William Davidson (z"l), who died on March 13, 2009, was an entrepreneur, legendary sports team owner (the National Basketball Association's Detroit Pistons, the National Hockey League's Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Women's National Basketball Association's Detroit Shock), and an extraordinarily generous philanthropist. More than anything, however, Bill Davidson was a visionary. This gift enabled him to succeed in business with his company, Guardian Industries, and marked his special relationship to The Jewish Theological Seminary.
More than a decade ago, when then-Chancellor Dr. Ismar Schorsch approached Mr. Davidson with an idea to create a school of education at JTS, Bill understood immediately the great impact that such a school would have. He knew the profound importance of education for the future of the Jewish people, and his remarkable endowment established the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education of The Jewish Theological Seminary.
Bill Davidson understood that well-prepared and inspired Jewish educators had to be at the heart of the renewal of Jewish life in America and he committed himself to making sure that JTS could respond to the needs of our people by way of the graduates of The Davidson School. He believed in The Davidson School's diverse array of programs to assist educators working in the many and varied settings of contemporary Jewish education, and in the school's commitment to the active, ongoing professional development of our educators.
For all of his accomplishments, Bill Davidson was a modest man who shunned the limelight and felt uncomfortable with praise. JTS's Chancellor Arnold Eisen and the dean of The Davidson School, Dr. Barry Holtz, paid him a visit in Detroit last summer and, as they were about to leave, they noticed a photograph of the 2004 World Champion Detroit Pistons team. Mr. Davidson remarked, "The other sports owners ask me how it's possible that I could have had the world champion teams in men's professional basketball, hockey, and women's professional basketball all in one season. It had never been done before. Do you know what I tell them?" "No," replied Chancellor Eisen and Dr. Holtz, "What do you say?" Mr. Davidson smiled, "Just dumb luck, I tell them!"It was a modest statement, typical of the man. But for anyone who knew Bill Davidson, the real answer touched upon the qualities that made him great: intelligence, energy, commitment, and vision. We will all miss him greatly. May his memory be a blessing.
Alumni: Fill out our alumni contact form to recieve additional information about The Davidson School and special alumni-only programs.
What does it mean to be a Jewish educator? What impact can a life have on others? When we talk about the reasons behind career decisions—why people choose to go into one profession rather than another—we often focus on the tangible aspects of those jobs: financial security, lifestyle issues, geographic considerations, and others. But we often forget the kinds of satisfactions that are beyond the tangible, beyond what we can measure.
I have been thinking about these matters a good deal lately because of the recent death of one of the great Jewish educators of the past fifty years, Rabbi Joseph Lukinsky (z"l), longtime professor of Jewish education at JTS. Professor Lukinsky died in Jerusalem, where he had retired, on August 14, the twenty-fourth day of the Hebrew month of Av. Since that sad event, I have been receiving emails and phone calls from people around the country, all of whom had been influenced by Rabbi Lukinsky's life's work. Here is one message I received: "He was a very important and beloved teacher of mine at Ramah Nyack the summer I was there [age sixteen]. I will always remember him as a most compassionate and patient teacher." Another: "I remember Joe vividly from my Ramah seminar in Israel, when he was one of our advisers and teachers. He was a kind man even to a bunch of high-pitched sixteen-year-olds." A third: "He was a remarkable man . . . modest and unassuming, but passionate and compassionate." A fourth: "I cannot overestimate how much Joe changed my life. Because of him, I took 'the road less traveled,' and that has made all the difference." And there were many others as well.
I myself first met Joe right around the time of my bar mitzvah, when he became the assistant rabbi at my home congregation, Kehillath Israel, in Brookline, Massachusetts. He impressed the boys with his remarkable skills in baseball, and he used the trust built upon the baseball field to develop deep and lasting connections to all of us. He became our example of what it meant to live a full and powerful Jewish life. By leading the youth program with creativity and excitement, he showed us that Judaism was a path that was rich in ideas, values, and spiritual depth. He taught us that Judaism was serious stuff—intellectually challenging and morally demanding. I remember vividly him saying once that fun was an overused word in America. It was the word that typified a shallow culture. "Whoever said that fun was the end goal of life?" Joe asked. For teenagers, these words were shocking. They challenged us to recalibrate our lives, to think of ourselves in completely different ways.
