GW Announces "The Collaboratory: A Center for Jewish Education"

“The Collaboratory” Will Incubate New Ideas, Engage Public in New Approaches to Jewish Education

February 14, 2024

The Collaboratory: A Center for Jewish Education | Where Engaged Scholarship, Research, and Practice Meet

The GW Graduate School of Education and Human Development (GSEHD) unveiled today a new center for Jewish education. Located in the heart of the nation’s capital, The Collaboratory: A Center for Jewish Education at GW will enhance an already robust network of partnerships and assets to further advance the field of Jewish education and address modern challenges faced by the global Jewish community.

Directed by Dr. Benjamin M. Jacobs and Dr. Arielle Levites and staffed by Program Managers Naomi Gamoran and Ilana Weltman, the Collaboratory is comprised of three key branches: The Collaborative for Applied Studies in Jewish Education (CASJE) for research, the graduate programs in Israel Education and Experiential Jewish Education for academic preparation, and the Mayberg Center for Jewish Education and Leadership for public engagement.

“The seeds for an exciting development in Jewish education have been planted at GW over the past 10 years,” said Dr. Jacobs, who directs the academic programs. “The Collaboratory’s three programs have a robust history of significant contributions to the field of Jewish education, addressing timely and critical needs.”

Notable initiatives that the Collaboratory is currently engaged in include:

  1. Antisemitism
    • The Collaboratory will launch a speaker series aimed at addressing the pressing issue of antisemitism on American college campuses. Dr. Rachel Fish, a distinguished national expert on antisemitism, visiting professor in the Collaboratory, and co-founder of Boundless, will lead these discussions. The series is designed to engage both undergraduates and the general public, fostering a deeper understanding of the challenges and complexities surrounding antisemitism.
    • Fellowship & Summer Institute on Antisemitism and Jewish Inclusion: An annual cohort of teacher education faculty, campus administrators, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) officers participate in this transformative program. The program focuses on recognizing, studying, and teaching antisemitism and fostering Jewish inclusion within university-based schools, colleges, and departments of education. This initiative aims to address the documented and troubling inattention to antisemitism in American educational efforts Fellows will be equipped to design and implement interventions that integrate discussions of Jews and antisemitism into broader conversations on diversity, enhancing curricula, programming, and overall campus climate.
  2. CASJE Research DigestCreated in response to increased research activity following the October 7th terrorist attack on Israel and the subsequent war between Israel and Hamas, the CASJE Research Digest provides accessible expert research summaries to help Jewish communal professionals make sense of new research, build deeper understanding of the impact of ensuing events on American Jews, and develop a shared evidence base that can inform plans for action.
  3. Israel EducationServing 40 students a year, the Israel Education program, a partnership with The iCenter, is the first of its kind to be offered at a major university in the U.S. It brings together cohorts of Jewish educators, leaders and changemakers to learn new methods and techniques for Israel education.

These existing initiatives reflect the Collaboratory’s ongoing commitments and highlight its relevance to contemporary challenges faced by the Jewish community. The center’s multifaceted approach builds on a decade of groundwork, ushering Jewish education into a new era of innovation and impact.

The programs under the Collaboratory have earned credibility as a resource for leaders and educators. Current funders for these various endeavors include the Jim Joseph Foundation, Crown Family Philanthropies, the Mayberg Foundation, and The Marcus Foundation, which recently granted GW $2.9 million over five years to support four new cohorts of students in The iCenter/GW Graduate Program in Israel Education.

“The field of Jewish education is ready for an entity well-equipped to operate as a central address,” said Dean Michael Feuer of the Graduate School of Education and Human Development. “The Collaboratory is positioned to lend vision, coherence, and rigor to a diverse and segmented field, and to explore the underlying dynamics that influence communal and individual decision-making, investment, and concern related to Jewish education.”

GW Provost Christopher Alan Bracey lauded the Collaboratory as an “innovative example of how GW achieves its mission of creating knowledge and producing and disseminating impactful research on timely issues.”

“The Collaboratory's cross-functional and creative network will embrace GW's unique location in the heart of the nation's capital and enable this new entity to serve as a leader in education and a convenor of thought leadership," said Bracey. 

Past, Present, and Future

In addition to the aforementioned initiatives, the Collaboratory will also:

  • Redefine and broaden existing conceptions of Jewish education by exploring the meaning of “belonging” in both the Jewish and global communities.
  • Professionalize the field by developing and supporting a cadre of Jewish professional leaders and educational practitioners with skills, dispositions, knowledge, and imagination necessary to be architects of the Jewish future.
  • Build the knowledge base in Jewish education by organizing explorations of current trends and their implications for the field.
  • Apply research to practice by taking a critical look at the inner workings of the Jewish education ecosystem and how it interacts with the Jewish community.
  • Apply practice to research by engaging working educators in the design and interpretation of relevant scholarly inquiry.    
  • Expand community engagement by convening practitioners, scholars, communal leaders, stakeholders, and the public in deliberations on Jewish education and Jewish life.
  • Facilitate change in the complex Jewish education ecosystem by addressing communal priorities, proposing new agendas, and supporting innovation among networks of institutions, professionals, and lay leaders.

By combining outstanding resources on GW’s campus and amplifying them through collaboration, support, and a shared vision, the Collaboratory is positioned to become a pillar in Jewish education and the talent pipeline in the 21st Century. The Collaboratory looks forward to continuing conversations with existing and new philanthropic, programmatic, and academic partners about opportunities to further develop and secure its programmatic and infrastructural future.

Learn more about the new center >