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Glass half full, glass half empty. Which is it? Depends who you ask – eJewish Philanthropy

This piece is adapted from the first episode of Season 3 adapting, hosted by David Bryfman, CEO of the Jewish Education Project. Each episode of the podcast will feature a new guest and explore some of the challenges facing Jewish education.

What is the state of Jewish education in North America today? Curiously, there are two perspectives that both happen to be true.

  • We are about to have a great summer for Jewish education in North America. Thousands of Jewish youth and young adults experienced him one of the best Jewish residential and day camps ever.
  • Recent data show an increase in enrollment in Jewish day schools. This follows a success story of triumphant outcomes during the pandemic.
  • Jewish early childhood centers have not only survived the COVID-19 storm, but have shown how valuable parents are when they are back at work, they are among the most successful with their ability to quickly turn outdoor areas into classrooms. It showed the resilience and creativity that is often symbolized in the face of adversity.
  • As people return to face-to-face congregational life, there is a great upsurge in tutoring schools as they prepare for face-to-face, digital, and hybrid education.
  • People are talking about Jewish adult education, even grandparent education. We also have services for students on college campuses and Jewish youth who are looking for more responsive Jewish organizations because they want more meaning and community.
  • Travel to Israel is booming with new programs for teens and adolescents, and Birthright numbers are back at pre-pandemic highs.
  • Jewish philanthropy is gaining momentum like never before, with foundations and federations investing millions in Jewish education.
  • There are some new serious journals dedicated to pages and volumes about Jewish education. Jewish education start-ups are reaching out to Jews who otherwise would not have been involved in Jewish life, and legacy organizations want them too to be part of the innovation scene in Jewish life. I am aware that it can become
  • With the actual incursions to reach Jews of color, Jewish learners with special needs, and immigrant populations, significant efforts have made many sectors of the Jewish population formerly marginalized. has reached
  • And perhaps most incredible, with the boom in online Jewish education, more sectors of Jewish life are engaging in more serious Jewish learning than ever before in Jewish history. There are, probably more Jews. Our Jewish educators are truly some of our greatest heroes. Jewish education.

I am in awe of the work that Jewish educators are doing, especially what they have overcome in the last two years of the pandemic. But there is another way of telling the same story, another way of slicing the data. It’s how we often go or speak in public because it seems disrespectful or discouraging. It’s not meant to offend brave people doing real work, but sometimes systemic shortcomings need to be discussed. Let us now look at the state of Jewish education today from a different perspective.

  • Summer is over and thankfully we seem to be on the other side of the pandemic? It’s been devastating and has probably even gotten worse in the last two years.
  • Summer camp survived one of the toughest summers ever. The staff are exhausted from his fight with COVID, as well as relentlessly demanding parents.
  • The total number of children attending day school may increase, but countless day schools are at risk of closing and smaller communities struggle to provide adequate Jewish education. The future of many non-orthodox Jewish day schools is tenuous.
  • Congregations struggle to get children in person, and for many resource-poor remedial schools, digital options are inadequate or ineffective. threatened by changes in the laws of
  • Many outside the university environment argue that the rise of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli attitudes on campus threatens Jewish life on campus, but many universities and the greatest obstacle to Jewish life is a mixture of complacency and indifference.
  • The mental health crisis is real — for both educators and learners, not only are they screaming for help that Jewish institutions cannot provide, but even more alarmingly, they are asking for help on people’s radars. Not even people.
  • Two problems overwhelmingly threaten the very future of Jewish education. First, all forms of Jewish education are becoming more and more out of reach for a growing number of Jews. And secondly, the shortage of Jewish educators poses a serious crisis. There aren’t enough people entering the field, burnout is real, and there are too few good educators to retain.
  • Some say money isn’t the issue, but in the absence of an independent think tank for Jewish education, the coalition and foundations rely on intuition, donor-driven priorities, and what they fund primarily themselves. And perhaps the most obvious example of Jewish educational malaise is, for the most part, hundreds of Jewish buildings left empty. It’s happening.
  • But most importantly, if we are to be really honest with ourselves, there are not enough people asking why a Jewish education is important today. They repeatedly state that they are proud to be Jewish but cannot find a suitable, accessible and affordable Jewish education that meets their needs.

Take a deep breath. So which one is it? Is the current state of Jewish education half full or empty? Or, on the one hand, you could say it really depends on who you ask. Some people like to see exceptional bright spots, while others look at aggregate data.

This season’s adaptation aims to challenge the inconsistencies in Jewish education today, and poses more difficult and challenging questions. You don’t have to agree with every guest, but don’t be afraid to ask questions. If possible, listen to their answers, even if they are uncomfortable questions.

It’s very simple for me. In 2020, the industry has completely changed. Some may return to their former state—and my prognosis for them is not so healthy. And the truth is that the pandemic has not created many new challenges for Jewish education. , and even aggravated some.

The challenge is real and the real question is what to do about it. Are you going to let outside realities change the face of Jewish education, or are you going to dominate them, and ask the tough questions that need to be asked at least in 2022?

David Bryfman, CEO of the Jewish Education Project, Podcast adaptation.