Mechon Hadar and Beit Rabban Day School Announce New Partnership

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Hadar and Beit Rabban Day School are excited to launch a new joint initiative that aims to sharpen goals for Jewish education in classical texts nationwide.  The Curriculum Project at Hadar will bring fresh and bold thinking to the question of standards in Jewish learning while working closely with Beit Rabban to continue to advance the school's strong program of Jewish Studies. 

We are delighted to announce that Lisa Exler will take on this dual role as the new Director of Jewish Studies at Beit Rabban Day School and Director of the Curriculum Project at Hadar, where she will work closely with Rabbi Ethan Tucker on this new initiative.  Lisa holds an MA and BA in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University and is a graduate of Midreshet Lindenbaum and the Dorot Fellowship in Israel.  She comes to her new responsibilities with both significant teaching experience in day schools as well as a strong background in curriculum writing developed in her work as a senior program officer for American Jewish World Service.

Even as day school education has received increased attention in the Jewish community in recent decades, there is relatively little consensus on what knowledge day school graduates ought to attain.  While instilling Jewish identity, pride and a sense of peoplehood are important, the work of formal Jewish education is first and foremost education.  Institutions teaching classical texts must have benchmarks for what constitutes literacy, proficiency and fluency in the language of Torah.  The Curriculum Project aims to contribute to this conversation, grounding its development within a dynamic school setting in order to develop concrete and realistic results.

The goal of the joint initiative is to integrate two central projects: 1) Curriculum development, intensive teaching and classroom supervision at Beit Rabban Day School and 2) Articulation of standards and benchmarks for fluency in classical Jewish texts in the early childhood and elementary years (N-8).  By developing this second element within the context of a “lab school,” the outcome will be informed by the dialogue between the material, the teachers, the students and the other key stakeholders of the school.

As institutions that transcend denominational boundaries, Hadar and Beit Rabban are excited to work with stakeholders across the spectrum of Jewish education.  Hadar, with its top-rate faculty and continued collaborations with day schools, is well positioned to help contribute to this effort.  Beit Rabban draws upon its long history of excellence in Jewish studies, beginning with its founding by Dr. Devora Steinmetz, a pioneer in this field.  Throughout the project we will consult with field experts to draw upon the work that has already been contributed to this effort.

The initial phase of this collaboration will be two years, at the end of which the Curriculum Project will produce curriculum guidelines containing a set of standards and definitions of literacy, proficiency and fluency in classical Jewish texts.  These curriculum guidelines will be informed by working with Beit Rabban as a lab school, surveying field-wide research and conducting extensive interviews with and site visits to a variety of exemplar schools from early childhood through middle school and beyond.  The guidelines will also consider other factors critical for success in this area, including teacher preparedness, devoted classroom hours and parental and communal reinforcement of what students are learning.