. It is our Jewish obligation to make teachers.

Through publishing the results of the Prizmah-JEIC Educator Pipeline Working Group and galvanizing action to work through these challenges, the team at Prizmah is addressing the question as to how we can expand the pipeline to actively make more teachers and leaders for our schools. It is a question of vital importance to the success of our schools so they can continue to inspire the passionate, knowledgeable and committed Jewish community and its leaders for generations to come.

We at Prizmah know that our teachers are the heroes of Jewish community. I look forward to the day when that mother, sitting at the ceremony where her other child is receiving a Nobel Prize for medicine, leans over and says to the person next to her, “See that doctor up there? Her sister is a teacher!”

From the CEO: A Time to Act, Again

Paul Bernstein
Jewish Educator Pipeline

It’s all about the who. Mort Mandel

The article in this issue by Sharon Freundel and Marc Wolf describes a working group that Prizmah and the Jewish Education Innovation Challenge (JEIC) convened to assess, explore and plan for addressing the emerging crisis in recruiting, training and retaining talented educators. We knew that the crisis was not new; the seminal 1990 publication, “A Time to Act,” had at its core a plan “to infuse Jewish education with a new vitality by recruiting large numbers of talented and dedicated educators.” Then, as now, the educator pipeline was a top priority for Jewish day schools.

More than 30 years ago, “A Time to Act” galvanized school leaders and philanthropists alike. The report created momentum that grew new day schools (especially community schools), elevated the value of Jewish education, stimulated community-level support, funded research and data to reliably measure the needs and accomplishments of the field, and prompted new ways of developing the profession of Jewish education. We stand today on the shoulders of giants like Mort Mandel, who chaired the Commission on Jewish Education for North America, which published “A Time to Act.” 

Mort was known for his vision and leadership as well as his direct language. “It’s all about the who,” he said, meaning who will lead the field of Jewish education, who will teach our future generations, who will make sure our schools are the best they can possibly be. Mort’s five words remain more relevant than ever.

We echo Mort’s statement and take up the baton to catalyze a new era for educators. Just as we look back on the lofty goals of “A Time to Act” as the harbinger of what Jonathan Krasner has called a “new zeitgeist” for Jewish education, so too today do we ambitiously envision building a new reality for the educator pipeline that will have a pervasive and long-lasting impact.

Thanks to the dedicated efforts of the members of our working group, we have the ideas that will in fact move the frustratingly sticky needle, especially if both funders and practitioners sign on and maintain focus for more than a year or two. Our mission is now to make those ideas take root in schools, communities and across North America.  Some of this will be specific to Jewish day schools; some reflects common issues with other areas of Jewish education and Jewish professional life. For those, we seek to partner with our peers and colleagues across the Jewish ecosystem. This can be another seminal moment if we appreciate the depth and breadth of what will be needed to make transformational change.

Take, for example, one of the working group’s priority initiatives: an Office for Jewish Day School Educator Recruitment. We informally refer to this as “writing the Jewish education scouting playbook,” developing a system for identifying and nurturing the talents of promising future educators. We can expand current recruitment and provide pathways to teaching, we can ensure that future teachers understand the avenues of training and support, we can make the idea of pursuing a career as a Jewish day school educator more accessible—and desirable. What happens to the kindergartener who says he wants to be a teacher, but by the time he is in high school has gotten the message that careers in teaching are poorly paid and not respected? 

Our schools themselves can nurture future teachers more explicitly. At school graduations, a few heads of school are bold enough to invite seniors to consider education as their career. What if that was the norm at all graduations and when careers are discussed?

In a world post-Covid, post–October 7, the challenges to the professional pipeline for Jewish education continue to grow. Exciting opportunities for day schools, such as growing enrollment and schools’ commitment to excellence, risk being thwarted by a lack of enough great educators. Thanks to the bold work set in motion after “A Time to Act,” day schools in the 2020s have substantially higher enrollment, and they are much more professionalized and financially stable than in the 1980s. Now is the critical time to address the ubiquitous “who” question and secure that our schools have an ample supply of professional educators who can deliver the unique Jewish day school mission for future generations.

Building a Stronger Teacher Pipeline

Sharon Freundel
Marc Wolf
Jewish Educator Pipeline

At Prizmah and Jewish Education Innovation Challenge (JEIC), we hold two central beliefs about our Jewish day schools and yeshivas: 

  1. Jewish day school education is valuable, if not critical, for a strong Jewish present and future.
  2. The strength of Jewish education in day schools is built on a strong foundation of talented, trained and dedicated educators who are steeped in the content they are teaching and their pedagogies.

For our collective investment in the vibrancy of Jewish life, and even in our most difficult and challenging times, we believe that the strength of our Jewish education will ultimately sustain North American Jewish life and contribute to world Jewry. 

As we recently learned in our communal educational seminar known as the Passover Seder, in every generation we must see ourselves as if we ourselves have left Egypt. Each generation revisits the Exodus and not just tells the story, but experiences the wonders and the struggles of previous generations.

In every generation our Jewish communal leaders ring the alarm bells that we are not doing enough to ensure that we have a strong pipeline of talent. In every generation—and now in ours—we learn from that history and develop our response to the Jewish educator challenge. What ideas and learnings can we revisit from the previous generation? How does our current context change our proposed solutions? What will be our call to action?


A Partnership for Progress 

Prizmah and JEIC joined forces over the past year and a half to delve into these questions. We launched a think tank and gathered 25 Jewish day school stakeholders—educators, funders and other Jewish professionals—and convened six working groups. They were tasked with assessing the current state of the teaching pipeline, exploring realistic options to address the problem and drafting a handful of high-impact initiatives. Aside from the two main deliverables—a summary report and a playbook for possible projects—we surfaced some principles that everyone in Jewish day schools—faculty members, parents, lay leadership and donors—should understand in order to address the issue of lack of trained and dedicated educators. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the three funders who enabled this project: the Mayberg Foundation, Dr. Shmuel and Evelyn Katz, and Melissa Kushner and Jeremy Kaplan.


Defining our Scope

There are a number of metaphors that we use when we talk about the educator pipeline. Rona Novick, dean of the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education at Yeshiva University and a member of the working group, speaks often about “growing the garden” of educators. We need to recognize that educators don’t just spring up, but they must first have fertile soil; we should create the best environment for those educators to grow. Then care in planting seeds and nourishing growth come well before we can expect fully grown educators. 

That set the context for where our work on the pipeline began. We believed that the pipeline starts by identifying potential talent in their youth—in high schools, youth groups, camps and other early pipeline environments. Early pipeline became the first of six committees described in the Report on the Prizmah-JEIC Educator Pipeline Working Group. Recruitment and training, creating the environment for success, ongoing development and learning, and investing in the career arc of a Jewish day school educator are four of the core pillars focused on training and careers. Each one was its own committee. 

Our sixth and last committee focused on elevating the profile of Jewish day school educators, the foundation on which we believed that any initiative will succeed or fail. Conversations in this committee ranged from compensation and benefits to respect, work-life balance, working environment and our communal conversations of how we talk about our teachers and educators. Not surprisingly, many of these areas are ones that impact teacher retention in schools.




Assessing the Field

Once we had mapped out the scope of our work through our definition of the pipeline, we brainstormed a list of thought partners to invite. We looked to and beyond the 300+ Jewish day schools and yeshivas that make up the Prizmah Network in North America. These were easy to identify, because discussions about the educator pipeline were happening around all of their tables.

We had been hearing many thoughtful, engaging and creative parallel conversations in different corners of the field, without solid coordination or the benefit of the collective wisdom and knowledge. This lack of coordinated response could run the risk of duplication of effort on many fronts, including programmatic and philanthropic. Our premise is that if we can link the silos, we can better address the shared need for trained and dedicated teachers.


Better, Together

Ultimately, we believe that the educator pipeline issue is so pervasive and complex that no single school or organization can address it alone. Some have tried: by raising wages, offering incentives such as housing and moving costs, or by providing free undergraduate or graduate education to their teachers. Nonetheless, localized success can be scaled, good ideas can be replicated in other schools and communities, and we can learn from each other and from what has and hasn’t worked. 

In his keynote at the 2019 Prizmah Conference, educational guru George Couros said, “The smartest person in the room is the room.” This became our mantra for building this Educator Pipeline Working Group. We began to imagine the home runs we might be able to hit were we to have a full team roster. Working together, we can accomplish exponentially more than we are accomplishing individually.

This means not only inviting in but enfranchising the vast array of professionals and lay leaders from Jewish day schools and other Jewish communal organizations and educational institutions, foundations and federations, higher education and training programs, professional development providers, academics, researchers and adjacent sectors that influence and contribute to the Jewish day school educator pipeline.


Leading the Charge

JEIC and Prizmah began this process by convening thinkers for our working groups from all the different demographics of Jewish day school stakeholders. The collaboration was rich and robust, and we now have proof of concept that we can all work together in a productive and thoughtful manner. 

Granted, this was a “think tank” rather than a “do tank,” and we have a great deal of work ahead of us to pilot and implement any of the initiatives that the brain trust developed. We know that the issue of recruiting and retaining top-notch teachers will not be solved tomorrow; we need to commit ourselves to stay the course for the long haul.

Through publishing our deliverables, the working group hopes to begin conversations in schools, communities and throughout North America, galvanizing partnerships and inspiring funders, school and community leaders to seed new initiatives to advance the pipeline of Jewish day school and yeshiva educators.

We can only begin to imagine the new paradigms that will emerge to recruit, train and retain Jewish day school and yeshiva educators. Only by exploring new ways to work together, often interrogating previously held beliefs and structures, can we make the most promising investments in our collective future: the educators who teach the next generation of students. 

Together, JEIC, Prizmah and our incredible partners have taken the first step. This issue of HaYidion is an additional step. And all of the articles in the issue are an array of steps on differing paths towards the destination of our proverbial thousand-mile journey. From our Educator Pipeline Working Group, Dr. Rona Novick, Rabbi Yehuda Chanales, Rebecca Ritter and Nina Bruder all contributed to this issue, moving us forward yet another step. We invite you to join in the conversation and expand on what emerged from our collective process as we walk together as a field to advance the pipeline of educators in Jewish day schools and yeshivas.

Uncovering Pathways to Progress: Lessons from Prizmah’s Orthodox Women in Leadership Initiatives

Ilisa Cappell
Odelia Epstein
Debra Shaffer Seeman
Jewish Educator Pipeline

When approaching the complex challenge of growing the leadership pipeline in Jewish day schools, one strategy is to identify specific population segments ripe for growth, analyze current realities and explore the broader applicability of those findings. We have invested in research exploring Orthodox women’s leadership and derived lessons that we believe can inform the broader day school field. In the 2023 school year, 22% of Orthodox schools in Prizmah’s network are headed by women, compared to 54% of other Jewish and non-Jewish independent schools. Through strategic emphasis on Orthodox women in leadership, we aim to enrich individual institutions and foster a more inclusive and dynamic landscape across Jewish day schools.

Prizmah pursued a dual strategy to bolster the pipeline of Orthodox women in leadership roles: first, investing in comprehensive multi-method research and data analysis to gain insights into the current landscape; second, crafting programmatic initiatives aimed at translating these insights into actionable recommendations.


Targeted Research 

When Prizmah studied the salaries of heads of Orthodox schools and compared that data with salary findings from the National Association of Independent Schools’ Data and Analysis for School Leadership, which includes data from non-Jewish Independent schools and Community, Conservative, Reform and Pluralistic Jewish day schools, we found gaps in salary between men and women at schools across the Jewish spectrum. In fact, gender was the most powerful predictor of head of school salary. Our data revealed that for every dollar a male head of school earns, a female head earns 21–22 cents less, no matter the type of school. Narrowing the salary gap could be an important step toward attracting more women to senior leadership positions.

Aiming to delve deeper, Prizmah partnered with Rosov Consulting to conduct qualitative research on the culture and conditions of leadership for women in Orthodox schools. In order to grow the number of potential senior leaders, we sought to understand the impediments and inroads that impact the advancement of Orthodox women through the pipeline and hiring process in Orthodox schools.


Orthodox Women’s Leadership Cohort

Prizmah’s Orthodox Women’s Leadership Cohort offers a rich, collaborative experience tailored for Orthodox women navigating the demands of their personal and professional lives. Since its inception in 2022, Prizmah’s Orthodox Women’s Leadership Cohort has served close to 60 women working in Jewish day schools and yeshivas across North America. Women who participate in the program hold a variety of roles including assistant principal, grade dean, school psychologist or counselor, director of teaching and learning, department chair, and principal. The cohort serves as a dynamic leadership network, fostering mentorship opportunities and meaningful peer connections. 

Through an in-person gathering, monthly cohort meetings and small group conversations, rising leaders join together with colleagues experiencing similar professional trajectories and strengthen their skills as a group, supporting one another through the process. Veteran female heads of school spend time sharing their own leadership journeys with the cohort and develop mentoring relationships with individuals in the group.


Pathways to Progress

Over the past two years, our conversations, discussions, reflections and research have led us to identify six elements that support advancement through the Jewish day school and yeshiva pipeline. While these insights were gleaned from specific experiences with Orthodox women, their applicability extends universally.

Role clarity provides leaders with a clear roadmap, enabling them to navigate career paths more effectively, harness their strengths, and confidently advance in their professional journey.

Acquiring skills in supervision, boundary setting and contract negotiation empowers people to assertively advocate for their value, navigate workplace dynamics with confidence and strategically position themselves for career advancement opportunities.

A healthy support network includes opportunities for talking through professional challenges and celebrating successes with colleagues. Individuals gain a sense of belonging and expand their access to new opportunities. 

Mentorship provides educators with invaluable guidance, encouragement, and opportunities for reflection while giving them access to insight and guidance critical for career advancement. Mentors who are open about their own experiences and role models within schools themselves can demystify senior leadership positions for rising leaders. Mentorship from an experienced school leader helps to shape the formation of a leader’s identity and the way she sees herself.

Incremental advancement enables educators to move through a series of fixed leadership positions that increase their scope of responsibilities. When leaders have opportunities to flex their talents and increase their leadership skills, they are better prepared to assume senior positions. 

Invest in talent tapping. Asking someone “Have you ever considered applying for this job?” might plant the first seed to nourish a leader’s career. The impact of hearing from a senior leader “This is a job that you would be good at” is tremendous. Being identified and encouraged as someone with the talent to become a senior leader can open up a whole new perspective on a career.

The journey towards enhancing the educator pipeline in Jewish day schools demands a multifaceted approach, as illustrated by Prizmah’s initiatives supporting Orthodox women in leadership roles. By combining rigorous research with tailored programmatic interventions, we aspire to narrow existing disparities and cultivate greater pathways for educators to ascend the leadership ladder. People in all positions at schools have a role to play in expanding the pipeline of leaders.  Through collective action, we can harness the full potential of our educational institutions, enriching our schools and strengthening our shared future.

The Teacher Competencies Model for Advancing Hebrew Language Education

Andrew Ergas
Jewish Educator Pipeline

Leeches. Bloodletting. Tonics sold from a horse-drawn wagon. These are only a few examples of what passed for medicine in the 19th century. However, with the founding of the American Medical Association (AMA) in 1847, a key step was taken to advance the profession that guides the practice of medicine.

Today, this fully matured field includes leading journals, conferences, a code of ethics and a hierarchy of recognized tiered credentials. Each of these components contributes collectively to bringing respect and professionalism to the field and its practitioners. At the center of this lies fieldwide clarity as to what constitutes the necessary knowledge, experience and skills required to accomplish to be a medical professional, the pathway to gaining these competencies and ensuring accountability for practitioners.

Despite having a history almost as old as that of healing, the teaching of Hebrew as a formal profession is still in a nascent state, with only the beginnings of the infrastructure that guides the progress of professionalization. This directly impacts the Jewish day school ecosystem, especially given the centrality of Hebrew learning to the values proposition of Jewish education and that Hebrew teachers make up 16% of faculty in Prizmah schools.

The seriousness of this underdeveloped level of professionalization is particularly challenging during a moment when pipeline issues are front and center and both individual schools and entire communities are having a difficult time recruiting and retaining Hebrew teachers and leaders. Without a clear, fieldwide agreement as to qualifications and credentials critical to these jobs, it is hard to identify strong candidates, set appropriate salary levels, implement professional learning efforts and retain the most effective educators. 




One fundamental step forward in responding to this reality was the articulation of the competencies that Hebrew language educators should possess to help schools define what skills and knowledge qualified teachers should have. This was particularly important given that research has shown that almost 50% percent of Hebrew teachers in day schools do not even have a BA in education, let alone the type of certification or graduate education one might expect. 

In the spring of 2022, almost two dozen educators, academics and scholars gathered for a series of discussions about what this competency framework might look like to move Hebrew language education in Jewish day schools along the same path that the AMA used to move medicine from leeches to its current state. Think medical school clinical rotations but for Hebrew teachers. Facilitated by the educational leadership of Hebrew at the Center, a model was established that consisted of four concentric circles with specific competencies within each of those circles: general education, including curriculum design and understanding learners; language education, including second language acquisition and assessment; Hebrew language education, including knowing about the language and Hebrew and Israeli culture; and at the center is the educator, with a commitment to personal and professional growth. 

This fieldwide model can serve as the outline for a Hebrew teacher job description and inform how a Hebrew leader selects professional learning for teachers. School leaders can use the competencies as a guideline for the required qualifications and experiences for teachers, and structure interviews and demonstration lessons to ascertain what a candidate does and does not know. This framework can also serve as a checklist by Hebrew teacher supervisors to inform professional learning growth to ensure that the teacher has all the necessary skills to be effective and advance student outcomes. Knowing where a teacher’s strengths lie and where they can grow with support make a tremendous difference in a teacher’s feelings about efficacy and school support, contributing to stronger retention.



The teaching of more developed academic disciplines such as mathematics, or even language education for world languages such as Spanish, already have clearly defined certification processes and are supported by academic programs throughout North America. Although Hebrew once had such structures a century ago, it is only in the past decade that there has been a resurgence of such programs. DeLeT LeHora’at Ivrit, a program offered through HUC-JIR, provides both course instruction and supervised practicum. The MA in Teaching Hebrew as a Second Language at Middlebury College has now graduated over 200 students. The Hebrew Consortium at Brandeis University has added Queens College to their affiliated programs and seeks to engage additional academic institutions to provide academic credentials to more current and potential Hebrew teachers. 

In order to leverage these growing opportunities, school leaders should consider simultaneously demanding more professionalism and formal training from their Hebrew faculty while also providing financial incentives such as increased funding for professional learning and salary increases tied to earned credentials. Combined, these will both elevate Hebrew teaching as a value and generate market forces that will propel faculty and the field forward. 



Beyond using the competencies model to create job descriptions or staying up to date on the state of the field to create job descriptions, school leaders, professional and lay, play a critical role in both enabling more professionalism while also increasing accountability. As clarity increases as to what Hebrew teachers are expected to know and do, we must elevate our expectations from teachers and students alike, demanding excellence in instruction and accountability for better student outcomes. Most day schools allocate as many hours to Hebrew as they do to mathematics but feel the Hebrew outcomes are not nearly as good. We can and must do better.

School leaders play a central role in advancing the professionalism of Hebrew teachers and department leaders by ensuring they have the time, financial support and direction to take advantage of the growing number of professional learning opportunities. According to the most recent HATC State of the Field, 88% of Hebrew teachers indicated they are extremely interested in professional learning opportunities; their motivation goes up even higher when schools incentivize this through providing time, funding and salary increases.




If we want to make certain that we recruit and retain effective Hebrew teachers, we must forcefully lean into these strategies. Parents, community leaders and the philanthropic community must also take their role as stakeholders in the Jewish day school space seriously and ensure that Hebrew language is on the agenda. Together, they must step up to the moment, ensuring that we bring honor, best and next practices, credentials and support to the Hebrew teachers in our classrooms and communities. 

Concerned leaders who are looking to better understand more about Hebrew teachers and the relationship between professional learning, work satisfaction and the role their school can play in advancing their work are encouraged to read more in the recent research reported in the 2024 State of the Field of Hebrew Language Education in Jewish Day Schools. Findings there can be used to underpin decision making or requests for additional financial resources from funders looking to support schools efforts in retaining, recruiting and advancing teacher professionalism in the area of Hebrew language education. 

Together, we can elevate the Hebrew literacy of our students, providing them with one of the essential tools to access and connect with our tradition, our people and Israel.

Unearthing Pathways to Progress: Prizmah’s Orthodox Women in Leadership Initiatives

Ilisa Cappell
Odelia Epstein
Debra Shaffer Seeman
Jewish Educator Pipeline

When approaching the complex challenge of growing the leadership pipeline in Jewish day schools, one strategy is to identify specific population segments ripe for growth, analyze current realities, and explore the broader applicability of those findings. We have invested in research exploring Orthodox women’s leadership and derived lessons that we believe can inform the broader day school field. In the 2023 school year, 22% of Orthodox schools in Prizmah’s network are headed by women, compared to 54% of other Jewish and non-Jewish independent schools. Through strategic emphasis on Orthodox women in leadership, we aim to enrich individual institutions and foster a more inclusive and dynamic landscape across Jewish day schools.

Prizmah pursued a dual strategy to bolster the pipeline of Orthodox women in leadership roles: first, investing in comprehensive multi-method research and data analysis to gain insights into the current landscape; second, crafting programmatic initiatives aimed at translating these insights into actionable recommendations.


Targeted Research 

When Prizmah studied the salaries of heads of Orthodox schools and compared that data with salary findings from the National Association of Independent Schools’ (NAIS) Data and Analysis for School Leadership (DASL), which includes data from non-Jewish Independent schools and Community, Conservative, Reform and Pluralistic Jewish day schools, we found gaps in salary between men and women at schools across the Jewish spectrum. In fact, gender was the most powerful predictor of head of school salary. Our data revealed that for every dollar a male head of school earns, a female head earns 21-22 cents less, no matter the type of school. Narrowing the salary gap could be an important step toward attracting more women to senior leadership positions.

Aiming to delve deeper, Prizmah partnered with Rosov Consulting to conduct qualitative research on the culture and conditions of leadership for women in Orthodox schools. In order to grow the number of potential senior leaders, we sought to understand the impediments and inroads that impact the advancement of Orthodox women through the pipeline and hiring process in Orthodox schools.


Orthodox Women’s Leadership Cohort

Prizmah’s Orthodox Women’s Leadership Cohort offers a rich, collaborative experience tailored for Orthodox women navigating the demands of their personal and professional lives. Since its inception in 2022, Prizmah’s Orthodox Women’s Leadership Cohort has served close to 60 women working in Jewish day schools and yeshivas across North America. Women who participate in the program hold a variety of roles including assistant principal, grade dean, school psychologist or counselor, director of teaching and learning, department chair, and principal. The cohort serves as a dynamic leadership network, fostering mentorship opportunities and meaningful peer connections. 

Through an in-person gathering, monthly cohort meetings, and small group conversations, rising leaders join together with colleagues experiencing similar professional trajectories and strengthen their skills as a group, supporting one another through the process. Veteran female heads of school spend time sharing their own leadership journeys with the cohort and develop mentoring relationships with individuals in the group. 


Pathways to Progress

Over the past two years, our conversations, discussions, reflections and research have led us to identify six elements that support advancement through the Jewish day school and yeshiva pipeline. While these insights were gleaned from specific experiences with Orthodox women, their applicability extends universally.

  1. Role clarity provides leaders with a clear roadmap, enabling them to navigate career paths more effectively, harness their strengths, and confidently advance in their professional journey.
  2. Acquiring skills in supervision, boundary setting, salary, and contract negotiation empowers people to assertively advocate for their value, navigate workplace dynamics with confidence, and strategically position themselves for career advancement opportunities.
  3. A healthy support network includes opportunities for talking through professional challenges and celebrating successes with colleagues. Individuals gain a sense of belonging and expand their access to new opportunities. 
  4. Mentorship provides educators with invaluable guidance, encouragement, and opportunities for reflection while giving them access to insight and guidance critical for career advancement. Mentors who are open about their own experiences and role models within schools themselves can demystify senior leadership positions for rising leaders. Mentorship from an experienced school leader helps powerfully to shape the formation of a leader’s identity and the way she sees herself.
  5. Incremental advancement enables educators to move through a series of fixed leadership positions that increase their scope of responsibilities. When leaders have opportunities to flex their talents and increase their leadership skills, they are better prepared to assume senior positions. 
  6. Invest in talent tapping. Asking someone “Have you ever considered applying for this job?” might plant the first seed to nourish a leader’s career. The impact of hearing from a senior leader “This is a job that you would be good at” is tremendous. Being identified and encouraged as someone with the talent to become a senior leader can open up a whole new perspective on a career. 

The journey towards enhancing the educator pipeline in Jewish day schools demands a multifaceted approach, as illustrated by Prizmah’s initiatives supporting Orthodox women in leadership roles. By combining rigorous research with tailored programmatic interventions, we aspire to narrow existing disparities and cultivate greater pathways for educators to ascend the leadership ladder.  People in all positions at schools have a role to play in expanding the pipeline of leaders.  Through collective action, we can harness the full potential of our educational institutions, enriching our schools and strengthening our shared future.

On My Nightstand: Spring 2024

Abby Weisman
Marc Wolf
Cheryl Rosenberg
Daniel Infeld
Jewish Educator Pipeline
Setting the Table, by Danny Meyer
book cover

This book offers a compelling exploration of the hospitality industry, drawing from Meyer’s extensive experience as a restaurateur in New York City. Through storytelling and his wisdom, Meyer shares the journey of building his iconic dining establishments, such as Union Square Cafe and Shake Shack. At the core of his narrative is the concept of “enlightened hospitality,” which emphasizes genuine care and connection in all aspects, whether with employees, customers, or business partners.

Meyer argues that hospitality is not just about providing excellent service; it’s about creating meaningful experiences that leave a lasting impression. He emphasizes the importance of fostering a culture of hospitality within organizations, where employees are empowered to go above and beyond for guests. Meyer’s approach challenges traditional perceptions of business success, placing equal importance on profitability and creating a positive impact on the community.

Aside from being a big foodie and a frequent patron of Meyer’s establishments, I'm excited to now incorporate his teachings into my day-to-day life. Danny imparts valuable lessons and encourages an innovative way of thinking that I find incredibly inspiring.

Reviewed by Abby Weisman

Perfect Enemy, By Alex Sinclair
Alex Sinclair - Perfect Enemy Book Cover

A Jewish educator sits down to write a novel. It might sound like the beginning of a joke, but what Alex Sinclair delivers in his debut novel is a gripping tale that pushed all my buttons about science, Israeli politics, morality and the ultimate questions of good and evil. 

The book begins with a frightening premise. An Israeli laboratory has successfully isolated Adolf Hitler’s genetic code and has created a clone. Justice can take many forms, and there are a number of competing interests in how to raise the child. The story wades into Israeli politics with a vivid window into the workings of the political machine and addresses some of the most divisive issues in Israeli society head-on. Who are allies, and who are enemies? What is right, and what is wrong? The characters grapple with these questions and more.

Perfect Enemy is a thriller in the truest sense of the genre. There are unexpected twists and reveals throughout the book, and the action and suspense keep the pages turning. Even though it was written before October 7, it has a relevance to the situation in Israel that made reading it even more relevant now.

Reviewed by Marc Wolf

Educated, by Tara Westover
book cover

This memoir of a woman raised in a fundamentalist home in Utah is an intimate tale of a family both held together and broken apart by mental illness, religion and a love that runs even deeper than blood. The story is crafted so beautifully, so intricately, that it’s hard to believe that the author is the same narrator who lacked any kind of formal education until she was 17 years old. And yet Westover, clearly a talented artist in so many ways, paints a picture of a life that is so devastating yet so love-filled that I often found myself making sharp turns between sobbing in pain, cringing in fear and laughing out loud. 

The book dives deep into themes that connect powerfully to those of us who spend our lives thinking about Jewish education. It begs questions like, What does it mean to educate a child? Where is the line between religious devotion and fundamentalist obsession? What do we as a community do when parents cross this line and bring potential harm to their children, even as they are doing it because of a deep love for their family combined with crippling paranoia? Lastly, how much of our education is ours to shape when no one paves an easy path for us, and how can we learn to navigate a world that is built for those with textbook knowledge if we are lacking? 

Perhaps Westover’s biggest accomplishment is telling the story of her youth—deprived of schooling and friends, filled with violence and danger—in the most loving and respectful way possible. She communicates a deep understanding of imperfect parents who adored each other and their family, and yet failed their children in the most fundamental ways. She accepts great losses in her life because of their mental illness, alongside great responsibility to succeed against all odds, relying only on herself. 

Reviewed by Cheryl Rosenberg

City of Laughter, by Temim Fruchter

It’s the bits and pieces of people’s stories that makes the unknowable a bit more… knowable. And even for people who have more access to their families’ lore, so many people were cut off from their ancestors, you know, by the war, which has kind of necessitated invention. Inference… My work deals with folklore, but specifically with stories that are really just parts of stories. Questions, fragments, scraps. How those clues get under our skin, individually and collectively. And how so many people from so many fragmented places have worked to make not only a usable history out of those but also a usable present.

book cover

We are a people of story. We define ourselves in relation to our communal narratives and in relation to family narratives passed down across generations. City of Laughter interweaves the stories of four generations of women and the folklore, superstition and tradition that binds them together. Each of the women in her own way is a searcher wanting to understand how her own story fits into a larger narrative. But even for the reader and the omniscient narrator, that larger narrative remains elusive, and the characters and the reader must piece together meaning and purpose.

This, I believe, ends up reflecting the experience of many of us in our “post-everything” world. We feel a deep connection to our past and want to see ourselves as part of a larger narrative, but it’s up to us to piece together the bits and pieces of the stories that are passed down to us. Details fade with the passage of time, but stories have the power to instill values across generations, to animate a quest for meaning that is as powerful today as it ever was and that will continue to resonate into the future.

Reviewed by Daniel Infeld

The Burnout Battleground: Strengthening Teacher Preparedness in Diverse Classrooms

Jennifer Friedberg
Elianna Mentzer
Jewish Educator Pipeline

In the American Jewish educational sector, a silent epidemic rages: the rise of teacher burnout. Numerous studies confirm that the teaching profession is witnessing increased rates of exhaustion, stress and disillusionment. In fact, a 2022 Gallup study found that K-12 workers experience the highest levels of burnout in any industry nationally (44%), with the rate for teachers even higher at 54%. This surge in teacher burnout has become a pressing issue not only impacting the wellbeing of individual teachers, but also undermining the quality of education for students. 

Research indicates that one of the main reasons teachers experience burnout is that they feel “under-prepared” to meet the wide-ranging academic, behavioral and social-emotional needs of students in today’s classrooms, with research showing that “under-prepared teachers leave at two to three times the rate of well-prepared teachers.” Gateways’ work consulting with Jewish schools on a range of topics related to inclusion has yielded insights into the most common “weak links” in teacher preparedness as well as a successful blueprint for how schools can identify and reform these areas of challenge. By following this blueprint, which covers teacher training, school structural changes and philosophical shifts, schools can improve the ways they prepare educators to meet the needs of a neurodiverse array of students and mitigate a major source of burnout.

Looking at these alarming statistics, one wonders why teachers are more underprepared now than in decades past. Another coinciding trend provides answers: Due to a combination of evolutions in diagnostic criteria, educational policy and philosophical shifts and global and environmental factors, today’s classrooms are more neurodiverse than ever before, with a substantial percentage of students having some sort of support need. Simply put, yesterday’s “atypical” student is today’s “typical” student.

Overall, the proliferation of neurodiversity in “mainstream” classrooms is a good thing. More inclusive classrooms encourage acceptance and respect for differences during formative school years. Moreover, incorporating a variety of teaching modalities benefits all learners by providing multiple pathways for the brain to encode information. 

The problem, therefore, is not with neurodiversity itself, but with the fact that traditional (non-special education) frameworks of teacher training have not caught up to this reality and tend to overlook methods for teaching students with learning disabilities and social-emotional and behavioral support needs. In a recent survey, 87% of general education teachers reported feeling inadequately prepared to support students with disabilities across the spectrum of potential supports, including modifying instruction, addressing behavioral issues and providing appropriate accommodations. Teachers face constant scrutiny from students, parents, administrators and other teachers. When, on top of that, they feel ill-equipped to meet these many needs of the modern classroom, the result is a pressure cooker where burnout seems inevitable.


It is clear, then, that consistently training teachers in best teaching practices and methodologies to support a variety of learners has multiple benefits. Gateways has been working with Jewish day school educators and administrators for over 20 years to build this capacity. Our model is a “whole school” consultation approach, which operates at the structural, attitudinal and individual levels to transform student and teacher outcomes. In the course of this work, Gateways has identified four key areas of challenge for schools and developed a best practice guide for addressing them.


Challenge Area: Curriculum Differentiation

Curriculum differentiation, which occurs when teachers tailor their instruction to meet individual learning needs, is an invaluable tool for teachers managing classes of students with varying profiles and needs. However, it is a methodology that teachers are not regularly trained in and school environments are not typically set up to support.

With the increasing neurodiversity of today’s classrooms, it can easily become overwhelming for a single teacher to decipher what tools and kinds of instruction students need to support their learning and then to execute those different methods concurrently. One teacher in Massachusetts likened this feeling to a symphony: “Teaching a class of students with diverse learning needs, while lacking adequate support and training, is like trying to conduct an orchestra without sheet music or a conductor’s baton. It’s a cacophony of challenges, where every note of progress is drowned out by the overwhelming symphony of unmet needs.” 

Best Practices


Through curriculum differentiation training, teachers can learn how to modify elements of their classroom based on skill levels and learning profiles. Teachers can differentiate in four domains: content, process, product and environment. “Content” means what the student learns or how they receive that information, “process” is what the student does to learn and master the content, “product” is how the student demonstrates, applies and extends their knowledge, and “environment” is how the classroom looks and feels. Engaging a consultant who can work with existing lesson plans and model how they can be modified may be especially beneficial.

However, curriculum differentiation in the classroom is most successful when school structures and attitudes support it. For example, schools can institute school- or grade-wide common time for certain subjects so that classes can be leveled. Mindsets also matter, as it can be challenging for teachers to make changes to established lesson plans that have worked well in the past. In consultation, teachers are encouraged to approach lesson planning as experimentation. Consider a lesson plan as the hypothesis. Once the lesson is presented, evaluate how different students managed the lesson and then go back to revise.


Challenge Area: Executive Function

In the wake of Covid and a youth mental health crisis, today’s students are struggling with executive functioning skills more than ever. Executive function is “the set of mental skills that include working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control,” and the impact of executive function challenges can reverberate in all academic areas. 

Best Practices

Students who struggle with executive function are most successful when classroom lessons and procedures are explicitly defined and clearly structured. In many cases, once teachers incorporate executive function supports in the classroom, all students’ task completion improves significantly. 


One Jewish day school teacher was struggling to help students stay focused and manage time effectively during lessons. Once she received coaching on writing and reviewing a clear, organized class plan with students, she reported that her lessons were more efficient, and students focused more consistently. Similarly, a middle school teacher whose students were struggling to complete homework and in-class assignments found it helpful to introduce a visual organizer, a sample of a completed assignment and a checklist rubric with all assignment requirements. In both cases, the teachers were highly motivated to support their students’ executive functioning skills but were left feeling lost and stressed, having not previously gotten the tools and training to do so. 


Challenge Area: Behavior 

A study by the Learning Policy Institute found that a third of teachers reported seeing more disruptive behaviors in the classroom since the pandemic began. Instances of students displaying aggression, defiance and emotional outbursts have become more common in classrooms, pushing some teachers to their breaking points and leading them to resign or retire prematurely. Another study found that student behaviors like “disrespect,” inattentiveness and low sociability are good predictors of teacher burnout, especially in religious schools. Already overloaded teachers have few resources to handle this volume of challenging behaviors, and it has strained relationships between teachers, parents and students.

Best Practices

One way to empower educators to manage difficult classroom behaviors is to offer training or consultation on functions of behavior (FoB). This behaviorist paradigm, which emphasizes behavior as communication, focuses on the purpose of unwanted behaviors and offers insight into how those behaviors can be replaced or phased out. Too often, teachers, who are typically not given much (if any) exposure to these ideas, respond to the behavior itself as the primary concern without understanding and responding to what the students are communicating with that behavior. 

FoB may include sensory/automatic, escape, attention and tangible rewards. Gateways behavioral specialist Jodi Katz described her process for consulting with teachers: “When I enter a classroom for the first time, I look at the entire student as well as the environment. I look at what is occurring and how the student responds. I am constantly scanning the classroom looking for possible antecedents or other environmental manipulations that could work as proactive strategies to reduce inappropriate classroom behaviors. I enjoy working closely with the teachers to implement new strategies both proactively and reactively.”

Not only does FoB training equip teachers with strategies to make the classroom less stressful, but it also reduces the psychological toll that behavioral issues can take. When challenging behaviors do (inevitably) still occur, FoB helps dispel the notion that kids who behave badly are doing it out of malice. Reframing behavior and understanding that kids behave in an expected manner if they have the right skills, supports and tools can reduce stress and help teachers and students connect better. 


Challenge Area: Mental Health

As academic, social and global pressures mount, teachers report a rise in student depression, anxiety, self-injury and eating disorders, among other concerns. Limited access to trained professionals in Jewish day schools can leave students and teachers without essential support. Teachers themselves are not adequately trained to identify and support student mental health needs, and, too often, school policies lack clear and sufficient guidelines. Furthermore, teachers’ own mental health may suffer when they attempt to juggle supporting students’ needs with their own workload and responsibilities. 

Best Practices


Addressing the mental health needs of students and teachers in Jewish day schools requires a comprehensive approach. Gateways has been providing teachers at Jewish day schools with training in Youth Mental Health First Aid, which is a beneficial, evidence-based program designed to teach educators how to recognize signs and symptoms of mental health problems in young people, provide initial support and guidance, and connect students to appropriate professional help. 

However, training in on-the-ground classroom strategies is only part of the solution. Multi-Tiered Systems of Support is a model that examines how supports can be put in place for everyone in the school (a social-emotional curriculum, mental health speakers), on an individual basis (regular individual or group counseling) and for students who are in crisis (bridge programs). By establishing partnerships with mental health professionals and community organizations, schools can incorporate onsite counseling, teletherapy and referrals to external mental health providers. Mental wellbeing is integral to learning, and when schools develop the mindset that mental health education is as important as physical health education, they can foster a more supportive environment for everyone.


Challenges and Visions

This solution to teacher burnout is certainly not without its challenges, the biggest of which is that implementing these changes is an investment of time, energy and funds. For already busy teachers, taking on new methodologies can be difficult. The dual curriculum model that many Jewish day schools also use can create even further time constraints for teachers to accomplish learning goals. Moreover, teachers and administrators across the board need to be philosophically open to these changes, which may include shifting longstanding attitudes about what kinds of students belong at their school and how students should learn.

We envision Jewish day schools as vibrant communities where every student and educator feels seen, valued and empowered to thrive. As such, we aim to embrace the increasing neurodiversity of Jewish day school classrooms as a positive trend and one that is here to stay. We know that providing a safe and equitable learning environment for as many kinds of learners as possible is the best way to keep families engaged in Jewish life and to encourage community participation in Jewish day schools. We believe that this can come to fruition if we provide our teachers with the right tools and if our schools have the right structures to support them. Ultimately, teachers who are better equipped to support neurodiverse students become better suited to support all students, and that is how we keep the magic of Jewish day school alive.

The Job Description as Recruitment Tool

Leslie Knight
Jewish Educator Pipeline

Day schools have some incredible assets that can recruit potential candidates. Our communities are strong and often feel like a family that people want to be a part of. Teachers have more flexibility to be creative in their classrooms without state testing or district mandates. People who go into education are passionate and often want to be a part of a mission-driven organization, and we can provide that professional home.

For sure, we also face an array of challenges, including the dearth of people entering the profession nationwide. There are too few qualified educators, too many open positions and stiff competition from both public and other independent schools. At Jewish day schools, we often pay lower salaries, have fewer employment benefits and generally have a smaller pool of candidates qualified to fill our positions.

So how can we attract the talent we need for our classrooms? We have a powerful tool at our disposal: stand-out job descriptions. As a recruiter, I put a lot of thought into writing job descriptions. I know that we only have one chance to make a good first impression. A job description that is clear, compelling and inspiring gets more applicants.

