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Career Story: Director Of Education At A Synagogue

Director Of Education At A Synagogue

Job Title: Director Of Education At A Jewish Temple

Type of Company: My synagogue's mission is to guide our members of all ages in the exploration and expression of personal spirituality, Jewish learning, making our world a better place, and ensuring Jewish continuity while being a part of a community. The core part of our mission - Jewish learning - is where my job fits in. We strive to make the value of "Lifelong Learning" come alive by providing vibrant learning opportunities for children and adults of all ages.

Education: BA, French Literature and Art History, Smith College •• MAJE and MAJCS (Jewish Education and Jewish Communal Service), Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Previous Experience: While in graduate school, I had two year-long internships working with the Program Director of a synagogue and then as the assistant director at another synagogue.

Job Tasks: My job as the director of education at the synagogue is a very full one! Our congregation has a full-time nursery school program for our youngest children, a supplementary school (meets afternoons, evenings and Sunday morning) for students in kindergarten - grade 12, and a full program of learning for the adults in our community. I supervise the nursery school director, an assistant educator and a part-time Librarian. I also work closely with the clergy in program planning and curriculum development.

Some of the many things I do in my job include: hiring/firing teachers, teaching teachers how best to teach their classes, developing and refining our curriculum, creating and running fun education programs for the whole family, developing yearly budgets for our education programs, disciplining students when necessary, meeting with parents about their children's learning needs, creating an exciting program of adult learning. And, of course, a fair amount of administrative work: shopping for supplies, creating flyers and letters, reading progress reports twice a year, doing monthly payroll, making sure that rooms are set-up for programs appropriately and just about anything else you might think of that is part of running an education program.

A good educator is always learning and I do try to keep up with my own learning and professional development. I am involved in several national professional organizations and my leadership roles have helped me be a better leader in my own institution. Each year I am able to attend a certain number of professional development opportunities that help expand my knowledge of both current educational trends and important Jewish issues.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is interacting with children and their parents. Because I have been in my job a long time, I have the privilege of watching many kids grow up before my eyes. There is nothing greater than having former students return to the temple and being able to re-connect with them as adults. I have danced at the weddings of former students and have rejoiced at the birth of babies.

I also very much enjoy working with the teachers in our school. I enjoy mentoring them and encouraging them to be the best they can be. I have been lucky enough to have several former teachers follow in my footsteps and now they run their own education programs!

The part of my job I like the least is definitely the disciplining of poorly behaved students. I don't like being the disciplinarian, I'm not particularly good at it and I dislike calling parents to talk about the behavior of their child.

Job Tips: When in college, don't feel that you must major in Jewish studies and/or education. I didn't and I am a more well-rounded person because of it! Do study Hebrew. And do teach religious school to get some experience and to see if you really enjoy it!

Get involved in the Jewish community - as a student, as a volunteer, in part-time jobs. The more you know about the Jewish community, the better you will be able to decide if you want a career as a Jewish professional.

Talk to other Jewish professionals. Follow them around for a day or two. See what it's like to work in a synagogue or in another Jewish institution.

Additional Thoughts: Being a Jewish Educator is more my life than my job. It is a career that is much more than full-time and includes work on the weekends. But it is incredibly fulfilling, rewarding and interesting every day!

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