Erica L. Goldman

Erica Goldman MA/MBA’16

Erica grew up in Levittown, New York, and Coral Springs, Florida. After receiving her BA in Linguistics and Cognitive Science from Brandeis University in 1999, Erica worked at InTouch Systems, a start-up software development company in Boston, until the summer of 2004, when she was invited to be Director of Dance at Camp Alonim in Los Angeles. That began an incredible new career of teaching Israeli dance professionally, both in the U.S. and internationally, always returning to camp for the summer.

In 2011, Erica expanded her role at New Community Jewish High School in Los Angeles and joined the Global Jewish Education department. There she helped coordinate and implement both their three-week and three-month exchange programs with Tel Aviv high schools and, in 2013, taught 10th grade Honors English to the American students while they were living in Israel.

In the summers of 2013 and 2014, Erica was the Goodman Educator for Camp Alonim, working to expand and improve Israel education at camp as part of the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) and the iCenter’s Goodman Camping Initiative for Modern Israel History.

In 2015, she joined the education faculty of the FJC’s Cornerstone Fellowship and will be returning for Cornerstone 2016.

This year also saw the launch of Ma’agal, Erica’s initiative to improve Israeli dance education at schools and camps across the nation. Erica is a newly-minted Wexner Fellow (Davidson Scholar), class 28.

Erica is currently teaching Israeli dance at Temple Emanuel in Newton, and after a many-year hiatus, has returned to performing with the Zikukim Israeli Dance Company. In the coming months, she will be the Master Teacher at RikuDallas in Texas and then will travel to Los Angeles to speak at the FJC’s Funders’ Summit about the impact of Jewish summer camp.

Erica's Professional Network

Visit the websites of the Jewish organizations mentioned in Erica's profile:

Dr. Rachel Fish was Erica's advisor in her first year and Professor Joe Reimer is her advisor in her second year. Erica will graduate in 2016.

Hornstein Student Profile

Erica Goldman
on Teaching
  Israeli Dance
  at Camp 

"So much of Jewish values, Israeli history, Judaism, and our rich cultural heritage can be transmitted and understood via the vehicle of Israeli dance,” says current 2nd-year student, Erica Goldman MA/MBA’16, director of Ma’agal, a new initiative that helps train Jewish camp staff to “take their Israeli dance programs to the next level.”

“Add to that the general joy of dance, of listening to music, the emotional experience to be had by way of the arts, and the sheer healthiness of physical activity, and it’s clear Israeli dance can have a profound and positive impact on so many aspects of a camper’s experience.”

Erica has taught Israeli dance on four continents for more than a decade. Her first experience with Israeli dance was as a child alongside her father. “I can’t remember a time we didn’t dance,” she says. Dance became a joy-filled hobby for Erica early in her life, but not something she ever considered following as a career."

“When I got a call asking if I was interested in the Dance Director position at Camp Alonim, I realized I had a chance to spread the joy of what I loved doing and turn my avocation into a vocation.” 

At that time, Camp Alonim was a part of the Brandeis-Bardin Institute and there, Erica learned Shlomo Bardin’s concept of “First we touch, then we teach,” a pedagogical approach she strongly believes in and practices. “The learning process needs to be fun but it also needs to be substantive,” she says.

As Erica gained more experience working in the Jewish community she also “became more intentional about training others.” “[Before coming to Hornstein,] I was sort of running a business on my own without knowing anything about business,” she says. “The MBA side [of the Hornstein-Heller degree] is 100 percent what I need” to manage the business side of things.

“The Jewish Leadership side has given me the language and context I need to communicate my ideas effectively.”

For Erica, the Hornstein Program “magically exists at the intersection” of all her ambitions to become more intentional in her career-path as an educator.

Erica Goldman teaches Israeli dancing at Camp Alonim in California and other locations.

In Her Own Words:
  An Interview with Erica Goldman

Q: After graduating from Brandeis with a BA in Linguistics and Cognitive Science, you went to work in the technology sector. What made you decide to pursue work in the Jewish community and in dance, especially Israeli dance?

