Family & Education

Where next for Jewish education in Britain?

There are five areas where we need to focus attention to keep our young people engaged


Over the last few weeks many of us have been wowed by the achievements of Open AI’s Chat GPT: in passing medical exams, excelling at school homework essays. It even had a go at LSJS’s latest brochure.

It is easy to forget that this is but one in a long line of developments in technology and that each leads to innovation in the way we educate young people.

Teachers must stay abreast of changes in teaching practice and new pedagogic research, much of which incorporates new technologies. Those of us in the business of training teachers to go into our Jewish schools take this challenge seriously. And while there is still a place for frontal teaching, the profession as a whole and classroom practice looks very different from what many of us grew up with.

Teaching today integrates online gaming tools, interactive whiteboards, web-based projects and more.

Thanks to the change of pace brought about largely by social media, young people today have shorter attention spans. Learning must be dynamic and interactive, placing demands on teachers to develop ever more creative lessons.

In our schools today, teachers are expected to teach in a way that is fast-paced, varied and personalised to multiple abilities, learning needs and styles.

Nowhere is this more important than with Jewish education. Imparting ancient Jewish wisdom must be done with modern methods if it is to speak to today’s youth. And it must keep up with secular subjects to be deemed worthy of engagement and in order for Jewish content to have maximal impact.

So, in the era of Open AI, what should we retain and what can we leave behind to ensure we succeed in creating an engaged, connected, educated pipeline of young people to future-proof our community? Which educational strategies and approaches still work and which are now redundant? The report, After Covid: the Future of Jewish Education in the UK , published by UJIA and LSJS last June, provided many answers.

1) Good teachers who command respect can never be replaced by technology, however advanced. For today’s youth, they must provide honest openness to questions and space for those questions to be explored in diverse ways. Teachers must be brave and not defensive.

They must enable students to grapple with challenges without providing facile answers. They must bring God into the classroom but not take faith or belief as a given. Israel, in all its complexity, must have an integral place with the Jewish learning framework.

They need to facilitate learners to become part of the Jewish conversation: the key to Jewish engagement. They should also act as role models who live the values they impart.

2) The personal connection cannot be underestimated. Teachers must be there for our students on a human level as trusted adults. We are still witnessing the impact post-Covid of classrooms migrating online without sufficient teacher-student relationship.

3) Family support at home and involvement in their children’s learning is critical. The lion’s share of Jewish learning takes place in the home. As a community, we should do more to integrate families at lifecycle moments and maximise these leelexperiences. But we must continue to support families if school-based education is to have the best chance of succeeding.

4) Young people today, particularly teens, demand to be masters of their own learning. This means putting the learner at the centre and co-creating their learning with them.

5) Jewish studies extends well beyond the classroom walls. Some of the most impactful learning is experiential: trips, Shabbatonim or experiences during the school day. We must be creative in developing new experiences. Our young people’s hunger for experiences demonstrates a hunger to learn.

So what can we leave behind? Teaching that does not seek to apply its lessons to the real life of our young people, in all their diversity, will fall on deaf ears. Learning must lead to meaning-making for it to be relevant and impactful.

Providing expertise and training teachers to meet the needs of today’s education landscape is a critical mission. One thing is sure. Open AI is not the last word in technological innovation. Our teachers must be agile and adaptable to respond to the ever-evolving needs of young people. But they must also cling to proven best practice.

The balance between artificial intelligence and real wisdom will be key as we confront tomorrow’s world.

Joanne Greenaway is chief executive of the London School of Jewish Studies

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