MORE THAN 100 teachers and madrichim (teaching aides) from after-school Hebrew schools in Monmouth and Middlesex counties participated Sept. 3 in the Jewish Educators Conference held at Temple Shaari Emeth, Manalapan. The program was organized by Jewish Federation in the Heart of NJ and its Jewish Education Directors group.
“For most religious schools, professional development can be costly and may not be feasible,” said Melissa Pescatore of Temple Shaari Emeth, who co-hosted the conference with Elie Salomon of Hatikvah Charter School’s Nefesh Yehudi enrichment program and Inbar Robbins of Lev Academy at Perrineville Jewish Center. “The Education Directors group gears every conference to growth, development, and affordability.”
The conference teaches emerging and innovative ways to improve Hebrew school education for all students.
Keynote speaker Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer, director of Whole Community Inclusion Jewish Learning Venture in Philadelphia, spoke about the importance of inclusion in schools and synagogues, and the challenges faced by people with special needs.
Moushkie Volovik, director of the Volunteer & Alumni Division at the Friendship Circle of Central New Jersey, shared strategies and tools for educators to connect with children of different needs and learning styles, including those with sensory, attention, and other issues. For instance, she emphasized the importance of using all the senses in classroom presentations.
Another speaker was Marlene Herman, leader of Torah Time at Highland Park Conservative Temple-Congregation Anshe Emeth, who demonstrated how to use games, pictures, and other interactive methods in teaching Torah and Jewish holidays to young children.
Breakout sessions allowed participants to meet new colleagues and exchange ideas.
“Our annual conference is a boon not just for Jewish educators to gain more insight and knowledge as the world of Jewish education changes, but most importantly, for our students who will benefit from those insights and knowledge,” said Robbins of Lev Academy.
Inbar Singal, manager of community engagement at the federation, said supporting the Jewish Education Directors Group and its teachers conference is one of the ways federation invests in a strong Jewish future. “Jewish federation supports Hebrew schools along with day schools and informal education programs, such as summer camp, with the goals of inspiring young people to embrace their Jewish identity and preparing them to become future community leaders,” she said.
The Jewish Education Directors group meets monthly at the federation office; their work over the course of a year culminates in the annual conference. For information, contact Singal at InbarS@jewishheartnj.org.