Jewish and Catholic educators unite to examine teaching in faith-based schools

Retreat hosted by programs at Brandeis and Notre Dame brings teachers and students preparing for careers in Jewish and Catholic schools together to learn from each other

WALTHAM, Mass. – Brandeis is producing scholarship that will impact the way both Catholic and Jewish educators are prepared and supported, with help from a partnership between the university’s Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education and the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program. In working towards this goal a retreat has been organized to bring students, staff and alumni from each program together to study Jewish, Catholic and secular texts about teaching.

According to Judy Elkin, co-leader of the DeLeT Master of Arts in Teaching Program at Brandeis, a program of the Education Program and the Mandel Center, the goal is for participants to leave the retreat newly energized about their decisions to teach in Jewish or Catholic schools. “We hope their commitments will be strengthened, their connections to others with similar commitments will be enlightened, and their worldview will be further broadened,” Elkin said.

“To be truly effective teachers, we must be relentless learners,” said Tony DeSapio, director of the ACE Fellowship program at Notre Dame. “The rich set of opportunities for learning fostered by this partnership between Brandeis University and the University of Notre Dame ranges from joint research projects at the faculty level to shared prayer and fellowship among new teacher candidates, all of which moves us forward in expanding the knowledge base and celebrating the experience of faith-based schooling in America.”

The retreat will take place at the Connor Retreat Center in Dover, Mass. from April 2-4. Through biblical text study, open discussions in small and large groups, paired walks and reflection, approximately 26 participants will explore their personal relationships with teaching as well as why they decided to teach in a Jewish or Catholic setting. Research being conducted by the Mandel Center and the ACE program will inform the discussions.

“When teachers of different faiths come together to learn and mature through fellowship and discussion, it can only help our universal mission to develop virtuous young adults of strong character,” said Michael Suso, ACE teacher and 2005 retreat participant. “If we can share our successes and shortcomings we can collaborate to develop stronger teacher formation, which will help further the joint mission of ACE and DeLeT—to produce effective educators to faithfully instruct God’s created children.”

Several educators from the first ACE/DeLeT retreat in 2005 will participate again this year. “My experience as a participant in the first ACE/DeLeT retreat in 2005 has been invaluable,” said Yael Torbin, an alum of the DeLeT program now teaching third grade at MetroWest Jewish Day School in Framingham, Mass. “I am surrounded day in and day out by colleagues with similar visions about education. Learning from others is always a precious experience, especially when there are differences. Those are usually the times when the most learning happens.”

“To this day, I share stories and learnings from the first ACE/DeLeT retreat four years ago,” said Andrea Schaffer, a DeLeT alum, now teaching second grade at JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School. “That weekend was remarkable, and filled me with ideas that anyone who chooses to teach in a religious setting should contemplate or wrestle with at some point. Recognizing the differences and similarities between Judaism and Catholicism and between the DeLeT fellows and ACE fellows was more than fascinating. I am eager to experience more of the same and whatever might be different.”

About the DeLeT/MAT Program
The DeLeT/Master of Arts in Teaching program (DeLeT: Day School Leadership through Teaching; the Hebrew word for “door”), prepares recent college graduates, beginning Jewish educators and mid-career changers to teach general and Judaic studies in the elementary grades in Jewish day schools. It includes coursework at Brandeis and a yearlong mentored internship in an area day school. For more on the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education and DeLeT:

About the ACE Program of the University of Notre Dame
The Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) is a two-year service program offering college graduates the opportunity to serve as full-time teachers in under-resourced Catholic schools across the southern US. ACE believes that good teachers need excellent training and prepares its teachers in an innovative Master of Education program at the University of Notre Dame. ACE teachers spend two summers (June-July) studying in the Master of Education program at Notre Dame and two school years (August-May) teaching in under-resourced Catholic schools across the country. While teaching, participants live in small communities of 4-7 members and together share the many challenges and rewards of beginning teaching. ACE participants are encouraged to develop their own personal spirituality in the context of community, and to share with one another the journey of becoming committed Catholic schoolteachers. For more on the ACE program:
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