Erica: I didn’t exactly decide to give up one thing and pursue another so much as an incredible opportunity presented itself and I took it. I grew up doing Israeli dance with my father and always loved it but I never considered it as a career. When I got a call asking if I was interested in the Dance Director position at Camp Alonim (at what is now American Jewish University and was then the Brandeis-Bardin Institute), I realized I had a chance to spread the joy of what I loved doing and turn my avocation into a vocation. 

Q: What effect does dance have on campers? Is Israeli dance for everyone?

Erica: Israeli dance is for all kinds of dancers and non-dancers! That includes people of all kinds of artistic ability, or none, all kinds of Jewish background, socioeconomic status, age, gender, experience. So much of Jewish values, Israeli history, Judaism, and our rich cultural heritage can be transmitted and understood via the vehicle of Israeli dance.

For students and campers of a certain age, the lessons of socialization gained through dance and the ideas of communal responsibilities and gifts are icing on the cake. Add to that the general joy of dance, of listening to music, the emotional experience to be had by way of the arts, and the sheer healthiness of physical activity, and it’s clear Israeli dance can have a profound and positive impact on so many aspects of a camper’s experience.

Q: Do you think of Israeli dance as prayerful?

Erica: Yes, Israeli dance can absolutely be an embodiment of our prayers, conversations, emotions, expressions of gratitude, hopes and dreams. My predecessor at Camp Alonim, Dani Dassa, speaks of Israeli dance as "Judaism through the metatarsals."

Q: How do you approach teaching dance?

Erica: At Camp Alonim I first learned Shlomo Bardin’s concept of “First we touch, then we teach.” It’s really what I do. My first goal is to get my students to love it a little bit. First I want them to smile, both on the inside and outside. I want them to feel some achievement, some accomplishment. One of the ways I use this concept in teaching is to start with a dance that’s easy, then teach something harder, then go easy again so students leave class feeling happy and accomplished at the end.

When I’m teaching I’m thinking about the arc of that lesson so my students learn and feel joy in the learning. We keep circling back to the heart, then the brain. I worry that Jewish education can sometimes go too far towards stressing the enjoyable experience and then forget the “then we teach” step. I’m committed to actual progress and furtherment. It’s a two-way street, back and forth, heart and head.

It’s important to me that students of Israeli dance engage with the larger world of Israeli dance, that my students recognize that they can be a part of something global. What we teach in Israeli dance are dances that other people all over the world are learning too. When you go to Israel on Pesach with your family you’ll find Israeli dancers doing the same dances you learned from me. The same dances are done here in Cambridge, in Rome, in Manhattan, in Caracas, in Tel Aviv. You’ll hear and recognize the song and know the dance. People connect through dance in this way. Just like we learn how to chant a particular prayer: they are the same all over the world. We have an entrée into the global Jewish community by virtue of knowing that prayer, of knowing that dance.

The connection of Israeli dance to the larger world helps me decide what I’m going to teach, and I balance that with my goals of helping my students improve their abilities, enjoy the dancing, learn larger lessons, and connect to others.

And I never forget to smile! I show my students that I enjoy what I do. It’s important in any classroom: if you’re saying, “Do what I do. Model what I do with my hands and feet. Mimic me,” then you should also be sending the message, “Smile because I’m smiling.”

I also remember to get feedback from my class. I teach new teachers all the time there are no set-in-stone rules for how quickly to teach a dance or what steps to repeat:  they must look around the room and see what steps people are having trouble with, then go back and focus on those steps. The guidance comes from inside the circle. As a teacher I try to be responsive to what my students are doing and needing from me, their instructor.

Q: What is your role in the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC)? 

Erica: The first time I was really involved with the FJC was as Camp Alonim’s Educator for the Goodman Initiative for Modern Israel History, a program of both the FJC and the iCenter. Last year, I joined the faculty of their Cornerstone Fellowship, and that was the first opportunity I had to really understand how many interesting things the organization was doing and how wide their reach.

I also learned more about FJC as a Hornstein student, because the FJC was one of the non-profits we visited with Professor Mark Rosen during the annual Starr Colloquium to New York City. Later, I followed up on what I learned on that visit and co-wrote a paper with classmate Rachel Eisen MA/MA'16 for Prof. Rosen’s class, Organizational Behavior, about some interesting strategic changes the FJC recently made.