Graduating Class of 2009
Joe Lukinsky's career in Jewish education was wide-ranging and varied. He was a rabbi in a congregation responsible for teaching and youth activities; the educational director in charge of a synagogue school; a Camp Ramah director; a professor of Jewish education at JTS and Brandeis University; and a consultant for schools and other educational institutions. Into each of these institutions, he brought his unique blend of traditional Jewish learning, deep knowledge of educational theory and practice, and his always searching creative mind and immense compassion and humanity.
I remember studying a midrashic text with Joe years ago that looked at the patriarch Abraham. Abraham is described as an ivri, a Hebrew. What does it mean, the Midrash asked, for a person to be a Hebrew? The answer, says Genesis Rabbah (42:8): "While the whole world stood on one side (ever), Abraham stood on the other side (ever)." Hence ivri. That's what it means to be a Hebrew, a Jew. This was Joe Lukinsky's lesson: be a moral force no matter how the rest of the world behaves. Stand up for what is right and good, no matter what others may say. For anyone who asks what it means to have a meaningful life and work that makes a difference, there can be no better role model than Joseph Lukinsky: scholar, teacher, rabbi, and mensch.
We now enter the new Jewish year and the new academic year. We welcome the new students who are coming to The Davidson School this year and our "veterans" who are returning. I wish all of you a great year of learning and personal growth. Examples like Professor Lukinsky give us hope for the future and inspiration for the role that each of us can play in the lives of others.
The preparation that you receive at The Davidson School will become a fundamental part of being the kind of educator you want to be. Being an educator is not only a matter of personality and dedication, it is also essentially bound up with knowledge and skills, and we, the faculty at The Davidson School, hope to provide you with those tools that will enhance your work and help you build a career.
May you each have the chance to learn, grow, and develop the confidence in your abilities as you embark on this new year.
Dr. Barry W. Holtz, dean, William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education of JTS and the Theodore and Florence Baumritter Professor of Jewish Education
There are seventeen incoming students in the master of arts program at The Davidson School this fall. In addition, there are two students enrolled in the full-time doctoral program and seven people enrolled in the newly launched executive doctoral program, which gives senior Jewish educators the opportunity to study on Sundays and Mondays four times a year on campus at The Davidson School and participate in an online distance learning process over the course of the year. "Across the board, the MA, full-time EdD, and executive doctoral students are incredibly accomplished Jewish educators," observed Abby Eisenberg, director of Admissions at Davidson.
Incoming students Daniel Held and Daniel Silverman share with the readers of the Davidson Newsletter why they chose to pursue careers in Jewish education and what attracted them to study at The Davidson School.
Daniel Held, who is twenty-six years old, is studying in the EdD program with a specific interest in the integration of experiential learning into the Jewish day school. Daniel believes that the marriage of formal and informal education is a prerequisite for an engaging and holistic education framework. For the last four years, Daniel has been the director of student activities at Tanenbaum CHAT, the community high school in Toronto, and for the last six summers he has served as an educator at Genesis at Brandeis University.
Two sets of experiences initially drove me towards Jewish education. First, I had teachers, rabbis, youth-movement advisers, and camp counselors who served as strong role models and exuded a passion for teaching. These were teachers who saw education not only as the transfer of information, but rather as the opportunity to challenge students to grow as individuals and as Jews. With dugmaot ishiyot (personal examples) like these, how could I not pursue a career in education?
"I find that the Davidson community really is a community—a group of teachers and students who support and challenge one another to excel."
—Daniel Held, Davidson EdD student
My second significant influence was a summer experience I had just after eleventh grade. Sandwiched between two weeks in Poland and two weeks in Israel, I spent a month in Ukraine running a summer camp for local youth. This was my first time working as the primary educator, and I fell in love with it. I loved helping kids learn to read and write Hebrew and seeing them learn about Jewish traditions and make personal connections with Jewish history. I returned to Ukraine a year later and was able to follow up with my students. Seeing their growth over the year informed my appreciation for the impact of their educational experiences. After returning from Ukraine, I decided that my future was in education. I spent a year studying at Bar-Ilan University and then entered the Jewish Teacher Education Program at York University.
