This week, more than 100 teachers and madrichim (teaching aids) from supplemental/after-school Hebrew schools throughout Monmouth and Greater Middlesex counties participated in the Jewish Educators Conference held at Temple Shaari Emeth, Manalapan, and organized by Jewish Federation and the Heart of New Jersey’s Education Directors group. The conference “teaches the teachers” emerging and innovative ways to improve Hebrew school education for all students.
The event started with a presentation by keynote speaker, Mrs. Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer, Director of Whole Community Inclusion Jewish Learning Venture in Philadelphia, who spoke about the importance of inclusion in our schools and synagogues and the challenges people with special needs are facing.
Breakout sessions offered participants the opportunity to learn different approaches and methods to teach learners with different needs. Participants met new colleagues and exchanged ideas throughout.
Moushkie Volovik, Director of Volunteer & Alumni Division at the Friendship Circle of Central New Jersey, shared methods to teach and connect with children who have different needs and learning styles, including children with sensory, attention, and other issues. She emphasized the importance of using all senses and presented various tools she uses when working with children who have special needs.
Marlene Herman, leader of Torah Time at Highland Park Conservative Temple, Congregation Anshe Emeth, demonstrated how to use games, pictures and other interactive methods in teaching Torah and Jewish holidays to young children.
"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 of Nefesh Yehudi Academy, an after school Judaic Studies program in East Brunswick, and Inbar Robbins of Lev Academy at Perrineville Jewish Center. “The Education Directors group gears every conference to growth, development, and affordability.”
Robbins added, “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.”
Inbar Singal, Manager of Community Engagement at Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey, said supporting the Jewish Education Directors Group and its teachers conference is one of the ways Jewish Federation invests in a strong Jewish future through education. “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.”
In the last three years, Singal says, this group of dedicated Jewish Education Directors has been meeting monthly at the Federation office to foster cohesion, camaraderie and support to those who work in Jewish Supplemental Education. The group’s work over the course of the year culminates in the conference.
Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey strengthens the entire Jewish community – making it safer, stronger, more supportive, and sustainable. Central to its work are aiding those in need, fighting anti-Semitism, enhancing security, inspiring young people to foster a strong Jewish future, connecting people of all ages to Israel and the local communal experiences and resources they find meaningful, and cultivating a stronger sense of collective responsibility for justice and repairing the world.