Family & Education

We need joined-up thinking to keep our young engaged

Education organisations must work together for the common good rather than put their own interests first


The Jewish community today is, in many ways, unrecognisable from the community of 28 years ago when Jewish Continuity produced its landmark report. We have seen a flourishing of schools, initiatives and organisations providing a plethora of experiences, curricula, training and opportunities for young people.

In many ways, young people in 2022 are very different from young people 28 years ago. In addition, the experience of Covid has given rise to many important questions. How can we harness new technology and what are its limitations? How have we been affected by greater global connectedness? How have our young people’s attitudes to learning shifted and how do we engage them?

Are we supporting and valuing the teachers and educators we entrust with our children and what status do they have in our community? Are we involving families enough? Our goal is to live in communities of practice, populated by enthusiastic, proud, knowledgeable, and engaged Jews — how do we achieve this in 2022 and beyond?

No one organisation can respond to these alone. They cut across the structural boundaries of shul, school, youth movement and, importantly, home. It is in this spirit that LSJS, together with UJIA, convened a significant project to look ahead to the future of Jewish education in the UK and set a new agenda to build back better. We have now published our report, After Covid: The Future of Jewish Education in the UK, which contains 22 short-term and seven long-term recommendations as well as a set of nine easily adoptable principles.

A young person’s Jewish journey does not depend on one part of the sector alone. Over the last 25 years, for many children, their Jewish education has increasingly been the responsibility of schools. In order for the greatest impact to be achieved, home and school need to work in partnership, with support flowing in both directions.

Our report clearly shows a lack of clear mapping as to what Jewish education is delivered where and why. For example, experiential education takes place in peer-led youth movements and organisations as well as schools and synagogues and is hugely impactful.

However, considering that young people access these opportunities from multiple providers, we must ensure they complement each other, maximise community resources and ensure joined-up thinking.    

Family education in particular was identified as an area that has been underserved and particularly requiring of a joined-up approach.  Shul communities play an important role but parents have increasingly turned their locus of Jewish engagement towards schools.

Lifecycle moments such as bar/batmitzvah are an ideal touchpoint to create inter-generational experiences across multiple settings. The point at which young adults transition out of formal education and youth movement engagement is a critical juncture at which many people move away from Jewish life and at which institutions should co-ordinate their offer.

Just as previous community-wide reports led to the establishment of Reshet, which is designed to enhance informal Jewish education in the UK, and PaJeS, which provides services, support and strategy to Jewish schools across the UK, we now need a strategic co-ordinating mechanism for Jewish education.

Organisations must work for the greater good rather than to advance their own individual interests. They must ensure that we are truly inclusive, looking beyond geographical and traditional boundaries. They must establish grants that incentivise collaboration as well as experimentation, innovation and creativity in the sector. Most notably, putting the learner at the centre of their educational journey.

They must ensure that teachers and educators are appropriately valued and funded as critical leaders and aspirational role models. They must collectively provide teachers and educators with flexible pathways and opportunities to move across the sector and work across multiple settings. They must commission serious research to provide more substantial data to inform the sector.

Collaboration already happens informally. The education hub that we have created at LSJS, where 13 organisations share a space, provides great opportunities for partnerships. Our report also provided a model for the type of collaboration that happens all too rarely in our community.

Ongoing structured collaboration will ensure we really benefit from the multiplicity of initiatives that exist. The interplay between home, school, community and youth movements is critical to maintaining our children’s engagement and facing the challenges of Jewish life in the 21st- century. Only then will we truly provide a year-round vibrant offer that speaks to, and provide choices, for young people today.

Joanne Greenaway is chief executive of LSJS

READ MORE: Jewish education needs post-Covid investment

Post-Covid: the questions Jewish education must confront

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