In 1994, William Davidson (z"l) of Detroit, Michigan established the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education with a $15 million contribution. His goals were to add more professionals to the field, provide development opportunities to educators already working in the many venues where Jewish education takes place, and increase the field's knowledge base through academic and practitioner research.
Student Jennifer Stern describes the community of The Davidson School:
Becoming a Jewish educator is a sacred calling. At The Davidson School, we seek to enhance that calling through a rigorous program in Judaic studies, Hebraic studies, and education, and through personal attention to your religious and professional growth. You will join fellow students and faculty who have very diverse backgrounds and experiences. These wonderful people will develop into your future colleagues and friends.
In the words of Abraham Joshua Heschel, only one who is an heir is qualified to be a pioneer. Our school weaves together academic study and career preparation, so that by fulfilling the many roles of the Jewish educator—teacher, leader, lifelong learner, religious personality, and researcher—you can be a worthy heir to the Jewish tradition. We also help you grow to be a pioneer: a contributing innovator in transforming people and institutions, nurturing your own students and educational settings, and cultivating loving and capable people who serve God and humanity in all aspects of their lives.
The Davidson School offers both master's and doctoral degrees in its historic home on 3080 Broadway, where Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan became the dean of its predecessor, the Teachers Institute, in 1909. It also offers online courses leading to a master of arts degree.
In addition to offering courses, The Davidson School works closely with the Melton Research Center for Jewish Education, the Rebecca and Israel Ivry Prozdor High School, the Day School Leadership Training Institute (DSLTI), and The Leadership Institute: Shaping Congregational Leaders and Learners (LI), all of which provide unique opportunities for student involvement.
The Davidson School is informed by a vision of the Jewish educator that unites five distinct strands:
The Educator as Learner: Those wishing to become Jewish educators can build a strong foundation in Judaica at The Davidson School. We hope that this experience will insure the habits of mind that foster lifelong Jewish learning.
The Educator as Teacher: The Davidson School prides itself on preparing educators who are knowledgeable in the theory and practice of Jewish education. Our graduates can apply contemporary pedagogy and educational policy to classrooms, camps, adult settings, and community centers.
The Educator as Leader: Davidson School students see themselves as equipped to provide educational solutions to the problems besetting U.S. Jewish society, other diasporas, and the state of Israel. Learning for leadership takes place in the classroom, in field placements, and in cocurricular arenas.
The Educator as Inquirer: Our students at the master's level have the opportunity to improve their research skills in their coursework. Qualified candidates can engage in undertaking original research under supervision. Doctoral students must complete a minimum of nine credits in various research methodologies in preparation for writing a dissertation.
The Educator as Religious Literate: Our school is pluralistic, including Jews of all denominations and those who identify as secular or cultural Jews. However, we expect that all of our graduates will be knowledgeable about Jewish culture and ritual practice. We offer opportunities for personal religious and spiritual growth through tutorials for interested students.