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No Going Back to the Future: The Marketplace for Jewish Educators 18 Months into the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Mapping the Market (MTM) strand of CASJE’s study of the Career Trajectories of Jewish Educators was conceived with the goal of shedding light on the Jewish education marketplace. MTM planned to document what job opportunities exist in Jewish education, what skills and aptitudes employers across various sectors seek, and the ways in Jewish educators are prepared for and developed to work effectively in the field.

With the unanticipated arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the early stages of our work on Mapping the Market provided an opportunity to learn how the various sectors of Jewish education were affected by the pandemic. The MTM study was focused on the labor market for Jewish educators, and that investigation helped shed light on the broader landscape for Jewish education: what employers were hoping to achieve in the face of the pandemic, what demand they anticipated for their services, and what help they expected their staff to need in order to succeed. Data gathered in July and August 2020 revealed four phenomena:

1. How the pandemic’s uneven impact across the United States exacerbated the extent to which supply of and demand for Jewish educators were colored by local circumstances.

2. How the pandemic accentuated differences between sectors and venues of Jewish education, and how those providing services that parents couldn’t do without—childcare and schooling—seemed in much more robust shape compared to those whose services were perceived to be a luxury or whose value was not fully appreciated.

3. How health regulations and the shift to remote learning had created a dynamic whereby employers were more likely to look for full-time than parttime staff.

4. Due to a widely shared sense that children, young adults, and parents had been traumatized by their experiences of the first six months of the pandemic, employers were placing a special premium on finding staff who were responsive to the social and emotional (mental health) needs of participants.

Twelve months on from that original study, the COVID-19 pandemic was continuing to disrupt many areas of day-to-day life in the United States. It had triggered labor shortages in many sectors and a labor market phenomenon, popularly known as the “great resignation,” in which 11.5 million people were found to have quit their jobs between April and June 2021. Against this backdrop, it made sense to return to the individuals with whom we originally spoke in order to explore how the prolonged nature of this crisis has affected another year of Jewish educator recruitment and retention.

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