Baruch HaBa – Welcome!

We are so glad you are exploring a career at Jewish LearningWorks, the only organization in Northern California exclusively devoted to elevating the field of Jewish education by serving educators and teachers in a multitude of settings.

We are a hub of professional learning and community, composed of a dynamic team of senior educators who design professional learning programs, and strengthen our collegial community. Together, we empower teachers and educational leaders to engage timeless Jewish wisdom that helps children and teens become critical thinkers, develop a growth mindset, and find purpose in their lives.

As you consider working with us, take a few minutes to meet the team!

We look forward to getting to know you!

Our Culture

As an organization with deep roots in the community, we are committed to building and maintaining thoughtful relationships with our organizational partners and with each other. Our culture values excellence, quality over quantity, collaboration, transparency and communal accountability. We always aim high, but we go slow to go far. At the same time we are a small team, which means we join forces to accomplish our goals, and often work in a fast-paced environment.

As a learning organization we celebrate every win, big and small, and we are committed to investing in the career development of our own professionals. As part of our team, you will gain great colleagues, a chance to continue your own learning and growth, and an opportunity to make a difference in the field of Jewish education.

You can learn more about our values, and view our anti racism commitment here.

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Passion for Our Work

Jewish LearningWorks is perhaps best known for its people. Their best thinking, creativity, and hearts are stitched into our shared mission. You can get to know us better by reading some of the latest blog posts written by our staff.

Wherever You Go, We Go Together

By Jenni Mangel, Jewish LearningWorks’ Director of Educational Leadership Two important things happened in 1898. Those of you who have been following our materials closely this year might know that was the year Jewish LearningWorks was established as the Jewish Education Society (JES). JES later became the Bureau of Jewish Education and is now Jewish LearningWorks. We have enjoyed celebrating our 125 year timeline of Jewish educational leadership with all of you this year.  The other significant event of 1898 was the presence and leadership of a woman named Ray Frank on a pulpit in San Francisco, then a rough and tumble post-gold rush town of 30,000 souls. In those days public leadership roles were uncommon for women, who mostly wore long skirts, shirts with poofy sleeves and corsets. Ray Frank broke the mold by pursuing work as a journalist, education at the Hebrew Union College, and serving the community as a preacher.  Lest we forget our feminist history and the slow pace of change, it would be nearly 75 years before Sally Priesand was ordained as a reform rabbi in 1972, followed by Sandy Sasso in 1974 by the reconstructionist movement. Another decade passed before Amy Eilberg was ordained by the conservative movement in 1985 and another quarter century before Sara Hurvitz received the first authorization for formal communal leadership in the modern orthodox community in 2009, roughly 110 years after Ray Frank led the community of San Francisco. As a girl growing up in a small northern California town in the 1980s I still mostly saw men in communal leadership positions - on the pulpit and as the board chair. Adults told me all the time that women could be anything, but it still required my imagination to see myself in a significant leadership role in the community. But I was not the only little girl being taught to dream big and create action plans with which to pursue those dreams. By the time I entered the workforce in the early 2000s my peers were rabbis and we all benefited from the guidance and support of women professionals who preceded us. Over the last quarter century we have seen more women serving as board presidents, executive directors, and rabbis of our community.  Despite this rise of female voices, as of 2021, “most people working at Jewish nonprofits are women. But most CEOs of Jewish nonprofits… are men” (Leading Edge, The Gender Gap in Jewish Nonprofit Leadership). The research that Leading Edge did was limited to the experience of cis-gender women, however, they partnered with Keshet to conduct peer-led listening sessions that centered gender identity, race, disability and other identity markers in the conversation (highlights of those conversations are captured here). As we continue to work towards gender equity in communal leadership it is important that we concurrently seek equity in leadership with people of multiple marginalized identities. There is no doubt in my mind that we are moving towards diversity and inclusivity in the Jewish community, yet it is also clear to me that we still need to cultivate diverse voices in positions of Jewish leadership. Part of [...]

Embracing Our Teens’ Quest for Shleimut

By Alisha Pedowitz, Jewish LearningWorks Senior Educator Last week, I attended a fantastic session led by Rabbi Dr. Tali Zelkowicz called “Transmission and Translation: Embracing a World of Both/And,” part of Jewish LearningWorks’ ongoing training offerings for Jewish educators. In that session, I rediscovered a word I hadn’t used in a long time, and I realized it was exactly the term I needed to describe something I have been thinking a lot about in the last few weeks. It also helped me deepen my understanding of how to support mental health and wellness for Jewish adolescents. That word is “polarity.” While Tali was talking about the concept of both/and, and the goal of Jewish education to both transmit and translate wisdom, I realized this deeply Jewish concept of holding and existing within the tension between opposing values or ideas is what I have been seeking since Hamas’ October 7 terror attack on Southern Israel, and Israel’s ensuing military response in Gaza. I know from my own teenage children that many Jewish teens are grappling with this. And, from my many colleagues who serve as educators to these teens, it is what we are seeking to help them do even as we seek to do it for ourselves. Like many progressive Jews, I’ve watched communities that represent different aspects of my identity pull in opposing directions to the extremes of things that I value and believe. And in the process, I’ve felt my ability to integrate those values fracture, and have wondered which direction to lean to feel all of my grief, sorrow, and fear. I’ve wanted to rely on my values as a guide even as I hear frequent calls to abandon one value for the other, and to reject nuance, complexity, and humanity in the process. Judaism uses the word shleimut, wholeness, to name the need to feel whole, authentic, and at peace. It is from that place of shleimut that we are able to navigate a chaotic and challenging world. We must constantly do the both/and of holding, navigating, and existing within the tensions of seemingly polar opposite extremes, values, and realities. Those of us who work with adolescents know that this sense of authenticity and integration is a key component of this developmental stage. It’s why we talk about “teens having a B.S. meter.” They are striving to integrate their values, beliefs, and actions, to see themselves and be seen as authentic and true to themselves. How can we help our youth hold ALL that they value, instead  of forcing them to reject some values to uphold others? How can we help them ground themselves in a sense of shleimut while navigating the hard and scary realities of the moment? I believe that the most important thing educators can do  right now is to double down on our commitment to supporting youth well being and mental health. We need to help them turn to their inner guide to feel able to act from as many of these values—and the interactions amongst them–as possible. We need to leverage the relationships we have with them, and the framework of [...]

Is that a sukkah? And who is speaking Spanish inside?

By Liliana Peliks, Jewish LearningWorks’ Director of Marketing "Fitting in is the opposite of belonging," researcher and storyteller Brené Brown often says. It took me a minute to understand what she meant, but once it clicked, I couldn’t stop myself from finding examples in my own life, and around me.  Every year in the United States we celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, from September 15 to October 15, and Jewish American Heritage Month in May. Both celebrations were created to recognize the contributions and influence of these communities to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States. Many families in our Bay Area community find significance on and across these calendar dates, as their Latin and Jewish identities overlap, intersect, swirl, or fuse; however we describe the experience of who we are, we affirm and celebrate being created equal, and one - not half or a quarter or anything in particular, but one worthy of joyful belonging.  As a Jewish organization nurturing and training  educators, and through them, the children of our diverse local community, we find the holiday of Sukkot and its intersection with National Hispanic Heritage Month, an ideal opportunity to learn about the values of sakranut (curiosity), hachnasat orchim (hospitality) and ahavat Yisrael (love of fellow Jews). This year, we invite you to welcome these families as your ushpizin (symbolic sukkah guests): Dr. Maya Guendelman, her husband and their three children “My family of origin and my husband's family of origin are quite alike: both are Latino, both are Jewish, and both my husband and I grew up in the East Bay as bilingual children of Spanish-speaking immigrants, fleeing from countries where civil rights were being threatened. We have similar values; we care deeply about Judaism, education, social justice, diversity, Israel, and family. We sing similar songs for Shabbat, both grew up attending the High Holidays at synagogue. We also value maintaining our Latino culture, and passing it along to our kids, through travel, teaching them Spanish, and placing importance on the needs and rights of immigrants in the US and beyond. It is unique for our 3 US-born Jewish kids to be able to celebrate Hannukah, Pesach, etc. with all four grandparents together, all speaking to them in Spanish. We also find joyful belonging through our kids’ budding friendships through programs like Bet Sefer at Temple Beth Abraham, Camp Gan Izzy, and Olamim.” Shannah Metz, her husband and their two children “I grew up in Santa Rosa as the youngest of 5 children. My father was born in Brooklyn, NY to a culturally Jewish family in a culturally Ashkenazi Jewish neighborhood and community. My mother was born in Long Island, NY to a family she proudly identified as WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant). They met each other a block off of Haight Street during the Summer of Love (1968), and my mother converted to Judaism because she loved the community and values. They raised us in Sonoma County, and my mom eventually became the Director of the JCF in Sonoma County for nearly 20 years, and we were active members of the Conservative congregation in [...]

