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Faculty and Staff
Ellen Alt is an artist, teacher and community arts facilitator. She has exhibited her mixed media artwork in the U.S, Israel, Germany, Russia, China and England. One of her pieces was presented to Hillary Clinton in Jerusalem on the occasion of the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. Ms. Alt received a BFA in art education from the Massachusetts College of Art and an MA in studio art from New York University. She is currently the artist-in-residence at the Park Avenue Synagogue, instructor of mixed media to adults at the 92nd St. Y and the art coordinator at Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan. Ellen summers at Brandeis University where she is the visual arts instructor for the BIMA and Genesis high school programs and teaches creativity in the DeLet Master’s program. In addition, Ms. Alt organizes community sculpture and mural projects. She has worked with Arab/Jewish groups in the Middle East, Catholic/Protestant groups from Northern Ireland and multicultural groups throughout the United States. Web sites: www. ellenalt.com, www.ellenalt.org
Cindy Ballenger is a literacy specialist in the Cambridge Public Schools and founding member of the Brookline Teacher Researcher Seminar. She has taught children who spoke many languages and came from many backgrounds, particularly children from Haiti. Ballenger has authored many books and articles which present research stories focused on the meaning-making of children. She did her doctoral work in Applied Linguistics at Boston University, and has received grants from the Spencer Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the National Council of Teachers of English to explore teacher research as a practice and as a means of professional development for teachers. Other interests include the teaching of science, urban education, and classroom discourse in relation the intellectual strengths of children from less literate and less academic backgrounds.
Leandra Elion grew up in South Africa and attended King David Jewish day schools and then graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand with a BA in Dramatic Art. After immigrating to the United States, she received an MS in special education from Long Island University in New York and an MEd in Reading from Salem State College. She has consulted on special education issues to day schools and the Bureau of Education of Greater Boston. She has taught self-contained and inclusive classes in both congregational and public schools.
Sharon Feiman Nemser is the Mandel Professor of Jewish Education at Brandeis University and the founding director of the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education. Before coming to Brandeis in 2001, she served on the faculties of the University of Chicago and Michigan State University where she directed innovative teacher education programs and did research on learning to teach. Sharon came to Brandeis because it offered a unique opportunity to combine her expertise in teacher education with her deep interest in Jewish education. This combination is reflected in the Delet/MAT program which she started and which prepares teachers for Jewish day schools. Sharon has written extensively about mentoring, new teacher induction, teacher education and the role of experience in learning to teach.
Orit Kent is a Senior Research Associate at the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education at Brandeis University, where she also teaches in the Delet/MAT program. Orit co-designed the Beit Midrash Research Project at Brandeis and has taught in it since 2003, where she has developed an approach to the teaching of havruta and the close study of student learning. Orit's interest in havruta stems from the years she worked as a community organizer, helping diverse groups of people to successfully and respectfully work and study together. In her current work at the Mandel Center, Orit continues to research student learning and pedagogical approaches to havruta text study and draws on her research to help teachers create learning environments that foster high quality study of Jewish texts and values. Her related research interests include the teaching and learning of Jewish texts, learning across the lifespan, teacher professional development and alternative leadership paradigms. In her research, teaching and professional development work, Orit seeks to help Jewish education develop into a field that not only fosters strong knowledge of content and skills but also the creation of self-aware, values-based, action-oriented Jewish leaders. Orit has taught in a wide variety of educational contexts and works as an educational consultant in the Boston area. Orit is an alumna of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship and holds a doctorate in Judaic Studies and Education from Brandeis University and an MEd in Learning and Teaching from Harvard University. Orit has also studied in the Batai Midrash at Midreshet Lindenbaum, the Hartman Institute and Drisha Institute.
Noreen Leibson is the Delet faculty leader and comes to the Mandel Center after twenty years as the Education Director at Temple Beth Abraham, a Conservative synagogue in Nashua, NH. She has also worked as an informal Jewish educator and yoetzet at Camp Ramah in New England for ten summers. Noreen is a graduate of The Mandel Teacher Educator Institute and is known for her sophisticated professional development program at her school as well as her adult teaching, notably a Torah study class that has been in existence for eight years and more recently her work in Christian Jewish study groups. Noreen has her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education from SUNY New Paltz and earned a Master of Social Work from Boston University. She received her Master of Arts in Jewish Studies from Hebrew College.