Today, after having gained significant experience working in the field, I am excited to return to study as a way to pair my practical experience with pedagogic theory. During my tenure at The Davidson School, I hope to contribute to the growing field of informal education in Jewish day schools while investigating the use of formal pedagogies in settings of informal education.
One of the main draws to The Davidson School is the warmth of the faculty, staff, and students. I find that the Davidson community really is a community—a group of teachers and students who support and challenge one another to excel.
MA, York University, Humanities with a focus on Jewish History, 2009
BA (Honors), York University, Business and Society, 2005*
BEd, York University, Jewish Education, 2005*
Daniel Silverman is a twenty-four-year-old student in The Davidson School's master of arts program with a concentration in formal education. After receiving his BA from McGill University in 2007, Daniel worked at Hillel at the University of Toronto. Daniel is most interested in Bible and Jewish history.
I have always been interested in Jewish learning. I believe that knowing about Jewish topics is very important for Jewish people today, especially those living outside Israel where Judaism does not necessarily surround them day to day. In my work at Hillel after graduating from university, I found that what I most enjoyed teaching was elements of Jewish education that students had not had the opportunity to learn earlier in their studies. I felt very much at home with these topics, and I liked the feeling of accomplishment of seeing young Jewish students connecting to their history, heritage, and religion. These feelings inspired me to pursue a formal degree in Jewish education so that I can have a career where I continue to feel pride in accomplishing this every day.
I have had a strong desire to study at JTS. Many of my family members are graduates and current students. Having grown up in a strongly committed Conservative Jewish family, JTS has always been an important institution for me. After deciding on a career in Jewish education, The Davidson School was the natural choice for where to pursue my studies. Small class sizes, attentive professors, and world-renowned scholars are all important to me, as is the opportunity to experience Jewish life in New York City.
*As part of these degrees, Daniel studied at Bar-Ilan University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and received a certificate in Jewish Studies.
The weekly learning minyan at The Davidson School is the only multidenominational egalitarian prayer community on the JTS campus. "It is here to speak to the needs of the pluralistically Jewish nature of The Davidson School," said Rabbi Jonathan Lipnick, who serves as adviser of the student-led minyan and is The Davidson School's rabbi-in-residence. It offers an opportunity for the entire Davidson School—both students and faculty—to pray and learn together.
The minyan runs throughout the fall and spring semesters every Wednesday morning. Thirty minutes are "dedicated to praying together, singing together, and davening together," said Rabbi Lipnick, with fifteen minutes set aside for learning. The learning is generally activity- or discussion-based. Students and faculty break into small study groups and then come back together to share what they discovered.
The Davidson School Learning Minyan assumes that students and faculty, from whatever denomination and prior experience, come together on an "equal footing," as Rabbi Lipnick points out. "We are not a learners' minyan where someone like me teaches others how to pray. At The Davidson School, we all work together in becoming more fully developed as people who pray. We begin each year by developing a 'curriculum of prayer,' as it were, based on the interests of the participants in the community. What we study is largely based on what's in the hearts and minds of our students."
The learning minyan serves a number of different functions. "It is a way of building our own Davidson School community; it's a way of engaging people on a deeply personal and religious level," said Rabbi Lipnick. Students ask themselves, "How might I teach this? What have I learned? And how might I apply this piece of learning to the students that I am teaching?"
Referencing one of the five strands in the development of a Jewish educator envisioned by The Davidson School—religious and personal growth: the educator as religious person—Rabbi Lipnick commented, "We really have to begin with ourselves. Before we can teach prayers to our students, we really have to start with asking ourselves, 'What does this prayer mean to me?' and the only way one can get to that question is by doing prayer in a supportive learning community."
For more information, contact Rabbi Jonathan Lipnick at (212) 678-8964 or email@example.com.
Abby Eisenberg is the director of Admissions for The Davidson School, where she oversees the admissions process from recruitment to enrollment.
An alumna of The Graduate School of JTS, Abby previously recruited in the corporate world and worked at a Jewish education nonprofit, organizing an annual professional development conference for Jewish educators. "I feel really passionate about Jewish education," commented Abby, "and I love recruiting new students who will study and experience Jewish life and living at JTS, in addition to strengthening their pedagogical skills through course work and supervision from our stellar faculty."
