Mandell L. Berman
Ellen Kagen Waghelstein
Helene Kalson Cohen
Beverly Bloom Fellman
Kyla Epstein Schneider
Eve Kresin Steinberg
Mark E. Schlussel
JESNA is dedicated to building a strong Jewish future where learners of all ages lead Jewish lives infused with purpose and meaning. Functioning as a hub in a many-spoked wheel of community federations, central agencies for Jewish education, foundations, social entrepreneurs, families, and others, JESNA transforms and strengthens Jewish education in North America across all denominations and venues. Our extensive experience in a complex landscape enables us to assemble creative new ideas and models for success with state-of the-art knowledge to catalyze innovation and change for our partners, our clients and the entire field.
Seeking always to add value, spur improvement, and nurture a culture of data-driven decision-making, we:
Chief Leadership Team
Leora W. Isaacs, Ph.D.
Chief Program Officer
Director, Berman Center for Applied Innovation
Leora began her career at JESNA in 1986 after serving as a researcher at the American Jewish Committee and on the faculties of the Trenton State University (now Rowan University), College of St. Elizabeth, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and the University of Pennsylvania. She received her B.A. in Psychology (summa cum laude) from the University of Michigan and her Ph.D. in Educational and Developmental Psychology from the CUNY Graduate Center.
Chief Financial Officer
Ralia Wagner serves as JESNA’s Chief Financial Officer. In addition to being a member of the Chief Management Team and working closely with members of the Board, she oversees the overall finances of the agency and office operations.
Prior to joining JESNA in 2005, Ralia served as the Chief Financial Officer for The National Conference for Community and Justice, Inc., a New York not-for-profit and oversaw the finances of over 60 regional offices across the county. Ralia is a first generation Greek-American and has earned a BA in Accounting from Queens College. She has been working in the field of not-for-profit accounting since 1994.
Jonathan Woocher, Ph.D.
Chief Ideas Officer
Director, Lippman Kanfer Institute
Jonathan Woocher is JESNA's Chief Ideas Officer and directs its Lippman Kanfer Institute: An Action-Oriented Think Tank for Innovation in Jewish Learning and Engagement. Jon served as JESNA's chief professional officer for twenty years before assuming his new role this year. In addition to guiding the work of the Lippman Kanfer Institute, he is a member of the agency's senior management, working with his colleagues on JESNA's strategic direction, new project development, external relations, and financial resource development.
Prior to coming to JESNA in 1986, Jon was an Associate Professor in the Benjamin S. Hornstein Program in Jewish Communal Service at Brandeis University, where he taught courses in Jewish political studies and communal service and directed the program in Continuing Education for Jewish Leadership.
He received his BA from Yale University, summa cum laude, in Political Science and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Temple University in Religious Studies. He has also studied at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.
Jenny Aisenberg, M.A.
Knowledge Development Manager
Jenny came to JESNA in 2009. She is responsible for the overall management, development, and improvement of JESNA's online resources, including the Sosland Online Resource Center, The InnovationXchange, and allied sites such as the WOW! Project and Digital J Learning. She is responsible for the development and ongoing production of JESNA's webinar program, and works closely with JESNA program staff and technical consultants to enhance JESNA's dissemination of learnings through the web and social media. Before joining JESNA, Jenny earned her Master's in Media Studies from The New School University, while working as an educator in her synagogue's Children's Learning Program in Brooklyn, where she is currently serving on the board. She earned her B.A. in Women's Studies from Smith College, where she served on the Hillel Board, directed the Kosher Co-op, and received the Gemillut Chassidim Award for her years of service to the Jewish community.
Jude Kramer is from Melbourne, Australia. She joined the JESNA team in January 2013 following her graduation from NYU’s dual Master’s program in Education and Jewish Studies. Jude coordinates JESNA’s Convenings on Complementary Education and staffs the Association of Directors of Central Agencies (ADCA). Prior to her graduate studies, Jude held several positions in Jewish Education. She worked for the United Jewish Education Board in Melbourne, Australia creating Hebrew School curricula and for the Jewish Children’s Museum in Brooklyn, NY, as an after school program coordinator. She has also taught Jewish Studies to junior high school students in Morristown, New Jersey, and to preschool students in Manhattan Beach, California. Jude also holds a BA from Monash University majoring in History and Jewish Studies, and a certificate in Jewish Law/Mishpatim from Hebrew University. Since moving to New York, Jude has been very involved volunteering her time and skills to organizing events for Young Jewish Professionals in New York City.
