New Mossad recruiting website goes online


Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency has launched a new website to recruit for various positions.

In addition to Hebrew, the website, which went online Sept. 22, is available in several languages including Russian, English, Arabic and French.

A questionnaire to determine suitability for the agency can be filled out and submitted online.

Positions are available in operations, intelligence, technology and cyber, and administration, according to the website.

Military rabbi resigns haredi recruitment post


The chief rabbi of the Israeli Air Force has resigned from a program that recruits haredi Orthodox men over the issue of female soldiers singing at events.

Rabbi Moshe Ravad said in his resignation letter from the Shahar program that “in light of the current situation I cannot see myself being a part of the program as a rabbi and an adviser.”

The Israel Defense Forces announced Monday that its soldiers will not be excused from official military ceremonies at which women sing, but can request permission to be absent from performances by females during cultural and private unit events.

Ravad wrote in his letter, “The main argument I’ve always relied on was the fact that I could allow haredi men who enlist to maintain an ultra-Orthodox lifestyle and observe their faith. During recent months, the Personnel Directorate decided to reevaluate the rules. The most recent draft I read had omitted clauses that were intended to protect the beliefs of God-fearing soldiers. Under the current circumstances, I can’t be a part of the program as a rabbi or a consultant.”

Ravad, who has resigned from the recruitment program but not from his chief rabbi position, is set to retire from the IDF this summer.

Some 2,000 Orthodox soldiers have been recruited through the Shahar program, according to Ynet. 

Following a meeting Wednesday with Ravad, Chief Military Rabbi Brig.-Gen. Rafi Peretz recommended to dismiss Raved from the military over the resignation.

Success of Jewish day schools breeds crisis


It was, I believe, a disarmingly candid statement during my interview in 1977 that helped get me my job as headmaster of Sinai Akiba Academy in Los Angeles.

“If I were on the board of a day school seeking to hire a headmaster,” I said, “I am not the person I would hire — yet.” At the time a pulpit rabbi interested in education, I made three promises to the search committee: I would go back to school myself, I would make good use of consultants and I would make mistakes.

I carried out all three promises. My board supported the first, funded the second and simply didn’t know what to do about the third. In the course of time, I developed an educational philosophy and vision, learned the ins and outs of daily life in school and the board and I figured out how to support each other by continually focusing on educational excellence.

Why did they take a chance on someone unproven? Unable to identify from the pile of resumes before them an individual with both the paper credentials and the moxie, the board decided to take a chance on someone who, in their judgment, could grow into the job.

Thirty years later, Jewish day schools find themselves facing the same dilemma — and often not succeeding. Directors of organizations like Ravsak (the Jewish Community Day School Network) and Solomon Schechter (the national association of Conservative day schools) report being besieged by calls from schools unable to fill principalships that too often resemble revolving doors.

Observers estimate the average tenure of Jewish day school heads at between two and five years. Having labeled the problem a crisis, a consortium of organizations, including the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education and the Avichai Foundation, recently invited 50 participants to convene at a think tank consultation in New York.

In the last 20 years alone, 300 Jewish day schools have opened in the United States, bringing the total to about 800. In 1980, Los Angeles supported only 17 day schools. Today there are nearly 40.

American Jewish educational history will recall the ’90s as the Jewish high school decade, when Jewish communities as small as Portland created Jewish day high schools. Between 1990 and 2004, some 25 non-Orthodox Jewish day high schools opened.

This is good news for the Jewish future, but we cannot staff these schools. Who would have thought that the solution to a problem would itself become a problem, let alone a crisis?

Two streams of analysis quickly emerged among the think tank participants. According to the first, we need to identify alternative pathways into the profession, creatively recruiting candidates from public and private schools and from other Jewish social services. Equally important, innovative programs could teach schools how to grow their own future leadership from within their teacher ranks.

The other stream of thought identified the problem as the failure of school boards to work in effective collaboration with their heads of school. The board oversteps its bounds, turmoil ensues, the principal is on his or her way out and the board embarks on still another search.

Training and mentoring programs for school boards and heads, according to this point of view, would lead to more stable governing relationships.

Far from contradicting one another, the recruitment analysis and governance analysis actually address different dimensions of the crisis. Those who work in national and regional independent school organizations regale listeners with governance and head turnover horror stories. But the scarcity of personnel for Jewish day schools is at least an equal partner in crisis, and it runs far deeper than the headship.