Jon Levisohn is the Assistant Academic Director of the Mandel Center, Associate Professor of Jewish Education in the Department of Near Eastern & Judaic Studies at Brandeis, and is also affiliated with the Philosophy Department, The Hornstein Program in Jewish Professional Leadership, and the Education Program. As a philosopher of education, his research and writing has encompassed three broad areas. First, he has sought to bring a critical lens to issues in contemporary Jewish education (e.g., curricular integration, community as a goal in Jewish education, and the future of modern Orthodox education). Second, he has developed and led a research initiative at the Mandel Center on the teaching and learning of classical Jewish texts (Bible and rabbinic literature) in multiple settings, from early childhood through university. This project, the Initiative on Bridging Scholarship and Pedagogy in Jewish Studies, has involved a diverse set of educators in research seminars and large conferences, and has generated a series of working papers and a manuscript of an edited volume. Third, he is pursuing a book-length project on the teaching and learning of history. In addition to his university teaching, he has taught Jewish Studies in a day school, in supplementary schools, and in adult education programs. An alumnus of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship program, he holds graduate degrees from Stanford in Philosophy, Religious Studies, and Philosophy of Education. He is active in the Network for Research in Jewish Education, the Philosophy of Education Society, and the Association for Jewish Studies.
Lesley Litman has a consulting practice in Jewish education most recently with a focus on Israel education. She is currently consulting to The iCenter and the BASIS project in San Francisco in the area of curriculum design and professional development and to the Combined Jewish Philanthropies in the area of congregational learning and engagement. She was, until August, 2009, the founding Executive Director of the Hebrew at the Center: Advancing Hebrew Teaching and Learning in Boston. Lesley has extensive experience as a Jewish educator in a wide range of Jewish educational settings including congregations, day schools, informal education and the Reform Movement. Lesley served as the Director of Congregational Learning at Temple Israel in Boston. Prior to her work at Temple Israel, she was the Regional Educator for the URJ and the URJ’s national specialist in Hebrew and Day School education. She was the project coordinator for the Haverim B’ivrit series published by the URJ Press, was one of the two writers of the Torah strand of the URJ CHAI curriculum and authored Hebrew Reading Assessment published by Behrman House. Lesley was a founding member of Kibbutz Yahel in the Arava where she was the first treasurer and headed up the kibbutz’s search for an industrial project.
Rabbi Beth Naditch attended Brandeis as an undergraduate, and was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1999. She concurrently earned a Masters Degree in Jewish Education from that institution. Beth served on the faculty of the New York Board of Jewish Education’s Academy for Jewish Educators, a teacher training program for supplementary and day school teachers. She teaches Jewish text as a member of the faculty of the Delet/MAT program. In addition to her work with Delet, Rabbi Naditch teaches adults at many Boston area synagogues and institutions. She is a certified chaplain, and developed pastoral volunteer training programs for Hebrew Senior Life and Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, in which she teaches the art and skills of pastoral care. Rabbi Naditch, her husband, and their three young sons live in Newton, where she offers a class at her children’s school on Jewish spiritual development for teachers.
David Paskin serves as full-time Spiritual Leader of Temple Beth Abraham in Canton, Massachusetts. A graduate of Brandeis University and the Academy for Jewish Religion, David has been working in the Jewish world for over fifteen years teaching at various religious schools, day schools, and camps around the country. In the Boston area, David has served as Music and Judaics Director of Grossman Camp, and as Judaic Studies Coordinator of the Rashi School of Greater Boston. Currently, David makes regular visits to share his music and learning with the South Area Solomon Schechter Day School in Norwood, MA. In addition to his congregational work, David has taught prayer, music and rabbinics at the Academy for Jewish Religion – a pluralistic rabbinic and cantorial school in Riverdale, NY, and currently serves as Jewish chaplain at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Website: www.davidpaskin.com
Nili Pearlmutter is a Senior Education Specialist at the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education at Brandeis University, where she teaches the Fundamentals of Teaching course and serves as director of field experiences for the Delet program. Nili has also been a part of the Induction Project team since its inception in 2005 and currently coaches the Lander-Grinspoon Academy in Northampton as part of that project. Nili began working with preservice and novice teachers at the Mandel Center in 2004 and over the years has served as a field instructor for pre-service teachers, taught the Reflective Teaching seminar in the MAT-JDS program, co-facilitated a Beginning Teacher’s study group, and worked with the Induction Project to help schools implement systems and practices that support and develop beginning teachers and make schools good places for all teachers to teach and learn. Nili holds a Master of Science in Elementary Education from Wheelock College and a B. A. in Psychology from Yale University. She has taught at the elementary level at Cohen Hillel Academy in Marblehead and the Cambridgeport School in Cambridge.
Joe Reimer has been at Brandeis since 1986 where he has been director of the Hornstein Program and the Institute for Informal Jewish Education. Trained as a developmental psychologist at Harvard, he has written several books and many articles on moral education, kibbutz education and Jewish education. He is considered by many as a leading expert on experiential Jewish education.
Vardit Ringvald received her Ph.D. from Lesley University. She is the Director of the Hebrew language program and has been teaching at Brandeis University since 1985. Her presentations and publications deal with topics of competency-based curriculum for teaching Modern Hebrew in all educational settings. She is an expert in the application and proficiency approach to foreign language instruction at the different levels, developing authentic material, and methods for integrating culture into the classroom. Her recent interests include the development of bilingual courses as a method for strengthening skills across languages and the connection between language acquisition and identity formation. She is a consultant to a variety of Hebrew language programs and is an oral proficiency interviewer trainer for the Hebrew Speaking Test developed by ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages). Prof. Ringvald served as the Chair of the SAT II for Hebrew. She is involved in national initiatives to advance the learning and teaching of Hebrew in America. She, along with her colleagues, published "Brandeis Modern Hebrew," which has become the standard college Hebrew textbook in America. In summer 2007 she established the Brandeis-Middlebury School of Hebrew at Middlebury College VT. She is also the Director and the Advisor for the MA in Hebrew teaching at Brandeis – a two year program that prepares students to become Hebrew teachers in all educational frameworks
Faye Ruopp currently works as an independent consultant in mathematics professional development for districts throughout New England and New York City. During her 33 years in education, Ms. Ruopp has been a secondary mathematics teacher (Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School), university instructor (Brandeis University, Simmons College, Worcester State College), senior project director for NSF professional development programs (Education Development Center, Inc.), principal investigator for a middle school mathematics curriculum (Impact Mathematics), writer for an online algebraic thinking course (WGBH/Annenberg Learning Math), and an associate consultant in mathematics professional development for Teachers 21. She has recently written a series of curricular supplements, Math With a Laugh with comedian Paula Poundstone for Grades 4-9. Ms. Ruopp has also been a presenter at state, regional, and national mathematics education conferences.
Lisa Schneier was a high school teacher in the Boston Public Schools for 12 years. Her subject matter focus was English and writing, but she also taught basic literacy and math skills. She earned her Doctorate in Education under the supervision of Eleanor Duckworth at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She studied Duckworth's methodology of "Critical Exploration," which was developed from the work of Jean Piaget. After exploring how people learn over a range of ages and subject areas, she focused her own research on ninth graders learning poetry. She has since taught in teacher education programs at Harvard and the University of Massachusetts, Boston Campus. She maintains her own interest in both reading and writing poetry and over the last years has become deeply interested in Jewish study through her synagogue, Congregation Dorshei Tzedek in West Newton. She is currently serving on the committee which is reviewing the varied learning experiences that the synagogue offers.
Francesca Stark has been a Delet instructor since 2005. She teaches a course called, Getting Started: Creating a close community and clear systems for a meaningful year of teaching. Francesca has taught 4th & 5th grade in the Brookline Schools since 1993. She has designed integrated curriculum across all subject areas and gives workshops to educators in areas such as differentiated instruction, writing, connecting home and school, curriculum design, literacy strategies, and poetry.