Bara came to JESNA in 2012, and manages JESNA's Lainer-Masa and Grinspoon-Steinhardt Awards programs. Prior to joining JESNA, Bara worked for two years as a fourth grade teacher in Newark, New Jersey as part of the Teach for America program. Bara has held a number of positions within the world of Jewish education, notably as a staff member at Camp Sprout Lake and Camp Tel Yehudah, both a part of the Young Judaea camping system, and as a teacher at Congregation Adath Israel in Riverdale, NY. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Columbia University and a B.A. in Jewish Women's Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary. Bara also holds a New Jersey State Teaching License.
Human Resources Associate
David Resnick, Ph.D.
Director, Israel Office
David joined JESNA in 1983 and was the Acting Executive Vice President for two years. He has directed JESNA's Israel programs since they began in 1986. Currently, David supervises the Lainer Interns for Jewish Education program with tracks in Tel Aviv and Hebrew Universities. David is also a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) at the School of Education at Bar Ilan University, specializing in Jewish education.
He received his BA in psychology from UCLA; his PhD in developmental psychology from Columbia University; and his rabbinic ordination from JTS. He also worked for two years in the Manhattan market research firm, Oxtoby-Smith.
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"Linking Silos": Creating More Accessible and Integrated Jewish Education
One of the major challenges facing Jewish education today is to provide learners with ready access to a seamless continuum of learning opportunities. Meeting this challenge will require new levels of cooperation among educational institutions and across various educational domains.
To help advance this process of "linking silos," the Lippman Kanfer Institute facilitated a “community of practice” for central agencies seeking to create more accessible, engaging, and integrated Jewish educational systems for learners and their families in thir communities. Senior professionals from more than two dozen agencies participated in conference calls and webinars, and contributed to the Institute's research on "silo linking."
Webinars on Leading Systems Change
An important series of webinars for this community of practice featured presentations by Ellen Kagen Waghelstein of Georgetown University on "leading systems change," "adaptive challenges," and "skills for 21st century leaders." These webinars are available for listening and viewing by clicking on the following links: Webinar Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
During 2009-10, the Lippman Kanfer Institute joined with JESNA's Learnings and Consultation Center to offer an additional series of webinars applying these concepts to the redesign and transformation of our systems for delivering supplementary Jewish education. These webinars are available through the Sosland Online Resource Center.
Together with JESNA's Berman Center, the Institute also undertook a case study of the Los Angeles Bureau of Jewish Education's Concierge for Jewish Education program, a model effort in encouraging expanded educational participation.
Download the Research Brief: Making Connections: A Case Study in Linking Silos
Day School Education in Challenging Times: Examining the Strategic Options
In 2009, the Lippman Kanfer Institute was commissioned to identify and analyze a variety of ways in which day schools that face persistent enrollment, financial and/or educational challenges can continue to provide the kind of quality Jewish learning and socialization experience that day schools have delivered for thousands of Jewish children and families. Under the guidance of a Design Team made up of top day school professionals and other educational leaders, the Institute prepared a policy report, "Day School Education in Challenging Times: Examining the Strategic Options," that analyzes a number of strategies that schools can pursue in order to increase enrollment and financial viability, as well as a number of alternative models that schools and communities may wish to consider if and when a high quality conventional day school cannot be sustained.
Download the Working Paper: Day School Education in Challenging Times: Examining the Strategic Options
Enhancing the Impact of Jewish Social Entrepreneurship: Jewish Innovation Think Tank
In September 2008, JESNA’s Lippman Kanfer Institute initiated the first large-scale gathering of stakeholders in the "Jewish innovation sector" -- promising new projects, organizations and change agents for Jewish education and Jewish life. To follow up on this conference and continue its efforts to strengthen the innovation sector, the Institute is partnering with Jewish Federations of North America and Jewish Jumpstart on a Jewish innovation think tank to gather and disseminate insights from the broader field of social entrepreneurship, distill learnings and best practices from innovating organizations, and address key issues relating to the success of the innovation sector, such as funding strategies, defining and measuring success, program development, building support systems, and “scaling up” to maximize impact. The Think Tank convened for the first time in December 2009, a two-day conference held in Toronto in cooperation with that community's UJA Federation. Participants in the Think Tank explored a range of issues affecting the vitality and effectiveness of the innovation sector in Jewish life and relationships among the various constituencies comprising the innovation "ecosystem." You can read a summary and analysis of the Think Tank and the ideas discussed here.