The Davidson School offers an MA in Jewish Education, with concentrations in day school education, congregational education, and informal and communal education, and an EdD in Jewish Education for full-time and part-time students.
If you or someone you know may be interested in The Davidson School, please contact Abby Eisenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or (212) 678-8022.
Sonia Levin is the recipient of the Bill Berman Fellowship. Here she discusses what attracted her to Jewish education and The Davidson School.
I was born in the former USSR (Latvia), and my family and I immigrated to Israel in 1991. Having received no Jewish education in Latvia, I began my Jewish education in Israel, where I was introduced to Hebrew and Jewish customs.
In 1997, I immigrated to the United States. I graduated from Project MOREH (a teacher's training institute in New Jersey) in 2000 and started to teach in a Hebrew school. However, I always had the dream of becoming a professional Jewish educator, and last year my dream came true: I was accepted into the MA program at The Davidson School.
I would like to investigate ways to start working in the field of special education, because I feel that no Jewish child should be left behind. Based on my personal experience as a parent and a teacher, I realize how much children with learning disabilities can benefit from a professionally trained educator.
Learning is a never-ending process. I am looking forward to the challenging course work at The Davidson School and, especially, the meaningful practicum that will help me to gain more knowledge in this area.
A Community of Practice (CoP) is a group of people with a shared goal: in this case, to improve their teaching skills. Guided by a facilitator, they meet during regularly scheduled conference calls, via an online discussion area, and in person when opportunities arise.
The Davidson School class of 2009 had the opportunity to create a Community of Practice (CoP) dedicated to its own ongoing learning and development as a Jewish community of educators. Pearl Mattenson, a Certified Professional Career Coach and the CoP facilitator, helped launch the community with a half-day gathering of graduates at JTS in September. Those outside of the tristate area teleconferenced in to the gathering. The group aligned around shared goals, developed agreements about the kind of community it wanted to create, and began to share needs and interests related to upcoming roles and responsibilities.
Pearl is both an experienced Jewish educator and a trained coach who will guide the group as it convenes to share dilemmas from the field. The group will meet eight times via conference calls or webinars and have access to an online platform for continued discussion and sharing of resources between calls.
Dr. Shira D. Epstein, assistant professor of Jewish Education, completed a research report for the 14th Street Y titled "The Pedagogy and Practice of Jewish Communal Artistic Engagement: LABA and the 14th Street Y." LABA is the National Laboratory for New Jewish Culture, launched by the 14th Street Y in the fall of 2008. Dr. Epstein's report presents data on the programmatic and pedagogical elements of the three signature LABA programs: Artists-in-Residence, Artists' Membership Program, and Girls Theater Project. It explores the overarching question of what constitutes Jewish artistic learning.
Dr. Carol K. Ingall, Dr. Bernard Heller Professor of Jewish Education, conducted a professional development workshop for teachers in the Me'ah program in June, titled "Reflections on Teaching Adult Learners: What Research Has to Say."
Dr. Deborah D. Miller, associate director of the Melton Research Center and adjunct professor of Jewish Education, is the author of Only Nine Chairs: A Tall Tale for Passover (illustrated by Karen Ostrove and published by Kar-Ben Publishing), which has been accepted by the PJ Library. The PJ Library sends Jewish children's books and music to families all over the United States on a monthly basis.
The Network for Research in Jewish Education (NRJE) held its twenty-third annual conference in June 2009 at Yeshiva University. It convened academics, practitioners, and researchers from many disciplines and institutions to share the latest studies in the field of Jewish educational research.
Following are remarks about the strong participation of The Davidson School by Dr. Jeffrey Kress, the new chair of the NRJE, and a summary of the presentations:
The annual conference of the Network for Research in Jewish Education took place in June and I am proud to tell you about the extent of The Davidson School's and the Department of Jewish Education's involvement. To start with, we had full faculty participation (including, of course, Dean Barry Holtz, Associate Dean Ofra Backenroth, and Adjunct Assistant Professor Alex Sinclair) when it came to being presenters or panel chairs or both. In addition, several presenters were current students or graduates of The Davidson School, including two recently graduated MA students who presented work based on their MA honors theses, conducted under Dr. Shira Epstein's supervision. I think this is further testament to the centrality of our work to the field of Jewish educational research. In total, approximately two-thirds of all the sessions on the program had at least one presenter with a Davidson School connection. The conference program can be downloaded from www.nrje.org.
