Pardes Tefilah Education Initiative


Working with more than 100 day schools in North America across the denominational spectrum for over 16 years, the Pardes Center for Jewish Educators (PCJE) has identified tefilah education as an area in need of significant review, change and improvement.

While tefilah and tefilah education are at the core of the school experience at many day schools, tefilah is undoubtedly one of the most challenging aspects of the curriculum. Unfortunately, little currently exists to empower and train teachers, create standards, or share resources to address these challenges.

PCJE believes that this can and must change.

Over the past few years, PCJE has developed pre-service courses on tefilah education, offered multiple tefilah education workshops at professional conferences and day schools, written journal articles, and ran two six-day tefilah conferences for educators. These experiences reinforced and clarified the need for significant change in tefilah education. Additionally, the tefilah educators and participants on these various programs, upon returning to their work, still found themselves alone without vitally needed support from other teachers or their school administration. It was clear to PCJE that in addition to continuing to train educators, we also needed to explore what it would mean for schools to commit to a process of change.

Building upon vital information gleaned from these various hands-on experiences with day schools and educators, including from a five-school two-year pilot project generously supported by AVI CHAI, PCJE has created an approach to developing the field for tefilah education. PCJE’s extensive experience and ongoing connections to scores of schools and administrators across denominations makes Pardes uniquely positioned to run this project.

We thank the AVI CHAI Foundation for their continued support in helping us expand and improve the field of tefilah education.


Pardes’s vision for the Tefilah Education Initiative is to energize, professionalize and transform the field of tefilah education in North America.

Our goals are to:

  • Inspire, train and empower teachers working with students across denominations and age groups with the knowledge, skills and repertoire to be more thoughtful, committed and effective tefilah educators
  • Generate goals and standards for the field that individual schools can use as a guide to develop their own school goals
  • Train school teams to develop and prioritize goals and strategies for a carefully considered approach for implementing tefilah education in their schools
  • Disseminate resources for teaching tefilah, sharing best practices and gathering collective wisdom from the field
  • Professionalize the field by developing a community and network of tefilah educators across North America who can support one another and contribute ideas, activities and approaches

We anticipate the following outcomes, over time, as a result of implementing the Pardes Tefilah Education Initiative:

  1. Tefilah education becomes a priority for more Jewish day schools.
  2. More schools will articulate a vision, goals and curriculum for tefilah education for their institutions.
  3. The goals of tefilah education will be assessed more regularly and rigorously.
  4. Tools for tefilah pedagogy and best practices as well as resources for building siddur literacy will be widely available and utilized.
  5. The school community (teachers, administrators, students and parents) using the guidelines or participating in training will have discussions as to the importance of tefilah in their lives.
  6. We will see a difference in the prayer life of teachers and students.
  7. Tefilah facilitators will see themselves as tefilah educators with a community of colleagues to whom they turn for advice and support.

The Pardes Center for Jewish Educators is thrilled to advance the field of tefilah education with its groundbreaking tefilah education guide. Entitled Reimagining Tefilah Education: Guidelines for Schools, this innovative tool created by Dr. Susan Wall and Rabbi Zvi Hirschfield is designed to help leadership at Jewish day schools understand not only the need for specific tefilah education goals, but also how to identify and choose specific and appropriate goals that align with their school mission and population. Ultimately, this will empower schools to make actual changes in their tefilah education program according to their chosen goals. The guide includes specific examples and worksheets based on PCJE’s extensive knowledge of the field, what we have learned from our various tefilah programs and pilot projects, as well as feedback from teachers and consultants.

The guide serves as an entry point for schools to start thinking about the process of change in tefilah in their schools. School administrators and teachers that have already engaged in professional development opportunities concerning tefilah education will find the guide to be a very helpful tool as they move through the process of change.

You can view and download the entire Reimagining Tefilah Education: Guidelines for Schools on the Pardes online tefilah resource database.

For more information about the tefilah education guide, contact Dr. Susan Wall at

PCJE is proud to present a free Online Tefilah Resource Database created and curated by leading tefilah educators across the world.

The database raises the bar in tefilah education by making quality resources freely available so educators can focus on creativity and purposefulness in their prayer sessions without having to ‘reinvent the wheel.’ It is fully searchable by grade, prayer, disposition (a character trait, or tendency being evoked in students), and type of resource (lesson plan, curricula, video or music).

Whether an educator needs a trigger video related to gratitude, a lesson plan on the Shema, or a curriculum on prayer and emotional awareness, this database exposes some fantastic resources that would otherwise remain hidden. It develops the breadth of tefilah education, creates a culture of sharing and helps make the process of tefilah planning more efficient.

For more information, contact Reuven Margrett, Director of Digital Content for the Pardes Center for Jewish Educators, at

Tefilah carries the potential of being the most impactful part of the Jewish Day School experience. Unfortunately, many schools report that tefilah is the most challenging and frustrating part of their program. There is little if any professional training or networking available for tefilah leaders. PCJE is about to change that.

PCJE believes that it is critical for those who oversee tefilah to reflect on themselves as “pray-ers” and to grapple with what it means to be a tefilah educator. They also need colleagues, a common language, resources, programmatic ideas and the confidence to improve the field if change is to happen.

To increase the likelihood of school-wide change and ultimately reach a greater number of teachers, PCJE will hold a Tefilah Education Conference for Day School Administrators at the Pearlstone Retreat Center in Reisterstown, MD from June 24-28, 2019. PCJE will host a maximum of 15 school administrators and/or key tefilah leaders best able and empowered to lead the tefilah education change process in their schools.

The conference will include both reflective pieces (e.g., “Myself as a Pray-er”, “What it Means to be a Prayer Leader”, etc.) as well as the practical steps necessary for instituting change within schools. Participants will work through the tefilah education guide developed by PCJE educators Dr. Susan Wall and Rabbi Zvi Hirschfield and engage in hands-on workshops to apply their newly acquired knowledge. Administrators will also learn how to lead the teachers in their schools through this process of reflection and change.

PCJE will recruit administrators from a range of schools and communities, including those from schools in more isolated locations. Following the conference, PCJE will provide support to the administrators as they lead their schools through the tefilah change process. Participants will also join a network of tefilah changemakers from previous PCJE tefilah conferences.

The conferences costs $500/participant (includes program, room, and board); limited travel subsidies available.
Apply today! The application deadline is February 28, 2019. For more information, contact Sefi Kraut at

Pardes is excited to offer extensive tefilah education guidance to eight schools in North America through December 2019. Four schools in the Boston area – Epstein Hillel, Maimonides, MetroWest Jewish Day School, and Rashi – are participating in a tefilah community initiative through which they will receive intensive guidance and support from Pardes staff in order to reflect, assess, and improve their own tefilah program. A Pardes educator will spend a day in each school in order to observe tefilah, work with administrators, and run a half-day professional development tefilah workshop for school faculty. There will then be a three-day tefilah retreat in which faculty members from all four community schools will participate together.

Pardes is also proud to partner with four schools spread throughout the USA – B’nai Shalom Day School (NC), Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (MD), Denver Jewish Day School (CO), and Lehrman Community Day School (FL) – in the tefilah change process. A Pardes educator will spend two days in each school working with administrators and faculty to identify appropriate tefilah goals for the particular school and to develop and implement a plan to meet those goals. After the visit to their schools, PCJE will provide follow-up support to the administrators of all the schools as they lead the tefilah change process.

Pardes aims to guide the eight participating schools through a scaffolded process that will empower them to make significant improvements in their tefilah programs.

For more information about the Pardes Tefilah Education Initiative, contact Aviva Golbert at