Family & Education

Jewish education needs post-Covid investment, says new report

Funders should be willing to 'take risks' to encourage innovation


Greater investment in Jewish education should be a communal priority over the next decade and philanthropists should be willing to “take risks” with funding to encourage innovation, according to a new report published this week.

The Future of Jewish Education in the UK has produced a series of recommendations including the need for lower cost “immersive” programmes such as camps and Israel tours.

The report is the work of more than 70 educators from across the denominational spectrum and from across the informal and formal education sectors, who have met in a number of working groups over the past six months convened by the London School of Jewish Studies and UJIA.

“Jewish education is at a critical juncture,” states the report, which has been compiled by co-head of teacher training at LSJS Helena Miller.

“The experience of Covid-19 has shaken and tested our schools, youth movements and our communal infrastructure. As a community, we have risen to the enormous challenges across the sector.”

Now educators were facing the question of how to “build back better”.

There was a need to “seriously invest further and deeper in Jewish education,” the report said. “This has to be a community priority in the coming decade.”

Offering micro-grants of £500 to £5,000 for projects could be one way to “promote innovation”. These had been “demonstrated to work in the past”, it said, citing the UJIA’s Cheder Challenge, which allocated a total of £70,000 to more than 20 projects in 2008.

Philanthropists needed to “take risks with their funding” and the community to have “a level of tolerance for failure that does not blame ‘good ideas’”.

A key area was recruiting and retaining teachers. “Teaching and informal education are not perceived as aspirational careers by a large sector of the community,” the report found. Instead, Jewish education needed to be promoted as an “honourable and worthwhile career”.

“We need to give substantial financial help to educators and their families, for example to ensure that key worker housing from Jewish Housing Associations is accessible” for those working in both formal and informal education.

The report also noted that youth programmes such as camps and tours “appear to be targeted only at a core or elite grouping who are already affiliated, and are certainly financially prohibitive”.

Although there were bursary schemes, not everyone felt comfortable accessing them. “The Jewish community must collaborate to put together lower cost, open and inclusive programmes.”

It highlighted the importance of developing family education. The working group which examined this area noted that there was “the feeling that modern parents are tending to outsource their children’s Jewish education to schools, and that there may be a post-Covid opportunity to address this.”

At a meeting this week to launch the report, the facilitator of the family education group Claire Straus said that programmes in this area often appeared “out-dated”.

The report also emphasised the desirability of collaboration between educational organisations.

“On the one hand ,” it stated, “the community operates in closely guarded silos… often with little collaboration and sharing of ideas; on the other hand, there is sometimes duplication of objectives and programming which does not efficiently use the limited funding and resources available to the community.”

The initiative behind the report, it observed, was a “highly unusual” example of collaboration — between the Modern Orthodox LSJS and the cross-communal UJIA.

“We should find ways for personnel from one sector or denomination to visit another sector or denomination for a meeting, observation or activity.”

Bridging the gap between Jewish schools and other community organisations, and drawing up a framework for Jewish cultural literacy to guide educators across the board, were among topics explored.

READ MORE: Post-Covid: the questions Jewish education must confront

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive