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The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

Jewish history in the making

Educators come to JDS for four-day institute
Educators finish off their day at Al Ha’esh for dinner.
Al Ha’esh
Educators finish off their day at Al Ha’esh for dinner.

As students were out enjoying their summer vacations, teachers and administrators from CESJDS were leading an initiative to better Jewish history education nationwide.

In 2019, JDS launched the Center for Excellence and Engagement in Jewish History (CEEJH) in an effort to strengthen Jewish History education at school and in the broader Jewish community.

“JDS is different from most other Jewish day schools in that there are only a few schools that have their own separate Jewish history department,” Head of School Rabbi Mitchel Malkus said. “Even schools that do [have a separate department] don’t have the same number of courses and the same expertise that we have. The idea was for JDS to become a hub for Jewish history education for other schools and to support the larger field.”

During COVID-19, the center focused primarily on marketing and consulting relationships with Jewish day schools across the country. However, now that the pandemic is over, CEEJH launched its biggest project yet: nine representatives from six Jewish day schools gathered at JDS at the end of June for a four day Jewish History summer institute.

The program was led by the Jewish History Department and focused primarily on Israel, Zionism and the Jewish world. According to CEEJH Director and Jewish history teacher Rachel Bergstein, the summer institute was largely funded by the Jewish National Fund (JNF). Bergstein noted that Israel is part of the much larger context of Jewish history, making it a good topic to start with.

“Jewish history should be thoughtful; it should be the connecting part of a Jewish day school education,” Bergstein said. “It can connect the elements of Jewish text and lived Jewish experience and Hebrew and Israel. They are all part of Jewish history and it can be a great way of explaining how they are all connected.”

Visiting educators had the opportunity to work one-on-one with mentors from the JDS Jewish history faculty during the CEEJH program. Mentors were assigned based on the type of curriculum educators were crafting and the expertise of the mentors themselves. Throughout the school year, the mentors will continue to support the educators through in-person visits, check-ins and providing various course materials when needed.

For Rina Mangurten and Roy Meron, Co-Directors of Jewish Studies at Ronald C Wornick Jewish Day School in Foster City, California, the center was extremely impactful in considering how they are going to approach Jewish history education in the future.

“It is a realistic ask to have Jewish history as its own thing,” Mangurten said. “Jewish history is just as important as history or as Jewish studies or as math or a science. Thinking about how we can create a curriculum that covers all the important Jewish historical pieces is super important to us.”

Both JDS faculty mentors and the visiting educators believe that the institute was a positive and worthwhile experience. In the future, Bergstein hopes to run the summer institute again with a new focus and new schools.

“This is super important because it’s not being done,” Bergstein said. “There are lots of places you can go to to learn about excellent finance education or excellent math education or even Jewish text education, but no one is doing this for Jewish history. That is why we are taking the lead on this…it will impact hundreds of students.”

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About the Contributor
Simon Albert
Simon Albert, News Editor
Simon Albert is thrilled to continue working with the Lion’s Tale and take on his new role as the News Editor. In the past, Simon was the Assistant In-Depth Editor where he built skills as a copy-editor and spread designer. He enjoys bringing light to unknown stories through his writing and design and hopes to work on this more in the news section. Aside from Lion’s Tale, Simon is active in many extracurricular activities such as Mock Trial, Model UN, and Shir Madness, where he has a prominent role in each one. Simon is excited to bring his artistic and writing skills to the newspaper this year.

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