Pardes Educators Alumni Support Project Newsletter


Dear Hevre,

What an exciting time of year for the Pardes Center for Jewish Educators!

Twenty-eight of our veteran alumni gathered together recently at the North American Jewish Day School Conference in Washington, DC. It was a wonderful opportunity to re-connect, share ideas, learn from others in the field, and grow as educators. We were inspired by the vast contributions that our veteran alumni are making to the field of Jewish education. For just a few examples, see the professional announcements in the  Alumni News section.

The First-Year Teachers Retreat followed on the heels of the Day School Conference. Our first-year teachers had the opportunity to gather together, reflect on their first few months in the classroom, and explore ways to move forward in their development. It is great to see how our first year teachers are already impacting the lives of so many students!

Many of our alumni are now mentoring our current students in their student teaching. B’hatzlaha rabba.

Chag Pesach Kasher v’Sameach

Kol tuv,
Susan, Ilana and Ben

MARCH 2013 / ADAR 5773


PEASP is supported by a generous grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation.


D'var Torah

Seeing the Hand of God in Your Life

by Damian Zoppo

Damian (cohort 5) is currently teaching elementary school in Even Yehuda, Israel, and taught for four years at Tarbut V’Torah before making Aliyah with his family.

The time I spent with friends and teachers studying the wisdom of our people at Pardes was a magical time in my life. I was a student, learning every day with people who shared my passion for learning. I lived in one of the most special cities in the world, Jerusalem, and was newly married to the love of my life, my wife Tammy.

During this time it was easy to see the hand of Hashem working in my life. I had the time to reflect, and I did not have the distractions that I have in my life today. I got exactly what I needed, which was clear evidence that Hashem was actively and overtly involved in my life and its direction.   

Today my life is much different. I balance a few jobs, a family (a wonderful wife and two precious daughters) and many more distractions and worries. I barely have enough time to accomplish daily tasks, let alone to reflect on what is going on the world around me. Often it is hard to know where I am going in this life, and the world seems more like a crapshoot than divine providence. Writing a d’var Torah for Pardes gives me a chance to reflect on past times in Jerusalem and bridge them with my life today...
Read more ...

Education Corner

21st-Century Learning

by Susan Wall and Ilana Lipman

Our veteran alumni who attended the Day School Conference heard from a number of speakers about education for the 21st century.  While perhaps much of what was said had been heard before, the repetition was important in beginning to grapple with what this means for what we do in Judaic studies in our schools.

What follows is a combination of some insights gleaned from two major speakers: Heidi Hayes Jacobs, who addressed the Schechter network (, and Tony Wagner (
Read more ...

Alumni Focus

Rachel Meiner

Rachel (Cohort 7) teaches 2nd and 3rd grade Judaic Studies (Chumash, Yahadut, and Tefillah) at The Hannah Senesh Community Day School in Brooklyn, NY. She lives two blocks from school with her husband and four month old daughter, Neomi.

I returned to teaching three weeks ago after being on maternity leave for the past three months. If I thought teaching was exhausting before, teaching and then going home to a four-month-old is exhausting on a whole other level.  Every morning I must make sure to leave the house with my brain intact!...
Read more ...

From the Field

by Shifra Kaufman

Shifra (Cohort 8) is a fourth-year teacher, currently teaching at the Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation’s Capital.

I created a project that required students to produce a movie trailer about crossing the Red Sea. The students had to brainstorm words, themes and ideas that would have gone into a movie about crossing the Red Sea and then use iMovie to create a trailer. The words of the trailer had to reflect the Big Ideas that we had learned about in class, and students had to choose pictures from the Internet to put in the trailer (to represent the movie scenes) that both reflected what we had learned and told the story. The finished product was a trailer that highlighted the most important aspects of our learning.


Save the Date!

Alumni in the greater New York area (Philadelphia to Connecticut) who have taught for at least two years are invited to a one-day professional development opportunity on Monday, June 3rd. The focus will be on how to make Havruta learning more effective in your classroom. Each participant may bring one Judaic studies colleague from his/her school. More information will be forthcoming.

Summer Curriculum Workshop

We are gearing up for a fantastic Summer Curriculum Workshop, 
including both PEP alumni and other novice Judaic studies teachers from a broad range of schools. For the first time, our Workshop will be a one-week intensive program in North America, and will be open to any day school Judaic studies teachers who teach grades 4-12 in North American Jewish day schools and who have been teaching for no more than four years. 

The workshop will be held June 28-July 5, 2013 at the Pearlstone Retreat Center near Baltimore, MD. We plan to have separate groupings for elementary, middle and high school teachers.

It’s not too late to pass this information along to your colleagues and administrators. We have extended our early application date, and non-PEP applicants are now eligible to apply by March 15 and pay only the highly subsidized rate of $550.