A Fundamental Question in Society

And the Old Shall Be Made New

It’s not about the money… until it’s about the money!

With budget season approaching, it’s time to think about what we pay our classroom teachers. by Jenni Mangel, Dana Sheanin, and Joel Abramovitz A review of the national news or a walk through school hallways quickly reveals the stark national shortage of teachers in our country. Any synagogue education director can tell you that learning spaces in the Jewish community are not immune from this phenomenon. Educational leaders often identify the low rates of pay endemic in Jewish education as a primary obstacle to hiring and retaining qualified teachers. In our conversations with educators in the Bay Area, staff at  Jewish LearningWorks  hear people regularly suggest that it is just as often the evening and weekend hours, expensive commutes, and work in an environment devoid of respect and appreciation that causes educator vacancies and attrition in Jewish communal spaces. The congregational school model as it exists today evolved in the 20th century when a) teaching 2-6 hours a week could bring in a meaningful secondary income for a family, or b) teachers could more easily cobble together multiple teaching gigs. Fast forward to a post-pandemic economy and we find many more homes requiring a dual income (especially in the Bay Area) to make ends meet. Educators further express difficulty in finding work that aligns with both their schedule and economic needs and desires. At Jewish LearningWorks, we are often asked by local congregations for a communal compensation analysis — some way for congregations to gauge if their difficulty in hiring teachers is, in part, because of what they are paying. However, when we’ve collected salary and pay scale data in the past we’ve learned that comparing congregational pay scales is like comparing dreidels and hamantaschen. Some congregations pay a monthly salary, some pay hourly. Some pay for professional development, transit subsidy, sick time, prep time, and some don’t. Pay can also vary widely according to the economic resources available to a congregation, itself a function of geographic community and membership size. As part of our core strategic work to strengthen the talent pipeline in Jewish education and communal service, we’ve come to believe the issue isn’t only the money. For example, plenty of congregational education directors tell stories about offering someone a significant pay increase and being turned down. We are not the only ones paying attention to this. A recent CASJE study (October 2021) looking at career trajectories of Jewish educators substantiates this idea by bringing attention to the “educator’s calling,” their sense of mission and purpose, that engages and keeps people in the field: “​​When the work is challenging and the pay and benefits can be modest, it is hard to sustain a career without such commitments. A sense of mission is an important contributor to educator retention….Jewish educators are not, then, uninformed or unrealistic about the conditions under which they work, or the demands made of them. It just seems that they’re sufficiently committed to the ultimate purposes of their work that they don’t let these challenges deflect them from their path.” page 10 If we accept the notion that educators are spiritually called to work in [...]

