Pardes Educators Alumni Support Project Newsletter


Dear Hevre,
It is an exciting time of year as we approach both Thanksgiving and Chanukah – on the same date! Thanksgiving and Chanukah have coincided before - Thanksgiving fell on the first day of Chanukah on November 29, 1888. It also coincided with the fifth day of Chanukah on November 30, 1899.
This meeting of Thanksgiving and Chanukah is a great opportunity to discuss with students what it means to live as a Jew and as an American, identify common Jewish and American values, discuss potential tensions that exist when living as both a Jew and American and brainstorm how to resolve those tensions. Whatever you decide to do, please keep us in the loop! We want to hear about your creative programming, challenges and successes.
As for PCJE staff updates – we are sad that Ben is leaving the PEP alumni support team and wish him hatzlacha raba in all of his future endeavors. (Until we have a replacement for Ben, please direct all emails to Ilana has returned from maternity leave and excited for the year ahead. Susan is wrapping up her time in the States and will be returning to Israel in February.
Kol tuv,
Susan, Ilana and Ben



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


D'var Torah

Ayal Robkin

Ayal Robkin (Cohort 11) is in his 2nd year of teaching at Chicagoland Jewish High School in Deerfield, IL.

I was recently on the unfortunate receiving end of a few extra visitors in my classroom: my students' camp friends. Barring the disruption that predictably ensued, I encountered a much greater nuisance. My visitors only caught a small glimpse of my larger unit, one that had deep implications as to how we view God. Assuming that in one fell swoop I may have done some irrevocable damage (probably not true and a little self-aggrandizing), I ran after one of my visitors at the end of the day and attempted a little damage control. Understanding things without the framework of a larger context has potentially drastic consequences.



Education Corner

Growing Our Students Means Growing Ourselves

Susan Wall

Director, Pardes Educators Alumni Support Project

Over the years I have become even more convinced that teaching is one of the most demanding, difficult, important and potentially rewarding careers there is. The teacher is THE key to student learning. Schools that care about maximizing student learning and growth should also care about maximizing teacher learning and growth.

I recently finished reading Teachers as Learners, a collection of Dr. Sharon Feiman Nemser’s writings. This worthwhile read focuses on different models of teacher training including induction and support and raises important questions. Hopefully the following highlights will whet your appetite to explore some of the articles on your own.


From the Field

Amy Martin

Amy Martin (Cohort 10, a 3rd year teacher) is in her second year teaching 3rd grade at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Manhattan.  Both of the ideas listed below can easily be adapted for older students. Thank you, Amy!


Amy started her year off in Torah asking her new 3rd graders what lessons they had learned from their previous Torah studies that would be important in their own lives. This connected to one of the school’s big ideas that Torah “should engage children deeply and continuously” and should be relevant to their lives.


Alumni Focus

Jenn (Adler) Laytin

Jenn Laytin (Cohort 7) is in her 6th year of teaching and also serves as the Jewish Studies Coordinator at the Rodeph Shalom School in New York, New York.

My name is Jenn Laytin, and having recently changed my name I am still getting used to hearing the students call me “Mrs. Laytin.” My students were thrilled when my husband Michael joined us for a lesson and they were able to meet the man behind the name change. I just started my sixth year teaching second, third and fourth grade and my third year as the Jewish Studies Coordinator at the Rodeph Sholom School in Manhattan. Being an experienced teacher, I now have the opportunity to mentor first and second year teachers who are just beginning their careers. I keep promising them that the first year is difficult for everyone, but it gets better! The opportunity to work with new teachers has allowed me to look deeply at my own teaching to see where I can continue to improve my own practice. 


Online Resources

Please click here for the many educational resources recommended by your colleagues this month.


PCJE Update

Why Take a Year Off from Your Career?

The Pardes Center for Jewish Educators welcomed its second cohort of experiential educators in August. We asked the cohort’s three new members, who are spending 5774 studying classical Jewish text at Pardes, to explain why experiential Jewish educators already in the field would choose to take a year off from their career and come to the Pardes Experiential Educators Program. Here’s what they told us:

Lisa Motenko, Hillel, UC Berkeley:

“I am really good at what I do in experiential education – programming – but I lack the Jewish background. I want to be able to feel confident to learn with students, to be able to look up my own texts if I want to include text study in a program, to know what it is like to live in Israel and in general have a foundation of knowledge that I can refer back to.”