Here are my goals in writing a job description.

  • Candidates can see themselves in the role. I use language like “you will get to” and “what we’re looking for in you.” When candidates can picture themselves doing the work, they are more likely to apply. 
  • Convey the unique benefits of each individual school. Does your school have a strong training and onboarding program? A particularly warm and collaborative team? Do you emphasize creative and innovative teaching practices? Are there leadership opportunities for classroom teachers? Do you have a strong culture of ongoing professional learning? Whatever makes your school unique may draw in the right candidates.
  • Candidates have a clear and organized understanding of the work they will be doing. Often job descriptions are written as a laundry list of responsibilities, skills and experiences we want in candidates. They can be confusing, redundant and feel overwhelming to a potential applicant. Categorizing the job responsibilities helps to paint an accurate picture of what the candidate will be doing in a way they can more easily understand and remember, and can see themselves doing.

When writing job descriptions for your school’s open positions, ask yourself the following questions.

What makes my school a great place to work? What do I wish everyone knew about this school? 

What is exciting about this position? What makes it different? What would I tell someone I wanted to recruit to take the job? What would inspire a new teacher to join our team, or a veteran teacher to switch roles? 

What does my school value in our teachers? What qualities make a great teacher in our school? 

What will this person be doing on a larger scale? Will they be instilling a love of Judaism in young learners, developing reading skills or launching teenagers into the next phase of life? What would make a teacher say “Yes! That’s why I want to teach!” and motivate them to apply for this role? 

Who can you see doing this job? For this you might need to think outside the box. Is it a retired public school teacher who still wants to be in the classroom? A graduate student looking for part-time work teaching a section of English or science? Someone who is changing careers and has the skills and passion, but not the state teaching license? A recent college graduate who isn’t sure about their career path but loves working with people? 

Teaching is a great way to hone your communication, collaboration, and creative and strategic thinking skills, and can be a great place for a young professional to get their start. We all want veteran educators with a few years of experience in our classrooms. But at a time when competition for high-quality teachers is especially tough, thinking outside the box for how to find the unusual candidate may serve us well.

Then include your answers to those questions in your job description. Besides the usual lesson planning, student feedback and family communication, educators want to be inspired to work at your school and see the potential impact they will have on students. They need to be reminded of why they went into this work and how their creativity, passion and love of kids will make a difference in your school. Beyond the salary and employment benefits, candidates want a job in a school where they love to be every day. 

Finally, I recommend the following outline for all job descriptions, including an example pulled from a job description I recently created.

  1. Brief school description and the position you are hiring for. 

Example: MetroWest Jewish Day School (MWJDS) is a vibrant and innovative PK-8 pluralistic Jewish day school that nurtures students and challenges them to reach their potential on their journeys of learning and discovery. We are seeking a passionate, creative and experienced Jewish educator to be our next Director of Jewish Experience.

  1. “What you will do,” organized by category. 

Example: You will serve as our lead Jewish educator, promoting Jewish life and learning throughout the school community and serving as a role model for living a Jewish life. In addition, you will:

  • Promote a positive Jewish experience.
  • Be the instructional leader.
  • Be an ambassador for the school.
  • Serve as a Judaics classroom teacher.
  • Serve the school as a ritual leader.

Each one of these headings is followed by a two- to four-sentence description. 

  1. “Who you are,” organized in decreasing order of importance. These are the must-have and nice-to-have criteria. 
  2. Details. Include hours (especially if part-time or not traditional school hours), location, salary range and employment benefits. Yes, include the salary range with all job descriptions. That has become the industry standard and avoids time wasted with candidates who have specific salary requirements. 
  3. How to apply and who to contact with questions. We want to make this as straightforward and easy for candidates as we can. Long applications with several essay prompts = incomplete applications.

Finding qualified teachers to fill open positions is especially hard in today’s climate. Job descriptions can paint the picture of a school community where teachers feel connected, have opportunities to be creative and to grow professionally, and are reminded of their bigger “why” they want to be a teacher in the first place. Putting in the time to create job descriptions that are a tool for recruitment can help you stand out and get the best candidates in the door.

Restoring Honor and Prestige to Educators

Jordan Silvestri
Jewish Educator Pipeline

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal highlighted that more than 300,000 educators left their jobs between February 2020 and May 2022, with 55% of teachers reporting plans to leave the field earlier than anticipated. What would cause teachers who invested in their own education to educate our youth to throw in the towel so soon? 


Career Motivation

To answer this, we need to start at the beginning. What drives teachers to enter the field in the first place?

Passion. A pay-it-forward mentality. Community. 

When interviewing a candidate for a teaching position, I know that I have found my ideal choice when I identify that the teacher in front of me is the one I would want my children to have. Passion is not something that one is born with; it is nurtured and cared for over time. Teachers who are passionate about learning, expanding one’s breadth of knowledge, individual growth and student development are the educators that arrive early each day, stay late after dismissal, who attend all of the sporting events and work on lesson plans after their own children are in bed. 

Passionate teachers devour books on classroom management, design thinking and how to effectively integrate technology into their classrooms. Passion, when felt by students, is contagious, lighting the minds of students on fire. Passion from a teacher is what nurtures happy and inspired students. 

Teachers usually have a story about someone in their youth who made a lasting and enduring impact that changed the course of their lives. As a result, they feel called upon to pay that moment forward, inspired to give another budding student the same experience that they felt. They were destined to be an educator. 

Our schools act as miniature communities for our teachers, students and their families. Whether you live in a large Jewish population on the East or West coasts or you live in an “out of town” community, the sense of belonging that comes as a result of being part of a school brings joy, warmth and comfort. There is nothing quite like it. These feelings provide a place for teachers to give back to the community, to take part in nurturing its growth and providing a space for students to bask in the community’s light as they find their place within. 



Whether your drive is passion, a calling to pay it forward or building community, what would cause someone to choose to leave these meaning-making ideals? 

In the past few years, I have begun to explore this question with my colleagues in the field. How is it that someone with passion and a true calling can feel as if they have no other choice but to leave the field? According to the July 2021 Southern Education Foundation Policy Brief, 30% of teachers are chronically absent. As Simon Sinek explains, when we love our jobs we cannot wait to jump out of bed and get started. The only explanation for this report’s results is the loss of passion and a depreciation of the calling to educate. 

While a 2023 article from McKinsey and Company entitled K-12 Teachers are quitting. What would make they stay? lists inadequate compensation as the top reason why teachers are leaving, it is the second item on that list that concerns me more, unsustainable work expectations. I am not minimizing the workload increases that educators have experienced especially in the past 5+ years. That is real and an area that requires our attention. However, I would like to expand this idea even further. 

Imagine for a moment that you are sitting on a Shabbat table with friends and family. You are currently in your second year of university and are on the precipice of deciding your major. You have loved teaching ever since you were in high school. You have some questions about the profession and financial stability, yet you are really leaning toward becoming a teacher. Then it happens.

Have you ever interacted with Mr. Smith? I cannot stand him. Not only is my child not getting an education in his class, I can’t get any communication from him at all. He is completely incompetent.

As you sit and watch the conversation evolve, the discussion moves from one school topic to another, often increasing the levels of criticism on teachers, administrators and educational leaders. As you watch this unfold, you begin to ask yourself how you could invest years of your education and professional life to be the topic of vitriol on someone’s Shabbat table. We have all found ourselves in these moments. What I have yet to hear from anyone is when another member on the table or in the discussion stood up and called out the manner in which educators are spoken about among their community. 

These conversations that take place on Shabbat tables, in the supermarkets, over social media and on WhatsApp chats have an impact far beyond the space they occupy. They embolden our children to speak to teachers in the same manner that they see modeled for them in these encounters. Teachers become inhuman, a tool that we use for our own personal gain and usage, expecting them to become flexible to cater to everyone’s outrageous needs and often forgetting that the person they are interacting with is a human being themselves. 


The Role of Leadership

The third item listed in the McKinsey article for why teachers are leaving is due to uninspiring leadership. Teachers are expressing increased concerns with how leadership is showing up for them, standing for the values and mission that the school is built on when interacting with students and parents who do not live those values when engaging with their teachers and administrators. As such, a small issue has burgeoned to become one of the most cancerous impacts on teacher longevity and developing the field with new educators. 

Yes, teachers deserve to be paid livable wages. They deserve to be invested in, mentored, nurtured and developed. They have a challenging job that does require unique hours and investment. And addressing all of those points may not address their desire to leave the field. We must place significant focus on how some school stakeholders are interacting with each other and impacting their children in ways that harm the respect and decency that teachers require and deserve. 

This challenge permeates all educational levels, geographic locations and religious affiliations. As educational leaders, we must dedicate significant time to ponder how we are modeling the manner in which we hope to inspire our communities, our students and future generations of teachers in how they should be engaging with those whose passion, calling and dedication to our communities brought them to a field whose goal is to inspire the future. 

This work begins with us engaging with two critical constituencies, our teachers and our parents. By addressing with teachers the manner in which our communities engage with them, school leaders communicate to them the importance that the school places in this arena. Whether it be through small focus groups, quarterly meetings or a simple one on one in the teacher’s lounge, the more we speak about it, the more it becomes part of our lexicon. 

Engaging our parents is a trickier task. How do we bring them into the conversation? Questions requiring reflection include, Who are our partners in this work, and what tangible goals can we set for measurable outcomes to be realized? Utilizing a school board, Head of School Support and Evaluation Committee or a learning community of peers as thought partners will provide us the head space and resources to find the right ingredients for our unique community. 

In conjunction with supporting our teachers financially, with great professional development and a sense of belonging, this issue might be the final piece that will allow us to introduce an antidote to this ongoing and expansive dilemma.


No Retention Without Enculturation: Reducing Faculty Turnover

Tammy Shpall
Mark Shpall
Jewish Educator Pipeline

Recruiting and retaining the next generation of Jewish educational leaders made even more daunting by the allure of the private sector. At a time when media reports abound with stories of startups, tech companies and financial firms paying exorbitant salaries, our faculty members, whose impact on the future of our nation’s youth is immeasurable, feel left behind. It can be hard to adequately compare the salary, benefits, as well as the calendar of a Jewish day school with its unique structure and flow of religious and national holidays, winter and spring breaks, plus summer, with the more “traditional” employment framework based on 52 weeks of work, two weeks of vacation and 10 national holidays.

No Retention Without Enculturation: Reducing Faculty Turnover

Statistics show that up to 30% of teachers now leave the profession within five years of starting their careers. Over the last 30 years, the rate at which teachers retire or quit has gone up a staggering 55%. This phenomenon, along with the resulting influx of new and inexperienced teachers hired to backfill open positions, massively impacts student learning, overburdens our HR professionals and educational administrators, saps our annual budgets (with each new hire generating hard costs of more than $20,000), and weakens overall school morale.

To address these challenges head-on, de Toledo High School in Los Angeles has launched a detailed and easy-to-read compensation offer and created a strategic onboarding program that has purposefully and proactively addressed teachers’ salary expectations, increased faculty engagement and immersion into our school’s acclaimed “culture of kindness,” and ultimately, has gone a long way in improving our retention rates. Forty-one percent of our currently teaching faculty members have been with us for at least 12 years, while year-to-year acceptance rates of our offers of employment continue to increase significantly.



No Retention Without Enculturation: Reducing Faculty Turnover

As most employees naturally fixate on their base salary alone, the de Toledo yearly offer of employment now includes an infographic that clearly lays out a complete matrix of salary, health and other work/life balance benefits.


No Retention Without Enculturation: Reducing Faculty Turnover



At the same time, in the realization that short-tenured teachers are still prone to higher turnover rates, our dean of student support services and a Jewish studies faculty member designed our school’s two-year onboarding program with meaningful engagement opportunities and support services designed to enculturate each new faculty member into our kehillah (community).

The primary goal of this onboarding program is to support new faculty members and ensure a successful transition into our unique, tight-knit community. Through our multifaceted array of both informal and confidential onboarding touchpoints, we strive to ensure that each new teacher feels grounded and comfortable as a contributing member of our community. Now that we’re six years into the program, we have strong evidence it dramatically mitigates burnout and attrition.

No Retention Without Enculturation: Reducing Faculty Turnover

To start, new teaching faculty are assigned a mentor from outside their department (as this is not a supervisory program) to help guide them through their new de Toledo journey. As part of this program, we also have created a New Teaching Faculty Handbook available to our teachers online, early in the summer, long before their first day of school. This provides substantial support in helping faculty “settle in” before actually beginning work. The handbook features general information, including our school calendar, our org chart, a campus map, a faculty room layout, driving rules, academic and athletics information, as well as non-teaching responsibilities like lunch/meeting and trip supervision, technology links, how to use our learning management system, our kashrut policy, an “issues flow chart,” and a glossary of frequently used Hebrew terms.

As we continuously refine our onboarding program, we have also created and updated a mentoring calendar to ensure each new hire enjoys the most fruitful possible relationship with their assigned mentors. This calendar and the mentoring process itself begin before the school year to help new teachers set up their virtual classroom on our LMS, understand what the first few days of the school year will look and feel like, and make sure they are comfortable on campus, in their classrooms, as well as within the faculty office (everyone wants to know where the coffee machine, dry erase markers and lunch room are located).

The school year officially begins with a new teacher orientation day scheduled even prior to our faculty orientation week. The focus of this day is to teach the essentials needed to begin teaching on the first day of school. While the day certainly does bring a flurry of information in a short amount of time, the new teachers will already have had ample time to review their New Teaching Faculty Handbook and get acquainted with their mentors for at least a few months beforehand.



No Retention Without Enculturation: Reducing Faculty Turnover

After the start of school, we have weekly meetings with the mentees. Broadly, the two major foci of those meetings are exposing new faculty members to our “cultural data” as well as discussing personal concerns. At the beginning of the year, the weekly meetings are 90% data dumps (where are the bathrooms, how to use the printer, where is your mailbox) and 10% fielding questions from the teachers themselves (how do I handle tardiness, extended absences). As the year progresses, the percentages shift; new teachers begin to acclimate to the campus, and we tend to see deeper cultural conversations occurring. Each meeting lasts approximately 30–45 minutes, beginning with a check-in and continuing with a discussion of the regularly scheduled topics we have created to review or delve into the new teacher’s questions or concerns. 

In addition to weekly meetings, new teachers have a monthly lunch meeting with the principal and their mentors. Lunch is provided so they can come straight from their classes, and we can take advantage of the full lunch period. During these lunch sessions, we do a check-in as a group and discuss major activities happening at school such as back-to-school night, open house, enrollment updates, prospective student shadow days, parent tours, school trips and the all-school Shabbaton retreat. We also invite the relevant program leaders in charge of these major school initiatives to come to our lunch meetings to share information. Moreover, these meetings serve to facilitate new faculty members’ peer connections or just help give them a somewhat rare opportunity to eat lunch with colleagues away from their desks.

The weekly onboarding meetings continue throughout the school year, creating a close connection between new teachers and mentors. In order to continue supporting our new teachers, the mentoring program extends through the next school year as well. During the program’s second year, mentors continue to check in with their mentees monthly or on an as-needed basis. After the first year of mentorship, the new teachers are no longer “new” and are ready to take on anything given to them. This is the year when we encourage our new teachers to begin branching out and experiencing parts of our community beyond their comfort zone: becoming a club mentor, organizing a field trip, trying interdisciplinary teaching or taking on administrative roles.

No Retention Without Enculturation: Reducing Faculty Turnover

Through the six years of the program, we have learned that creating a safe space for our new faculty members to learn about dTHS is vitally important as we guide them through any difficult or awkward growth moments. To that end, we are vigilant about:

  • Maintaining attendance at the regular weekly meetings (even with the hectic pace of the school day).
  • Ensuring mentors and other faculty members observe new teachers in their classrooms and provide substantive (but not supervisory) feedback.
  • Encouraging new teachers to also spend time observing their colleagues teaching.

We have also rigorously tracked our data since the program’s inception, demonstrating that:

  • From August 2015 to June 2018 (prior to the inception of the program), only 45% of new teachers remained at dTHS after two years. 
  • From August 2018, when we began our program, 91% (32 of 35) of new full-time teachers have remained after two years at our school. In that same time period, 74% (26 of 35) of those full-time teachers still remain at dTHS today. 

In other words, our retention rates for new teachers has more than doubled under this onboarding program.

All the research shows that teachers want to be valued, they want to be trusted, they want to be seen and they want to feel a sense of belongingness. We have attempted to tackle these real challenges through our approach to the total compensation package and our two-year onboarding program. Thankfully, the data in the first six years have been overwhelmingly positive. With the regular debriefs with our new faculty members and the resulting improvements to the program, we look forward to even more positive outcomes.

Beyond the Classroom: The Unique Role of Jewish Educators in Small Schools and Tight-Knit Communities

Sara Shadmi-Wortman
Jewish Educator Pipeline

Small Jewish schools, often situated in tight-knit communities, can offer educators a unique and appealing opportunity to broaden their professional perspectives and encourage them to extend their impact beyond the classroom. In such communities, where resources are more limited, teachers’ contributions carry greater weight, empowered and inspired to utilize their talents in a wide range of meaningful ways.

As dynamic hubs of academic excellence and community engagement, these institutions possess a wealth of unique assets that, when harnessed effectively, can enrich the wellbeing of both educators and the community as a whole.

Among these assets are the human and social resources, the skilled educators and staff who shape not only minds but also hearts. Serving as mentors, role models and sources of inspiration, these professionals extend their influence, guiding students and enriching the broader community. They are pivotal in shaping Jewish identity and fostering an environment where personal growth and collective learning thrive.

Educators in the Jewish landscape understand that Jewish identity and a sense of belonging extend beyond academics, valuing immersive experiences that connect students to their heritage. The local Jewish community is a substantial resource, offering a “classroom without walls” where students engage in meaningful activities reinforcing their Jewish connection. Whether participating in a communal ceremony, having a role in organizing a communal fundraising run, taking responsibility in a communal garden or having meaningful encounters with community members, students gain firsthand exposure to a broader Jewish framework of belonging.




In smaller communities, these experiences are more intimate, fostering deeper connections and a stronger sense of belonging. This draws educators interested in such schools, recognizing the value of these experiences for both students and themselves. By leveraging this broader classroom perception, educators deepen students’ understanding of their identity and foster pride and a sense of belonging. These experiences also benefit the broader Jewish community, advancing unity and strengthening intergenerational bonds. Through educational programs, community leaders can mentor future Jewish leaders while students contribute fresh perspectives to communal initiatives, ensuring the community’s continuity and vitality.

Furthermore, acting as bustling social hubs, the unique circumstance of often being the sole Jewish educational institution in the area fosters a dynamic where students, parents and families become a distinct “captured group” as they spend most of their formative years (K-6, 8 or 12) together. This shared experience presents an unparalleled opportunity to unite individuals of varying ages through a myriad of events and activities. Whether it be a compelling school play, an exhilarating sports event or the celebration of Jewish holidays, schools are a dedicated space for community members to come together.

These physical assets evolve into versatile venues for an array of community events and activities. This sense of shared experience and communal belonging is indispensable for constructing a robust and sustainable supporting community where each individual feels valued, seen and included.

Lastly, schools, as well-organized institutions, effectively mobilize their organizational assets and resources, and coordinate efforts to address community needs. They serve as catalysts for collaborative community development, and especially in small communities, bringing together stakeholders to work towards shared goals is pivotal to a communal sense of belonging, trust and pride.


Attracting Jewish Educators to Small Communities: Best Practices

In the landscape of small Jewish day schools, successful strategies from around the globe have emerged to entice and retain talented educators. Combining these practices is essential for drawing skilled professionals to smaller communities.


Establish an Elite Leadership Group

Create a robust group of educators to form a leadership team, shaping together the vision and actions within the community they are part of. This team functions as a “mini” framework of belonging. They collaborate as a cohesive unit, strengthening connections among team members while advancing a shared mission. In these small groups, also called Bonding Community Groups (BCGs), members feel they contribute meaningfully by assuming responsibilities based on their strengths and interests. Together works better!


Foster Professional Growth Opportunities

Small communities can entice educators by providing opportunities for professional growth and advancement uniquely tailored to interface with the community. These opportunities go beyond traditional professional development packages typically offered to educators. Instead, they involve meaningful roles and missions within the educational system and the broader community, tapping into assets within the community itself.

