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Looming Jewish teacher shortage prompts new accelerated training in well-known Jerusalem program



When Rabbi David Wallach was looking for an institution to help him become a better Jewish day school teacher, he was frustrated to find that most of the places he researched offered either training in Jewish studies or general teacher training. It was hard to find both.

Then he discovered the Pardes Teacher Fellowship in Jerusalem, where he ended up getting his master’s degree in Jewish education.

“Pardes is the only place that integrated for me both the Jewish studies and the pedagogy,” said Wallach, now 32 and a teacher and assistant director of Jewish studies at Les Ecoles Azrieli Herzliah High School in Montreal, Canada. “It wasn’t that you learn Judaism in one place and learn education in another. This entire program is about the pedagogy of Jewish learning. That approach is unique, powerful and invaluable for me.”

More than 270 Jewish teachers and educators-in-training from North America have gone through the Pardes Teacher Fellowship, a two-year master’s program that offers participants intensive Jewish learning, Jewish educational pedagogy, practical student-teacher training and mentoring in North American day schools.

A mainstay for over two decades, the well-known fellowship is being redesigned for next year to make some key changes that administrators believe will better serve the future teachers of Jewish day schools: Instead of requiring two years in Israel with monthlong student-teaching stints along the way, Pardes is offering an accelerated program that requires just one year of intense study in Jerusalem followed by a second year of teacher training in schools in North America.

The program is funded, so students’ expenses are minimized and they receive a stipend, and at the program’s conclusion they obtain their master’s degree. Pardes is currently accepting applications for the fall.

“This is a unique opportunity to study pedagogy with spectacular teachers in Jewish education,” said Aviva Lauer, director of the Pardes Center for Jewish Educators.

There’s another reason for the changes at Pardes: a looming crisis in Jewish education to which the Jewish world hasn’t fully woken up, according to some educational leaders.

“The crisis that we knew was coming is here. Jewish day schools, early childhood centers and part-time congregational schools across the country face a shortage of educators to fill multiple openings for lead teachers, assistants and substitutes,” wrote the authors of a recent piece in the online publication eJewish Philanthropy published by leaders from the Association of Directors of Communal Agencies for Jewish Education. “This is no longer simply a ‘challenge.’ Rather, it is a crisis because of continuing trends in the overall job market, exacerbated by the pandemic.”

The shortage is related in part to low salaries in the profession. A recent report by the Collaborative for Applied Studies in Jewish Education showed that fewer new teachers are entering education and more current teachers are leaving. As a result, many Jewish schools are hiring staff without appropriate training.

“We are looking for teacher candidates who love Jewish text, Jewish living, and Jewish tradition, recognize that the children are our future, and want to serve their communities as role models for the next generation,” said Rabbi Avi Spodek, director of recruitment at the Pardes Center for Jewish Educators.

Rabbi Jordan Soffer, head of school at the Striar Hebrew Academy in Sharon, Massachusetts, used his training in the Pardes Teacher Fellowship to enhance his classroom teaching. (Courtesy of Pardes)

Pardes’ revamped fellowship program tightens its format with a more modular structure that offers more credit for the pedagogy courses students take in Israel and credit for some courses online. The purpose of the change is to enhance the practical training and enable those who can only get away to Israel for a single academic year (plus two summers) to participate.

“The new format is a soft easing-in to teaching,” Lauer said, giving students time to immerse themselves in a school before becoming full-time teachers.

The principle that guides the Pardes approach is subject-specific pedagogy, according to Lauer: “Not just how to be a teacher but how to be a Jewish studies teacher. It’s learning how to integrate and balance textual content with what we call ‘meaning-mining.’ It’s about introducing our students to varied lenses through which they might teach Jewish texts, and helping them explore what will be important and meaningful to them to teach their future students.”

The Pardes program boasts a star-studded staff, including Yiscah Smith, Rabbi Meesh Hammer-Kossoy, Judy Klitsner, and Rabbi Zvi Hirschfield for Jewish studies, and Rachel Friedrichs, Reuven Margrett, Sefi Kraut, and Susan Yammer for the pedagogical components.

“The teachers are so special,” said Josh Less, a current fellow. “They are all unique in their own ways and have a great grasp of their subjects.”

Pardes attracts students from a diversity of Jewish denominational, cultural and professional backgrounds. The program’s alumni include six heads of school, five principals, 12 Jewish studies department chairs and six directors of Jewish life, among scores of Jewish teachers.

Less, 28, who recently completed a round of teacher training at the Milken School in Los Angeles, said the Pardes program has given him critical classroom experience and essential Jewish study skills that he learned in Pardes’ beit midrash, or Jewish study hall. He plans to become a full-time day school teacher but first wants to get his rabbinical ordination.

“My advice to someone thinking about this program is: Definitely do it!” Less said. “The program is such a blessing for the right person who wants to do intense learning and teaching. It’s intense but indispensable.”

Wallach said the most valuable thing he took away from the Pardes program was how to connect learning to practice. When he teaches about Passover, for example, Wallach turns his classroom walls into an art gallery, hanging dozens of images of the Seder’s four children drawn from different haggadahs and asking his students to explain which images speak to them. That gets them talking. Once they’re done analyzing, he asks the students to create their own images of the four children.

“This kind of exercise always gets them. They are intrigued by it. They are involved,” said Wallach, who has been teaching for seven years. He credits Pardes with showing him this kind of approach to learning.

“It wasn’t just: Here’s how to teach, in theory. It was about how to teach this specific Jewish studies text, the pedagogy of it,” he recalled. “We practiced it, and we had a chance to actually live it, both with our peer training and the teaching.”

Wallach added, “All the best teachers I know went through Pardes.”

Having excellent teachers is critical for the future of the Jewish people, Lauer said.

“Our goal is to give our fellows outstanding training – for their own sake, for the sake of the schools that will hire them, for the sake of the children and for the sake of the future of the Jewish people,” she said. “People who graduate from our program are avidly sought-after and seen as stars in the field. We are hoping to find the new stars. The Jewish world needs new stars.”

The post Looming Jewish teacher shortage prompts new accelerated training in well-known Jerusalem program appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Local News

Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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