Shaping the Future
A Jerusalem-based program hopes to assist the next generation of Modern Orthodox
Friday, April 16, 1999
Many consider education, especially Jewish education, a holy task. Those entrusted with
it must be able to make informed decisions that will have an impact on future generations.
teaching is one of the few professions in which there is virtually no on-line peer
support, and few in-service opportunities. After teaching training, it's basically sink or
swim for the vast majority of young educators.
In order to enable talented young educators and professionals concerned about Modern
Orthodox Jewish education to develop the skills and vision needed for the future, the
Academy for Torah Initiatives and Directions (ATID) recently established itself in
An independent, privately funded institution, ATID (which means future in Hebrew) aims
to foster new and significant thought on crucial issues facing Jewish education by working
with future leaders in the field - students, young educators and other professionals who
will serve as lay leadership.
The president of the ATID Foundation is Rabbi Chaim Brovender, Yeshiva Head of Yeshivat
HaMivtar and Dean of Ohr Torah Stone Institutions in Efrat. Brovender, who created a
revolution in Modern Orthodox Jewish education some 30 years ago with the founding of
Yeshivat HaMivtar and later Midreshet Lindenbaum, is aiming to continue taking
groundbreaking steps with ATID.
From November 1998 through March 1999, ATID ran a one semester, in-service pilot
project for 16 candidates, all young professionals in their mid to late 20s. Chosen from
more than 60 applicants, the 16 included men and women from Israel, the US, Canada and the
UK. The participants ran the gamut from Israeli elementary and high-school teachers to
school administrators, yeshiva educators and even two Supreme Court law clerks, an
investment banker and a physical therapist.
Every Friday for five months, the 16 took part in seminars focusing on the challenges
and issues in teaching Bible studies. They also participated in a group project on the
major challenges facing Modern Orthodox education. In addition, each participant was
hooked up with a senior educator who served as personal mentor. Later this spring, the
participants will get together again to present, both orally and in writing, the results
of their personal research projects.
The idea for ATID grew out of a research project undertaken by Rabbi Jeffrey Saks in
the framework of his two-year stint as a participant in the Jerusalem Fellows Program of
the Mandel School for Educational Leadership.
'I was researching the goals and aims for Jewish education in the Modern Orthodox
community,' Saks recalls. 'What I found fit in with what I had already seen as a
high-school teacher in the US before my aliyah in 1993 and as a member of the faculty of
Yeshivat HaMivtar. Teachers need a place where they can come together, share experiences
and interact. Young educators are often so overwhelmed with preparing lessons and learning
by trial-and-error that they are unable to engage in deep examination of the theory behind
their craft. Our goal is to support and guide them - both individually and as a group.
ATID focuses on the overall issues - the big picture.'
Brovender had been thinking along the lines of something like ATID and suggested to
Saks that they team up to create such a project. 'There are a lot of young teachers who
have told me that they have no time to deal with the larger problems, no possibility to
reinvestigate theoretical issues. I believe that ATID provides an opportunity for them to
concentrate on things of significance, to listen to experts and to write up ideas,'
The idea to include participants from other professions stems from the approach that
not only educators will be making the important decisions affecting Jewish education. 'An
educational leader is not just someone who is school-based,' Saks explains.
'If education is the lifeblood of the community, it has to be very broadly defined.
There are players in different positions who determine what happens. They fill critical
roles in educational leadership and are involved in deciding what happens in our schools
'The truth is that it is the lay people who will be choosing the principals and
teachers,' Brovender adds. 'We have to expose them to the issues. We have to educate lay
This year's theme - teaching Bible - has generated a number of interesting research
projects. One participant, an elementary school teacher, is researching multiple
intelligence - the fact that children develop different activity centers for different
kinds of learning, such as spatial intelligence or book intelligence. Another participant
is focusing on adult education for seniors. Yet another is looking at whether men and
women should be taught Bible studies differently.
Dr. Beverly Gribetz, principal of the Evelina de Rothschild Junior High School in
Jerusalem, serves as one of the senior educators/faculty mentors. 'I was attracted by the
others involved. I have come across a lot of young people, and I liked the opportunity to
be able to train the next generation of Jewish educators. This program is raising the
level of professional discourse and exposing Orthodox educators to realms of thinking they
usually do not come into contact with. One of the nicest results was that the group has
had an impact on itself.'
Aliza Segal, a co-founder of Iyun (a Torah study program for women in Beit Shemesh) and
a student at Nishmat's program for advanced study, was one of the 16 participants. 'For me
there were two attractions to ATID,' she says. 'Firstly, as a teacher, I have very little
contact with other teachers to discuss things. And secondly, the topic of the Bible is my
field. I felt a direct relevance to the subject. The seminars and lectures were always
followed by group discussions or other group interactions. Both have been important for
me. They got me thinking. I have formulated my own approach. I hadn't really expected
that.' Segal adds, 'The issues that we articulated are the very ones we have to struggle
with. I also found that my mentor's ideas resonate with me. It is interesting to see how
others from different backgrounds react to teaching Bible. What might have been
self-evident to me was the reverse to others and vice versa.'
Jonathan Goldstein, an investment banker specializing in the biomedical field at
Jerusalem Global Investments, was one of the non-educators. 'I really got more than I
bargained for from ATID,' he notes. 'Not only did I learn about educational issues but I
also got engaged to one of the other participants.'
Goldstein has been widely involved in informal Jewish education not only in his native
England but also after making aliyah four years ago. 'I am interested in this field, but
it is not my career. I realize that lay leaders are also involved in making educational
decisions and need to be informed. Today, I am more aware of my desire and wish to give to
educators and their needs. I can speak their language more coherently. ATID aims to
improve the quality of stakeholders in Jewish education. It targets those people likely to
have an effect on Jewish education - be they lay or educational leadership. The potential
was quite high. There were so many top quality lecturers. Also, the level of participants
very high. I really enjoyed hearing their comments. We had a wonderful group and the
cross-fertilization enabled us to give to one another. The fact that we came from such
different backgrounds only added to the different views. ATID certainly did define my
The success of this year's pilot project has ATID's organizers planning a program
longer than one semester for next year. In addition, they would like to go international,
setting up centers in London and in either New York or Los Angeles.
'We would like to develop a full-time fellowship instead of the current in-service
program,' Brovender confides, 'but this really depends on our financial resources.'
'You have to constantly build the next generation of leaders. You have to constantly
worry about the future. In ATID, this is what we want to do,' Saks concludes.