—Dr. Jeffrey Kress, assistant professor of Jewish Education, JTS; chair of The Davidson School Department of Jewish Education; and chair of the Network for Research in Jewish Education
"Orientation for Graduate Students and Newcomers to NRJE"
Dr. Shira Epstein, assistant professor of Jewish Education, JTS
"Breaking Myths, Building Identity: Practitioner-Researcher Reflections on Running an Israel Seminar for Education Students"
Dr. Ofra Backenroth, associate dean of The Davidson School and adjunct assistant professor of Jewish Education; Dr. Alex Sinclair, adjunct assistant professor, JTS; and Roberta Bell-Kligler, JTS doctoral student
"Education for Character and Family Life"
Chair: Dr. Carol Ingall, Dr. Bernard Heller Professor of Jewish Education, JTS
"The Search for Educational Excellence and Connection: Student and Parent Choices"
Chair: Dr. Jeffrey Kress, assistant professor of Jewish Education, JTS; chair of The Davidson School Department of Jewish Education; and chair of the Network for Research in Jewish Education
"Teaching Classical Jewish Texts in Modern Classrooms"
Chair: Dr. Barry Holtz, dean of The Davidson School and Theodore and Florence Baumritter Professor of Jewish Education
"The Potential and Challenges of Experiential Education in Jewish Day High Schools: Shabbatonim and Beyond"
Dr. Jeffrey Kress, assistant professor of Jewish Education, JTS; full bio above
"The Fate of Jewish Education in a Challenging Economy: Implications for Policy, Practice, and Education Research"
Chair: Dr. Carol Ingall, Dr. Bernard Heller Professor of Jewish Education, JTS
Consultations Over Coffee
"Moving Pictures: Using Film as an Educational Tool in Jewish Settings"
Elisheva Gould (DS '09), MA graduate (photo not available)
"Researcher at a Crossroads: Diffusion of Innovations in Synagogue Education or Religious School and the After-School Lives of Children"
Dr. Michelle-Lynn Sachs, assistant professor of Jewish Education, JTS
"Jewish Sexuality Education"
Rachel Silverman (DS '09), MA graduate (photo not available)
"Portrait of a Principal"
Susan Ticker, JTS doctoral student (photo not available)
Spotlight on Research Tools
"Educational Ethnography: Why, How, and For Whom?"
Dr. Michelle-Lynn Sachs, assistant professor of Jewish Education, JTS
"Power and Praxis: Gender Issues for Jewish Teen Educators and Researchers"
Dr. Shira Epstein, assistant professor of Jewish Education, JTS
Dr. Aryeh Davidson, assistant professor of Jewish Education, JTS
The Day School Leadership Training Institute (DSLTI) is a professional-development program committed to training and supporting passionate leaders for Jewish day schools across North America. The sixth cohort had its first session in July at JTS. The theme centered on theories of leadership and included the following units:
Drisha, the Jewish learning component of DSLTI, included beit midrash text study, spiritual check-ins, and reflective writing. Participants also created a leadership development plan that included a "Jewish growth goal."
The sixth cohort of DSLTI includes the following participants:
The following people are serving as DSLTI mentors:
Starting in December, Mara Berde (MA '09) will be participating in the Jewish Service Corps and working in a village in Rwanda. Her exact job in the village is yet to be determined, but she will either be doing informal education with the teens in the village or working in the high school doing staff training, development, and administrative tasks. Mara will also be coordinating the Jewish life and education program for Jewish volunteers.
Rachel Blatt (MA '07) started rabbinical school at American Jewish University in California this past year.
Tehillah Eisenstadt (MA '07) recently became director of the religious school and youth experience at Huntington Jewish Center in Huntington, New York. She remains a company member with Storahtelling.
Ilana Garber (MA '03) and her husband, Adam Berkowitz, had a son, Noam Avizemer Berkowitz, in July 2009.