Probably the single-most frustrating activity of Jewish day school heads is searching for qualified Judaic studies teachers. Although many of us are blessed with gifted teachers, every teacher opening is a cause for hand-wringing.

When seeking general studies teachers, I compete against public and superb independent schools with lovely campuses and substantial salary and benefits packages. I am able to compete successfully. Most important, there are teachers to compete for.

When I need to hire a Judaic studies teacher, I don’t know where to turn. Graduates of Jewish teacher training institutions often lack the Hebrew skills needed for day schools such as mine. Teachers from Israel often lack a religious orientation and, in many cases, basic Judaica knowledge. Rabbinical students foresee greater satisfactions in the pulpit.

The dramatic shortage of well-qualified Judaic studies teachers calls into question the future effectiveness of the day school movement. If this isn’t a crisis demanding a solution, I don’t know what is.

We need to create a viable Jewish education profession offering multiple career tracks, attractive salaries and opportunities for advancement. Only a comprehensive set of initiatives can do this. Examples: identify promising high school students and begin promoting day school work as a future profession for them (one of the many fascinating ideas presented by the think tank organizers). Grab the attention of college and graduate students by creating prestigious, well-funded fellowships for future day school teachers and administrators. Create highly visible, prestigious leadership tracks that enable day school teachers to branch out to curriculum writing, training, administration and mentoring.

People choose careers not only for income but because they perceive opportunities to be challenged, to grow and to enter career paths of status and dignity. We will draw intelligent, able young people to Jewish education not only by offering more viable salaries but by stimulating their imaginations.

We will need funders to support innovative training and mentoring programs, incentive fellowships and promotional activities. We will need Jewish institutions of higher learning and model day schools to create more collaborative teacher and administrator internships and residencies.

Development of a viable life-long profession through a comprehensive set of such initiatives can yield the Jewish teacher and administrator corps necessary to secure the future of Jewish education in America. Fortunately, a critical mass of Jewish educational leadership and potential funding today exists to accomplish this goal, but there is no time for hesitation.

Rabbi Larry Scheindlin is headmaster of Sinai Akiba Academy in Los Angeles.

Take a walk on the Weil side


It’s sexy and titillating to read about people getting kicked out of synagogues, which was the subject of a cover story in this paper a few weeks ago.

I don’t know aboutyou, but I got this frisson of excitement while reading the story, like when you can’t take your eyes off a nasty car wreck.

It didn’t matter that a handful of “kick outs” over several decades hardly qualified as a big deal. The point is that some of the episodes themselves were so ugly it was hard to focus on anything else.

So now that you have all feasted on that spicy, sexy stew, how am I supposed to get you excited about a story that reminds me more of a lukewarm knish? In fact, this story is so dull and tedious that I had to change the subject several times while I was taking notes, just to stay awake. And I brought a double espresso to the meeting.

This is not a story about kicking people out of shuls, but rather about bringing people in and bringing out the best in them (I told you it was boring). In particular, it’s a story of how a synagogue took a simple idea seriously enough to make it work.

The idea I’m referring to is when people pledge to do a mitzvah. This is not new. For years, I’ve seen rabbis encourage their flock to resolve to do good deeds, or Chabad rabbis, at Simchat Torah time, asking individuals to commit to a specific mitzvah for the coming year, just before they carry the Torah around the bimah (“Put on tefillin once a week”; “Visit the sick once a month,” and so on).

The problem, however, is that there’s never any follow up. Have you noticed how shuls are so diligent when following up on a financial pledge? (If they want to stay in business, they better be.) But how often have you seen a shul follow up on your pledge to do a mitzvah, like, say, study Torah once a week?Well, here in the hood, there’s a synagogue that is doing just that.It took Rabbi Steven Weil and his team at Beth Jacob Congregation more than a year to put the Mitzvah Pledge program together. But by the time he announced it on the first morning of this past Rosh Hashanah, it was fully perfected, complete with a strategy, a management flowchart, a follow-up and evaluation plan and, for the day of the announcement, user-friendly pledge cards.

The strategy was to balance personal choice with community and individual needs. For the community, you could choose to cook meals for families in need or visit people who are alone — usually the sick or the elderly — to keep them company. For the individual, you could pledge to pray at one of the morning minyans or learn Torah in one of the many study groups.

