The William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education of The Jewish Theological Seminary commits to excellence through a variety of services offered to schools, programs, and professionals in the field. These services currently include professional development in administrative leadership and instructional leadership, curriculum development, or a combination. To ensure high quality, our services are consistently evaluated. They reflect current trends in leadership, instructional methods, materials, and technology.
Some of the programs fall under the auspices of the Melton Research Center for Jewish Education, with foundations of excellence in curriculum development, teacher support, and scholarship in Jewish education. The Melton Research Center was established in 1960 under the sponsorship of Samuel M. Melton of Columbus, Ohio, to improve the quality of Jewish education throughout North America, and operates under the leadership of Dr. Zachary Lasker, director of Education Projects for the Melton Research Center and The Davidson School, and Dr. Deborah Miller, associate director. Faculty and staff at the Melton Research Center design, test, implement, and evaluate new approaches to instructional methods, materials, and technology; models for organizational change; and staff and leadership development. Over the years, Melton Research Center curriculum materials have been used in more than 300 Conservative, Reform, community, and Orthodox congregational and day schools throughout the United States, Canada, and abroad.
Our field programs include:
Day School Leadership Training Institute (DSLTI)
To ensure the growth and success of Jewish day schools, this professional development program provides training and support to a cadre of visionary and skilled aspiring heads of school who exemplify Jewish values, and who are committed to developing them in this and future generations. The Day School Leadership Training Institute provides a cutting-edge curriculum, dynamic experiences in authentic contexts, collaborative cohort groupings, and ongoing mentoring and support. DSLTI is funded jointly by the AVI CHAI Foundation and JTS.
Project Etgar and Etgar Yesodi
The Melton Research Center and the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism joined forces to create Project Etgar, a cutting edge approach to instruction and learning in the synagogue middle school. Since 2011, Etgar Yesodi, initially funded by the Covenant Foundation, has been under development to provide curriculum for the 21st century in congregational schools for grades 3 to 5. The new curriculum takes into account new ways of promoting Jewish learning via experiential education, the arts, family involvement, and technology, and reinforces JTS's commitment to serving Jewish education throughout North America. The curriculum is being piloted in select schools in North America.
Project Etgar educators discover their own learning styles and plan for teaching
with different learning styles in mind.
Ivriyon: Hebrew Immersion Program for Jewish Day School Teachers
Ivriyon offers up to 15 day school teachers the opportunity to enter a one-month summer Hebrew-immersion program for teaching Judaic curricula. This program strengthens Hebrew language proficiency and the skills necessary for teaching in Hebrew through peer teaching, participant presentations, and textual study. A review of grammar and a focus on vocabulary expansion are also integral to the program. Ivriyon is funded jointly by the AVI CHAI Foundation and JTS, and is coordinated through The Davidson School and JTS's Hebrew Language program.
Jewish Day School Standards and Benchmarks Project
The Melton Research Center supports the Jewish Day School Standards and Benchmarks Project, focused on cultivating instructional leaders who pursue a high standard for teaching and learning of Tanakh. This project, funded by a generous grant from the AVI CHAI Foundation, guides day school educators to identify standards for Bible study and the tools to achieve these goals. It has resulted in intense professional development for teachers and leaders in the field of Bible education.
Dr. Alvan Kaunfer (center) coordinates the New Teachers' Institute for teachers who are new to the Jewish Day School Standards and Benchmarks Project.
Jewish Early Childhood Education Leadership Institute (JECELI)
The Jewish Early Childhood Education Leadership Institute is a collaboration between JTS and Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, and is now entering its second cohort of participants. Developed in consultation with Bank Street College of Education and with generous support from the Jim Joseph Foundation, JECELI provides new and aspiring Jewish early childhood education directors with 15 months of intensive professional development focused on best practices in early childhood education and Jewish education.
Jewish Experiential Leadership Institute (JELI)
This partnership program with JCC Association enhances the personal growth, Jewish leadership abilities, and professional skill sets of talented, emerging JCC leaders working in settings that nurture experiential Jewish education programs. The Jewish Experiential Leadership Institute is a 15-month, in-service program for middle- and senior-management professionals in JCCs throughout North America. JELI fellows learn to apply Jewish frameworks to setting their organizations' vision, executing day-to-day management, and developing their own leadership identity. JELI is supported with generous funding from the Jim Joseph Foundation.
MaToK: Bible Curriculum for Day Schools
The Melton Research Center partners with the Schechter Day School Network in the development and implementation of MaToK, a Bible curriculum for day schools. An important part of MaToK is its accompanying professional development. MaToK's original development was funded by a generous grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation. MaToK is now used in Conservative, community, and Orthodox day schools throughout North America—and one school in Antwerp.
ReFrame: Experiential Education in Supplementary Schools
The Davidson School is committed to meeting the growing and changing needs of children who receive their Jewish education in supplementary (after school, Sunday, and synagogue) school environments. The ReFrame initiative explores the technique of experiential Jewish education—known best for its successful implementation in settings such as Jewish camps—in congregational settings. Asking the question "How can the techniques of experiential education, which serve well in camps, increase levels of engagement and learning in schools?" is one way to begin reframing the vision of supplementary Jewish education. Drawing on the growing expertise of The Davidson School's faculty and staff in experiential education, and our partnership with the Ramah Camping Movement, we have the capacity to disseminate new ideas, develop and support new models, and conduct research and evaluation that can be shared.
ReFrame focuses primarily on the educators who serve Conservative congregations throughout North America. Participating educators can engage in the ReFrame initiative in multiple ways through a dialogue using social media, online technology, and design lab workshops, and as part of a cohort of sites at which action research will be conducted.