The Institute also promotes information sharing and ongoing communication among those interested in Jewish Social Entrepreneurship and New Leadership Development by sponsoring the Jewish Social Entrepreneurship group on Facebook.
Envisioning the Future of Congregational Education
The Lippman Kanfer Institute organized and facilitated the Working Group on Congregational Educational Change to bring together leaders of major local, regional, and national congregational educational change initiatives to share ideas and help envision the future of congregational education. The first stage of the process distilled key learnings and challenges emanating from the collective experience of a dozen major change projects. These learnings have been synthesized in the Institute's Working Paper, "Transforming Congregational Education: Lessons Learned and Questions for the Future."
In the second stage of the project, discussions focused on a wide range of issues that are affecting the development and evolution of new models of congregational education, including approaches to and challenges of transformational change, the roles of leadership, and visions of the future of congregational learning.
Download the Working Paper: Transforming Congregational Education: Lessons Learned and Questions for the Future
FutureTense NY Roundtable: The New Landscape of Jewish Learning
Some of the most exciting and innovative Jewish learning taking place today is happening in settings beyond traditional educational institutions. Vibrant Jewish learning is happening as part of social justice environmental and service learning programs, through the arts and culture, on line, in minyanim and other emergent spiritual communities, and as part of new forms of Jewish community - both "real" and "virtual." During 2009-10, the Lippman Kanfer Institute, in partnership with the PresenTense Institute, brought together innovators in Jewish learning from a number of these settings to share insights, look more closely at the future of these new models and venues Jewish learning, and consider their implications for Jewish education in mainstream settings.
First-hand accounts of moments that transformed a Jewish consciousness
In recent years a good deal of attention in Jewish educational discourse has been given to so-called “transformational experiences.” These are the events and encounters that can dramatically change a person’s beliefs, values, self-understanding, and behavior – in short, one’s life. Some have argued that creating such experiences and fostering such transformations should be a cardinal goal of our educational efforts. Other are more measured, believing that there is a serendipitous element involved in transformational experiences that makes attempting to “engineer” such experiences difficult, and even potentially counter-productive. Nonetheless, there is much that we can learn and potentially apply to our Jewish educational work by understanding better when, how, and why such transformations take place.
The Lippman Kanfer Institute’s Program Assistant, Monica Rozenfeld, set out to do just this. She invited friends, colleagues, and individuals who read her blog or heard about her quest from others to share their stories of transformational experiences, what she came to call “Jewish Sparks.” The narrative that follows recounts a number of these stories and offers Monica’s reflections on what we might learn from them.
Eight college girls get together every Wednesday night near Rutgers University to study Torah. These girls were once considered indifferent, unaffiliated, unengaged or even “on their way out” of Judaism. Today, they study Tanakh, Prayer, Holidays, Hebrew and divrei Torah. Five of these girls are preparing to spend a year in Israel to study.
What happened that changed the course of their lives from one of non-engagement to one in which they embrace their Jewish identity first and foremost? All those who shared their stories for this report had different experiences, unique moments that sparked the changes in their lives. But all of the diverse entry points led to a similar process of transformation. Each has embraced what Judaism has to offer in their own way, making their Jewishness something that they feel really belongs to them, and are all today living “Jewish” lives.
Accelerating Change in Jewish Education
Jewish education today is on the cusp of dynamic and dramatic change. Old paradigms are being challenged and giving way to new approaches and methods that can engage and empower 21st century learners, enabling them to draw on the riches of Jewish tradition to lead more meaningful, purposeful, and fulfilling lives. Learning is moving beyond the classroom into the community, homes, and cyberspace; silos separating educational venues and formats are being broken down; alternative models and new options are appearing; teachers are playing new roles as guides and mentors; learners and their families are taking charge of their own educational journeys.
This process of change is gathering momentum, but it remains scattered and sporadic. As a result , Jewish education still struggles to keep pace with the rapid changes taking place around us and tens of thousands of potential learners remain or become disengaged. To respond to this reality, the Lippman Kanfer Institute is spearheading an initiative, together with partners from throughout the Jewish educational world, to accelerate the pace of change in Jewish education.