The Rodef Shalom Program

Transforming School Conflict through Rabbinic Texts

Our middle school Rodef Shalom program is taking off as we begin our second pilot year. The major program goals are (1) for students to find traditional Jewish text study meaningful and relevant to their lives, and (2) to have a positive impact on students and on general school culture through the development of conflict resolution awareness and practical skills. The program helps schools teach 21st-century learners to be skilled problem solvers in social situations, active in the prevention of bullying and committed to creating a more peaceful world. 

Make it Happen! 

Continue the Vibrant Pardes Community Spirit

A Schusterman Initiative, the #MakeItHappen project invites YOU to show how small change can lead to big impact. Submit your inspired ideas for creating a Jewish experience that will make a meaningful difference in your community.

Between October and December 2013, up to 50 ideas from around the world will be selected to receive a micro grant of up to $1,000. Five ideas could receive up to $5,000. 



PCJE Spring Forward Retreat

Give your classroom skills a boost and rejuvenate yourself professionally!

This year, we invite day school Judaic Studies teachers and Hebrew teachers within their first four years of teaching to join us at the Spring Forward Retreat on March 23-25, 2014 at Capital Camps in Waynesboro, PA. Participants will have the opportunity to attend intensive seminars, sharing sessions and one-on-one meetings with veteran teachers.

Note that this retreat is open to both Pardes alumni and non-Pardes alumni, so please feel free to share with your colleagues!


SCW Update

Bring your novice colleagues along!

Following last year’s stateside success, the 2014 Summer Curriculum Workshop will be held at the University of Maryland from July 25-August 1. We very much look forward to hosting those of you who are within your first four years of teaching for an intensive and highly productive week of unit development, teacher collaboration and re-energizing. Additionally, we encourage you to bring along novice Jewish studies colleagues from your schools at a reduced rate!

For more information or to apply go to or contact Aviva Golbert, Director of SCW 2014, at

RAVSAK / PaRDeS Day School Conference

Sunday-Tuesday, January 19-21, 2013 in Los Angeles

For the second year, we are inviting those veteran alumni (with four or more years of experience) who currently work in day schools to join us for the RAVSAK / PaRDeS conference. This year’s conference theme is “Moving the Needle: Galvanizing Change in our Day Schools.” The conference will address “the needs of Jewish day schools committed to pluralistic and substantive Jewish education that addresses 21st century realities.” Participants will choose intensive workshops called “deep dives” on Monday. These “deep dives” will meet for several hours and give participants time to apply the learning to their individual situations. On Tuesday, the conference will offer workshops as well as a number of sessions specifically for area day school teachers (to which all teachers are invited). Furthermore, there will be plenary addresses, networking opportunities and times to join together as PEP alumni.



Condolences to Joanne Loiben (Cohort 11) on the death of her grandfather.

Mazal tov to:

  • Keren Romm (PEP Cohort 5) and Hillel Kurlandsky on the birth of their daughter Shirel Shai Kurlandsky.
  • Stu Jacobs (PEP Cohort 12) and Aviva Levine Jacobs on the birth of their daughter Roni Sigal.
  • Will Keller (PEP Cohort 11) and Yael (Year Program 2010) on the birth of their daughter Ariella Chaya.
  • Eitan Gavson (PEP Cohort 12) and Hannah Landes (Kollel 2009-2010) on their recent marriage.
  • Rachel Friedrichs (Cohort 6) and Adrian on the birth of their son Shai.
  • Yonatan Rosner (cohort 7) on receiving one of the 5 annual prestigious Pomegranate Prizes, established by The Covenant Foundation to honor and nurture exceptional emerging Jewish education professionals.

Correction: We neglected to congratulate Eitan Gavson in the last newsletter, who graduated PEP (Cohort 12). He is completing further studies this year and will begin teaching in September 2014.

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