Weil put people in charge of each mitzvah category to follow up on the pledges and administer the program. He keeps close track of their progress.

The community mitzvahs were up significantly in 2006 over 2005. Individually, Torah learning is way up, but he wants to do a better job of collecting on the pledges for the morning minyan. Through word of mouth, Weil sees this program as helping to attract new members.

As I watch the rabbi delve into the smallest details of shul programs, I don’t know whether I should be surprised or not. After all, the rabbi certainly doesn’t look the part of the fastidious manager or even of chief rabbi of the largest Orthodox synagogue on the West Coast.

You wouldn’t expect, for example, an Orthodox chief rabbi to wear a silk, mustard yellow T-shirt under a black Armani suit and head off to a cigar club two or three times a week to ponder the future of his congregation. But that’s Weil.

The thing I’ve noticed, though, is that there are many Weils. There’s certainly the cosmopolitan Armani Weil, but there’s also the Weil who grew up on a farm in upstate New York doing what his German ancestors did for generations: raise cows.

And then there’s the Weil who fell in love with Judaism in Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s high school in New Jersey — where his parents sent him from the farm to get his Jewish education — and then learning with the great Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, while getting his rabbinate degree at Yeshiva University.

And then again, there’s the Weil who decided to get his MBA at New York University — while he was still doing his rabbinic studies — and then went on to become a successful money manager during the high-flying ’80s.

In short, all the Weils in Rabbi Weil seem to have come together to help revitalize this old, venerable congregation and bring to life ideas like the Mitzvah Pledge program.

The Armani Weil made the passionate sermon announcing the program (“Today I want your heart and your kishkes, not your money”). The farmer Weil understood that the program needed to be seeded for the long term, and that it should be real and nourishing, not abstract and superficial. The Soloveitchik/Yeshiva University Weil understood how knowledge can change your life, so he made Torah learning a central part of the program.

And finally, the MBA Weil made sure the whole thing was meticulously planned and professionally executed.

A farmer, a rabbi, a businessman and a cigar hipster put together a simple program to bring out the best in people.

Like I said, not a very sexy, titillating story.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is the founder of OLAM magazine and Meals4Israel.com. He can be reached at dsuissa@olam.org.

How to Win Leaders and Influence People


Melina Gimal has been a Jewish community professional for most of her life. As a young girl she worked at Jewish Community Centers in Argentina, and later at Hillels in Washington and Miami. But most of her peers aren’t doing the same.

“They just have it in their minds that they are going to work for a bank or in real estate,” said Gimal, 26. “But they have so much to give to the Jewish community and it is a pity that we are losing them and they don’t want to get involved.”

The question of why the Jewish community isn’t recruiting and retaining more young Jewish leaders is one that the 20-Something Think Tank summit wants to answer.

The summit of 150 Jewish 20-somethings from all over America who will gather here in August to address what organizers consider the “recruitment crisis” of young Jewish leadership. Funded by the Michael Steinhardt/Jewish Life Network, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and William M. Davidson, the summit hopes to address issues of Jewish leadership, recruitment and retention. It aims to find ways to make Jewish leadership positions more attractive to young people choosing a career path.

“Our assumption is that we have enough in this field [of Jewish leadership] to offer and that there are enough people who are sharp and bright who will want to chose this sector if we make it appealing to them salary wise and benefit wise,” said Rhoda Weisman, executive director of the Professional Leader Project (PLP), the sponsoring organization of the summit.

“The goal of the conference is not to push them into [leadership], but to expose them to it,” she said. “Most of them don’t even know about the different possibilities [for communal careers], such as being editors, running endowments or strategic planning.”

The PLP is currently receiving about 10 applications per day for participation in the three-day summit. It is choosing participants from among college and graduate students, newly inaugurated Jewish professionals and those working in the mainstream marketplace. After the Think Tank, 20 of the participants will have the opportunity for Career Break — three days when they will shadow top Jewish professional leaders for insights into the career arena.

The summit is the last part of a three-piece research project funded by those philanthropists who examined Jewish leadership development across America. The first two parts of the project were national studies conducted by The Institute for Jewish and Community Research (IJCR) in San Francisco, and the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies (CMJS) at Brandeis University, respectively. The studies found that that the community wasn’t doing enough to recruit and retain young leaders.