This could include involvement in non-formal frameworks, community events and mentorship programs with local experts. Additionally, educators may be offered leadership opportunities and financial support for further education or certifications, all aimed at fostering their development in areas directly relevant to community engagement and impact.


Cultivate a Supportive Work Environment

In addition to fostering a supportive work environment, work-life balance and personal wellbeing, prioritize inclusive practices with belonging in mind. Pair new recruits with peer mentors to guide their integration, establish team-building rituals and traditions celebrating milestones, encourage small gestures of appreciation among team members, and facilitate regular check-ins to ensure everyone feels supported, seen and heard. Invest in relationship-building by providing opportunities for educators to socialize outside the formal school setting, fostering stronger bonds and a more cohesive team.


Showcase Unique Teaching Benefits in Small Communities

Brand and package the benefits and uniqueness of working in your small school or community by spotlighting the distinct assets that define your institution. Showcase the human, social and organizational strengths that set your school apart, and illustrate how these assets complement the advantages we’ve discussed regarding small community or school settings. These include more intimate connections, smaller class sizes, fostering closer relationships with students, parents and peers, as well as ample opportunities for community impact and a strong sense of belonging.


“It Takes a Village”: Make Welcoming Educators a Communitywide Effort


When the entire community or school is invested in welcoming and integrating educators, new engagement opportunities emerge. These can include assigning “adopting families” to welcome and host them and partnering with local businesses, nonprofits and community organizations to establish a strong support network for young educators. This collaborative effort may also entail facilitating access to local services, organizing community events, facilitating networking opportunities and creating programs that promote interaction between educators and residents. Schools should initiate and intentionally design this process to cultivate a communal mindset, ensuring that educators are considered integral members of the local social fabric.

Margaret Mead’s enduring insight, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has,” beautifully captures the transformative potential inherent in fostering relationships among Jewish schools, educators and communities in smaller locales. As we acknowledge the manifold benefits arising from this synergy, we come to understand that meaningful change arises from a strong sense of belonging, multifaceted social connections, collective effort and a shared vision. By embracing best practices that promote a culture of belonging to attract and retain educators in small communities, we set the stage for the collaborative spirit of close-knit communities and small schools to drive progress and enhance the lives of all involved.

Keep Teachers Teaching

Rebecca Ritter
Jewish Educator Pipeline

Research shows that teacher effectiveness has the greatest impact of any variable on student outcomes. Given this clear correlation, why is it that so many devote significant time and allocate outsized resources to utilizing new curricula, implementing specialized programming and purchasing cutting-edge technology while neglecting to properly nurture the growth and development of our teachers? In this article, we will argue that we must undertake efforts to address the complex and urgent challenge of elevating the status of the teaching profession by taking a whole-systems approach and by considering the unique context of each individual school community.


Looking Back

It was May 2022, and like teachers across the country, many teachers at the Shefa School were experiencing a high level of burnout and dissatisfaction. Shefa, the first and largest Jewish day school serving students with language-based learning disabilities, is located in the heart of midtown Manhattan. The toll that the pandemic took on educators everywhere, combined with a mass exodus of NYC residents from the city, resulted in close to 20% of our teachers leaving Shefa at the end of the school year. Perhaps even worse, on Leading Edge’s Employee Experience Survey, fewer than half of our teachers said they saw themselves working at Shefa in two years.

While teacher turnover is a struggle everywhere, we felt it particularly acutely at Shefa, given our high-needs population. In order to learn our specialized instructional methodologies, teachers at Shefa participate in a rigorous and lengthy onboarding process, which is followed by intensive and ongoing coaching and professional development. We see this high level of investment in our teachers as essential to providing a high-quality education for our students, and we allocate resources and time to reflect this commitment. The blow of losing even a single well-trained teacher is deeply felt, as we know it can take years until a new faculty member has developed the skills to fill their predecessor’s shoes.


Fast forward two years. Our teacher retention is now the highest it has ever been in our 10 years of existence. Despite the high cost of living in NYC, the stress that can come with working in a culture of high expectations and the particular challenges of supporting a high-needs population, 92% of teachers who received contracts for next year signed them and plan to return next year.

So how did we achieve a 10% increase in our teacher retention in just two years? And what can be learned from our efforts?


The Context

Every community has its own unique set of challenges and opportunities related to the different phases of the teacher pipeline. In designing and implementing a strategic approach to attracting, growing and retaining teachers, it is critical to understand the specifics of each context so that strengths can be leveraged and the most acute pain points can be addressed.

At Shefa, teacher recruitment was a phase of the pipeline that we had addressed in our school’s first years of existence. Given the dearth of special educators in the field of Jewish education, we dedicated time and resources to developing and refining the Shefa Teacher Residency, a groundbreaking program that recruits and trains recent college graduates to become exceptional teachers by providing an intensive and supportive school-based teacher training program. Over the course of the past 10 years, over 60 teachers have gone through our residency, and many of them continue to serve as lead teachers at Shefa.

The creation of our own internal pipeline for teachers, along with a number of other factors including the benefit of being located in a geographic region with many young Jewish professionals and our growing reputation for fostering a mission-driven culture of excellence, allowed us to attract many high-quality candidates for early-stage teaching roles. At the same time, many of those factors that made it easy for us to recruit new teachers were the very same reasons why we faced tremendous challenges around teacher retention.


The Process

In the summer of 2022, we launched a yearlong broad and comprehensive initiative to examine the employee experience at Shefa in the wake of Covid and on the precipice of a period of growth as we prepared to transition into a new facility and increase our enrollment. We needed to really understand why a teacher might leave Shefa before we could design ways of incentivizing them to stay.


Gathering data

That fall, we convened a Climate & Culture Taskforce, a group of faculty members and administrators who were charged with analyzing existing data and conducting additional research in order to better understand the employee experience at Shefa and make recommendations for potential interventions we might pursue.



Alongside the efforts of the taskforce, the senior administrative team simultaneously designed and conducted a number of studies in order to better understand what we were hearing and seeing. For example, in response to teachers’ concerns about the demands on their time, we ran a study tracking teacher use of time on a standardized spreadsheet for two weeks. This allowed us to aggregate data and analyze it with different metrics to see trends. For example, how much time was spent on lesson planning outside of school hours? How much time was spent on family communication? What were the discrepancies among teachers, and how might that help inform what levers we decided to pull to make changes in how teachers’ time was being allocated? The findings from this time tracking study led directly to the creation of specific interventions later on in the process.

Similarly, we conducted a “meeting audit,” in which teachers were asked to rate each type of meeting they participated in across key metrics. This helped us determine whether meeting frequencies could be changed or meeting practices could be improved to better achieve their intended purposes.

In addition to combing through the data from the Leading Edge survey, the taskforce members conducted detailed empathy interviews with Shefa staff members and implemented more targeted surveys on particular areas that begged further exploration. After unpacking this data, the taskforce identified the common areas of strength related to the employee experience at Shefa and the priority areas for improvement. By working to understand the root causes behind the challenges and by grounding observations in data as opposed to hearsay or anecdotal conjecture, the taskforce was able to make data-driven decisions about what to prioritize and how to move toward constructive next steps that were specifically targeting the areas of challenge.

This process also helped develop a deeper shared understanding among the taskforce members. Before making recommendations, the group members conducted external research to get ideas for what the latest best-practice research was in these areas and for how other schools or organizations were grappling with these challenges.

The taskforce’s findings painted a picture of a workforce that was working tirelessly to support a high-needs student population and deeply feeling the pressure and urgency of the school’s mission to close the gap and to prepare students to return to the mainstream. The school’s mission and the population cannot change—they are what makes Shefa Shefa. So what could be done to move the needle on the overwhelming sense of overwork that teachers were experiencing?

Overall, the taskforce’s findings suggested that the school’s leadership needed to better celebrate and reward the high level of investment on the part of its faculty and to create clear pathways for career advancement and sustainability. The key priorities that emerged centered around three buckets:

  • Career growth opportunities
  • Workload and time allocation
  • Compensation and benefits


Designing and testing interventions

Following the recommendations from the taskforce, our senior administrative team spent the spring and summer evaluating the feasibility, necessary trade-offs and potential impact of each of the recommendations. Many of the recommendations were already on the road toward implementation, and the taskforce’s findings confirmed that we were on the right track. For example, we had recently formed a Faculty Evaluation Redesign Committee, a group of teachers and administrators who had begun designing a new teacher evaluation framework—a necessary precursor to creating clear and transparent growth trajectories for teachers. Similarly, we had already instituted stipended teacher leadership opportunities and retention bonuses for teachers. Other recommendations, such as ways of better protecting teachers’ time, were new ideas that we considered.

In August 2023, we presented to faculty our Climate & Culture Strategic Plan, the various efforts and initiatives that were underway to address faculty growth and retention. The chart below shows how the process led directly to interventions that helped us preserve a culture of excellence while incorporating boundaries to protect teachers and opportunities to reward them. Some examples: We established “Green Time,” protected break time each day when teachers could not be pulled for coverage or asked to join a meeting. We instituted a clear policy around “blackout hours,” where email communication could only be used for time-sensitive emergencies. We trained and required everyone to use Google Calendar in consistent and standardized ways, so that we could have a system for more equitable and transparent use of time.




This school year, we tested out some of the more significant changes before implementing them on a broader scale. We piloted a senior teacher role, which is accompanied by increased compensation, recognition and PD opportunities. The learnings from the pilot helped inform how we plan to scale the program and led directly into the design of our new Faculty Growth System, a cohesive and coordinated approach to recognizing and developing exemplary teachers as they progress through their teaching career. Through this system, we have created meaningful opportunities for growth and leadership for classroom teachers in a way that incentivizes staying in the classroom as opposed to the traditional growth route of becoming administrators.


Evaluating outcomes and iterating again

As this school year comes to an end, we plan to continue to learn from our results on this year’s Leading Edge Survey and plan to carefully assess the impact of these new initiatives to determine to what degree they are meeting our intended outcomes. As a growing school, our reality on the ground changes year to year, and we need to be mindful to ensure that our teacher retention efforts continue to match our changing needs and realities. As more of our teachers have growing families of their own, perhaps we will need to consider more flexible teaching schedules in order to accommodate their scheduling and commuting needs. And of course, we need to look at this year’s retention results with a healthy dose of humility: This year could very well have been anomalous, and we will likely face new challenges in the years ahead.


Five Lessons Learned

Look in the mirror. We all hold assumptions and possess blind spots that can sometimes cause us to be defensive in the face of critical feedback. If we fail to take a good hard look in the mirror, we risk missing opportunities for meaningful progress. However unpleasant, striving for a deep understanding of our organization’s vulnerabilities is a necessary step in overcoming them.

Engage key stakeholders. Without buy-in and input from the intended audience (in this case, faculty from across departments in our school) at every step in these processes, efforts will fall flat.

Determine what you value and make tough tradeoffs. Financial resources are limited in schools, and there are certainly competing demands on how to allocate every dollar. At Shefa, we made the calculation that increasing salaries for top-performing teachers and investing in teacher retention efforts were not only mission-aligned but were also strategic because teacher turnover puts a strain on many other resources within the system. 

Communicate (over and over and over). With any change effort, there are opportunities at every step of the way for misunderstanding and missteps, which can lead to not only the failure of the effort but also to a culture of mistrust and lack of transparency. We found it helpful to create multiple forums for feedback, sharing and input, even in the draft stage of initial ideas. Most schools are relatively flat organizations, and shifts related to performance, promotion and compensation can be counter-cultural. These ideas take time and unpacking for folks to see them as opportunities rather than threats.

Make small bets and test them. While ultimately what emerged for us was a clear and coherent strategy for teacher retention, the process itself was messy. It helps to test new ideas out on a small scale and publicize both the wins and unintended consequences before expanding.

How We Can All Help Retain Talent

Allison Magagnosc
Alex Pomson
Jewish Educator Pipeline

Focusing on Employee Retention

The task of staffing Jewish day schools with enough appropriately qualified educators is widely depicted as a recruitment challenge above all. The discussion often revolves around issues such as, How to make the material conditions in schools, such as pay and benefits, sufficiently attractive such that people will be willing to pursue this work? Where to find mission-aligned talent to recruit? How to widen the personnel pipeline so that suitable individuals take up work in schools?   

Over the last five years, our team at Rosov Consulting has had opportunities to explore these questions in multiple Jewish community sectors. Drawing on these studies, we posit that the primary challenge for day schools, as for other service-providing organizations in the Jewish community, is not recruitment; it is retention. To employ the pipeline metaphor, the primary task is to address leakage or the loss of talent already in the pipeline. 

Our data come mainly from two sources: the study of Jewish educators’ career trajectories we conducted for CASJE (Collaborative for Applied Studies in Jewish Education), and a study of the learning needs of early career Jewish communal professionals we conducted for JPro. These sources have been supplemented by what we have learned from evaluations of professional development initiatives for educators.

Our CASJE data confirmed a widely known state of affairs in both Jewish and non-Jewish school settings: About half of those who start work as teachers leave the profession within five years. Of course, early career turnover is not always a bad thing. Many professions include an entry-stage phase in which interested candidates have an opportunity to explore their suitability and readiness for the work, and employers get to filter out borderline-appropriate candidates. 

What is surely unhealthy is the scale at which such turnover occurs in schools and in other Jewish community settings. We believe that addressing this problem by equipping educators with tools for resilience would be both a cheaper and more readily actionable solution to the teacher shortage than trying to recruit more talent in the first place. 

Why Staff Leave: Inhibitors to “Employee Value Proposition”

Interviews with early career professionals indicate that most of them enter challenging and poorly paid service professions already inspired by a desire to do good or by satisfactions intrinsically associated with the work. Teachers, for example, enter the profession to help children grow or share Jewish wisdom with the next generation. They leave this work during those early years because of phenomena that subvert whatever it is that makes work meaningful, rewarding and attractive. In the words of an interviewee, they leave when the challenges of the job outweigh the “employee value proposition.” 

Subversive phenomena that lead to staff turnover can be structural or circumstantial. Structural inhibitors, such as poor financial compensation, limited benefits and parochialism, are built into the field of Jewish education. They are not unique to specific institutions. Crucially, they are more likely to keep people from entering the field in the first place than leaving it once they start.

Circumstantial inhibitors are composed of the specific and often unexpected dynamics of particular workplaces that make them unattractive places to remain. These inhibitors are what typically lead individuals to switch their places of work, if the option exists, or to leave the field altogether once they have already begun employment. They can be emotionally fraught to tackle, but such inhibitors are probably more readily addressed than the structural inhibitors that challenge the field as a whole.  

It can be hard work reducing the impact of these inhibitors. No doubt improving the professional culture of schools would help reduce the corrosive effect of circumstantial inhibitors, but to do so at scale would require a major school change initiative designed to remake the challenging aspects of school culture, one school at a time. It is more realistic, we believe, to build the resilience of educators in the face of such inhibitors. And it will be more efficacious, too. 

Enabling Opportunities

The best way to build such resilience is to provide early career professionals with experiences in frameworks and programs designed with the specific intent of translating an already-stimulated appetite to work as a Jewish educator into a commitment and ability to be one. We call such experiences “enabling opportunities.” In the field of Jewish education, these take all kinds of shapes and forms, grouped under the categories of induction, sustained professional development and graduate education programs. Crucially, they all occur during the early phases of educators’ professional lives when their career commitments are still unsolidified. 

The strongest enabling opportunities elicit three broad outcomes. They cultivate critical skills, theories and knowhow; they fuel a commitment to doing the work; and they nurture support systems of peers and mentors who can be invaluable aides when the work gets hard. In short, they develop skills, dispositions and social supports that help educators resist the corrosive effects of circumstantial inhibitors and contribute to people preferring to stay in the field. These broad benefits surely help explain why almost half of the educators who participated in the CASJE study and remained in the field of Jewish education for more than five years had participated in such an experience, while only a quarter of those who dropped out of the field within five years had done so. 

Shared Responsibility for Employee Retention

Creating valuable experiences of these kinds at scale, and expanding opportunities to participate in them, should be a cross-communal endeavor. In the meantime, there is something individual schools can do, too. In our JPro work, we learned that access to such valuable experiences is undercut by a kind of vicious circle: Many employers question the value of investing in junior staff who are liable to move on; better, they say, to see if these new hires have what it takes or if they’re truly committed before investing resources in their professional development. We suspect that if employers took the risk of investing in the professional development of early career hires, and aided their participation in commitment-forming enabling opportunities, they might find them more inclined to stay in the field and perhaps in their institutions. Those hires would certainly be more effective in their work.

When our team has had occasion to study the participants in these programs and to track changes in their attitudes and sense of self-efficacy before, during and after participation, we have observed that profound changes often occur. Participants frequently acquire tools that help them do their work more effectively, something that’s obviously valuable in and of itself. What’s more striking is that the acquisition of such tools also takes on significance as a marker of professional identity, cultivating a sense of self as an educator or Jewish community professional. Perhaps the greatest contribution of such programs is that they nurture a greater sense of belonging to the field. Their graduates want to stick around.

Two caveats. First, enabling opportunity programs are not a panacea. Those who participate in them are often the most enthusiastic and determined to become Jewish educators, even prior to their enrollment. If the graduates of these programs remain in the field, it may have as much to do with the commitments they brought with them from the start as with what they gained from programs. 

Second, to employ a metaphor, if enabling opportunities (and professional development more generally) are akin to upgrading software, then employers must consider what hardware components need to be upgraded to ensure that the new and improved software functions at an optimal level. Professional development, no matter its intensity and quality, operates within a larger professional ecosystem that shapes the career trajectories of emergent talent. We all share a responsibility to take care of that ecosystem.

Teachers Leading Teachers

Leah K. Silberstein
Jewish Educator Pipeline

It is 3:45 pm, eight hours since the 11 Judaic, general and “specials” teachers seated in our faculty lounge began their day. I expected to find them leaning back in their chairs, exhaling and reviewing the daily highs and lows of their respective students. Instead, I opened the door to a swell of lively, focused conversation and frequent laughter, punctuated by energetic typing on multiple laptops and jotting down ideas on a dry-erase board.



Each month, these early childhood and elementary educators, who have each taken on an additional role as curriculum leader, meet to share the latest educational research and develop new initiatives. Their goal is to lead and train their colleagues, ultimately, defining a new role for themselves as supportive, energized teacher-leaders. They work together to help align the school’s curriculum within each grade level and to make connections so that students benefit from increased clarity on learning outcomes. 

Now in its third year, the Ramaz Curriculum Leader program is breathing new life into the professional lives of midcareer educators, helping strengthen and transform the school’s culture into a more innovative, collaborative, team-based community of empowered teachers. 

“This is part of our overall strategy to continue investing in quality educators,” says Ramaz Head of School Jonathan Cannon. “And it requires dedicated time and financial resources.” 

In their book Implementing Change: Patterns, Principles, and Potholes, Gene Hord and Shirley Hord write that teacher-leaders help shape team learning and school culture, having a direct impact on student achievement. “Everyone in this program is personally invested in a shared vision for our school,” says Adrienne Laitman, who oversees the program and directs general studies for the lower school. 

What’s more, these new stipend positions have effectively galvanized this team to dream big and try new things. The result? “Greater ownership over how and what we teach,” says Ashley Polansky, first grade teacher and now a curriculum leader. “And a professional path to keep moving forward.” 

After her first year of teaching, the desire to bolster her experience and salary prompted Polansky to apply for the curriculum leader position. “I always wondered how I could continue challenging myself,” says Polansky, now in her sixth year teaching general studies. “This has given me a chance to direct newer teachers in a dual-curriculum, dual-language school, where there is a lot to juggle and manage. This has been very rewarding for me.”


At this particular meeting, the team is busy brainstorming creative, consistent ways to refresh colleagues on Responsive Classroom, a social-emotional learning approach that teaches students to understand their own feelings and empathize with others. The discussions focus on developing concrete ways to foster positive language, in Hebrew as well as English, when classroom teachers remind, redirect or reinforce students. The group also shares examples of interactive modeling, which essentially gives educators tools to create clear, positive mental images for children to better understand what is expected of them as a classroom community.

“As curriculum leaders, we can make broader decisions beyond our respective classrooms,” explains Tali Seinfeld, a 26-year veteran Judaic studies teacher at Ramaz. “We stay current with new trends and help our colleagues push forward with new ideas.”

A great example, Seinfeld says, has been working with general studies teachers to help students find deeper meaning in tefillah through literacy, showing how prayer connects to everyday life. With Seinfeld’s guidance, the general studies team chose Mo Willem’s The Thank You Book to read aloud and connect to Modeh Ani, the morning prayer of gratitude. Students then wrote letters to people in their lives they may not ordinarily thank: teachers, peers, service people, security teams. 

“Even as a seasoned teacher, being in this position has enriched me professionally,” Seinfeld says. “I now have a fresh path to explore and the ability to bring a new idea to its natural, best conclusion.”

For some, however, taking on this new role initially came with a healthy dose of reservation. Admits Noa Betesh, a third grade Judaic studies teacher at Ramaz for the past nine years, “At first, I was hesitant because I was concerned about what my colleagues would think. Would they feel like I’m ‘taking over’?” 

Her experience has proved the opposite. “Fellow teachers care what I think; they come to me for advice. I feel more purpose-driven, more mindful, more confident, more appreciated,” she says.

Ask second grade general studies teacher Samantha Dunoff to share the most powerful part of becoming a curriculum leader, and she immediately responds, “Having the time and space to collaborate, reflect, and improve on what we do as teachers.”  

Danielle Smith, a fourth grade educator at Ramaz, wholeheartedly agrees. “We are deeply invested in leading collaborative conversations that result in new shared learning, learning that benefits us as educators and the students we teach.” 

The curriculum leader program at Ramaz is helping build teachers’ educational muscle to tackle challenges and find their voice to implement changes. “We feel respected by team members when we share information and offer guidance,” Dunoff says. “Before we were teachers; now we feel we are also part of educational leadership.”

Incorporating Morim Shlichim Into Day Schools: A Framework for Success

David Fain
Darin Katz
Jewish Educator Pipeline

Baked into the DNA of Jewish day schools is an unwavering commitment to Eretz Yisrael. Through education, advocacy and action, we educators strive to foster in our students a lifelong connection to, and passion for, the State of Israel. An essential component of actualizing Zionism is the presence of Israeli teachers who infuse the classrooms, landscape and soundscape of a school with Hebrew language, Israeli history and current events, and Israeli culture. In a post–October 7 world in which Israel’s mere right to exist and defend herself is questioned by many across the globe, promoting this strong connection to Israel in our schools has never been more important.

Like most day schools, Hillel Day School of Metropolitan Detroit has employed Israeli teachers and staff throughout our 66-year history. These talented and committed individuals have enriched our school in beautiful and countless ways. With the current, and likely ongoing, dearth of individuals who wish to teach in Jewish day schools, finding Hebrew and Judaic studies teachers has become a significant challenge. One solution to this problem is hiring morim shlichim—selected, authentic Israeli teachers who teach in Jewish day schools around the world to foster a rich educational environment that aligns with a school’s mission and values. 

As we began preparing for the 2023–24 year over one year ago, we investigated hiring morim shlichim—the first time for us personally—to fill two Hebrew/Judaic studies vacancies in our elementary division. After months of interviews, Zoom meetings and paperwork, we happily hired a lovely married couple, who have committed to teach at Hillel for three years. While successful in the end, our process of hiring and enculturating our morim shlichim was far from smooth and fraught with challenges. We constantly found ourselves saying, “I wish we had known to (fill in the blank).” 

Here, we offer a roadmap of key strategies for success in various facets of the morim shlichim experience, including preparation, hiring, transition, early integration into the community and long-term success. By implementing a comprehensive and more systematized approach, Jewish day schools can maximize the potential of morim shlichim, ensuring a positive impact on both students and the broader school community.


Preparation: Carefully Consider Finances

Perhaps our greatest lesson learned lies in careful financial preparation that we wished we had done prior to starting the process. From our experience, in addition to salary, a school must consider the following financial aspects in advance to determine if hiring morim shlichim is possible within a school’s budget.

Housing. We recommend securing housing in advance, whether a house or an apartment. Consider that a school likely will also need to furnish the house. 

Transportation. It is probable that morim shlichim who are new to the United States will need a local driver’s license. The school will also likely need to help find, and perhaps finance, a car in addition to car insurance. Schools should be prepared that acquiring a driver’s license and approval for financing a car takes time. It is important to plan how to support them in both the application process and in providing for transportation in the interim. 

Tuition assistance at other Jewish day schools. If morim shlichim have children that fall outside the range of your school, consider whether you have funds to provide tuition assistance for those children to attend other schools in your local area.

We found that a clear articulation in the hiring contract of the financial support a school will provide, and not provide, to morim shlichim will ensure a smooth interview and hiring process.





Selecting the right morim shlichim is foundational to their success in any Jewish day school. The hiring process should prioritize individuals with a strong educational background and a deep understanding and commitment to Jewish values that align with your school’s mission, philosophy and practice. 

To ensure a seamless fit, schools may consider incorporating multiple rounds of interviews, including those with current Israeli staff and administrators. At Hillel, we found it indispensable to connect potential candidates with some of our current Israeli teachers to provide the shlichim an opportunity to understand Hillel’s culture and the differences between teaching in Israel and the United States.


The First Few Weeks: The Details Matter

We found it critical to carefully plan the first few weeks to ensure that basic necessities are taken care of.  For example, a school should be prepared to:

  • Assign a staff member to meet the morim shlichim at the airport upon arrival and transport them to their house/apartment.
  • Stock the pantry and fridge in the house/apartment ahead of time or assist with grocery shopping.
  • Accompany the morim shlichim to the bank, Department of Motor Vehicles and other local government offices in the first few days.
  • Arrange for family or staff to provide a tour of the local area to highlight local businesses and attractions to help them get settled.
  • Arrange a host person or family to connect with the shlichim and assist in acclimation (host for Shabbat and holiday meals, and connect with them for weekend activities). The High Holidays come quickly at the beginning of the school year, and it is important that they have synagogue membership as well as holiday hospitality. 
  • Have an administrator connect with the shlichim to tour the school and settle in well in advance of the start of the school year.

From our experience, these details took more time than originally anticipated but were highly important to minimize the stress and impact of an international relocation. 



Once the school year begins, the successful integration of morim shlichim begins with a thoughtful transition plan. Students and parents in American Jewish day schools require a greater level of attention, communication and awareness of individual student needs than in Israeli schools. 

A day school must provide a comprehensive orientation and ongoing training that familiarize morim shlichim with the school’s mission, values and educational philosophy. If the morim shlichim are teaching Hebrew, training in best practices in second language acquisition is essential. It is also important to communicate discipline policies clearly. Lastly, detailed overviews of the local community, its Jewish institutions, and cultural nuances should be included to facilitate a smoother transition.

Pairing morim shlichim with mentors or veteran teachers can further ease their entry into the school community. These mentors can guide them through the school’s curriculum, policies and daily operations, fostering a sense of belonging and support.


Early Integration into the Community

Early integration into the local Jewish and Israeli communities is crucial for morim shlichim to feel connected and for students to benefit from their shlichut. Jewish day schools should actively engage morim shlichim in community events, Shabbat celebrations and other cultural activities. 

Plan to connect your new morim shlichim with other Israelis in your community right from the start—before they arrive in the United States. This not only helps them build relationships with students, parents and colleagues but also contributes to a vibrant Jewish atmosphere within the school. 

Establishing partnerships with local synagogues, community centers and other Jewish organizations can provide morim shlichim with additional opportunities to engage in the broader Jewish community. These partnerships can be mutually beneficial, fostering collaboration and support for shared educational goals.




Long-term Success

Although the first few months require the largest investment of time and resources when introducing a shaliach/shlichah into a day school, long-term success necessitates ongoing mentoring and support. It is critical that the shlichim have regular weekly meetings with both a mentor and supervisor to help them with acclimation to general school culture and specific day-to-day policies. 

There are cultural differences when dealing with colleagues, parents and students, and providing them with ample opportunities to ask questions and receive nonjudgmental support is key to their long-term success. During weekly meetings, it was helpful to continually review upcoming school and community events to set expectations. One critical area to support the shlichim is with communication with parents for parent-teacher conferences and report cards. 

In addition to supporting the shlichim in the daily school activities, it is equally as critical to use the weekly meetings to support the shlichim with the emotional challenges of adjusting to a new country and culture. The emotional toll of having family back in Israel in a post–October 7 world was almost too much for our shlichim to bear. Our entire school community rallied around our new shlichim immediately after October 7 with unconditional support and love. 

While we pray that such a tragedy never befalls Israel and the Jewish people again, our advice is to prepare for the unexpected. Weekly communication with the shlichim even during weeks when it may feel like there is less to discuss keeps these lines of communication open, strengthens the connection between the shlichim and community, and is vital to their success in the school. 

Finally, attention to the small details helps the shlichim feel appreciated and acknowledged as members of the community. Celebrating birthdays, sending flowers for Shabbat or having local clergy or other members of the community call to check in on them go a long way in helping the shlichim to feel at home in the community.  

Although the strategic deployment of morim shlichim in a Jewish day school requires a tremendous amount of work, never once did we question if it was all worth it. We could not be more thrilled with our two morim shlichim, who have quickly added a richness to our school’s classrooms and culture unlike any other approach. 

As embodiments and representatives of contemporary Israel, our morim shlichim play a pivotal part in fostering a personal connection between students and the Jewish State, thereby helping to actualize the value of Zionism. By following a comprehensive and thoughtful approach, morim shlichim will provide one solution to the teacher pipeline problem while simultaneously deepening our schools’ connection to Israel.

Building Resilient Classrooms: The Crucial Role of Social-Emotional Support for Educators

Michelle Halon
Jewish Educator Pipeline

Recognizing the vital role that support plays in fostering teacher wellbeing and professional development, educators are increasingly turning to teacher support groups as invaluable platforms for collaboration, mentorship and shared learning experiences. These support networks serve as sanctuaries where educators can exchange ideas, seek guidance and find solace in the camaraderie of like-minded peers. In this article, we delve into the significance of teacher support groups, exploring their benefits, structure and impact on individual growth and the broader educational community.

Teachers, the backbone of any education system, are facing increasing levels of stress, burnout and mental health challenges. It's time we recognize the pressing need for dedicated mental health support for educators. Now, more than ever, heightened by a post-Covid world, teachers are asked to stand in as parents, behavior therapists and emotional healers. 

Teachers frequently lack the emotional availability, training and support necessary to feel competent in caring for the social and emotional wellbeing of their pupils. This, on top of their already difficult job of educating a class of diverse learners, often brings them to the breaking point. While many schools integrate social-emotional learning into staff meetings and professional development days, creating an environment for trust and support between administrators and teachers is paramount to a positive school environment. 

We’ve come to understand that a large part of what kids need to learn in school does not fall under the 3 Rs, but rather social appropriateness, anxiety management and executive functioning. The spotlight on the needs of mental health roles in schools is expanding by leaps and bounds. In 2024, our jobs are incomplete in offering our kids the opportunities for emotional expression and not offering our staff the same.


Support for Teachers

Effective mental health support for teachers begins with creating a culture of wellbeing within schools, where educators feel supported, valued and empowered to prioritize their mental health. This can involve initiatives such as providing access to counseling services, promoting work-life balance, offering professional development on stress management and resilience, and fostering a sense of community and collaboration among staff members.

The Well Being In School Environment (WISE) program, launched in Washington, DC, provides mental health care to every adult in the school, concentrating recruitment efforts on teachers and administrators, rather than students. At school leadership meetings, clinicians are introduced and services are promoted. This helps address the two main barriers that prevent teachers from seeking therapy: the stigma associated with it and the uncertainty of what to anticipate. The obstacle of cost is also eliminated. School administrators cover the cost of a clinician’s services one day each week, believing that this preventive measure would save the expense of employee burnout and attrition. 


Teacher Support Groups

To this end and in recognition of the significant challenges facing educators today, both in and out of the classroom, our school launched a Teachers Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Support Group. This group aims to provide a safe, confidential space where educators come together to share experiences, discuss challenges and access resources to support their own social-emotional wellbeing. The group is intentionally not a professional development platform but rather an opportunity for faculty members to share. The group is moderated by a mental health professional who ensures the efficacy of the group’s purpose.

The group’s objectives are the following:

a) Provide a supportive community, where teachers can connect with peers facing similar challenges and share strategies for coping with stress, burnout and other social-emotional concerns.

b) Promote self-reflection and awareness, helping teachers identify and understand their own emotions, strengths and areas for growth.

c) Equip teachers with tools and strategies to build resilience and effectively manage stress, adversity and uncertainty both in their personal and professional lives.

d) Offer workshops, discussions and resources focused on developing social-emotional skills such as empathy, communication, conflict resolution and mindfulness, which can enhance both personal wellbeing and classroom dynamics.

This support group operates through biweekly in-person meetings scheduled at an allotted time available to all faculty. These meetings feature professionally facilitated discussions covering various topics pertinent to social-emotional wellbeing, including stress management, self-care practices, relationship building and cultivating a positive school culture. Additionally, the group periodically hosts guest speakers and workshops to provide expertise on relevant subjects. Resource sharing is encouraged among members to exchange articles, books, podcasts, apps and other tools related to social-emotional learning and teacher self-care. Confidentiality is emphasized to create a safe environment where participants can freely share their experiences and concerns without fear of judgment or fear of backlash from school administrators. 

Regular evaluations are conducted to assess the effectiveness of the support group in meeting the needs of participants and achieving its objectives. Feedback is solicited from group members through surveys, focus groups and informal discussions, and adjustments are made based on the feedback we receive. To date, teachers have reported feeling calmer when faced with difficult students. They report having acquired tools to manage their own anxiety and an increased frustration tolerance. 

Teacher support groups serve as invaluable tools within the educational community. Offering a sanctuary for educators to express feelings, share experiences and seek guidance fosters personal and professional growth. Teacher SEL groups create solidarity and camaraderie among teachers facing similar challenges. 

As we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of education, it is imperative to recognize the significance of these support networks in promoting teacher wellbeing and ultimately enhancing student success. Teacher support groups are not merely forums for discussion; they are lifelines that nurture the spirit of teaching and learning. By investing in the creation and sustenance of these communities, we invest in the wellbeing of educators, the success of students and the future of education as a whole. It is through unity, collaboration and support that we can truly transform our schools into vibrant centers of learning and inspiration.

Mapping Assets to Rethink Recruitment

Mindy Gold
Jewish Educator Pipeline

Did you always know you wanted to be a Jewish educator? I didn’t. I was working in a lab doing Parkinson’s research and studying to take the LSAT for my potential career in medical ethics when I found teaching. The university I was attending at the time recognized its biology majors’ love of science and flexible schedule. To capitalize on that energy and build capacity, the university placed biology majors as science lesson leaders in public school classrooms after providing a few introductory sessions and access to a closet full of supplies and lesson plans. 

The invitation to try the work of teaching without prior teaching experience led me to fall in love with it. I went on to get a master’s in teaching and a certificate in Jewish education, teaching in public elementary and then congregational schools. Now, I am a doctoral candidate in educational leadership and organizational development, leading professional development and supporting schools in strategic planning. None of this was part of my original plan, but all of this has become central to who I am as a Jewish educator. 

As a field, Jewish education needs to invite more people to fall in love with teaching, particularly those who do not initially see themselves as Jewish educators. I propose using a structured, research-based process called Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) to do just that.


What is Asset-Based Community Development?

ABCD approaches communal problem-solving from an asset-based rather than a deficit-based approach. In ABCD, school community members (administrators, teachers, parents, students, board members, local association members, business partners and funders) collaboratively map physical, geographical, social and relational assets. Then, together, the group thinks creatively about combining those assets in new ways to address challenges. Putting tangible and intangible resources that are already present in school communities to work in creatively new ways reduces reliance on external resources that may not be sustained from year to year (such as single-year grant funding). 

ABCD organizes community and school partnerships with clear steps that elevate collaboration while acknowledging the different roles, responsibilities and perspectives that exist in a school community. The prerequisites are being open to the ideas that many pathways could culminate in teaching at a Jewish day school and that those already invested in Jewish education can encourage more people to start the journey. 

For Jewish education recruitment, ABCD can be used to make visible the people, places and resources that haven’t yet been considered as sources for attracting potential Jewish educators. If you are a current education leader in charge of hiring or part of the hiring process, you are already making choices about candidates’ pedagogical and content skill levels. You also know that professional development and mentoring support teachers in gaining the skills they need to be better teachers. 

While we will always have to assess candidates’ teacher training and content knowledge levels, we also need more people to think about wanting to get that training and gain that knowledge. Applying ABCD to teacher recruitment can help school communities craft invitations so more people ask the question, “Is being a Jewish educator for me?” 

Tackling recruitment to Jewish education at the community level has precedence. Research tells us that despite national trends of teacher shortages, there are local nuances to what those shortages look like and how they impact schools. Local (community-based) factors often offset fieldwide barriers to choosing to be a Jewish educator. Rather than focusing on what we lack, ABCD shifts the focus to what a school community has to offer. What are a local community’s assets that might reduce barriers to deciding to teach in Jewish education? ABCD can help us identify and apply those assets to rethink how we invite new educators into the field.




Step 1: Gathering the Wider Community 

Open your arms wide to learn from a broad representation of the community outside the school walls but with a shared investment in the school’s goals and mission. Since education leaders often look for candidate skills that are not content-driven or purely pedagogical, consider the many people in your school community with skills and dispositions related to learning content and pedagogy. 

Gather teachers, students and parents. Invite local business owners, social workers, philanthropists. Appeal to neighbors, college professors and local librarians. Harness the skills and knowledge people have gained in non-K-12 or non-day school settings (e.g., prior careers in non-education fields, synagogue programming or online opportunities like Hadar, to name a few) as a way to invite the transfer of those skills and knowledge to teaching in Jewish education. What perspectives are missing from your current circle? Bring them in. 

This first step in ABCD activates individuals’ capacity to see themselves as crucial contributors with valued perspectives on who might have skills, interests or potential to contribute to Jewish education, including themselves. At this stage, leaders and those on the hiring team are acknowledging that many individuals have the potential to contribute to the school community and the field as educators; we just don’t know how yet.


Step 2: Mapping Assets 

With various roles and connections to the community present, begin mapping your assets in a series of five rounds. In each round, brainstorm (perhaps using 1-2-4-All or one of these strategies) what exists in your community as an asset. In Round 1, name the physical assets: What places, spaces and tangible resources does this community group have access to? Be specific and practical; instead of “school building,” think about the number of rooms and how many people they could each hold for volunteer training. 

For Round 2, consider individuals’ capacities: skills, abilities, talents, interests, passions and experiences held by the group you have brought together and people they know. Round 3 of brainstorming centers around associations and relationships: What local organizations, clubs or community groups exist in your community? Consider the relationships the people in the room have with each other and people outside the room. Remain in an asset-based mindset, including associations in and outside the Jewish education world and following the everything-goes rule of brainstorming. 

Round 4 invites brainstorming around local organizations and institutions present in the community that share a connection to the school: What organizations share similar goals for students and families? Which institutions support children and families? Where do people in the community go for resource support or job information? Finally, Round 5 focuses on economic assets: Where is money currently being spent? Where are existing resources being allocated?

Mapping assets collaboratively activates multiple ways of knowing. It provides space for making visible the increased power of combining our knowledge and understanding. As a community with diverse backgrounds, ideas, skills and perspectives, you are systematically documenting the potential you see in each other that individuals might not see in themselves. As a step towards thinking more broadly about inviting educators into the field, mapping community assets expands the potential people and places where education leaders and hiring committees might look to generate interest around the question, “Could I be a Jewish educator?”


Step 3: Applying Assets in New and Creative Ways 

In a large-scale version of mix and match, how might assets be combined in new ways to attract people into the field of education? This third ABCD step invokes creativity to create novel combinations of assets to invite more people to consider participating in Jewish education and choosing the field as a career. Resist categorizing across your brainstorm lists. Instead, select two or more assets that appear unrelated, then collaborate on how the combination might provide an opportunity to invite someone into the field or address school staffing shortages in innovative ways. 

ABCD is a way to think about how our immediate use of community assets and resources can help us build long-term sustainability. This is about more than filling a singular position. Instead, it is about accessing potential that could help us look at filling positions and growing the field differently from within our communities based on what we have, not what we lack. 

At this point, you may be asking for examples. And while I would like to provide examples, it is also hard to do so. ABCD’s outcomes are rooted in the community that embraces it and hold particularly local relevance. What you find in your community will likely be more surprising and practical than examples out of context. The beauty of a participatory community process parallels the anxiety of not exactly knowing what you will get but knowing that you will get there together.


Step 4: Taking Action 

Getting there together includes committing to the agency and the momentum the group gains from working together and putting identified assets into action. This means staying in a collaborative space as community energy plus organizational knowhow moves assets to actionable new ideas. The burdens of relying solely on a single education leader or small administrative team to address school challenges can be ameliorated by ABCD’s more distributed leadership approach. However, wanting to collaborate and knowing how to do that across school leadership and community roles are not the same. ABCD helps build shared leadership muscles by providing structure to school leaders’ and community members’ collaborative efforts, a known need.

ABCD (summarized in this quick guide) will not solve all our challenges in recruiting teachers to Jewish education (e.g., salary discrepancies or content knowledge). It doesn’t replace the need for ongoing professional development. However, ABCD can help us think differently about how we invite people to consider making Jewish education their first (or second or third) career. ABCD will work best in a community with a history of and current focus on communicating the value of multiple perspectives and collaboration in school success. Refinements and adaptations of ABCD to fit your specific school community are likely, expected even. 

Perhaps, as you read, some of these ideas weren’t entirely new. That is part of the point. ABCD is about seeing and raising up who and what we have in front of us that we might have overlooked or not considered as we help others see their potential in Jewish education. The ABCD process mobilizes our available resources to think beyond filling positions to building the field from the community level, where commitment to Jewish day school education is already strong. 

Who might be our next Jewish educators? They might be just around the corner, waiting for your invitation. 

The Much-Needed Judaics Teacher Already at Your School

Rachel Friedrichs
Jewish Educator Pipeline

Many Jewish day schools have excellent general studies teachers who are also engaged and interested members of their Jewish communities. These teachers have proven classroom teaching skills, are committed to the school’s mission and values, and understand the community and the students, but they may not yet have a strong enough Jewish content background to teach Jewish studies classes. What if these teachers could be intensively taught the content and Jewish text skills they need, paired with content-specific pedagogy, so that they could transition, in part or in full, to teaching Jewish studies at their schools? 

The new GS2JS (General Studies to Jewish Studies) program of the Pardes Center for Jewish Studies aims to achieve just this. Over roughly 18 months, the program, which is currently being piloted, will work intensively with general studies teachers who are already working in Jewish schools to provide them with the content knowledge, text skills, pedagogic techniques and resources they need to bring their talents effectively into the JS classroom. The program consists of:

  • Weekly 1-on-1 virtual content havruta-ing (with an experienced mentor and content expert) to prep the texts and topics the participant will likely be teaching at the school in the coming academic year.
  • Filling Jewish literacy gaps through independent literacy readings customized for each participant.
  • Content-specific pedagogy tutorials to help teachers gain specific skills, such as how to foster multiple interpretations of a pasuk, utilizing havruta study effectively and using bibliodrama. 
  • Participation in the three-week Pardes Summer Program (funding permitting), which includes immersion in the Pardes community, beit midrash text study, educational trips around Jerusalem and working in person with a mentor.
  • Virtual mentoring to get support in curriculum development, lesson planning and assessment design.

The program is structured flexibly to meet the content and scheduling needs of each participant, since much of the work takes place one-on-one. Learning begins in the winter of the academic year before the educator starts teaching Jewish studies, and work with a mentor continues through the summer after the first year of having transitioned to the JS classroom (roughly a year and a half in total). Paired with the Pardes Summer Program, the summer in between the start of the program and the move to teaching Jewish studies presents an opportunity to intensify work with the teacher’s mentor/havruta and focus on both deeper content study and Hebrew skills acquisition (if needed), at the participant’s chosen pace, as well as work to prep materials—unit outlines, lesson plans, assessments, classroom materials—for the upcoming school year. 



Of course, three-way communication between the mentor (program), the supervising administrator and the participant is crucial to the success of the participant’s transition to Jewish studies. Setting mutually agreed upon goals, identifying what content study to prioritize, understanding the school’s approach and vision for its Jewish study classes, and ongoing input and feedback from the administration are all important factors for maximizing the growth of the teacher through the GS2JS program. 

Finally, it is worth noting that schools would have the flexibility to determine the size of the JS teaching load the GS2JS participant takes on initially. Depending on the participant’s abilities, some might commit to a full JS load, while others may only take on the teaching of one or two JS classes during the program, while they continue to teach their regular content area. GS2JS can help them bridge the transition, which may take a few years.


Tailoring Professional Development to General Studies Teachers

Why is PCJE confident that we can turn a GS teacher into a JS teacher in 18 months? The idea emerged from our Mentor Matching program. We had worked successfully with several educators at three different day schools, whose administrators approached us because the teachers had decided to transition from teaching general studies to teaching Jewish studies and wanted our support. Our mentors designed a tailored content study curriculum for their mentees, focused on text skills, worked on building up their JS classroom teaching toolkit, introduced them to a variety of useful resources, guided them in setting suitable learning goals for their students and gave feedback on newly designed lesson plans. All of these seasoned teachers who transitioned to JS stayed in the JS classroom upon completion of their mentoring sessions. The GS2JS program enabled PCJE faculty to take the kinds of training they had used with budding Jewish studies teachers and channel their expertise to a slightly different population.

We’ve worked to integrate lessons learned from our initial work into the GS2JS program design and its components.

  • Discovering that the particular habits of mind that are most helpful when approaching the teaching of Jewish texts or topics—such as the value of questioning, the search for multiple interpretations, finding relevance in ancient texts—don’t necessarily come naturally to even seasoned classroom teachers and often need to be modeled and made explicit by mentors. But they can be learned.
  • Content-specific pedagogy is important to explore because not all of the techniques that work well in a social studies or English class will be as effective in a Chumash or Mishnah class. Mentors in the program need to integrate the “how this will be taught” conversations with the “what will be taught” learning. Especially because participants in this program are experienced, they are likely to default to familiar teaching strategies. Some of those habits may need to be broken.
  • When exploring online Jewish content resources with mentees, a focus on identifying hashkafic suitability is valuable, as it is not necessarily obvious to an educator less familiar with these sources. 
  • Administrative clarity, in advance, on what they want their teacher to achieve and focus on during their participation in the program will greatly increase the impact and preparedness of the participant to take on their first JS classes. 



To continue our learning and to gather additional useful information that might inform the design and improvement of the program, we reached out to over a dozen day school administrators in the field to get their thoughts and input on GS2JS. The reactions, unsurprisingly, were as diverse as the schools themselves. Some replied that they would be quite keen to have a GS teacher at their school participate and thought they had someone interested on their faculty. A head of JS in the Midwest thought this program would be a good way to invest in a teacher’s professional growth while maintaining their talent and experience at the school. 

Other administrators responded to our query by raising important issues and questions for consideration. A middle school administrator from New York noted that they simply do not have a suitable general studies teacher on staff who would be able or willing to take on JS teaching. Several other schools noted that their JS classes are taught Ivrit be-Ivrit, so this program almost certainly would not work for them. A K-8 school rabbi raised the issue of not having the budget to financially compensate a participating teacher, something he thought necessary to incentivize the amount of time and effort entailed. A vice-principal in Toronto wondered if it might be more effective to transition Hebrew teachers to the JS classroom, rather than general studies teachers. 


Considerations for Program Design


We recognize that the GS2JS program won’t work for everyone, and we have more to learn about how to make it most impactful for schools and practical for participants. We are also asking ourselves some important questions as we begin to expand the program during the next academic year.

  • Should we establish some kind of minimum Jewish text skill level or Jewish content background for participants before they start the program? Or should we rely entirely on the schools to determine the suitability of their teachers for this kind of professional switch?
  • How do we ensure that we are setting achievable goals for the participants within the parameters of the program? How do we account for the fact that what will be realistically attainable for one participant might not be for another?
  • What strategies can we and the school employ to minimize the chance of teacher burnout? How can we ensure participating in the program feels enriching rather than overly demanding? 
  • How, where and when will teachers continue their Torah learning after completing the program? Should alumni of the program be invited back to learn in the Pardes Summer Program? What are the other suitable learning opportunities that ought to be encouraged for program alumni?
  • Can PCJE raise the funds to provide stipends for the participants to recognize them for their time and tremendous efforts? How would financial compensation impact interest in GS2JS and the numbers who participate in the program?

We have more to learn as we continue to build and run the GS2JS program; we invite you to help us continue this conversation by addressing any of the issues or questions above or by raising new ones for consideration. If you are interested in sharing or participating, please be in touch with my colleague Reuven Margrett ([email protected]). 

We hope that this program will provide the schools for whom this program is suitable—and who are lucky enough to have a suitable and interested teacher on their GS faculty—with enough support, structure, legitimacy and confidence to help this GS2JS participant grow into a skilled and confident Jewish educator.

Professional Learning for Teacher Retention

David Farbman
David Welsher
David Abusch-Magder
Jewish Educator Pipeline

One of the most striking characteristics of our modern educational system, in both public and private school settings, is that even as we want all our students to take ownership of their own growth and to invest the time and energy necessary to acquire the skills and gain the knowledge that will enable them to succeed, adults responsible for instilling these values too often do not hold the same expectations of themselves. Professional learning, or its somewhat analogous term, “professional development,” is treated as oddly separate from the essence of the teaching and learning cycle—an add-on, rather than the engine that drives student learning. Teachers tend to operate as technicians performing a set of tasks, rather than as exemplars setting a standard for their students on what it means to be a lifelong learner.

An unfortunate, and unsurprising, result of this tendency is that teachers’ psychological investment in both their careers and their workplace is more limited if they do not hold the self-perception (and the external encouragement) to take their own growth seriously. If educators are not oriented toward striving for improvement, and setting and achieving goals to do better for their students and themselves, then they are likely to have lower motivation to continue in their work or to be satisfied with their work environment. CASJE, in its landmark study of Jewish educators, found a meaningful correlation between participating in professional learning activities and teachers’ emotional attachment to their jobs and, perhaps even more importantly, their sense of self-efficacy.

Therefore, in this era when day schools are struggling to find and keep teachers in their classrooms, one of the essential means to address this challenge is for school leaders to simultaneously encourage and empower teachers to achieve their own professional growth while holding them accountable to do so. Simply put, we must make a concerted effort to nurture teachers’ motivation to improve their practice. In so doing, we demonstrate in the clearest possible terms that we value them for their power to shape the next generation of Jews.

So what does such effort entail? We offer below five distinct ways schools can transform the frequently isolated activities known as “professional development” into a permeating and productive culture of professional learning. We articulate these lessons learned from two different perspectives: first, as leaders of a day school (480 students, infant-Grade 8) that takes our faculty’s professional growth seriously and have, in turn, experienced low staff turnover year to year; and, second, from the perch of a national organization that documents where professional learning has blossomed and tracks the potential impact of such learning on both educational efficacy and on teacher retention. 

We have collaborated here to emphasize that building a robust culture of professional learning requires a commitment to fostering relationships between and among teachers and school leaders, to implementing practical strategies and deploying resources effectively and, vitally, to describing how the system that works for one school holds the potential to bolster the kinds of professional learning we aim for in day schools everywhere. We note, too, that even as the five items are presented separately, they should really take root as an integrated whole and work in concert with one another for maximal impact.


Formalized Expectations for Performance

At the beginning of each year, the Epstein School of Atlanta sets forth principles of professionalism for each of our teachers to uphold. These “essential expectations,” as we call them, include, among other things, being supportive of students and colleagues, executing effective instruction, and “engaging in ongoing self-reflection and ongoing personal professional development.” Twice each year, the division principal meets with each faculty member to review their performance in these essential expectations. In cases where a teacher is performing below the standard expectation, we work with them to support their continued growth, always preferring to support improvement rather than to have to let go of a staff member for being ineffective.

Beyond the obvious impact of these standards acting to ensure the quality of our teaching staff, their effect on the faculty is powerful, for these essential expectations send the message that each colleague they work with is similarly “up to snuff” on a range of basic elements of our school. Within the context of professional learning, the system of accountability means that each and every teacher is invested in their own growth. Building a strong professional learning culture must rest upon this foundational belief that every teacher has committed to the same aspiration of continuous self-improvement.


Support for Individual Pursuits

As part of the protocol for assessing how teachers are meeting the essential expectation of professional growth, we strongly encourage each member of our faculty to request a professional development activity or opportunity that they would like to take advantage of in the coming year. And our school will pay for it. 

Such requests range from attending a conference or training to bringing in an expert to speak to a subset of faculty (science of reading for primary teachers, how to have difficult conversations) to visiting another school to observe a particular practice in action. We try very hard to say “yes” to all requests, believing that if a teacher has a passion to explore, we, as their employer, should honor and encourage that enthusiasm so that they then bring that passion for their learning to their classrooms.

And these individual passions take expression not just in general excitement for teaching, but in specific curricular offerings that we provide our students. For example, one of our teachers has become a master at childhood yoga and holds sessions for her students. Another faculty member has become adept at computer coding and will begin to offer a course in artificial intelligence.


Leveraging Internal Expertise

The quid pro quo dimension to our agreement to pay for teachers’ individualized professional development is the understanding that they will convey what they have learned back to peers. That is, each teacher’s new (or continued) expertise should not be isolated, but shared more broadly. The precise means of this knowledge sharing entails presenting during a whole-faculty meeting, and all teachers are required to sign up for the presentations that interest them.

As each teacher takes on the responsibility for sharing their learning, the twofold impact is clear. First, that we expect teachers to take on the role as internal experts in a particular area conveys the value that we place upon their personal learning. They are not going to a conference or visiting another school for fun, but rather gaining a set of insights and information that are essential to the work of the entire school. Second, by insisting on sharing what they have learned, we emphasize the need for each teacher to think of themselves as a member of a vibrant learning community, where each individual member depends on their colleagues to achieve their own best practice. This models our school’s value of lilmod ulelamed, that every member of our community, students and adults alike, are learners and teachers.


Fostering Teacher Collaboration

Encouraging teachers to learn from one another in more formal settings sets a standard of mutual responsibility for each other’s skill development, but a more significant vehicle through which to reinforce this principle is during teacher collaboration sessions. At Epstein, we have developed our schedule in alignment with our expressed values by ensuring that each classroom teacher has roughly two hours per day for planning; of these times, at least one hour per week is reserved for collaborative discussions of specific students and another hour for exploration of curricular matters. Often, teacher teams will meet more than the required minimum.

The structure of our schedule sets up a virtuous cycle where teachers have the opportunity to collaborate, do so effectively and continue to use their time together to bolster student learning.


Prioritizing Resources

We recognize the rarity within the day school world of our teacher schedule, with its two hours per week of common planning, as part of nearly 10 hours per week for planning time. And we also readily acknowledge that such a schedule—not to mention our investment in teachers’ own personal professional development pursuits and our many schoolwide staff learning sessions—is not cheap. Annually, we dedicate approximately $150,000 directly to professional development, roughly 5% to 7.5% of our budget, excluding compensation. 

In addition to this specific line item, our staff may be a bit larger than a school of a similar size because we break students into smaller learning groups at various times throughout the day, all of which are facilitated by a certified instructor. (For Grades 1 to 8, we have leveled Hebrew and math groups, and for Grades 1 through 4, leveled reading groups as well.) Additionally, we also regularly assign substitute teachers to classrooms in order to provide coverage for teachers who are engaged in professional development activities off (or sometimes on) campus.

For Epstein, the heavy investment of dollars and staff time in developing and sustaining our intentionally built culture of professional learning more than pays off. The dividends appear in our low turnover rate, and in the high morale of our professional community, all of which, in the end, have a positive impact on student learning, school culture, finances and operations. Simply put, our demonstrated and deep commitment to valuing teachers for their work stands as a powerful antidote to the staffing challenges that so many other day schools encounter. 


The Power of Example

These structural and operational matters aside, we are eager to spread the underlying message and the strategies of how we built and sustain our professional learning culture because of the impact we see on our students. In their teachers, our young learners see role models for how they should dedicate themselves to personal advancement. If our day school community is really serious about producing the next generation of Jews who are continually striving to improve and grow, we, as educators, must take responsibility for this same striving ourselves.


The authors are grateful to the educational leadership team at The Epstein School for their essential contributions to this article and to shaping the school’s professional development system, including Susanna Ames, Idit Ben David, Aaron Griffin, Emily Heflin and Stephanie Wachtel.

Building the Jewish Educators of Tomorrow

Benjamin Ezzes
Jewish Educator Pipeline

There is no problem more taxing than staffing. Schools expend great resources to try to retain talented teachers. With a growth-oriented approach, many schools turn to their recent graduates who exhibit the potential to be educators, tapping them on the shoulder to offer monetary support in tertiary studies, refunded to the school in x years of service upon completion. 

It is the kind of succession planning in which communal professionals often find success. Why doesn’t it work for education? 

Sadly, communal attitudes dissuade students from becoming Jewish educators. Though schools need quality educators and parents appreciate quality educators, those same parents don’t want their children to become teachers. Every stale joke told about lack of parental pride in presidents and rabbis is even truer of teachers in the Jewish public consciousness: “What sort of career is that for a nice Jewish boy or girl?” 

Though our texts are full of praise for teachers, our communities are awash with complaints: It is not well paid; it does not advance; it takes up time and is a good fallback option. Unfortunately, we teachers do this to ourselves—every time we complain publicly about the workload, pay and disruptive children/parents without also describing the joy and meaning of educating the next generation. Finally, even as teacher retention rates fall, many graduates feel a lack of care from the community. Even if they brave the profession, what support can they expect upon stumbling?


Creating JET-Setters

It is in these challenging conditions that we sought a solution, guided by the words of Rav Kook: “Great are we and great are our sins—therefore great are our troubles, and great are our consolations.” If we wish to solve profound issues, we must unlock profound solutions.

We must engage students earlier, and better.


In 2022, Hannah (all names are changed) came to my desk at lunchtime and said she wanted to be a teacher. Jessica came with her; she was also interested but unsure. Both were at the beginning of their final year of school, excellent students with a passion for Yiddishkeit. I chatted through some options with the students, before deciding on a two-stage program: some reflective classroom observations, and a bespoke Open Day at the University of Sydney (which offers the only local Jewish teaching program). 

Of course, it wouldn’t just be for them; I also gauged interest among the rest of the Year 12 cohort. In the meantime, I contacted teachers at other Jewish day schools to see if they had any students interested in teaching. We thought we might get a cohort of three students together, if we were lucky.

Fourteen students registered. We hadn’t realized that by asking who was interested, instead of tapping shoulders, engagement could be far higher. 

Each of us at our respective schools met with our cohort of potential teachers and assessed their suitability by inquiring things like “What excites you about education?” and “What subjects are you interested in teaching?” For all these students, we ran our program as planned, with each student completing three observations across the school and reflecting on them with provided prompts. We called it Jewish Educators of Tomorrow (JET).

Two months later, we held the Open Day. Planned meticulously in collaboration with Michael Abrahams-Sprod from the Jewish Education Program in the discipline of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies at the University of Sydney, we were joined by staff and students from two Jewish day schools for a tour of campus, presentation by education academics, demonstration tutorial and kosher lunch with Jewish university students. It wasn’t just the participants who found it exciting; the academics were happy to see the next generation on campus, and Jewish campus organizations were thrilled to engage potential members.

Afterwards, we thought carefully about what had made the first iteration a success and arrived at the following principles. These continue to be guiding principles for ongoing iterations, including this year.

We did it together. No truly successful effort to solve a community-wide issue can be met alone; the success of the program lay in the collaboration between stakeholders. Furthermore, it wasn’t the effort of a single school. From the beginning, every Jewish day school was offered the opportunity and lent their support.  

We changed the narrative around education. Instead of teaching being “drudgery” or a “fallback option,” it was spotlighted in an exciting and prestigious program. That is not to say we were wholly successful—I fielded two calls from concerned parents (“Why are you trying to get my child to be a teacher?”)—but slowly, we opened students up to the possibility of becoming educators. We spoke openly about the human impact of our work and the joy of seeing students thrive, and the students responded.

We did it efficiently and cheaply. For all the experiences offered, the cost to participants was nil. My school paid for a bus to transport the students. The lunch was sponsored by Mandelbaum House, a Jewish residential college on campus.


