Overview of Temple Israel
Temple Israel is a vibrant and growing Reform synagogue located in Westport, CT. We serve families from Westport, Weston, Wilton and the surrounding towns. We have over 700 family member units and around 300 students in Kesher, which is what we call our supplemental school. Many of these students graduated from our vibrant Early Childhood Center (ECC) before matriculating into Kesher. While our zip code is Connecticut, we are very much a part of the New York metro area, as most of our families move to our area from Manhattan, Brooklyn and other parts of the tri-state area.
Unlike other communities that are struggling to maintain their Jewish population, Westport has been an attractive destination for Jewish families for a number of years. During the pandemic the number of young families moving to our area has markedly increased, as is reflected in our Kesher and ECC enrollment and our membership numbers.
Why we do what we do
Many of our congregants are fortunate to be able to acquire so much of what they need to live a good life. We have therefore thought carefully about what Temple Israel -- and Judaism -- can uniquely provide that will help people flourish. As a result, we wrote the following WHY statement that serves both as guideposts and inspiration for our leadership.
Temple Israel inspires wonder and possibility in a life of fullness and accomplishment.
Temple Israel brings hope and purpose to a world of tumult and uncertainty.
Temple Israel nurtures community and connection at a time of distance and dislocation.
Kesher: The Center for Jewish Life
Similarly, we have thought carefully about what our families are seeking from their Kesher experience. Kesher: The Center for Jewish Life enables the exploration of everyone’s evolving Jewish self, grounded in connection, community, holiness, and love. Truly, our families come to Temple Israel to find connection and community, as well as meaning in their Jewish learning. The following four values undergird everything we do and what our parents say they want for their families:
- Kesher – Connection: We see every experience and person as a snapshot in the continuum and narrative of Jewish time and life, made more holy through our relationship to Torah, tradition, God, and community.
- Ahava – Love: We provide a supportive, inclusive, and non-competitive environment that values all individuals for their uniqueness and supports them on their individual journeys.
- Kedusha – Spirituality: We recognize that we are part of something much larger than ourselves that we access through prayer, gratitude, meditation, questions, wonder, awe and seeing the Divine in every human being.
- Kehilah – Community: The creation of shared experiences connecting us to one another, to tradition, God and the world.
What are the strengths of your educational program?
- Ruach. Our students demonstrate immense ruach, or spirit/passion in their appreciation for Jewish music, worship and play.
- Kesher, connection. Our students have forged deep connections with each other that go beyond the walls of the classroom.
- Gemishut, flexibility. Kesher is flexible, able to adapt to families’ needs and to wherever Jewish education may shift in the future. Kesher’s flexibility during the pandemic has enabled us to keep a maximum number of students and families engaged, even in trying circumstances
- Chevruta, online small-group Hebrew. Our students have thrived learning in small groups with teachers dedicated to providing rich Hebrew instruction and developing strong relationships.
What three qualities in the Director of Experiential Education are most important to Temple Israel?
- Collaborative approach that leads to creative sharing and the embrace of change
- Creative and innovative thinker
- Curiosity and willingness to ask big questions
The three most important priorities of Temple Israel’s Director of Experiential Education should be:
- Instilling a love of Jewish living and learning in our students
- Energizing our teen program with innovation and creativity
- Moving Jewish learning and identity building beyond the classroom and conventional modes of education
The single most important thing a Director of Experiential Education needs to know about Kesher is:
- Kesher has become a leading educational program in Connecticut and your impact will help shape the Jewish lives of families for years to come.
The three most important growth opportunities for Temple Israel in the next five years will be:
- Building on the recent success of Kesher: Kesher came about through a transformational change process. We have made impressive strides to continue to grow the program and know that we can do even more to make it one of the leading supplementary learning programs in the country. We strive to continue to cultivate community and connection within both educational arms of Temple Israel (Kesher and our ECC) through education and engagement.
- Development: We are in a solid financial position day-to-day. More significantly, our population has substantial resources that could be cultivated to reshape and sustain Temple Israel for generations to come. While there is alignment around goals and objectives, the board and staff are working to create an infrastructure that will bring our development efforts to the next level. That includes the creation of a robust capital campaign, and a planned giving/endowment program.
- Empty nester and elder engagement: Like many congregations, Temple Israel struggles in this area. We have relatively strong member retention in this important stage of life, and the recent launch of men’s and women’s groups has certainly helped engagement. But there is so much more we can and should be doing for these crucial demographic groups.
Temple Israel of Westport is looking for an educational leader who will partner with our Associate Rabbi and Director of Education, Rabbi Elana Nemitoff-Bresler, in deepening engagement among students, teens and families as well as in envisioning and implementing change in Temple Israel’s education programs.
A strong candidate will:
- Be able to reflect upon the program’s current design and bring thoughtful insight to the process of evolving our learning program, in partnership with our Associate Rabbi.
- Be a reflective practitioner, a person who continually examines their beliefs to ensure matching implementation in teaching and action.
- Bring a vision for dynamic and rich 21st century Jewish education, with an eye toward achieving that vision across our various programs.
- Question assumptions about Jewish learning, engagement and identity formation.
- Embody warmth and care for our students and families, and work with our team to ensure that Kesher is a place of community and belonging for all learners in their diversity.
- Possess a background in informal Jewish education that will inform their operational responsibility across all our programs.
- Demonstrate a strong work ethic and an ability to hold the bigger picture while working in the details on multiple projects.
- Demonstrate strength in communication - whether in written, verbal, or various media formats - through a range of constituencies including: students, parents, clergy/staff, teachers.
The Director of Experiential Education will take primary responsibility for:
- Overseeing 1-2 grades of curriculum depending on areas of expertise, and supervising those teachers
- Developing and executing experiential educational experiences, including:
- Holiday programming during Kesher
- 4th and 5th grade overnight
- 4 all-Kesher programs
- Planning and implementing all retreat and trips, including
- L’taken Trip
- Social Justice Trip (8th/9th grade)
- Overseeing and executing teen programming including:
- Tuesday night Kesher for 7th-12th graders
- Trips and retreats
- Teaching-assistant (madrichim) program
- Organizing the logistics behind the mishpacha b’yachad (Family learning) programs
- Creating and implementing youth programming for the High Holy Days
This Director of Experiential Education will collaborate with the Director of Education on:
- Contributing to the educational vision and direction of Kesher.
- Reflecting upon and changing those policies that set the tone in Kesher, including those around belonging/inclusion and supporting students with diverse abilities.
- Consulting on an ongoing curriculum review across our K-12 program and deepening the current curricula in use.
- Creating and implementing a 6th grade retreat and multiple teen trips.
- Developing and running mishpacha b’yachad (family learning) programs.
- Teacher supervision including observation, training and support, both Jewish Life and Hebrew.
- Communicating with families and teachers.
This Director of Experiential Education will support the Director of Education with:
- Student support
- Kesher administration and logistics in concert with the Kesher administrator
- Parent engagement programming and ideas
- Evaluating our Hebrew program, including the Hebrew teachers
This Director of Experiential Education will also work with other TI staff, educators, clergy, and lay leaders
- To create and facilitate synagogue-wide celebrations, including ShalomFest, Chanukah, Purim, Passover
- To sustain our culture of welcoming and engagement in our community through family engagement and outreach programming
- Bachelors’ Degree and experience in the field of Jewish education are required. An MAJE, MARE, M.Ed.L. with or without a MAJL are a plus.
- Excellent computer skills including: Microsoft Office Suite, Google Suite, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Experience with ShulCloud database is a plus.
- Applicants should be able to work flexible hours, including evenings, weekends, and holidays as needed.
**This job would start in July 2022**