“We found a vigorous and healthy preservice picture; there are a lot of choices around the country for places to go to acquire this preprofessional training [to work in the Jewish community], but our concern was in-service training,” said Steve Dobbs, a senior fellow at the IJCR and one of the authors of the study, “Professional Development in the Jewish Community.” The study based its research on interviews with 60 Jewish professionals and it will be published later this month.

Dobbs also said that they found there was a persistent undersupply of well-trained Jewish educators and professionals at mid- and entry-level positions, because people were repelled by the low status, low remuneration, heavy workload and absence of professional development involved in Jewish communal life.

“We found people leaving their careers early because of a lack of professional development opportunities, people leaving because of communal politics and the complicated dynamics between the lay and staff professionals at the agencies,” he said.

“The really critical piece is to figure out how to support people who work in the Jewish community and how to help them have lifelong careers that pay sufficiently and have sufficient reinforcements,” said Leonard Saxe, director of CMJS and one of the authors of the study, “The Recruitment and Retention of Jewish Professionals,” a survey of Jewish professional life in six communities that will be published in August.

And as for what makes a good leader, Gimal says that it takes an ability to listen.

“You really have to have the capacity to listen to the people and really care and understand their needs,” she said. “And, of course, you need to like what you are doing and have a passion for it.”

For more information on the 20-Something Think Tank,
visit www.jewishleaders.net .

Help Wanted, Will Train


Looking for a job where you can impart knowledge, be a positive role model and get all the Jewish holidays off? One field offering those opportunities desperately needs qualified people: Jewish education. Nationwide, day schools, supplementary schools and after-school Hebrew programs are suffering from a lack of qualified educators.

While education agencies and schools are recruiting through local Hillels, ads in Jewish newspapers and college publications, filling those positions is only becoming more difficult.”We’re experiencing some real staffing problems,” says Yonaton Shultz, director of school personnel services for the Bureau of Jewish Education in Los Angeles. The bureau services more than 165 different programs and schools, incorporating 2,500 educators from nursery through 12th grade, according to Shultz.

Similarly, the greater Boston area needs teachers in a variety of settings, including new positions that combine duties, explains Nathan Kruman, professional development consultant for the Bureau of Jewish Education in Boston.

“Boston has many very exciting positions and many new hybrid positions that combine teaching in the classic sense with other activities, sometimes administrative, sometimes youth, sometimes family,” says Kruman. “There’s generally something available because we’ve built up institutions and added more full-time and part-time jobs over the last 25 years.”

The needs are just as great in Chicago, where there are three organizations that staff Jewish programs: the Bureau of Jewish Education, the Community Foundation for Jewish Education and the Associated Talmud Torah.

Yaffa Berman, director of recruitment and placement for the Community Foundation for Jewish Education, says there are 150 to 225 positions open in the Chicago metropolitan area every year for teachers in early childhood, supplementary, high school and adult education. “Despite major recruitment efforts at major university placement offices, Hillels, the Israeli Consulate, newspaper ads, congregational and day school bulletins and more, the problem still exists,” she says.

Because these positions need to be filled, schools are forced to hire people who don’t meet the standard of excellence preferred. “About 70 percent of the respondents to our call for teachers meet our expectations, leaving us with no option but to lower standards for the remaining 30 percent,” says Berman, “thus compromising the quality of the education that our students are receiving.”

On the other hand, Rabbi Harvey Well, superintendent of the Associated Talmud Torah in Chicago, who fills slots in more than 25 programs throughout the Midwest, doesn’t have the trouble finding people that he once did.

“There used to be a time when we really needed to search high and low for teachers, but now with so many post-rabbinic institutes, it has become much easier and teachers are much more available,” says Well. “There are probably 10 to 20 teachers yearly where… people leave the city, people retire, people decide they want to go into different areas. But it really isn’t the crisis that it once was; it’s much more easily managed.”

Challenges of the times

The challenges are greater for supplementary religious and after-school programs. According to Shultz, when both parents work, a mother isn’t able to do all the necessary carpooling to take her children to the program. Schools that once went Sundays through Thursdays now have to cut their programs back to three and sometimes even two days per week. So even with more teachers than before, scheduling difficulties compound the situation.

