Jewish Education to Help Us Thrive


When we sign up our children to participate in Jewish educational experiences, what are we hoping for? Is our goal merely to have our kids become active and knowledgeable Jews? Or, if we dig deep down into our souls, might we hope that everyone—not only our children—who engages in Jewish learning and community is more fulfilled as a result?

This is the paradigm shift starting to appear throughout the field of Jewish education. It is a shift predicted many years ago by Dr. Jonathan Woocher, z”l, a true Gadol, one of the greatest Jewish educational thinkers of our time. In 2013, Dr. Woocher stated, “Twentieth-century Jewish education was designed to answer the question, ‘How can we ensure that individuals remain “good” Jews, even as they become good (and successful) Americans?’” Jewish education must respond to a subtly, but significantly, different question: How can we help Jews draw on and use their Jewishness to live more meaningful, fulfilling, and responsible lives?

As a tribute to Dr. Woocher, who served for many years on The William Davidson School Advisory Board, we have asked a group of scholars and practitioners to respond to his visionary proclamation. In this issue, we learn how the idea of thriving aligns with ancient philosophies, Jewish texts, and today’s training of the next generation of Jewish educators. We will also see evidence of this approach in Jewish education emerging across the continent, from the early childhood classroom to the JCC to the synagogue school.

As you read through, consider: How might you inspire a shift in your own approach to Jewish education? How might you encourage those around you to follow suit, helping our learners and communities to lead more meaningful, fulfilling, and thriving lives?

Mark S. Young, Managing Director, Leadership Commons

Read the articles in this issue of Gleanings