Teaching as Performance Art

By Jenni Mangel, Director of Educational Leadership, Jewish LearningWorks My mom says that theatre saved me and my sister in high school. Yes, I was a “theatre kid” who lived for the annual spring musical. Being in the drama and music space gave me direction, purpose, community, and belonging. But what I didn’t realize is that I was also learning transferable skills that I still regularly use. No, you won’t find me on stage at the local community theatre or singing with the synagogue choir. I believe the days of true performance are behind me. Yet, every time I prepare to teach, and then welcome a group to a learning space, I find myself relying on those tried and true theatre skills. Know your script. The lesson plan is the script for a good classroom performance. I enjoy writing lesson plans and carefully planning out what I want my group of learners to think about when they leave our session. I will literally script out parts of the lesson I want to deliver in a particular way - phrasing, vocalization, position in the room, facial animation, etc. A teacher, like an actor, needs to know their script well enough to improvise, always with the intention of more fully engaging people and ideas. In my 30+ years of teaching, I am yet to follow a lesson plan faithfully, always adapting to the verbal and physical reactions of the people in the room. The lesson plan provides a foundation for the presentation, discussion, and activity of my time leading a learning experience. Set the stage. The setting for a performance always matters. The ambiance can allow an audience to relax and draw their full attention to the stage. Lighting, costumes, makeup all contribute to an audience’s ability to follow the actors through their story. The same is true for classroom learners:  Are chairs comfortable to sit in? Are outside sounds muted to avoid distraction? Are the “sets” of the rooms walls and white boards being used to enhance the lesson? Is the group facing the same direction, and would facing a different part of the room or sitting in a circle be more effective? In distance learning, I’ve found that the setting is even more acute: How does my digital background enhance, and not distract, participants from the content? Are my digitaltools primed for smooth cues and implementation? Is my lighting good enough for people to see my face so that a smile, a nod, and encouraging body language can draw them in? Have I asked other call participants to set their stage as well to minimize distractions for others? Know where your props are. The props manager for a show is skilled at ensuring that props are lined up and ready for each scene. I do the same thing when I teach in person, or online. My handouts, visual aids, and activities are integrated into my lesson plan so that I can easily find what I need at the right moment in the lesson. In doing so, I am able to focus on my “scene” and be present to the experience [...]

Layers of Meaning for Yom Kippur

By Jenni Mangel, Director of Educational Leadership, Jewish LearningWorks Reading time: 2 minutes. On October 6, 1973 my parents lived in Jerusalem where my dad was a grad student at the Hebrew University and my mom was a swim instructor at the YMHA. They were North American newlyweds immersed in Israeli culture and society. October 6th was Yom Kippur, and like many Jewish Israelis, they were engaged in a day of contemplative reflection. Because they were accustomed to the quiet streets of Jerusalem on Shabbat and holidays, they noticed a change in the middle of that fall day. Surprisingly and suddenly, there were cars, trucks, and military vehicles out on the roads. Soon they learned that Israel’s borders had been breached, their friends were being called up to active military duty, and war was upon them. Over the next 19 days life was turned upside down. Decades later, while my dad and I walked home from Kol Nidre services together in our small Northern California town, he shared his memories of being in Jerusalem at that time and what it meant to see his dear friends called up to active duty. He shared about leaving his role as a university student to volunteer at the hospital, and about a pervasive sentiment of uncertainty. When we got home, he got down a box of photographs from the years they lived in Israel and the stories continued. Growing up I always found the healing, relational, and connected practices of Yom Kippur powerful. But that year the holiday took on an additional meaning for me. My dad’s storytelling turned Yom Kippur into a day that connected me to the narrative of Israel. It illustrated our individual and collective vulnerability and the potential, promise, and requirements of peace. His stories layered my insular personal reflection with a lens of communal wellness, safety, and security. As the sun sets tonight and we enter a precious and holy day of reflection, may we be aware of our words, the stories that we tell, and the way they shape the minds of the next generation. Above all, may our words and actions bring us towards peace.

125 Years Supporting Jewish Education

Since it was established in 1898, Jewish LearningWorks has invested in teachers with the goal of advancing the kind of Jewish learning that changes lives. Today, our commitment remains to inspire the best of what the field of Jewish education has to offer, while making space for educators to develop their own creative insights and practice.

Programs such as the tikea, Shofar, and Family Education fellows, the BASIS day school Israel initiative, the Include initiative for children with special needs, and Voices for Good, are flagship leadership initiatives for which Jewish LearningWorks (known as the the Bureau of Jewish Education before 2012) has been celebrated.

As we imagine our next 125 years, we continue to invest deeply in coaching and mentoring relationships, fellowships and training. By doing so, Jewish LearningWorks is ensuring that lifelong Jewish learning is accessible to teachers in all settings, and relevant to learners of all ages.

JLW Anniversary Cake

View a timeline of organizational and community milestones co-created with Bay Area Jewish professionals.

You can also learn more about our history, top programmatic initiatives, and leadership throughout the years.