Rabbi Paulette Posner (MA '01) and Jeremy Posner are delighted to announce the birth of their second son, Jacob Benjamin, who was born on April 24, 2008. His brother, Harry Leon, was two years old when Jacob was born.
Sharon Rosenberg Safra (MA '02) is the family education director at a synagogue in Rockville, Maryland.
Dayna Wald (MA '07) was recently promoted to assistant principal in charge of Judaics for kindergarten through eighth grade at Hochberg Preparatory School in North Miami Beach, Florida. She is very excited about this new position and the impact she can have on this growing school.
Jessica Wolf (MA '07), youth director at the 14th Street Y, became engaged to David Speigel.
Alexis Wolfson (MA '07) is director of youth and family programming at Congregation Kol Tikvah, a Reform synagogue in Parkland, Florida. She is also applying to an EdD program in curriculum and instruction at Florida Atlantic University, where she plans to write a dissertation on Jewish supplementary school and curriculum, particularly a Jewish history curriculum.
Alex Weinberg, a 2006 graduate of the distance learning program of The Davidson School (master's degree in Jewish Education), published Siddur Sim Shalom Remix 2.0, an interactive siddur designed for religious school students and Ramah campers. Alex, who is director of Congregational Education at Chizuk Amuno Congregation in Baltimore, Maryland, and gives workshops on teaching tefillah to Jewish educators, describes his goals for the siddur and how he created it.
Prayer must be relevant, meaningful, and personal to impact the Jewish identity of our youth—no small task. Siddur Sim Shalom Remix 2.0 (SSSR 2.0) aims to make prayer close and accessible to the synagogue's tween population: grades five to eight. Through immersive, engaging, interactive experiences in prayer environments, SSSR 2.0 encourages them to develop tangible metaphors for theological concepts and to create a personalized and authentic prayer experience that can be transported to the sanctuary. SSSR 2.0 gives students the tools to pray with their community and to access concepts, personal language, and an approach to the text that promotes fun and meaningful prayer experiences.
The gatefolded siddur pages are full of exercises that allow students to connect to tefillah (prayer) on a deeper level. Each page has guide questions, a road map for students to understand where the prayer is located in a service, interactive exercises where students design everything from T-shirts to webpages to campaign slogans based on the theme of the prayer, and even a title bar where the students give a title to each prayer page. Each of these exercises allows the students to personalize the prayer experience, making the tefillah their own.
The initial concept for SSSR 2.0 began about ten years ago as a final project for a tefillah class I took with Dr. Steven Brown, previously dean of The Davidson School and now head of school at the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy outside of Philadelphia. I decided to re-create and reinvent the Siddur Sim Shalom and got permission from the Rabbinical Assembly to use the original Siddur Sim Shalom pages to create SSSR 2.0 for my master's thesis. Together with Dr. Brown, who was my adviser on the project, I created a siddur that explores about seventy prayers from the weekday Shaharit, Torah, Shabbat Shaharit, and Musaf services and incorporates iyun tefillah (learning about prayer), skill development, and concept-application opportunities.
Using the 4MAT structure of curricular design, it combines discussion with written, creative, and interactive experiences. The project has a 4MAT lesson plan for each page of the siddur. Also used in the Project Etgar curriculum (a joint project of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Melton Research Center for Jewish Education at The Davidson School, 4MAT addresses multiple learning types in a concept-based learning environment.
SSSR 2.0 is being used in about twenty synagogues and Ramah camps throughout the United States and has been recognized in numerous newspapers throughout the country.
The Leadership Institute for Congregational School Educators (LICSE), a joint program of The Davidson School and Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC), completed a successful two-week summer seminar called "Lilmod u'le-lamed: Teaching, Learning, and Leadership." The seminar provided the thirty-seven fellows from the New York area with a variety of opportunities to explore their leadership roles in creative curriculum innovation and the building of meaningful learning experiences.
Highlights of the seminar included tefillah sessions co-led by composer-songwriter Debbie Friedman, peer consultancy sessions, a curriculum fair, and a day at Camp Ramah in Nyack, New York.
LICSE is funded by the UJA-Federation of New York.
For more information on LICSE, please contact Dr. Evie Rotstein (HUC), project director, at (212) 824-2248 or email@example.com.