October 29, 2021

Help Wanted: Be a Jewish Educator

Emily Fox Director of Jewish Educational Initiatives

Now more than ever, being a Jewish educator is an exciting, valued, and rewarding career. And now more than ever, our early childhood centers and religious schools need joyful, passionate, and dedicated teachers to help shape our youngest learners.   

One of the best parts of teaching, especially with the youngest learners, is the way they bring you completely into their world of imagination and curiosity. What’s better than taking a nature walk and seeing the leaves fall through the eyes of a wide-eyed three-year-old? Or singing and dancing with plush Torahs as you celebrate Shabbat. Being an adult feels especially hard and stressful right now and working with children can provide an opportunity to escape to a joyful, optimistic space.  

“There is always something new to learn as a teacher, so teaching never becomes stale. The children react joyfully and with appreciation to new songs, new art techniques, new experiences and new ideas,” says Debbie Levenberg, a teacher at the JCC of Central NJ. “I love being an early childhood educator because young children are awed and inspired by everything you bring to them. I once read a quote that said, ‘There are no seven wonders of the world to children. There are seven million. It is joyful to experience their joy and wonder as they learn.’” 

Danielle Bier, an early childhood teacher at Congregation AABJ&D tells us, “I love that each year I get to connect with my students and give them new experiences. I enjoy watching them explore as I bring the parasha (Torah portion) and other stories to life, and I love seeing their growth from September to June.” 

Teachers have the opportunity to shape the hearts and minds of students of all ages. Religious schools are incorporating more social and emotional learning into curriculum, allowing teachers to know students holistically and create lessons that support whole-person learning. Gone are the days of rote Hebrew memorization and simply learning facts and figures. Teachers today help students incorporate Judaism into their lives, inspiring them to become lifelong learners. 

Bracha Balser, a teacher at the Jewish Learning Center of Congregation Beth El, shares, “I love being a Jewish educator for sharing a love for our beautiful traditions and to impart the love of Torah and respect for all living things and people!”  

“I want to pass on my love of Judaism to a future generation. I’m inspired to teach because of the ‘aha’ moment when something finally clicks that didn’t make sense before,” writes Sarah Greenberg, also a teacher at Congregation Beth El. 

As a teacher, you can bring your love for stories, holidays, and tradition into the classroom and spark an interest for students that can last a lifetime. Our early childhood centers provide many students with their first-time glimpse of the magic of Jewish participation and learning, and students bring that enthusiasm home! Teachers become partners with parents, helping them bring Jewish rituals and living into their homes.   

“I like being an early childhood teacher because in many cases, it is the first time that the child and their family are experiencing a classroom and I find it very rewarding to help guide both children and families into this new adventure,” says Linda Piesco, a teacher at Temple Emanu-El of Westfield.  

Teaching in a Jewish early childhood center or religious school is a perfect position for a college student or a recent college grad looking for real-life, hands-on experience. It’s also a great job for a recent retiree or anyone looking to make a difference and fill a few hours a day. Hours can range from mornings for the early risers to late afternoons or early evenings for those who want something more flexible.   

The need is real. Educational institutions across the country are facing staff shortages. Our Federation, which partners with the schools to invest in teachers’ professional growth, is also committed to helping them find enthusiastic teachers, ready to learn and grow, and ready to shape the hearts and minds of tomorrow’s Jewish community. 

To be connected to a school that is hiring, send a resume and cover letter indicating ages with which you have interest in working to me, Emily Fox, Director of Jewish Educational Initiatives, at [email protected].