The Blended Masters Program in Jewish Education
The Melton Centre for Jewish Education at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, very possibly the leading academic body and authority on Jewish education across the globe, has recognized the shortcomings of present day Jewish education and the plight of Jewish educators and communities in their attempts to keep new generations part of the of the Jewish people; to make Judaism as relevant to children, youth and young adults as it is to the older Jewish populations. The faculty of the Melton Center have recognized the quandary, and are doing something about it.
In March 2016, the Melton Center kicked off the 1 year, 40 credit, blended M.A. in Jewish education program, which combines distance learning with a 6-week, intense on-campus summer semester in Israel, hence “blended”. This format allows program participants to maintain their current jobs while furthering their career potential and studying the latest thinking, subject matter, methods and tools in the world of Jewish Education.
Built with the increasingly varied needs of contemporary Jewish education in mind, the MA in Jewish Education program provides, on the one hand, a strong background in education areas such as curriculum, formal and informal education, and Israel education. On the other hand, the program offers a wide range of subjects related to Jewish education in particular, including present day Jewry, teaching traditional Jewish texts, Jewish bi-culturalism, and Israel studies. The program was designed for educators and those active in their communities, in both formal and informal frameworks, who are interested in Jewish Education and its dialogue with Social Sciences, Educational Philosophy, and Jewish and Israel Studies.
On the practical side of things, as we touched on before, the principal advantage of the program is that Jewish educators and young community leaders abroad who, for various reasons, are not able to spend an extended period of time in Jerusalem, are given the opportunity to study with Melton Centre faculty and enjoy the Hebrew University’s unique academic resources. Moreover, looking beyond the program itself, the MA in Jewish Education gives its graduates a competitive edge, in terms of academic level and prestige, over those who complete their studies at other institutions.
The Blended Masters Program in Jewish Education, Up Close with the Dean
To better understand how the MAJE program answers the needs of Jewish educators and communities and to let us in on additional details about the program, we had the unique privilege of sitting down with the Dean of the Melton Centre for Jewish Education, Professor Jonathan Cohen:
Why did the Melton Centre launch the program?
The making of a top quality Jewish educator requires more than just teaching details, dates, and data. Learning about Judaism is a choice, one made less by parents, as children get older, and increasingly by the students themselves. Those teaching Jewish studies must, therefore, be inspiring, armed with relevant messaging that meaningfully touches on tradition, not just that pays it lip service. All too many afterschool Jewish programs devolve into little more than an opportunity to socialize with other Jewish children. Even when serious content is taught, how often does it make a real impact on our children? Think back at how many of your own Hebrew School lessons were truly memorable. For various sociological, cultural and other reasons, the situation today is far worse.
These are just part of the changing reality of Jewish life in the Diaspora, in response to which the Melton Centre for Jewish Education is continually moving in new directions, and offering solutions to help strengthen Jewish education in communities abroad. In addition, the Melton Centre has, over the years and amongst others, gained substantial experience in developing professional programs and training modules, as well as distance learning programs. Combine this, with the fact that Melton’s faculty has placed the Center at the heart of the turmoil, and you have the perfect premise for launching the MA Jewish Education.
What is the program’s student appeal?
As part of the M.A. track currently offered at the Melton Centre, students learn with the leading scholars in the field of Jewish Education, benefitting from their broad knowledge and network of connections. Personal guidance is offered throughout the program, to help participants achieve their goals during both the on and off-campus semesters.
Academically, Melton offers the most rigorous program available and is the only such degree recognized by the prestigious Hebrew University. Regarding the unparalleled convenience of the program for its students, Professor Cohen explains: “This is the first time we’ve accredited an almost full distance learning study program. Now, Jewish educators all over the world can continue teaching in their home countries, yet still experience studying in Jerusalem.”
Who is the ideal applicant and student?
The program is aimed at “educators and professionals, entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs, and intrapreneurs, interested in the field of formal and informal Jewish Education” says Professor Cohen. “The program is targeted at a qualified audience, usually people with a few years’ work experience in the field, people who are interested in innovation in education and in educational organizations, and people who are looking to enhance and consolidate their professional careers.”
What are the program’s application requirements?
Applicants for the master’s program in Jewish education must hold a bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences or Humanities, from an institution recognized by the Hebrew University. They must also have proven experience as educators with formal or informal places of Jewish Education, and letters of recommendation.
- GPA 3.0
- English proficiency. Students whose mother tongue is not English are required to submit proof of a having a very good knowledge of the English language (TOEFL, IELTS or similar).
What are the deadlines for submitting an application?
The next sessions of the program commence on October 22, 2017, and March 5, 2018. Applications are now open.
What can a student do to best prepare for the program in advance of its start?
For students who come from disciplines other than education and/or Jewish studies, we enable to complete coursework in these fields of study at no extra charge. Students may begin with these studies immediately after registration.
What will students learn in the program? What is the program’s format?
The program consists of 40 credits of which 14 credits will be offered on site at the Hebrew University ‘s Mount Scopus campus and 26 credits will be offered as distance learning courses. Participants must submit two seminar papers, with one paper related to a course taught on-site at the university.
The program focuses on three central themes:
- The first focus is the philosophy, sociology, and psychology of Jewish Education and Israel Education. This focus discusses the major issues faced by Jewish and Israel education, including: Who is the educated person and who is the educated Jew? What are the goals of Jewish Education and how can we adapt them to the issues we face today? What is the role of the Jewish educator, and how can the institution help him or her? What place does Israel hold in Jewish Education? What kind of relationship should there be between Jewish Schools and Israel? What is the role of the Zionism in our times?
- The second focus is on the teaching of Jewish texts. This focus deals with the teaching of Biblical, Rabbinic and Jewish philosophical texts. In the course of the program, lecturers offer examples of different texts and instruct students how to analyze these texts to give them the necessary tools to discuss and teach the texts in schools and communities. Throughout the courses, participants learn different perspectives, for instance: Philosophy for Children, Levinas’ ethical perspective, and others. This focus is theoretical and practical because studies involve both the fundamentals of all perspectives and practical examples that can be implemented in the field.
- The third focus is leadership and innovation in Jewish Education. The primary three pillars of this focus are vision, innovation, and leadership. Participants examine their own personal vision of Jewish Education, as well as their institutional and community’s vision. During the program, students delve into several theories that will help them to reflect on their own Jewish educational vision.
Prof. Cohen told us: “One of our main goals with this program is to help educators combine education with innovation. The growing diversity in Jewish communities goes hand in hand with ever more diverse requirements demanded of Jewish educators. This program will give Jewish educators the tools to create customized programs to serve local Jewish communities with flexible and innovative solutions to educational challenges.”
What do you expect student outcomes to be?
“Long-term, the measure of success is going to be how these people will integrate and reinforce their professional careers and educational institutions. Will they become harbingers of change, able to influence the institutions where they work and the day-to-day work with the student body?
Will they be able to contend with educational challenges in general, and those of Jewish education in particular, in an age of globalization and uncertain identities? We fully expect that, for the students of the blended MA in Jewish Education program, that the answer will be a resounding YES!”