We are excited to share with you that on Tuesday evening, Rodef Shalom’s Board of Trustees approved a proposal to move forward with conversations regarding collaboration between Rodef Shalom Congregation and Congregation Beth Shalom on a Joint Educational Program. This same proposal, in broad outlines, was approved by Beth Shalom’s Board of Trustees on October 25, 2011.
In the coming weeks, the content and scope of these proposals will be reconciled by a joint inter-congregational taskforce soon-to-be convened. Once this taskforce takes up its work in earnest, a clearly delineated plan for moving forward for the 2012-2013 school year will be written and shared with both of our communities.
This collaborative proposal, currently referred to as a Joint Educational Program (JEP), comes after many months of discussions between the professional and lay leadership of both congregations. Those involved in the discussions included Rabbi Aaron Bisno, Curt Krasik, Larry Gumberg, Sandy Rosen, Ann Roth and Ken Segel (representing Rodef Shalom) and Rabbi Michael Werbow, Stefi Kirschner, Jeff Rosenthal and Michael Samuels (representing Beth Shalom). In the course of our meetings, the respective rabbis have drafted a white paper that speaks to our collaborative goals. This year, we combined our respective seventh grade programs on Sundays, and have begun in earnest to work towards designing a supplemental religious school program for the 2012-2013 school year that stresses the vitality of our students’ experience.
Building on the successes and learning from the challenges of combining our seventh grade program in our first year, we look to collaborating with additional segments of our religious school programs in the months ahead. Ultimately, the goal will be the integration of all of our grades. Post-b’nei mitzvah students and/or those who will be entering eighth grade or are already in high school, will not be impacted by this collaboration (as for these teenage students, our respective schools already have partnerships in place with the Agency for Jewish Learning’s J-Site program). Further, b’nei mitzvah preparations will continue to be handled within our respective home congregations.
As a result of our two congregations combining our religious school programs, we believe we will see greater numbers of students in our classrooms, a smaller, higher quality faculty, and an increase in overall vitality in our now-combined program. What’s more, we recognize that our moving in this direction is but a first step in bringing other area congregations to the table, so that working together we might reimagine how Jewish education will best be shared with a generation of students and families with vastly different experiences and expectations than those who came before.
In keeping with the spirit of collaboration between congregations, this inter-denominational collaboration is very much in line with messages coming from our respective national movements as well as with reported trends across the country.
As we continue to add detail to this Joint Education Program, we will regularly share information with you via standard and electronic mail, postings on our websites, and open forums wherein all the members of our communities will have the opportunity to weigh in and share their concerns and encouragement.
If you have any questions about this move towards increasing the vitality within our educational programs, please do not hesitate to be in touch with any of us.
May our community continue moving from strength to strength.
With every best wish for you and your family, we are sincerely,
Rabbi Aaron Bisno
Dr. Donald Simon, President Rodef Shalom Congregation
Rabbi Michael Werbow
Ms. Stefi Kirschner, President Congregation Beth Shalom