“That’s a very hard thing to deal with,” says Shultz. “If one teacher is going to teach at one school Sunday and Tuesday and another school was offering her a job on Sunday and Wednesday and another school was offering her a job on Sunday and Thursday, she can’t take any of those other jobs because they’re all attached to a Sunday, and she’s already committed for a Sunday. So the teachers are teaching less hours. It’s not that they’re less available, it’s just that the schedules are worse. And this is a challenge that our schools are going to have to deal with.”

Qualified teachers, it seems, almost need to be masters of illusion to appear at multiple institutions to give students the education they need to receive. This can be resolved in one of two ways: “One teacher can teach in two schools as long as the schools agree to change their scheduling,” says Shultz.

Another challenge is finding qualified candidates.

“The State of Illinois tells us when it comes to private education, parochial education, that a teacher has to show competence in the area that they’re teaching,” says Well. “[That’s] our main criteria, that the individuals hired should show competence in the areas that they’re teaching. Usually [while] the general studies teachers have [Illinois teaching certificates], the Judaic teachers do not. We offer a full range of educational courses to train teachers and at the end of three years we ourselves give the teachers certificates to show that they have completed the course.”

Many programs offer some kind of training. People who have a pedagogic background or a degree in education can be trained in Judaic content, according to Berman. “And those who have the Judaism knowledge without the pedagogic skills can be trained to use those. We are very flexible,” she added.

Unique solutions

The Bureau of Jewish Education in Los Angeles has started one attempt at a solution: training synagogue congregants to be religious school teachers.

“We believe that there is a whole slew of people out there who belong to the congregation and rather than serving on the ritual committee and rather than being in the sisterhood, they probably would enjoy teaching in the religious school,” Shultz says.

The program, a year and a half long, includes courses on Sundays, being a teaching assistant, and being a student teacher. Participants will be mentored by other teachers on the staff and by the principals.

“We have a triple-pronged program, actually: training of the teachers, the training of the mentors and the training of the principals to supervise the whole thing. We’re excited about both of the programs” Shultz adds.

Boston has a new program that provides both professional development and financial support. Open to 100 educators, the program provides an advisor who works with the educator to identify the educator’s needs, and the educator can fill those needs at schools such as Hebrew College or Brandeis University, or through other local Jewish continuing education programs. The community helps pay for those courses.

“They’ll be able to take courses to the equivalent of up to about to a half of a master’s degree in Jewish education. Then the community will continue to support them, not 100 percent, but certainly a very significant amount. I don’t think it’s happening anywhere else,” Kruman says of the program supported in part by grants from the Cummings Foundation and from the Covenant Foundation.

“In other words, we find jobs for people and we then match them… with a personal advisor who creates with them an individual professional development plan. And that plan will identify their strengths and where they have room to grow.”

Boston also has a New Educators Institute that provides an overview of some of the areas that a new teacher needs to master over the course of approximately six months. Graduates finish those skills while working as teachers and then are eligible to begin the program to work towards their master’s degrees.

Passionless need not apply

The professionals responsible for recruiting teachers emphasize that interested candidates shouldn’t worry about qualifications, since training is often provided.

“[We’re looking for] somebody who wants the job and is serious about it and is ready to really jump on and … take on an active role in shaping the lives of the children who are
a part of our community,” says Kruman. “[Jewish education] is about improving the quality of our life and passing it on.”

Ideal candidates, according to Kruman, should be committed to education, have some experience, know the field, and most of all, enjoy kids.

Well adds, “If you don’t like getting kids excited to learn, then no matter what training you’ve received, in the end it will basically be very sterile or ineffectual. If I’m looking for a teacher, I look for a spark that they have, a link that they want to establish with the kids that they’re going to teach, because it’s been proven that’s been the best kind of teacher.”

Developing teachers has to be a communal responsibility, says Berman. “High quality Jewish education is dependent upon the community taking this challenge seriously and doing something about it.” she says. “We must …hire and retain dynamic teachers who have a passion for educating the future generation of Jewish leaders.”

Shultz adds, “We’re all Jews by choice – those of us who were born into Jewish families and those of us who came in to it. Our children are going to be choosing if they want to stay Jewish or not. We’ve got to have the best people available to convince them that this is something worthy of their time, effort, energy and identification.

“If we don’t bring the best people in, if we don’t have well-trained, knowledgeable Jewish educators, we can close up shop now, because all we’ll end up having is a sham, and kids see through that right away. That’s the challenge that faces our community.”

This article appears courtesy of Zipple.com

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