We listened to the students. We consistently communicated with the students to understand and cater to their interests and concerns. They were always free to opt out; the aim was simply to empower them in their interest. Too often, prior approaches envisioned who students might be in five or ten years without considering who they were in the present: passionate, open and full of questions.


Following Through

From the beginning, JET was about creating a supportive framework for students entering education. As we concluded each Open Day, we told students that the community was there to support them, but we didn’t have much to offer by way of an ongoing program (beyond what individual schools might make). We worked hard to create a program that could support those inspired by JET to pursue education financially and offer them support and mentorship to ensure their success in a long career. 

At the end of 2023, the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies, which coordinates the program’s strategic direction and oversight, applied for funding to Sydney’s Jewish Communal Appeal (JCA), a funder and fundraiser in the Jewish communities of NSW and ACT (Australian Capital Territory). Trustees of one of JCA’s endowment funds agreed to support a JET fellowship program, and the JCA Joy Balkind Teaching Fellowships were born. 

This program offers up to seven full scholarships to the next generation of Jewish educators across the community. Fellows are paired with Jewish expert practitioners as mentors, have four seminars of professional development annually and work closely with a partnered Jewish day school as they complete their qualifications: team teaching, observing classes and contributing to communal life.



Did It Work?

There have been several lessons along the way. As much as early engagement is key, offering opportunities like JET prior to students’ final year of schooling does not yield consistent results. Before Hannah and Jessica came to my desk, I had tried to engage Year 10 work experience students in similar opportunities with very limited success. It is when students are nearing the end of their schooling, and considering their next steps, that education should be offered as a path. 

While it is too early to gauge the long-term impact, the numbers so far speak for themselves. Sydney has 45,000 Jews and four Jewish day schools, with half of Jewish students currently attending them. In 2024, eighteen Year 12 students signed up (with their lesson observations already complete), diverse in their interest areas and religious streams. In total, 23 students have completed JET since 2021, with eight having since commenced education degrees. One-third of applicants to the Fellowship are former JET students, while two of these have secured other scholarships in the meantime. Although most participants do not pursue education, four motivated and inspired educators per year is enough to satisfy communal demand, while those opting for another path exit with a positive view of education, contributing further to a shift in the communal conversation. 

Our greatest lesson learned has been mirrored in the aspirations of the Fellowship: not to be individuals, but a cohort. The only major change from the original Year 12 JET experience has been the addition of an online seminar, bringing Jewish students from across the community together to share what makes them interested in Jewish education before the Open Day. Likewise, we hope the fellows will support each other, as the community should, through the difficult moments in teaching they will inevitably encounter—and overcome. 

In the GEN17 Australian Jewish Community Survey, the largest Jewish community survey ever completed in Australia, Sydney respondents named the key advantage of Jewish schooling to be “provid[ing] a sense of belonging to the Jewish community.” As much as JET is the story of Hannah and Jessica asking for help deciding their path, it is also the story of many hands working together to build a better future—one with more resilient and collaborative educators, empowered by a supportive and caring community.

High-Quality Professional Development Can Help Solve the Teacher Shortage

Nina Bruder
Jewish Educator Pipeline

While an educator shortage in Jewish day schools has been a topic of conversation for well over a decade, it has reached true crisis levels: Both new and seasoned teachers are leaving in droves and not being replaced by incoming talent, as people choose to enter other professions that offer more flexibility, less stress and higher pay. It is safe to say that recruiting, supporting and retaining excellent teachers are truly among the most urgent challenges facing Jewish day schools today. 

I was honored to participate in the Jewish Day School Educators Pipeline Working Group from March to October 2023. This initiative, sponsored by Prizmah and the Jewish Education Innovation Challenge, was designed to take action and channel innovative ideas to address the shortage of Jewish day school educators. The Working Group drew on expertise from individuals across the entirety of the Jewish education field: day school educators and leaders; academics; informal Jewish educators; those in Jewish educationadjacent fields; representatives from central Jewish agencies; and organizations such as Jewish New Teacher Project (JNTP) of New Teacher Center that support the career development of Jewish day school educators. 

Through my role as executive director of JNTP, I support beginning teachers and novice administrators, helping them get better faster so that they are more skilled, effective and confident, ultimately creating optimal learning environments grounded in instructional excellence. In order to cross-pollinate expertise across the various focus areas of the working groups, known as pillars, I was assigned to a pillar that focused on “Creating Working Environments for Success.” The group included Dr. Dan Glass, head of The Brandeis School in San Francisco; Lisa Klein, managing director, Jewish education, from the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston; Rebecca Rohr Ritter, head of teaching and learning at New York’s Shefa School; Rachel Levitt Klein Dratch, former director of education innovation at Prizmah; and me. Our goal was to identify barriers to successful working environments for educators and suggest solutions that would ultimately improve the educator pipeline. 

What we concluded as a group as the key to creating successful working environments for teachers is what JNTP has known all along: Ongoing learning and opportunities for professional growth over time, in the context of consistent support in a positive work environment, leads to teacher success and satisfaction, which in turn leads to teacher retention. 


Teacher Pipeline Crisis: The Challenges

As a partner of more than 300 Jewish day schools across North America over the past 20 years, JNTP has had a front seat to the unfolding pipeline crisis. Based on this experience, and supported by research, we believe that a leading indicator for retention is a teacher’s self-efficacy—the confidence that they are effective in the classroom. A recent article from JNTP’s parent organization, the New Teacher Center, explains that evidence suggests that poor self-efficacy is linked to higher teacher burnout and stress, which in turn leads to a higher rate of leaving the profession. The goal, then, is to help teachers have early success and gain confidence in their abilities, so that they have greater job satisfaction and evidence a stronger commitment to staying in the profession long term.



Here are some of the factors that lead to poor self-efficacy and burnout.

Insufficient training and preparation. There is nothing that can adequately prepare new teachers to run their own classrooms until they are actually running their own classrooms. Those who have an education degree and/or attend a one- to two-year teacher prep course certainly have a strong advantage over teachers who don’t have specific education training. However, many Jewish day schools don’t require education degrees for their teachers.

Many new teachers have never taught a group of students before they step into their own classroom. And even those who have an education degree may not have had sufficient or quality student teaching experience. Moreover, out of desperation in the wake of Covid, schools have hired individuals with no prior teaching experience or education credentials who are looking to change careers. 

All of these new teachers may well become wonderful teachers down the road, but only on-the-job experience will give them the skills they need to be effective. Teaching can be overwhelming, especially for those who are not adequately supported, which is why nearly 45% of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years. 

Feelings of isolation/lack of support. In many ways, teaching is an isolating job. This may sound paradoxical since teachers are surrounded by people all day long. However, with some exceptions for those in co-teaching arrangements, most teachers spend the day professionally alone. They plan lessons, grade papers and manage their classrooms without input from or collaboration with peers. 

This can feel very isolating. Administrators aim to offer support, especially to new teachers adjusting to their roles, but they themselves are often overwhelmed and don’t offer as much support as a new teacher requires. 

Lack of opportunities for growth. Some teachers want to become administrators, and they work on gaining the experience and necessary skills to follow that track. Nevertheless, most choose to remain in the classroom throughout their careers. 

Over time, teachers can feel that they aren’t growing professionally. Few opportunities exist for classroom teachers to grow their skills and/or gain new responsibilities while staying in the classroom. 

Lack of morale. The teaching profession has lost status in our communities and beyond. There is a marked lack of respect for teachers and administrators, from parents and students alike. According to Dirck Roosevelt, director of doctoral specialization in teacher education at Columbia Universitys Teachers College, “There is definitely a crisis of morale and confidence. The belief that one can do good work and do good for young people and have a rewarding, satisfying career in teaching has gone down the tubes.” 


How Effective Professional Development can Impact Recruitment and Retention

The good news is that there are ways to address many of these challenges. It comes down to schools providing high-quality, effective, long-term, job-embedded professional development. This is not a “one-and-done” quick fix workshop. Real change with demonstrable results only comes with deep and sustained professional learning. Relative to the cost of teacher turnover, the potential impact of high-quality professional development on individual schools and on the field of Jewish day school education as a whole can be monumental. 

Here are some of the ways we at JNTP have seen professional development address the challenges listed above and why our Prizmah Working Group pillar came to the conclusion that effective professional development can be part of a solution to the educator crisis.


On-the-job training makes new teachers better, faster. We’ve seen that for teachers, growth accelerates when a mentor visits their classroom and provides one-on-one feedback on an iterative basis. New teachers learn what works and what doesn’t work quickly through this collaborative process with their mentor. When teachers feel supported and effective, when they are able to successfully weather the transition into their new roles, they stay in the profession longer.

Mentoring and cohorts provide reliable, consistent support. For new teachers in particular—though it is certainly valuable and important for all teachers—having a mentor who observes their class and meets with them regularly means they are receiving constant, targeted, customized support. They never feel left to “sink or swim.” They no longer feel alone as classroom teachers, learning their craft in isolation. In the case of JNTP, veteran teachers who train as mentors are part of cohorts that meet regularly to learn together and share experiences, providing opportunities for collaboration and support even for experienced teachers, which sustains satisfaction over the course of a career.

Clear role definition and standards of professionalism create cultures of excellence. Quality of teaching and leadership improves when educators are driven by and held accountable to clear role expectations and a defined set of standards that promote excellence. When faculty across a school share the same language and standards, it creates a culture of excellence, which then leads to improvements in student achievement, respect for teachers and administrators, and educator morale.

Mentoring creates opportunities for professional growth. At JNTP, we have observed that veteran teachers who become mentors find that their own teaching skills improve as they mentor beginning teachers. They, too, adopt professional standards of practice and learn to evaluate their own performance against those standards. Furthermore, mentoring provides an opportunity to take on leadership roles within the school that are outside of administration, whether as a mentor and role model for other faculty or leading professional learning for their colleagues.

Specifically, here is how a positive work environment that provides high quality professional development can address the Jewish day school educator shortage crisis.

Recruiting. We have seen that having a strong professional development program in a school is a recruiting tool. Administrators frequently report that potential hires ask about the availability of mentoring during their interviews. At the field level, creating cultures of excellence in Jewish day schools will increase respect for the profession and create role models to inspire students to want to become educators when they grow up.

Building a Stronger Teacher Pipeline

Retention. By helping new teachers become better, faster, and feeling successful, professional development and intensive mentoring increases the likelihood of those teachers remaining in the field longer. By providing veteran teachers with opportunities for continued growth in skills and ways to take on teacher leadership roles, schools can hold onto their most seasoned educators longer. 

Leadership Pipeline from Within. When schools support and invest in their own faculty’s development, they grow their future leaders from within.

While this is not the only fix to the Jewish day school educator shortage crisis, we at JNTP and we in the Prizmah Working Group believe that if schools, communities and the field as a whole provide a supportive work environment and invest resources in ongoing, job-embedded, observation- and standards-based professional development for our teachers so that they feel more successful and experience greater job satisfaction, we can begin to move the needle in the right direction.

Widening the Pipeline: The Residency Model

Alan Berkowitz
Jewish Educator Pipeline

In the mid-afternoon of just about any school day, a group of students gathers in the Yeshivah of Flatbush Middle School conference room. Depending on the day, they will either engage with their teacher in person or on Zoom. 


Although this instructional model is not unique in post-pandemic education, the students in the class are far from typical. They are all adults with college degrees and are starting their careers in Jewish education as residents in the first cohort of the Yeshivah of Flatbush Teacher Residency and In-service Program (YOF TRiP). They each have teaching assignments that would be expected for novice teachers, but the support, mentoring, graduate-level courses and professional development they receive are extraordinary. Through YOF TRiP, these novice teachers are moving expeditiously along the track to professional excellence.


The Need for TRiP

The concept underlying YOF TRiP is based on the residency experience in medicine. Having earned their MD degrees, doctors know a great deal about the human body and medicine, but there’s a reason many people avoid elective surgeries or procedures in July, the month in which new MDs enter hospitals and start to practice medicine. Indeed, in this context, “practice” is a well-chosen word, as it is through the experience of residency that the knowledgeable but inexperienced doctors gain skill and expertise in their chosen specialties. Although this model of guided learning could be applied in many fields, formal programs were primarily restricted to medicine until the recent launch of teacher residencies, including YOF TRiP.

We view YOF TRiP as more than a program designed to develop and refine skills for novice teachers. As we hoped in our initial planning stages, the multifaceted program attracts people entering the workforce to the field of education. We are keenly aware of the shortage of teachers and the need to encourage more college graduates to consider careers in education. The offer of support through mentoring and cohort work along with the opportunity to earn a fully subsidized master’s degree has attracted more candidates than we anticipated. 

Making education an obtainable career and providing financial support has led qualified and capable candidates who were considering other options to apply to the program. Furthermore, the connections established through the cohort work contribute to a sense of camaraderie, which is a significant factor in novice teachers’ decisions regarding staying in the field. In short, YOF TRiP takes on the challenges of attracting potential teachers, facilitating and accelerating their professional development, and keeping them in the profession.


What TRiP Offers

Launched this past September, YOF TRiP has several essential components. Having completed BA degrees, the residents all meet the criteria used by most schools in hiring novice teachers. However, in a departure from typical practice, and in a manner consistent with medical residency, the three-year program offers novice teachers already working in their field the opportunity to develop skills and expertise. In addition to working with one-to-one mentors, the residents’ daily cohort meeting for their graduate-level courses provides the opportunity for them to benefit from each other’s learning experiences in real time. The courses are offered through Touro College, where these students are enrolled in the two-year dual master’s program in Jewish childhood education and special education. 

Participants thus receive an attractive package that helps launch their careers: 

  • full-time employment
  • competitive salaries and benefits
  • mentoring
  • a cohort of colleagues at the same stage in their careers
  • a dual master’s degree in education

Residents serve as associate teachers in either elementary or middle school classes, working beside veteran teachers. They gain hands-on classroom experience before shouldering complete responsibility for lesson planning and student learning. They also participate in departmental meetings, interact with colleagues, and observe teacher-parent interaction and communication. The program guides residents through the full range of typical professional responsibilities, actions and interactions before they are solely responsible for these practices in their own classes.


What Happened

With approximately 30 applicants, almost all of whom were qualified, we offered residency to 10, and six accepted. The group met for the first time at their orientation program at the end of August. The residents were also included in all faculty orientation, professional development and training programs. Although it was challenging in the context of a large middle school, we were able to arrange their teaching schedules so that they all had an open block of time midday, enabling them to take their coursework during the school day. 


Their presence in the building throughout the day enabled the residents to interact and learn from veteran colleagues, meet and work with mentors, and check in with each other regularly. In group and individual conversations, residents have shared the feeling that the program design has facilitated their development as teachers and spoken specifically about the cohort experience as well as the opportunity to apply and experiment with their daily learning in their classrooms almost immediately.

With no doubt about the success of our residency program, we are set to recruit and interview candidates for the second cohort. However, we also recognize that we need to learn from some challenges and mistakes. Some of our residents were not prepared to start the school year with full teaching responsibilities. Our recruiting and rollout timing didn’t allow us to start the program in July. We had hoped to include a few weeks of cohort work in Israel in the program, and that didn’t happen.


Learning from Experience

As we reflected with the members of our first cohort on their experience thus far, planning for year two and the second cohort, we learned some important lessons. 

The initially intended model was for residents to serve as associate teachers, but that was not the reality for the first cohort. Some of the program participants originally came to us as applicants for teaching positions; while we felt they were qualified, we also saw the benefit of having them, as novice teachers, participate in the TRiP program. Others who applied specifically for the residency and would have been happy to serve as associates, took on fuller teaching responsibilities when no suitable candidates for some middle school positions were found. 

For the most part, this has worked out nicely. Consequently, we now recognize that a variation of the planned model can be beneficial for the residents’ development. Based on observation and reflection, we are considering having future residents serve as half-day associate teachers while lead teaching one additional middle school class each day. 

We like this adapted model because feedback from our current residents indicates that it is invaluable to them to have the ability to apply what they are learning in their master’s coursework. Lead teaching, which was this year’s residents’ main experience, gives them much more autonomy in applying their learning in the classroom. This on-the-job experience enables them to discuss with their professors and the entire cohort where they are succeeding and what they still need to work on. 

Simultaneously, placement in a class led by a veteran teacher exposes residents to best practices and the opportunity to benefit from collegial feedback. This model provides them with hands-on classroom experience and the opportunity to work through a school year without all the responsibilities of a lead teacher. Depending on the classroom and the primary teacher’s own experiences, it may be necessary to provide them with training in co-teaching and mentoring.

Our initial plan was to start cohort meetings and coursework in July, but logistical challenges prevented this. We are convinced that the plan was sound, and it is important for us to overcome the logistical challenges for future cohorts. As we now plan for our second cohort, we are hopeful that we will have time for summer work. However, we recognize that in the future, our cycle will have to start much earlier so that we can recruit residents before they commit to family plans or other summer employment.


The Israel TRiP Trip

We believe that inspiration and deep commitment to Jewish education can and must be taught as part of teacher training for Jewish day schools. In our original vision for TRiP, we anticipated the entire cohort spending part of the summer in Israel. Learning specifically in Israel is crucial because: 

  • It will immerse the residents in an environment that is religiously inspiring and consistent with our yeshiva’s Zionist mission. 
  • It will acquaint participants with committed Jewish education leaders who can serve as inspirational role models. 

Our plan was also that, while in Israel, the residents would take one or two courses as part of their master’s program. However, at this time, for practical reasons unrelated to the war, we will not be traveling to Israel for the summer. We hope to implement the Israel plan during the summer of 2025.


Join the Journey



Despite the challenges, we deeply believe in this program and would love to see other schools adopt it. Toward that end, we’re available to help. We have discussed possibly creating future cohorts whose members are placed in various schools. This would likely necessitate making more or all graduate-level courses virtual, and we can’t predict the impact that would have on the bonding and sharing of experience within the cohort. Several in-person meetings throughout the year would be helpful. Also, although the cost of the residency program is not prohibitive (someone compared it favorably to the expenditure involved in bringing in teacher emissaries from Israel), it is worthwhile to explore external funding. Perhaps the idea of several schools working together will increase funder interest. 

We are convinced that residency programs provide necessary support for teachers entering the field and increase the likelihood that they will stick with education as a career. For those who seek to build the pipeline for a strong future for Jewish education, residency programs are surely part of the solution.

From Burnt out to Lit up: How Project Innovate Is Changing the Narrative

Danny Baigel
Jewish Educator Pipeline

Recruitment and retention continue to be a significant stumbling block to strengthening Jewish education. At the London School of Jewish Studies (LSJS), we spend a lot of time advocating for the vital role teachers play in our community. Aside from the need for new teachers, the community also needs existing teachers to be valued and provided with the time and incentives to maintain their passion. Below is a description of a program we run, Project Innovate, that aims to accomplish just that. 


Changing the Narrative

After about seven years on the job, many teachers hit a professional plateau. Their initial idealism for the work starts to wane; they may feel overstretched, a lack of opportunities for growth, exhausted by the demands of students, parents, administrators. Some start looking for new lines of work; others dig in to their roles for the long haul but with a “curbed enthusiasm.”

At LSJS, we aspire to change the narrative. A career in Judaic studies teaching needs to move away from the unfair portrayal of uninspired and stressed professionals, toward something that the idealistic graduates and role models that we desperately need would be excited to participate in.

Project Innovate, a cohort learning program that launched in September, aims to address some of these challenges. We provide a forum for existing teachers to collaborate with one another and invite them on a learning journey, with a shared quest for greater impact in our schools. Thanks to our partnership with UnitEd, we offer a small stipend toward this commitment, together with financial support for an impactful project at the end of the program. 

However, this is a professional development program with a twist. Unlike other professional development opportunities, the sessions do not always conclude with obvious practical strategies to support classroom teaching or leadership. We don’t advertise that “by the end of the course, you will be able to xxx” (fill in the required teaching skill). Instead, the project promises to provide what we believe our teachers need the most, namely, time to think.


Project Innovate Cohort 2023-2024

The theme of the project this year explores a shared challenge: How do we develop a meaningful relationship with God in our classrooms? On this learning journey, we intend to provide a safe space for our teachers to grapple with this question and in turn develop their own thinking. The hope is that each of the monthly sessions would leave our teachers inspired, challenged and valued. 