This initiative incorporates three levels of activity:
The first involves building a wide and strong network of support for Jewish educational innovation and change. The Jewish Futures Conferences, organized in partnership with New York’s Jewish Education Project, are bringing hundreds of community leaders, educators, thought leaders, and young people together to explore new visions and new ideas for creating vibrant Jewish learning and living. The Jewish Education Change Network, with nearly nine hundred members from every part of the Jewish education world, is a meeting ground for all those pursuing and promoting positive change in Jewish education. Its online resources, blogs, forums and webinars offer participants the opportunity to learn about and share cutting edge thinking and practices and discuss critical issues. The Institute also engages in a variety of advocacy activities, including frequent articles and blog posts and presentations at conferences and other gatherings.
The second component of the Lippman Kanfer Institute’s Accelerating Change Initiative involves work with key institutions and sectors in Jewish education where change can generate significant system-wide leverage and ripple effects. Most recently, the Institute has been involved in helping both the Conservative and Reform movements formulate and pursue efforts to create more integrated, learner-centered educational systems for their constituents. The Institute has also partnered with other national organizations to expand the roles of the arts and technology in Jewish education, two key drivers of broad-scale change.
The third major element in the Lippman Kanfer Institute’s initiative focuses on helping communities make systemic change on the local level. The Institute works with central agencies for Jewish education and federations in communities across the continent to educate local leaders and funders about the case for change, to encourage far-reaching conversations about new ways of working together, and to help communities develop sophisticated agendas and strategies for change.
To give further momentum to its work on accelerating change, the Institute is introducing additional elements and strategies, including ways of empowering families to become more deeply engaged as change makers for themselves and others and preparing and supporting local community activists to be effective change catalysts and facilitators.
Jewish Futures Conference
Dare to dream big for Jewish education! Bringing together forward thinking communal and institutional leaders and innovative educators, Jewish Futures conferences and convenings explore developments in 21st century society, culture, and technology and their implications for Jewish life and learning. Click here to visit the Jewish Futures website.
Jewish Education Change Network
The Jewish Education Change Network enables all those who are working for change in Jewish education – educators, parents, volunteer and professional leaders, financial supporters, advocates, and learners – to connect with one another, to learn what leaders in the field are doing, to share their work, and to access ideas and resources that can help make Jewish education a more engaging, satisfying, and impactful experience for learners of all ages.
If you haven’t already, please join the NETWORK and visit its Ning.
PUBLICATIONS AND RESOURCES FROM PREVIOUS LIPPMAN KANFER INSTITUTE PROJECTS
Jewish Education 3.0 - Technology and Jewish Education: A Revolution in the Making
The Lippman Kanfer Institute's Jewish Education 3.0 (JE3) project brought together professionals working in Jewish education, media, and technology to explore the far-reaching impact and implications of new communication technologies for Jewish learning and teaching. More than a dozen papers prepared for the project, as well as a myriad of resources and regular updates on new developments in the world of technology and education, can all by found on the project's website: www.jesna.org/je3.
Jewish Education and the Arts: Realizing the Potential
The arts are a powerful vehicle for engaging learners, for deepening their educational experience, and for developing important skills and dispositions that extend well beyond the realm of the arts themselves. Integrating the arts fully into education builds enthusiasm for learning, provokes wonder and reflection, unleashes creativity, broadens perspectives, draws new meaning from familiar experiences, and forges connections among students as they create and critique collaboratively. This proposition is now widely accepted in the general educational world. But, in Jewish education, the arts are utilized to their full potential only sporadically, and the infrastructure and financial support needed to expand the role and impact of the arts are by and large missing. To help Jewish education fully take advantage of this power and potential, Avoda Arts, the Foundation for Jewish Culture, and JESNA’s Lippman Kanfer Institute joined forces in 2009, with support from the Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation, to explore potential strategies for expanding and enhancing the role of the arts in K-12 Jewish education. Read the report on strategies and resources for expanding the role and impact of the arts in Jewish education here.
The Lippman Kanfer Institute is available to work with communities and other organizations to assist them in developing and implementing initiatives that apply new approaches to conceptualizing, organizing, and delivering Jewish learning. The Institute also is prepared to engage professional and lay leaders in conversations and deliberations based on its work. Lippman Kanfer Institute staff and volunteer leaders have made numerous presentations at national and local conferences and meetings, and would be happy to come to your community to speak about innovative ideas that can strengthen and transform local Jewish education.
If you are an educational innovator, we would like to hear from you about your work and your ideas. If you are interested in participating in future Institute-sponsored conferences, projects or invitation only events, or in learning more about the Institute's work, please be in touch with us by contacting Lippman Kanfer Institute Director Dr. Jonathan Woocher at email@example.com.]]>