Happily, this past May the FJC helped bring a long-time dream of mine to reality. With funding from the AVI CHAI Foundation, the FJC sponsored my initiative to train Israeli dance specialists from across the country to better deliver on the promise of Israeli dance education. The success of that pilot program, called Ma’agal (Hebrew for “circle”), was due in large part to assistance and advice of all kinds from the FJC, along with Camp Alonim, the host of Ma’agal 2015. 

Q: How did you come to be a Wexner Graduate Fellow, and does that embrace your passion for dance and camp?

Erica: Having decided to apply to the Hornstein Program late in the spring of 2014, I had already missed the deadline to apply for the Wexner Fellowship for my first year of school. With lots of advice and encouragement from both my Hornstein professors and my incredibly supportive classmates, I applied last winter instead and am honored and delighted to have been chosen as a member of Class 28.

The faculty at Wexner certainly understand and are interested in nurturing my Israeli dance and camp goals, but they also recognize my variety of other interests in the Jewish communal world and the many other possible avenues along which I may be able to contribute to its betterment. 

Q: Do you see yourself as professionalizing Israeli dance here in the U.S.?

Erica: I absolutely do see a need to professionalize Israeli dance education, both here and abroad. Too often, energetic and earnest young people are given the task of teaching Israeli dance without being provided with the training, skills, and background to really deliver on the promise of how rich an educational experience it can be. I want to help all those people!

Q: Have you experienced challenges as an Israeli dance instructor because you are not Israeli?

Erica: Mostly, no. One year I even taught an Israeli dance at a few big dance events in Israel in my broken Hebrew, and everyone was very supportive! 

Q: How did you choose to come to Hornstein?

Erica: I first learned about Hornstein from reading the bio of a Hornstein alumna, Aliza Goodman MA/MBA’09, who now works at the iCenter. I had been thinking about getting an MBA part-time for a few years, but when I saw that there was a dual-degree program that offered an MBA alongside Jewish Professional Leadership and it was at Brandeis, my alma mater, I knew it was the program for me. From Aliza’s bio I clicked over to the Hornstein website and the next morning I gave notice to New Jew. It was that fast. Dr. Bruce Powell, the Head of School and a trusted mentor, was totally supportive.

Joining the Hornstein Program was the obvious right thing for me to do. It brought together all those disparate pieces I’d been working on. I didn’t apply anywhere else!

Q: How has your Hornstein education (so far) informed your work?

Erica: After only one semester at Hornstein, it was already clear that I could participate in the Jewish professional world in a new way: I spoke a language I hadn’t spoken before!

Now I have a deep knowledge of the landscape of Jewish organizations that are out there, how they do their work, how they work together, how they quantify their successes, and how they proceed financially. I had been living and working in that world without any sense of the larger picture; because of my Hornstein education, my perspective is both vastly wider and more detailed.

The Hornstein Program magically exists at the intersection of everything I need to know to advance my goals as an educator.

Q: How will your MBA skills help you with your career goals?

Erica: For years I was running a business on my own without knowing anything about business. The MBA side is 100 percent what I need to run an effective business, for myself and other institutions for whom I may work.

Q: What will you do after you graduate from Hornstein? Do you think you will be a life-long camp professional or do you have visions of working elsewhere too?

Erica: I don’t know yet what I will do when I leave Hornstein! I will certainly continue my efforts to grow Ma’agal and improve the world of Israeli dance education, both in camp and elsewhere. I have a deep love for camp now and could see myself continuing to work in that field. The FJC is doing phenomenal work there and I’d love to continue my association with them. The iCenter is also growing and raising up the field of Israel education; I’d love to be a part of that work.  

I’m very interested in education and arts education, but also in many other things including poverty alleviation, literacy, and literature, so there are many organizations out there making positive changes in the world. I love what PJ Library does; if they offered me a job, I’d probably take it!

I am open to whatever presents itself. I feel confident it will be something I will love though I don’t know exactly what it will be. If I’ve learned anything from previous experiences, it’s that I can trust opportunities as they present themselves to be just right for me!


This interview with Erica was published in the Hornstein Program's Impact Newsletter, September 2015. If you would like to quote any part of this conversation, please attribute content to the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program at Brandeis University and link to this page. All rights reserved.