In the field of Jewish Education, the Network on Research in Jewish Education (NRJE) conference is like getting to hob-nob with the “A list”-ers at the Academy Awards. Participants and presenters are among those voices we seek out when learning about trends in Jewish education and best practices. Faculties from our Jewish institutions of higher learning are present, as well as experts in teaching, learning and the social sciences from across the academic spectrum and in the public university settings. One can actually get a bit star-struck. NRJE brings together scholars and researchers, practitioners, funders, policy makers, and students in the field of Jewish education from across the world. I was pleased to be joined at Towson University for this year’s NRJE conference by nine (!) fellow ARJE members.
My personal motivation to attend NRJE stems from my doctoral work, and my desire to network with others who might assist me on that journey. Yet, my great moments of pride came through when I noticed how many of our own AJRE members were in attendance, both as participants and as presenters. Saul Kaiserman, RJE, presented a paper on his research on the training of new educators, “Implications of Learning to Teach ‘Teaching and Learning.’” Dr. Lesley Litman, RJE, presented a selection of her findings from her dissertation work comparing innovative and normative models of congregational schools. Dr. Evie Rotstein, RJE, convened a session on “Implementing Education in the Social, Emotional and Spiritual (SESL) Domains in Congregational Schools,” and Moshe Ben-Lev was amongst the panelists, sharing his own work on incorporating SESL into his school. Rena Fraade, RJE, was present in her role as the content manager for JeducationWorld.com – the education off shoot of eJewishPhilanthropy.com, and Sue Kittner Huntting, RJE, was present as the managing editor of the Journal of Jewish Education. Rabbi Melissa Zalkin Stollman serves as the coordinator for the NRJE; her creative mind and hands helped shape this very worthwhile learning experience. (Sadly she is missing from our picture; she must have been running around getting the next session ready.) The rest of us, Barbara Merson, Nachama Skolnik Moskowitz, RJE, and I, were there as learners, drinking up the knowledge and considering how it would inform our work, either as practitioners and/or as emerging scholars.
I am so proud of these colleagues, and many others, who take the time to engage in learning about their work, in dialoguing with the researchers in our field, and engage in their own practitioner-based research. The conversations about Jewish education often take place in multiple and disparate settings — in classrooms and offices, around campfire pits, in private homes and in the hallowed halls of academia. We all benefit when those worlds come together. We learn from our varieties of experiences and perspectives. We learn from our varieties of expertise.
I am so proud that the voices of Reform Jewish educators and of the ARJE contributed to those shared conversations at NRJE.