ERIC Number: EJ988514
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Reference Count: 2
Radical Reform in a Time of Uncertainty
Sherman, Robert M.
Journal of Jewish Education, v78 n4 p320-322 2012
Jonathan Woocher opens his clarion call for a new paradigm in Jewish education with a nod to Samson Benderly, founding executive of the Bureau of Jewish Education in New York (BJENY), who at the beginning of the 20th century set out to design a communal system built upon the twin pillars of progressive educational theory and practice and cultural Zionism. Benderly's vision of a professionalized, centralized, communal system never materialized as he imagined it. Great reformers often fail to fully realize their visions regardless of the profound impact of their bold attempts. The Benderly paradigm may be largely outmoded today, but his model of striving for radical reform in a volatile time of change and uncertainty is more compelling than ever. About six years ago the new lay leadership of the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York (now The Jewish Education Project) and their partners at UJA-Federation of New York joined forces to transform the BJENY from a service provider to a change agent. Woocher was enlisted to write a vision statement for the new 21st century "central agency." Taking his cue from Benderly, Woocher's vision sought to reverse engineer the agency to become once again a catalyst for change and innovation; this time, however, in light of the current trends and principles he elaborates on in his article. This past year the Jewish Education Project recognized six "young pioneers," educator entrepreneurs employed in congregations, day schools, camps, early childhood centers, and other settings. As each spoke about his or her innovation and what fueled their passion for creating educational experiences designed to inspire today's learners, one couldn't help but be optimistic that Woocher's new paradigm is being lived even if only in isolated contexts. However, unless these "positive deviants" are encouraged and enabled to lead change beyond their own immediate, narrow sphere of influence by networking with others who share their passion, their potential for spreading broad scale changes in the system may be severely blunted. Woocher throws down the gauntlet when he writes that "we need to reinvent Jewish education for the 21st century." His vision may or may not fully materialize before the next generation of reformers emerges to take the next lead. New problems constantly arise and as John Dewey wrote 60 years ago: "New problems demand for their intelligent solutions new purposes, new ends in view; and new ends necessitate the development of new means and methods."
Descriptors: Educational Innovation, Jews, Change Agents, Educational Change, Models, Day Schools, Educational Experience, Religious Education, Educational Theories, Entrepreneurship, Early Childhood Education, Judaism, Networks
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: New York