Pardes Experiential Educators Program

PEEP is a one-year certificate-granting program that enhances the careers of its participants as Jewish experiential educators in camps, Hillels, supplementary schools, synagogues, and JCCs across North America. PEEP is located at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.

While the Pardes Day School Educators Program opened in 2000, the Experiential Educators Program was launched in 2011. Approximately 10 Educators have graduated and now serve – across North America – as senior Jewish educators at Hillels, youth directors at synagogues and Federations, and adult education directors in JCCs.

As Jewish educators, our graduates are called upon to teach, facilitate discussion and lead experiential activities about Israel in their various professional settings. As such, it is invaluable to live in Jerusalem for an extended, immersive period and to experience “real life” in Israel – its day-to-day routine; contact with Israelis; and the cycle of the Jewish/Israeli calendar, including religious holidays, national highlights and cultural events. Additionally, Educators participate in Pardes tiyulim, trips and retreats throughout the year, as well as community service in the greater Jerusalem area. Finally, seminars are provided for Educators offering background and skills to teach about Israel.

Educators study Bible, Mishna, Talmud and Jewish Thought in the vibrant Pardes Beit Midrash. The approach is a combination of lecture and havruta-style learning, encouraging in-depth exploration of texts in the original language. Students are placed in most classes according to level and are also encouraged to explore personal interests and fill in learning gaps.

Beit Midrash is where we spend most of our time; it is where we study in an open, embracing and challenging environment. There, we come into direct contact with the text as we wrestle with its meaning for us personally and for our people and the world. Working with our havruta in the Beit Midrash, we sharpen our text skills, acquire content knowledge and deepen our understanding of ourselves as learners and as future educators.

Pardes teachers come from varied backgrounds and all have advanced degrees (Masters, Doctorate, or rabbinical degrees). They are very knowledgeable, approachable and highly dedicated to their students. Pardes teachers are committed to serious learning in an open environment and to responding to the diversity of their students.

Yes – they study Hebrew intensively during a summer (August) session prior to the start of the Pardes school year. Ulpan-Or provides small classes and a curriculum especially designed for the Pardes Educators. Students are encouraged to take advantage of living in Israel for deepening Hebrew skills and comfort.

The academic year begins on August 1 with ulpan; Pardes classes then run from September 1 – May 31. Vacations are offered for all Jewish and Israeli national holidays. Classes are conducted five days a week, Sunday through Thursday. All mornings and two afternoons are dedicated to Beit Midrash classes. Three afternoons are dedicated to educator learning opportunities and specialized seminars and programming, including an Israel Education seminar and an Experiential Education seminar.

Educators earn a Certificate of Jewish Studies from the Pardes Institute.

Applicants must have a BA, an above-average GPA, and three years of experience in the field of Jewish education (or two years in combination with summer work, part-time work, or community service) OR enrollment in a Masters program in Jewish Education or Jewish Professional Leadership with an orientation towards the field of Jewish education. Applicants are required to fill out a detailed application, write an essay about professional goals and direction, provide references, and have a personal interview. (Applicants do not have to be in Israel to apply and interview.)

Each Experiential Educator develops a Yozma (“Initiative”) Project that reflects a particular passion, vision, curiosity or concern that is relevant to his/her work as a Jewish educator. The Yozma Project integrates elements of the Educator’s Pardes beit midrash learning, Israel experiential learning, and/or Jewish spiritual/religious journey and applies them reflectively and creatively to a Jewish educational setting. Previous Yozma Projects have included a training model for Hillel professionals, films interviewing Israelis, a model for tefillah in a summer camp setting, and a day school curriculum about Israeli music.

The Pardes Center for Jewish Educators is comprised of the Pardes Day School Educators Program and the Pardes Experiential Educators Program; participants of the two programs form a strong cohort of about 20 learners and colleagues each year. Beyond this, Pardes is a diverse Jewish community, welcoming men and women of different ages, backgrounds and affiliations to study together in the Pardes Beit Midrash. Many of the Beit Midrash classes integrate PEP participants and other Pardes students.

Pardes tuition and Hebrew ulpan are fully subsidized by Foundation funding.

Yes. Educators receive a generous monthly stipend of $800 for up to ten months.

No. Students find shared apartment arrangements through social networking.

Most students report that they are able to live without needing to find a job.

A PEEP cohort has between 7-8 participants.

It would be a challenge to fully profile our students; Pardes’ commitment to diversity within its student body extends to PEEP as well. Educators come from all denominations and range in age. All have a BA; approximately 65% come to the program with an advanced degree or certificate; almost all are U.S. citizens; all were involved in some form of Jewish education prior to applying to the program, either in synagogue schools, Jewish camps, Jewish day schools, or undergraduate studies.

While our program is only a few years old, all of our graduates thus far have been accepted into MA programs (including at American Jewish University’s Graduate Center for Education; Hebrew College’s Shoolman Graduate School of Jewish Education; and the Jewish Theological Seminary’s William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education), and have found exciting professional positions (including as Senior Jewish Educator at Berkeley Hillel; Jewish Life Program Coordinator at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Center of Toronto; Associate Director of Youth and Teen Engagement at Congregation Rodeph Sholom in New York City; Director of Teen Education at Pittsburgh’s Agency for Jewish Learning; and Program and Engagement Director at San Francisco’s The Kitchen).

PEEP does indeed help its graduates find jobs – the program offers workshops and individual coaching in developing job application materials (resumes and cover letters) and in interview techniques. Our considerable connections in the field of Jewish education enable us to help our students identify appropriate positions and succeed in finding jobs.

 

PEEP graduates are required, as per their agreement with Pardes, to work upon graduating as experiential Jewish educators in North America for a minimum of two years OR to complete a Masters of Jewish Education, Jewish Professional Leadership or related field within two years of graduation.

 

Yes! Our Pardes Educators Alumni Support Project offers a yearly retreat in the US and individualized mentoring.