Teachers Head Back to School

18 Jewish teachers from around the world have started the second year of their online English-language Rimonim Teacher Training Course, with 20 teachers from Latin America participating in the third year of the Herzog Global Spanish course.

Jewish Studies teachers sometimes find themselves wondering how to teach Jewish history or to interest their students in the next Jewish holiday. Often lacking a detailed curriculum or pedagogic training, they find it increasingly difficult to make Jewish Studies relevant to the Tik-Tok generation. Jewish schools may look and sound different in Chile and Chicago, Cape Town and California, but the challenges facing their teachers are remarkably similar.

Herzog College runs a high-level academic online program in Judaic Studies education for new and experienced Jewish Studies teachers who are looking to hone their skills and bring new methods and knowledge to the classroom. The program offers courses in English and Spanish based on the techniques of leading Jewish educators in Israel and around the world. Among the lecturers are pedagogy and academic experts in Hebrew language teaching, Jewish philosophy, Tanakh, and history from Herzog College and other leading academic institutions.

This October, Herzog Global started a course on how to teach classic halakha texts in a meaningful and honest way. Dr. Shana Strauch Schick, an experienced Halakha teacher, is discussing how to answer questions on the most challenging real-life topics for students, including prayer, relationships, modesty, and mourning. The group studies source texts from the Talmud and from halakhic works, discusses the underlying ideas and concepts, and learns how to combine them into practical and relatable classes for their own students.

Another course gives teachers ideas for teaching Hebrew reading comprehension and vocabulary – an essential element of any class on Chumash, Mishnah, Tanakh, or the Siddur. Because Ellie Bach Gellman understands how children learn new words and communicate in their everyday lives, she has devised creative strategies for teachers to help their students to learn and understand Hebrew texts more easily.

Last year, the Rimonim students learned how to present stories from Tanakh in a contextual and values-based way, and how to incorporate important philosophical ideas when teaching the Jewish festivals. They studied important moments in Jewish history with Dr. Tehilla Darmon, lecturer in Modern Jewish History at Herzog College, and learned about the practical aspects of Jewish day school teaching from Gitta Neufeld, a teacher-training expert and Covenant Award winner from Brooklyn, NY.

Rimonim Director Rabbi Reuven Spolter explains: “School administrators recognize that Yeshiva study and a high level of Jewish literacy are only the foundation of good teaching. Educators need professional, ongoing pedagogical training to learn and develop effective teaching methods in their classrooms! If we do not invest in the pedagogical skills of Jewish Studies teachers, we risk losing the next generation of our people. We owe it to our kids, and to their parents who pay handsomely for Jewish education, to help the teachers develop the skills they need.”

Rabbi Gavi Ziegler, campus rabbi at the Phyllis Jowell Day School in Cape Town, South Africa, is benefiting greatly from the Rimonim program. “As an educator, the material that we learn strikes a balance between theory and practical applications to bring into all of my kodesh lessons. As a school manager, the course has given me tools to help my staff to improve their classes. Having the privilege to be guided and supported by Herzog Global’s education experts is a gift for which I am extremely grateful.”

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