Day School Conference

On February 3-5, twenty-eight of our veteran alumni participated in the National Jewish Day School Conference. It was a wonderful opportunity to re-connect, share ideas, learn from others in the field and grow as educators. We also had the opportunity to hear from Michael Rosenzweig, the new President and CEO of Pardes, as well as learn from Marion Gribetz, Director of Academic Initiatives and Academic Programs at Hebrew College.

PEP alum Evan Wolkenstein (Cohort 1) commented, “Attending this conference reinforced for me that being a Pardes Educator is a tremendous thing. The program fights teacher burnout by supporting us, helping us feel seen and appreciated and framing our work as ‘Holy Work’. This goes a long way in helping us in the late-night lesson planning and chaotic days. We're doing this as a life's passion, and in service of our deepest selves and our communities. Without conferences like this, I'd feel cut off from my mother institution and from my brothers and sisters out there in the fields. Coming together is essential for feeling like part of a movement, a transformation of the way we think about and run our classrooms. It keeps me in love with my work, year after year.”

First-Year Teachers Retreat

On February 5-6, our first year teachers had the opportunity to gather together, reflect on their first few months in the classroom and explore ways to move forward in their development as classroom teachers. Sam Blumberg from Cohort 11 said, “The conference was a wonderful balance of reconnecting, sharing and learning new techniques. Thanks for your hard work in putting together a short conference that was also meaningful.” Thanks to Sam and his fellow first year teachers for already positively impacting so many students in such a short time!

The Rodef Shalom Middle School Program

We are pleased to update you on a new middle school Rabbinics program we have been working on at Pardes, entitled "The Rodef Shalom: Transforming School Conflict Through Rabbinic Texts." This program has been designed jointly by the Pardes Center for Jewish Educators and the Pardes Center for Judaism and Conflict Resolution. The first units of this program are currently being piloted in four day schools in California. Pardes just received a Ignition Grant from the Covenant Foundation for this project, which they found to be both exciting and innovative. We will be taking in up to ten more schools for the seven units that will be ready for the fall. If you think your school might be interested in participating in this project, please contact Ilana.

PEP Update

As we go to press, 11 PEP students are nearing the home stretch of their 2013 student teaching experiences. To summarize both Zvi Grumet and Michael Hattin in their send-off speeches to Cohorts 12 and 13 last month, the  goal of student teaching—lechatchila—is not for PEP students to be star teachers, but to go out, try out their ideas, make mistakes and learn as much as they can from those mistakes.

What better way to do that then under the wise and empathetic care of mentors who themselves were once PEP student teachers themselves?

For the second year in a row, nearly half of our student teaching mentors are our very own PEP alumni. These mentors represent all of the first five cohorts of the Educators Program: Evan Wolkenstein of Cohort 1 at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay in San Francisco, David Harris Gershon of Cohort 2 at Pittsburgh’s Community Day School, Jessica Lissy Trey of Cohort 3 at Hannah Senesh Community Day School in Brooklyn, Elisha Stein of Cohort 4 at Jack Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr, PA and Eliana Seltzer of Cohort 5 at Kellman Brown Academy in Voorhees, NJ. These master teachers are providing a warm and safe space for trial and error, lots of learning and development for our future stars.

With wishes of a very happy and meaningful Pesach to them and to you,
Judy, Gail, Aviva and the entire PEP team

We Need Your Input

We are now getting ready to do a major overhaul of our PEP alumni website. We are getting all the support we need in terms of design, but we want to make sure that the site is helpful to you, our alumni, in terms of content. If you would be willing to give us an hour of your time to collaborate on what features we should include on the website, we’d be very grateful. Email Susan to let her know to include you in a small group conference call (if you prefer, you can send her your comments in writing).

Online Resources

  • PEP and PEASP were given a write-up in eJewishPhilanthropy.
  • The Spring 2013 issue of HaYidiyon, RAVSAK’s quarterly journal, focuses on school tefillah and features articles by alumni Sarah Levy (Cohort 9), Reuven Margrett (Cohort 6), and Yonatan Rosner (Cohort 7), as well as by faculty members James Jacobson-Maisels, Susan Wall, and Judy Markose.
  • Shulie Mishkin, tour guide and educator at Pardes, has started a blog called "Off the Daf and Into Israel." With it, she hopes “to bring to life some of the surroundings of the Mishnah and Gemara that we are familiar with in the land of Israel.”

Alumni News

Mazal tov to:

  • Cheryl Stone (Cohort 11) on her engagement to Shaul Janes.

Y’shar koach to:

Baruch Dayan Emet

Condolences to:
  • Yoni Shear (Cohort 10) on the loss of his grandmother.
  • Deborah Anstandig (Cohort 8) on the loss of her grandmother

Copyright © 2013 Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, All rights reserved.
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