Providing Quality Jewish Education to All

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Rabbi Shoshana Nyer, director of lifelong learning at Suburban Temple – Kol Ami, shares how support from the Jewish Education Center (JEC), a Federation beneficiary agency, has an impact on her career as a Jewish educator, as well as the congregants of her synagogue. Our community's support of the Campaign for Jewish Needs helps make the JEC's commitment to education and lifelong learning possible.

Each month at the Education Director’s Network we dedicate a portion of the meeting to member sharing. A question is asked of the group, and each member shares his or her answer in the hopes that we will all learn from each other. Sometimes the question is academic, sometimes it has to do with professional development, and sometimes it’s just a fun way to get to know more about each other. At a meeting in the spring of my first year, we were asked to share where we tended to have lunch if we were meeting someone professionally. I answered, only half-jokingly, that if I was not eating at my desk, it was likely that the Jewish Education Center (JEC) was feeding me.

As a member of the Education Director’s Network, The Jewish Family Educator’s Network and the Youth Professional’s Network, most months the JEC feeds me three times. They truly live by the Jewish adage, “Im ayn kemach ayn Torah, v’im ayn Torah, ayn kemach.” Without sustenance (literally flour) there is no learning and without learning there is no sustenance. The JEC does not only take this literally by feeding us, but metaphorically as well because the professional support I have received from the JEC has both sustained me and fostered deep learning.

Having worked in other communities and with colleagues throughout the country, I know the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland is both envied and an organizational structure towards which they aspire. The chance to sit down monthly and have important conversations with colleagues about the work we are doing, the ability to collaborate, and the opportunities for professional development from renowned speakers throughout the educational world, is second to none, and I know it has enriched my ability to be an educational leader.

And when it came time for me to enhance my education even further by pursuing a Master’s degree in Jewish Education through Hebrew Union College’s Executive Master’s program, the JEC was once again there to support me, not only by encouraging me and believing that I could take on this challenge with a full time job and a family, but also by helping to partially fund my education. I could not have gained the learning which I did from this incredible program without the JEC’s sustenance in all its forms.

I received my Masters of Arts in Religious Education on a date which happened to be the 13th anniversary of my ordination. In the few days leading up to the ceremony we were asked to reflect quite often on how we were different at the end of the program than we were at the beginning. At one of these moments I reflected on how the program had helped me to find my voice and my passion as a Jewish educator. Through this program I have realized how important it is to me to ensure the inclusion of those with special needs in our learning community, and I have become a published author on the subject, our congregation has been recognized nationally for the work we do, and I spoke at a local non-religious conference about the significance of a spiritual community for families with member who has special needs.

None of this would have been possible without the financial sustenance from the JEC.

The JEC’s reach extends far beyond educational leaders like myself. It extends to the teachers we supervise because we are better able to train them and provide them with greater professional development opportunities. And their reach extends beyond religious school and the classroom to informal education as well. For congregations like mine, who could not afford to hire a youth educator or youth group director without the help of the Youth Subvention Grant, this support is invaluable. Suburban Temple – Kol Ami has been able to build a vibrant teen culture, and will be able to do so in the future because of your generous funding. And their reach extends to all the students with whom our teachers and youth educators work. They are the present and the future of the Jewish people, they are being given a richer Torah of learning because of the sustenance you provide, and for that my colleagues and I are grateful. Im ayn kemach, ayn Torah – without sustenance there is no Torah. Thank you for providing the financial sustenance that allows us to impart a deep and meaningful Torah.

You make stories like this possible because of your support to the Jewish Federation of Cleveland's Campaign for Jewish Needs.

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