CASJE Announces Recipients of 2018 Small Grants Program for Research on the Practice of Jewish Education

September 23, 2018

Projects address different age groups and settings of Jewish education, findings will be shared with field

CASJE (The Consortium for Applied Studies in Jewish Education) today announced three grants for research projects focused on the practice of Jewish education. The grants, up to $30,000 each, were selected from proposals submitted in response to an open call. The winning projects cover different age groups and settings of Jewish education, will be completed by the end of 2019, and will be shared broadly with the field.

The grant recipients and their projects are:

Dr. Lauren Applebaum, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion; Anna Hartman, Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago; and Dr. Sivan Zakai, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Exploring How Preschool Children (3-4 years old) in Jewish Early Childhood Settings Think about Israel

While much communal attention is focused on how teens and young adults think about Israel, this study will address the very youngest learners in the Jewish community, asking “How do preschool children think about and understand Israel?” As this question is crucial for both scholarship and practice, this project is designed as a unique and powerful practitioner and researcher partnership. Researchers will create a developmentally-appropriate research protocol using group interviews, elicitation/provocation exercises, and teacher documentation. Early childhood practitioners from three Jewish early childhood centers will be trained to use it to uncover the ways that their students think about Israel. Multiple rounds of coding and analysis will allow both practitioners and researchers to shape and reflect on the analysis before findings are shared in both practitioner and scholarly venues.

Dr. Netta Avineri, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey; Dr. Sarah Bunin Benor, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion; and Rabbi Nicki Greninger, Director of Education, Temple Isaiah (Lafayette, CA)

Hebrew Education in Supplementary Schools

This study will investigate how Hebrew is taught and perceived at American Jewish supplementary schools. Which types of Hebrew (Liturgical, Biblical, Modern) and which skills (decoding, recitation, conversation) are emphasized? Phase one is a survey of 250+ school directors around the United States, focusing on rationales, goals, teaching methods, curricula, and teacher selection. Phase two involves classroom observations and stakeholder surveys at 10 schools with diverse approaches. Researchers will first determine how teachers teach, use, and discuss Hebrew and how students respond. Researchers will then survey students, parents, clergy, and teachers about their rationales, goals, and perceptions of their program. This project represents a collaboration among researchers and practitioners committed to theorizing how Hebrew is and might be approached in American Jewish educational institutions. Understanding this will enable future interventions to better align goals and methods among educators, congregations, and families, thereby strengthening diaspora Hebrew education.

Dr. Bethamie Horowitz, New York University; and Joshua Krug and Amanda Winer, Ph.D. Students in Education and Jewish Studies, New York University

What are the Terms of Engagement? Israel-based Gap Year Programs as Sites for Investigating Israel Education for North American Jews

Israel-based programs for North American Jews in their gap year between high school and college are a significant locale for Israel education, but one that has not received much scholarly attention. Because the programs are situated in contemporary Israel for a period of 9 months, they function as sites of Israel education in ways that are hard to replicate in North American settings. This project will investigate the educational conceptions of two such programs—The Young Judaea Year Course, and the Kivunim Program—with particular attention to their formulations of how and why young American Jews are expected to relate to current day Israel, and how these ideas play out in practice. At a time when there are many questions about the nature of the relationship between American Jews and Israel, this inquiry will provide a window for examining educators’ views about what 21st century “Jewish citizenship” could or should entail for the rising generation of North American Jews.

Upon completing the research, grantees will share their findings with the broader field of Jewish education at conferences, via social media, and in publications.

“These three projects address critical areas and age cohorts in Jewish education, and CASJE is very pleased to support the researchers in this important work,” says Rabbi Mitch Malkus, co-Chair of CASJE and Head of School at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School of Greater Washington, D.C. “CASJE’s purpose is to bring researchers and practitioners together to create useful new knowledge in and for the field of Jewish education. We are confident these projects will do just that—and we look forward to helping to disseminate the findings.”


CASJE is a community of researchers, practitioners, and philanthropic leaders committed to sharing knowledge to improve Jewish education.