Transformation Project

Conference on Transformative Jewish Education


March, 2016
Brandeis University

Student on an archaeological dig in IsraelJewish educators and Jewish educational policy makers often use the language of transformation when describing the effects of programs. We aim for more than just cognitive achievement; we want our programs to make a meaningful, lasting difference in the lives of the participants. But the language of transformation needs to be explored more critically. What do we really mean, when we talk about transformative Jewish education? How do we think that transformation occurs? What does it look like when it happens?

There are many pockets of excellence across the Jewish educational landscape – but for the most part, those examples remain isolated and hidden. The best and most creative educational work is neither visible nor documented, so no one outside these programs is learning from them. This conference was a step towards improving that situation by bringing together some of those programs, and creating an opportunity for leading educators to study them systematically.

As we discussed these cases of innovative and arguably transformative educational programs, we  explored:

  1. What do we mean by transformative Jewish education?
  2. What are the pedagogies of transformation?
  3. How might transformative effects be documented? What are we looking for, and how would we know if we found it?

Together we advanced our thinking about what educational transformation is, how we can plan for such effects, how we envision producing them, and how such educational experiences can be assessed. Conference participants built a community of shared inquiry in this area that can serve as the basis for possible future work.

Our partners included:

Conference planning committee:

  • Sharon Feiman-Nemser, Brandeis
  • Sheryl Katzman, The Davidson School/JTS Standards and Benchmarks Project
  • Arielle Levites, NYU
  • Joseph Reimer, Brandeis
  • Josh Satok, Brandeis
  • Susanne Shavelson, Brandeis
  • Dan Smokler, Hillel International
  • Bradley Solmsen, URJ

Conference Chair: Jon A. Levisohn

The Conference on Transformative Jewish Education was made possible by the generous support of Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah.