Amy Leichtner is a Wexner Graduate Fellow / Davidson School Scholar and looks forward to beginning her studies at the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education. In her recent work as a full-time teacher at Central Synagogue, Amy wrote curriculum, created family-education programs, and served as a classroom teacher for grades three to six in an innovative religious school educational program. Previously, Amy coordinated programs for high school and junior high school students at the Youth Division of the Union for Reform Judaism and worked as a Jewish Campus Service Corps Fellow for Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life at Tufts University. She is originally from Boston, Massachusetts, and spent her undergraduate years at Brandeis University, focusing on sociology and Judaic studies.
Ariela C. Pelaia
Ariela C. Pelaia, a Wexner Graduate Fellow / Davidson School Scholar, is originally from San Diego, California. She graduated from Wellesley College with bachelor's degrees in Religion and Psychology. She also has a master's degree in Jewish Studies from Columbia University. Ariela is currently a first-year graduate student at The Jewish Theological Seminary, working toward a master's degree in Jewish Education.
May 17, 2006
Dear Dr. Brown,
Two years ago I had a goal—I wanted to become a Jewish educator. Motivated by this goal, I started at the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education, although with some hesitation. Even then, after having already taught for three years in a variety of Jewish educational settings, I wasn’t certain as to whether this would be the right career for me.
Two years later, having learned and studied at The Davidson School, I am certain that I have chosen the right profession. I have developed into an innovative teacher and am consistently looking for ways to improve my methods of teaching. During the program, I gained the right tools and skills to grow as an educator (mechanech) as opposed to a teacher (moreh). In Hebrew there is a vast difference between these two words. Moreh is based on the root yud, raish, hey, which means to teach and to instruct. It also means to direct, to order, and to command. On the other hand, mechanech is based on the root het, nun, chaf, which means to be a trainer and a coach. It also means dedication.
Having spent two years at The Davidson School as a full-time graduate student in Jewish education, I have made the educational journey from being a moreh to becoming a mechanech. I believe that I am ready to be a trainer, a coach, and a guide. I am completely devoted to my work and plan to dedicate my career to educating future generations of Jews.
I have had the wonderful and meaningful opportunity to experience learning at JTS, and after having received so much I am ready to give back. More than anything else, I am ready to start my new professional life in Jewish education.
I would like to thank you and The Davidson School faculty. It was a pleasure to study with you and learn from you. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful program.
In my final summer as a staff member at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, I had the privilege of partaking in the Alexander Shapiro Fellowship for students at JTS. The Shapiro Fellowship gave me added incentive to return to Ramah one last time in my work as a Jewish educator and, afterward, provided me with the opportunity to have my voice heard as a veteran staff member.
I spent the summer of 2005 working with the chinuch staff as a formal teacher, and the impact that I made on my students was tremendously strengthened by the skills that I had gained in my first year studying at The William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education. I taught two classes, one of my own design and one dedicated to using drama in creating connections to Torah.
I found my time teaching these classes to be deeply fulfilling, and witnessed remarkable creativity in the minds of my students as they brought the Torah to life for their fellow chanichim. Again, I do not think that I would have been able to make this happen were it not for my study at JTS.
After the summer, my commitment to the Shapiro Fellowship came full circle as I had the chance to participate in a series of roundtable discussions with other fellows, representing veteran tzevet from the entire Ramah community. During these meetings, we were able to reflect on our summers and share lessons learned from our years at Ramah.
More importantly, we were able to have our voices heard by the leadership of National Ramah. It was important for us to be able to speak about the improvements that we think can be made to our camps, whether it was in terms of programming, education, the culture of Hebrew, drama, or even sports. I felt that when I was offering my opinion about how Ramah can be made better, somebody was listening. As a budding Jewish educator, I appreciate the investment that was put into my professional development, and I know that I will owe a debt to both National Ramah and the Shapiro Fellowship for having the faith in me to contribute to the future of Jewish education.