Liz Corman (Cohort 2)

Liz Corman Shiro is a cohort 2 alumna of DeLeT at Brandeis. Liz has been teaching K-1 Hebrew and Jewish studies at Kesher in Newton, Massachusetts for the last 6 years and will be the Director of Education at Temple Tifereth Israel in Malden, Massachusetts starting in mid-August.

As a Jewish Educator, my goal is to create opportunities for children to connect with their Judaism in a way that is meaningful to them.

Overall, School-age children receive a Jewish Education in one of two ways: by attending a Jewish Day School or by attending a Jewish Supplementary School, most often through their synagogue. It is generally accepted that students who attend a Jewish Day School will gain more Judaic and Hebrew knowledge than students who attend a supplementary school. I generally agree with this statement because of course there is more time to learn about Jewish studies and Hebrew at a day school than at a supplementary school, but the reality is most of school-age children in America will attend a supplementary school to receive their Jewish education.

Personally, I don’t think it really matters where a child receives a Jewish education. It will just be different depending on the type of learning environment and the follow-through at home. I think that students will gain more academic knowledge at a day school than at a synagogue school, but I wonder which one gives them a stronger Jewish identity that lasts into adulthood.

Over the last 6 years, I have had the fabulous opportunity to teach K-1 Judaics, Kitah Aleph and Gimel and be the Family Educator at Kesher in Newton, Massachusetts. Kesher is not a day school but is generally recognized in the Boston area as a more cost-efficient alternative for Jewish education than the local Jewish Day Schools and much more academic and engaging program than most of the synagogue supplementary schools.

Kesher is a pluralistic after-school Hebrew school program where we teach modern Hebrew and Jewish studies using a more informal approach than most Hebrew schools in the area. Students do not have text books and do most of their work on the floor and teachers can wear jeans! It’s a heimish feeling school with a strong emphasis on excellence in teaching and learning. Our teachers work 25-40 hours/week so they are paid to prep their lesson plans, which are all written by the teachers and incorporate many different teaching methods.

DeLeT taught us to really think about how and what we are teaching. We were taught backwards design so we knew where we were trying to get to in our teaching. Although I have been the only DeLeT alum at Kesher in Newton, as a staff we have spent a lot of time thinking about our teaching and planning our curriculum using this same model.

DeLeT has helped bring change and improvement to the Jewish Day Schools all over the country through improving the training teachers receive. For me I am more passionate about bringing what I learned from DeLeT to the supplementary schools that are in dire need of change, so that students leave with knowledge and commitment to living a Jewish life and not hatred or disinterest. At Kesher students feel very connected to their peers, teachers and our space. They are comfortable and love learning at Kesher. We get to know the students as individuals and that helps us create learning opportunities that will reach every student.

As I move forward from Kesher to be in charge of my own Religious School, I am excited and nervous for the opportunity to begin creating change in synagogue-based supplementary schools. I am looking forward to helping train the teachers to think and reflect on their teaching and I’m looking forward to creating a curriculum that provides meaningful learning experiences for the students and families who belong to the synagogue. I will certainly use many resources from DeLeT along with my experience teaching at an excellent supplementary school!”

Liz has graciously shared with us a section of her thesis on teaching Jewish values-Teaching Rachamim: Changing the world, one interaction at a time. She has included the overview of the thesis and an excerpt. If you are interested in other aspects of her thesis, you may contact her via The Forum.