As the project began, it was clear how integral each of the participants were to the learning journey. Each teacher brought their own “flavor,” teaching philosophy and experience to discussions. During the opening session with Rabbi Dr. Raphael Zarum, dean of LSJS, one teacher reflected that “times are changing in a very big way, and the students today are completely different to the students from when I first started teaching. I am excited to spend this year gaining knowledge on areas that I haven’t given enough time to, thinking about pedagogy and how we can best inspire our students and future generations of our community.” This statement summed up the common theme, that teachers want the chance to grow and think. 

Thanks to our partnership with Koren Publishers, we provide our cohort with inspiring presentations that challenge their current teaching practice, showcase innovation and prompt them to recalibrate their goals. Alongside the guidance and expertise from Rabbi Dr. Daniel Rose at Koren, a leading innovator and educator, the initiative aspires to leave teachers refreshed and invigorated, despite the late hour and extra time required to attend.


Mixing Things up 

Project Innovate presents teachers with sessions on various topics from a diverse set of experts. Each monthly seminar has a different focus and more importantly, a different style of delivery. Dr. Helena Miller, director of teacher training and degrees at LSJS, emphasized the value of being a reflective practitioner, providing an academic structure to help teachers really listen to students. Rabbi Dr. Jay Goldmintz, author of the Koren Ani Tefillah siddurim, shared inspiring research on the importance of mapping spiritual growth alongside a fuller understanding of the journey through adolescence. Tania Schweig, head of school at Oakland Hebrew Day School, modeled her philosophy on spiritual conversations as a vehicle to reaching the inner self. 

Rabbi David Fohrman, founder and lead scholar at Aleph Beta, had the cohort transfixed to his teaching philosophy showing through the text from the Joseph story, helping to reframe how God continues to communicate in a post-prophetic age. Rabbi Samuel Lebens, an associate professor in the philosophy department at the University of Haifa, recalibrated the concept of emunah, drawing upon a range of teachings from the world of academic philosophy and Jewish thought. These veteran teachers were enriched by experimenting with a diverse range of pedagogic and academic approaches. The program assumes that inspired teachers will inspire those around them.


Implementing Change

The cohort of teachers have been tasked with using their own learning as a springboard toward a project for their own schools. They have taken ownership over their initiatives, excited to launch them and share their innovation. LSJS will celebrate the desire for innovation, and subsequently explore the impact that this opportunity has had on the students now exposed not only to new programming, but to inspired, dedicated and driven teachers. 

Supporting veteran teachers—providing them with the time and space to think, championing their hard work and valuing their efforts—is a pivotal piece of the pipeline puzzle. Ultimately, the hope is that this, in turn, will help shift the narrative. We know that Judaic studies teachers can have the greatest impact on our children’s identity, relationship with their Judaism and Jewish literacy for the rest of their lives. Rather than seeing teachers burnt out and too stressed for change, we are supporting teachers to continue to achieve these lofty and precious goals throughout their career.

My Unexpected Discovery of Enthusiastic Future Teachers

Leah Jessica Bader
Jewish Educator Pipeline

As a scientist, I’m familiar with running experiments in the lab and discovering unexpected things. Except this time my lab was the classroom, and my unexpected discovery was an untapped source of enthusiastic future teachers.

In 2021, schools were trying to return to normalcy after Covid-19. The gap in my students’ science skills was evident, as were elevated feelings of anxiety and isolation. Innovative solutions were needed; tutoring was not an option for all, since some families’ finances had taken a hit. Teachers were burnt out and couldn’t be expected to take on extra hours or projects. So I started a peer tutoring leadership program at SAR, where students were provided with tutor training, mentoring and an opportunity to contribute to their community in a positive and meaningful way. My mission had an impact on students in ways that I hadn’t expected.

When the peer tutoring program was scheduled to end on Memorial Day weekend last May, I noticed that some tutors continued to log additional meeting hours well into exam season. I reminded tutors that the program had ended, and they no longer had an obligation to continue tutoring. Their response was that they found tutoring rewarding and wanted to continue. I was intrigued.



Last month, after two and half years of running the program, I decided it was time to collect more data about the impact the program was having on tutors and students. Tutors were asked to “agree” or “disagree” with the following statement: “I would consider teaching opportunities in the future.” 69.8% of tutors agreed with this statement. Could peer tutoring programs influence students to consider a future professional path in education?

Research shows that people’s past actions are often a good predictor of their future behavior. In some cases, there can be a causal influence of one behavior on another, and in others, people might use their past behavior as a heuristic basis for later decisions. It follows that students who have fond memories of their time as a tutor are more likely to consider repeating this action in the future. 

From the data that I collected, 98% of peer tutors respondents agreed with the statement “I enjoyed working with my peer student” and 98% agreed with the statement “The tutor sessions helped build my confidence.” Similarly, in October 2023, Teach For America launched the Ignite Fellowship, exposing college students to the teaching profession. Nationally, more than half of Ignite tutors who were college seniors applied to become Teach For America corps member, and they were accepted into the program at a rate four times higher, about 80%, compared to other applicants. 


The Vision



Imagine training students to become your future teachers. A school with an organized and formal system of collaboration and leadership, where younger students can turn to older students for guidance, mentorship and academic help. Where older students feel empowered and experience the joy of positively impacting another student’s life. Where younger students feel confident and have someone to turn to for help who has already taken the class. Where time needed for teachers to provide student support is reduced, leaving them with more time to innovate. Where the playing field is leveled and tutoring is accessible to every student. All this, while creating a feeling of community, giving, growth and celebrating success.


Are Schools Missing an Opportunity?

Our graduates will pursue careers in part based on experiences they enjoyed, excelled in and found meaningful. Students are likely to apply for medical tracks because they enjoyed science and health, and enroll in law school because of their interest in English and history. Economics students pursue entrepreneurship and finance. How many schools create opportunities to expose students to the teaching profession by training, mentoring and offering feedback? 

Ask yourself: How can we expect students to pursue careers in education, when they have limited opportunities to be exposed to the experience of teaching? What platforms do we offer for students to hone the tools and skills to excel and develop positive associations with the rewarding feeling of helping others grow and succeed? Let’s consider partnering students with teachers as education assistants to help prevent teacher burnout while inspiring a new generation of teachers.


The Earlier, the Better

Starting a peer tutoring program in middle school creates more opportunities to succeed. Middle school students who receive tutoring not only benefit academically. Their high school tutor acts as a role model, raises their confidence (see stats below), and are likely to influence their future behaviors. Tutors who attend training sessions learn to create a safe space of trust, respect and positive reinforcement for their students.


It’s no surprise that the middle school graduates of this program are now dedicated high school tutors giving back to their community. The data collected from students receiving tutoring shows 87% of respondents agreed with the statement “I enjoyed working with my peer tutor,” 85% agreed with “The tutor sessions helped build my confidence” and 80% agreed that “After I worked with my peer tutor, my grades improved.” Positive experiences and outcomes will influence future choices. 


How to Create a Successful Peer Tutor Leadership Program 

It’s easy to start a peer tutoring program in any school, as many schools have one, but a successful one is more of a challenge. Before this program, I casually matched tutors with students in September only to find out in February that they had met just once that year. Tutors and tutees need to be held accountable, and data and feedback must be collected weekly. 

As with any new project, this takes an investment of time and dedication. To begin, tutor volunteers are recruited and complete questionnaires to collect as much detail as possible. A mandatory tutor training session is a must. Without providing proper skills, we are setting our students up for failure. Tutors and tutees are matched based on careful review of details provided, notified of their partnership and encouraged to begin their weekly sessions. Weekly feedback from tutors and tutees ensures a maintenance of high standards. 



An unexpected but necessary component is the celebratory aspect of this program. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote in his book Lessons in Leadership, we must find time to celebrate student accomplishments as this is a key component to build connections and stronger communities. The program ends with a tutor appreciation celebration. 

Beyond the obvious academic benefits and leveling the playing field, a peer tutoring program is also empowering and entrusting our students to play a larger role in the education process. One of the greatest joys of teaching is watching our students transmit their knowledge to others. Peer tutoring allows students to see themselves as future educators. As teachers, we know how rewarding it can be to impart knowledge, thus impacting another person’s life. Giving students the opportunity to experience the joys of teaching can set many more people on the path to becoming our future Jewish day school educators.


The Advice Booth: Fishing for Jewish Teachers in a Small Pond

Amy Wasser
Jewish Educator Pipeline

I run a small school in a small community. How can we draw more interest among Hebrew and Judaics teachers to come work here?

Finding Hebrew and Judaics teachers in a small community where the talent pool might be limited can pose a challenge. Here are strategies you can employ to attract candidates for these positions.

1. Reach out to local synagogues, Jewish community centers and other Jewish day schools or yeshivas. They may have connections with individuals who possess the necessary qualifications and are interested in teaching and perhaps can share roles in more than one organization. They may be able to recommend recent graduates or alumni who are seeking teaching positions, or you may be able to propose a job share opportunity to create a more enticing role.

2. Incentivize qualified candidates by offering competitive salaries, professional development opportunities, and comprehensive benefits packages. While small schools may have budget constraints, investing in talented educators is essential for the school's long-term success. Provide relocation assistance for candidates who may need to move for the position, and offer information about housing options and community resources in the area. Be willing to help with connections for spousal/partner employment needs as well.

3. Highlight your schools unique mission, values, culture and educational approach in job postings and recruitment materials. Emphasize the importance of Judaics education within the curriculum and the schools commitment to fostering a vibrant Jewish community. Highlight the benefits and rewards of being part of a smaller school.

4. Communicate opportunities for career advancement and leadership roles within the school. Prospective candidates are more likely to be attracted to positions that offer professional growth opportunities. Be sure that mentoring will be available, and communicate that as well.  Be clear on the value proposition of being a member of the faculty at your school.

5. Join online forums, groups and social media platforms frequented by Jewish educators. Engage with these communities by sharing job postings, participating in discussions and networking with potential candidates.

6. Explore the possibility of hiring remote Judaics teachers who can deliver instruction through virtual platforms. This expands your candidate pool beyond the local area and allows you to tap into talent from different regions. Perhaps you can offer the talent of one of your teachers to another school who can “loan” you one of their teachers for the role you need. This does not replace a full-time hire, but can open up new possibilities and build new partnerships.

7. Consider flexible work arrangements, such as part-time positions or job sharing, to accommodate candidates who may have other commitments or preferences.

By implementing these strategies and actively engaging with potential candidates, you can increase the likelihood of attracting Hebrew and Judaics teachers to your school, even in a small community with limited local talent.

Inspired Educators Starts with Leadership

Jason Ablin
Jewish Educator Pipeline

One of the most difficult aspects of teacher retention is understanding the relationships between individual teachers, the professional climate in which teachers find themselves and the larger school mission. They all play a delicate and balanced role in generating teacher work satisfaction and creating a climate where teachers want to stay long term not only in the school but in the profession as a whole. 

Long-term, sustained, positive teacher culture is critical for success. In his groundbreaking work Visible Learning, John Hattie identifies the single most impactful indicator for school success as “collective teacher efficacy,” the collective belief that a faculty can bring about positive student outcomes in learning. Schools that maintain long-term positive faculty culture, defined as a “we can” attitude, thrive and have much higher rates of retention than schools that do not.

So what are some of the critical factors that generate collective professional efficacy? One essential is a leader who will work tirelessly to create a culture where teachers are valued and can work together for the benefit of students.

The leader needs to do the hard work of sustaining a positive working culture, where talented teachers want to join the ranks of a school with a reputation for faculty empowerment and development. Heads of schools and principals who last five years or less do not stand a chance of building such a work environment. Determination, stamina and consistency of leadership go a long way to making schools great and generating vibrant teacher cultures. 

The Jewish School Leadership Enterprise is a new initiative seeking to recalibrate the Jewish community’s lens on who should lead our schools and why. From the perspective of boards to current school staff and educators to the wide expanse of professionals in the Jewish world, we hope to inspire passionate individuals wanting to make a meaningful impact on the next generation. 

The skills JSLE believes are critical for future leaders are much more complicated than just knowing the latest learning strategies or even knowing what great teaching looks like. Here, we provide a simple list of leadership skills, in order of importance, essential to building excellent teacher culture and ultimately making teaching in our schools an exciting career pathway.


Human Management and Engagement

Whether a candidate comes from within the profession or from without, can the candidate lead teams and get people pulling in the same direction? Are these leaders skilled at creating teacher networks in their schools? The hard work of being a classroom teacher can seem like a transposable skill set to adults, but that would be a red herring. 

Adults have different needs and learn differently than children. Headship should not be the first place a newly hired leader practices or demonstrates successful learning strategies for adults, which Malcolm Knowles refers to as andragogy. Have these individuals demonstrated the ability to rally a group of professionals, having them “raise their hands” together in order to act as an effective team? 


Effective Communication

How are communities of teachers expected to feel a sense of collective mission if that mission is either being articulated incoherently or is constantly changing in terms of how it is communicated? Having sat on several committees as both a day school parent and as a consultant assisting in a board search for a new head, it was a revelation to lay leaders when I suggested we get candidates to communicate both in written and oral form as part of the hiring process. 

The interview process with boards and current faculty is not good enough. Great leaders clearly communicate cause and effect to their staffs, expressing how a set of actions and behaviors can lead to fulfillment of a school’s mission.


Presence and Attentiveness

Sheryl Sandberg, ex-CEO of Facebook, states, “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.” Do a head’s or principal’s words and deeds permeate into department and section meetings and teacher lounge conversations? Do teachers feel that they are heard when they speak with leadership? Does a leader know how to ask great questions, to listen, to be curious? Teachers want to work in schools and in a profession where they feel connected and an essential part of the decision-making process.



No head or principal actually runs a successful school alone. Successful schools are run by collections of extraordinary educators who feel empowered to be at their best every day and transform the lives of their students. Leaders need to demonstrate the ability to cultivate, generate and liberate leaders, turning them into change agents with real authority. 

Ninety percent of student time is spent with teachers. Great leaders serve to create systems that empower faculty ownership and responsibility of how schools are run and become extraordinary places.



As a head, can you be more than just a cheerleader, and can you acknowledge and help teachers see when they are doing terrific work? Do you bring that positivity every day into your leadership? 

“Catching teachers doing good,” individually and collectively, should be the mantra of every school leader. These leaders also teach the rest of the community to do the same. If we want people to see education and teaching as a worthy profession to enter, our heads need to regularly and authentically celebrate when people do worthy work.

A refocusing of our lens on what constitutes excellence in school leadership can do more than expand the pool of possible candidates for headships. Its permeating effects can also expand the pool of people who want to go into education in the first place. All of the above skills can be professionally developed, but so can a new leader’s understanding of what makes for a great curriculum, educational program or excellence in teaching. 

The reality is that the five skills and practices mentioned above need to be more highly prioritized as part of the leadership search process. There are now a number of examples of talented individuals who did not formally start their professional careers in education who have become highly successful leaders. They bring new energies and new lenses in problem solving in order to move our schools forward in positive ways. 

It behooves us to widen the lens of possible leaders we might consider for school leadership, looking at candidates from a variety of fields. The common denominators would be their passion for Jewish education and their desire to have a positive impact on the future of the Jewish people. The collective process of creating great schools and reigniting a generation’s interest in the teaching profession requires that we rethink our paradigms for leadership.

Career Envy: Elevating the Profile of Jewish Education Careers

Rona Milch Novick
Jewish Educator Pipeline

From early childhood through high school, schools introduce students to professionals and professions. Whether it is a dentist who teaches preschoolers how to brush their teeth, a high-tech entrepreneur who explains his discovery as part of a STEM program or an author who give a book talk to students, by highlighting careers schools make an implicit statement of the value of certain professions. Similarly, middle and high schools create clubs and internship or volunteer experiences to respond to students’ interests but also to promote skills and careers with which students will engage. 

As I regularly receive impassioned pleas from Jewish educational leaders for qualified and inspiring educators, I cannot help but experience career envy. Schools and career guidance/advisement professionals may think that since students are exposed to those in the teaching careers every day, they see what teachers do. However, they do not have the opportunity to see inside the profession and to hear about the rewards and fulfillment it offers. 

Additionally, by omitting education from career nights and internships, what message are schools sending about career choices? How might we elevate the teaching profession and give students a real opportunity to consider the career path that is perhaps the most critical for the growth of the Jewish people?


Choosing a Career

There are multiple theories about how career choices are made. There is the popular notion that if you see it, you can be it. Certainly, all students see teachers, and many may even see teachers that are culturally similar to them, though there are exceptions, especially in Jewish studies. Having Ashkenazi teachers for Sephardi students and vice versa may limit students’ identification with the teacher and the career. A similar challenge may occur when Jewish studies are provided by educators whose religious observance is considerably different from that of their students. Gender is equally important, especially for women who need to see Jewish women as Torah scholars and Torah educators.



Role models are important, but career choice requires more than simple exposure. A phenomenon that has been considered in career choice and leadership is the “tap on the shoulder,” the value of someone in the field specifically identifying your talent and steering you towards activities and choices that will enhance your skills. Schools are uniquely positioned to identify those students who demonstrate an interest in or affinity for learning, teaching and caring for others. However, unless schools can offer meaningful opportunities for such students to increase their teaching exposure and experience, tapping them on the shoulder is unlikely to result in more young people considering careers in education.

A third model of career cultivation emphasizes personal development, including self-awareness of potential, motivation to pursue the career and exposure to experiences that promote mastery of career-related skills. This model combines the “if you can see it, you can be it” approach of exposure to role models with the “tap on the shoulder” as a motivator. What it adds is the critical component of opportunities that allow those making career choices to experience their growing competence and potential in their chosen field. 

This multi-component model is consistent with our experience working with college students, who are closer to their career choices than middle or high school students. In our MafTeach Fellowship, we select students with teaching potential and combine exposure to mentors who are themselves inspiring educators with fellows’ own authentic experiences as teachers. MafTeach participants have reported shifts in their self-perception to include seeing themselves as Jewish educators and increased commitment to teaching limmudei kodesh as a profession.


Stoking Excitement in Teaching

Waiting until college may be too little too late to inspire future Jewish educators. We may be missing an important opportunity when our schools could be simultaneously elevating and celebrating their educators and cultivating our future professional teaching force. Leveraging existing programs such as career days and professionals’ classroom visits is one opportunity. 

I believe we can go further. We can create future teachers clubs as early as sixth grade. With a faculty advisor, sixth graders could plan a weekly lesson for a younger class, deliver the lesson with supervision, and receive feedback and mentoring. Such teaching clubs could also be expanded through middle and high school with increasing responsibilities afforded those who have demonstrated their skill and commitment. For those high school students who have required chesed hours, or internships, meaningful teaching “placements” in their local area or as a residency in other locales could be offered.

At the high school level, students are excited to add to experiences to their resume, and equally excited about competitions that allow them to showcase their talent amongst their peers and also afford them social opportunities to mingle with like-minded others. The Model UN sponsored by Yeshiva University and STEM hackathons are examples of highly popular programs that may begin with local, school-based “teams” and graduate to large-scale events that are highly energizing.


How impactful it would be for Jewish schools to participate in a teachathon, or a lessons learned competition, growing students’ skills in crafting and delivering engaging educational experiences. School-based teams would work on developing lesson plans, honing their curricular and teaching skills. Regional convenings would allow sharing their work and receiving expert judges’ feedback. A national convening, as is done in STEM hack-a-thons, might introduce a specific challenge such as teaching a particular Torah segment or holiday theme to various grade levels. The event could culminate with peer review and expert judges’ scores identifying the best offerings, which could be published and distributed among Jewish day schools. 

For any and all of this to happen, an investment of effort, time and some funds will be necessary. Seasoned, motivated and inspiring educators will need to be enlisted and given time to plan and deliver programming. Coordination across schools would be important to share best practices as well as to build regional and national initiatives. Of course, it will require quite some time to see the dividends of this investment. It is possible that even adding future teacher clubs in elementary schools, inviting inspiring educators to school career programs, developing regional and national teaching events for students may only yield a small number of Jewish educators. 

There may, however, be another payoff. We certainly hope all of today’s students will be tomorrow’s day school parents. What better way to help future generations appreciate the wondrous, all-encompassing, challenging and meaningful work that Jewish educators do than to have had them walk, for a while, in their shoes.