Dr. Shira D. Epstein is an assistant professor at the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education.
A lecturer and workshop facilitator, Dr. Epstein has given presentations and papers on curriculum design and arts education at the Network for Research in Jewish Education Conference, National Reading Conference, Brandeis University's Institute for Informal Jewish Education, Teachers College Columbia University, and Avoda Arts. She received a grant from the Jewish Women's Foundation of New York to support her research on training Jewish educators to teach "healthy relationship building" in formal educational settings and has lectured on this topic at the first, second, and third International Conference on Domestic Abuse in the Jewish Community, as well as for National Council of Jewish Women, Day School Leadership Training Institute, and Leadership Institute for Congregational School Principals.
In addition, she has extensive teaching, curriculum-development, and staff-development experience in varied Jewish settings, including Solomon Schechter School of Westchester, West End Synagogue Hebrew School, Foundation for Jewish Camping, and Jewish Educational Services of North America.
Dr. Epstein's research interests include gender and Jewish education and drama as pedagogy. She authored a curriculum for Jewish Women International (JWI) titled "Strong Girls, Healthy Relationships: A Conversation on Dating, Friendship, and Self-Esteem" (2006) and serves as an educational and curriculum consultant for Storahtelling's Storahlab Summer Training Institute.
Her published articles include "Bringing the Text to Life and Into Our Lives: Jewish Education and the Arts" (Backenroth, O., Epstein, S., Miller, H., Religious Education, Fall 2006) and "Reimagining Literacy Practices: Creating Living Midrash From Ancient Text Through Tableau" (Journal of Jewish Education, Summer 2004).
She is the co-chair of UJA-Federation of New York's Task Force on the Jewish Woman Steering Committee and is the representative of youth programs on JWI's National Leadership Council.
Dr. Epstein has a doctor of education degree in Curriculum and Teaching from Teachers College Columbia University (2003), and was a Wexner Graduate Fellow (1999–2003). She holds a master of arts degree in Educational Theater from New York University (1996) and a bachelor of arts degree in Women's Studies, with a concentration in the Education of Girls, from Brown University (1994).
Naomi Less, an accomplished singer-songwriter, musician, actor, and experiential educator, has recently launched Jewish Chicks Rock, her project aimed at helping develop more resilient Jewish girls who successfully navigate adolescence without falling prey to at-risk behaviors.
The work is focused on positive empowerment and self-esteem messaging in Jewish rock music. Ms. Less incorporates messages of hope, strength, and confidence to young girls in her music. (For more information, visit www.naomiless.com or www.jewishchicksrock.com.)
Ms. Less is also a founding company member of Storahtelling: Jewish Ritual Theater (www.storahtelling.org). She frequently performs at synagogues and Jewish communal events across the country and serves as Storahtelling's director of education and training.
Before joining Storahtelling’s professional team, Ms. Less garnered over a decade of training experience in Jewish camps through the National Ramah Commission and the Foundation for Jewish Camp, where she served as vice president of Programs. Her passion for helping educators to better nurture spiritual, social, and emotional development in teens, with special attention to adolescent girls, is the basis for her current educational consulting work for both this project and the Florence Melton CommuniTeen High School program.
Ms. Less studied vocal performance, choral conducting, and communications at Northwestern University, and earned a master's degree in Jewish Education from The Davidson School of The Jewish Theological Seminary. She has completed two post-master's certificate programs: the Institute for Jewish Spirituality’s educators’ course and the Institute for Informal Jewish Education’s Professional Leadership Seminar.
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