Wednesday, February 6, 2013

What Can Jewish Ed Learn from Jewish Start-Ups?

A few years back Joshua Avedon and Shawn Landres coined the term Jewish Innovation Ecosystem to describe and explore the burgeoning growth of innovation in start-ups and traditional institutions. Having spent the last 20 months leading an organization attempting to thrive in this new ecosystem, I often wondered what I can learn to share with the field of Jewish education.

I especially feel it is pertinent to reflect on the impact of innovation on Jewish Day School education, having just experienced the frantic and frenetic rush of the NAJDS, where Naomi Korb Weiss, Debra Frieze, Tony Wagner and others provided critique, vision and tools for a new framework for leadership and innovation in Jewish Education. The strong support, collegiality and collaborative spirit of my JDS PLN (Professional Learning Network).

After a twenty month self imposed hiatus from blogging (being Executive Director of LimmudLA did not leave much time for reflection or writing),  I am inspired to return to blogging. I intend for this blog to continue to be a means of fostering a conversation that can hopefully extend beyond my own questions, observations and ideas and become a launching pad for transforming abstract ideas into practical reality.

I left schooling to lead a lean mean community organization, that was just leaving its infancy stage and into life in the the second-stage start-up phase. At LimmudLA, we depended on innovation as a process to maximize limited resources to serve a broadly fined target demographic for a specific mission and set of values. Our innovative process, engineered through organizational learning enabled our programming, volunteering, fundraising, communication, community partnerships, and organizational systems to increase efficiency, productivity and value.

So it seems fitting that having explored the world of of innovation, startups and Jewish communal experience and learning, what can we learn. How does my experience leading LimmudLA reflect upon the current state of 21st Century Jewish education?

The 5 Questions for Jewish Education:

  1. How do we prepare learners for lifelong learning that reflects 21st century adult experience?
    1. What do today's students need to know/be able to do in order to be able to engage as adult learners?
    2. What assumptions are we relying on about how Jewish adults are learning that may not match up with reality?
  2. How does innovation as a process of creating new value, become engendered in our schools organizationally and as an educational objective?
  3. If choice is a central modality of adult Jewish life in the 21st century, how do we create schools where students can safely learn to navigate, discern, course correct when empowered to independently choose pathways for their journey?
  4. What is the role of technology in building community and enabling individualization?
    1. How do we ensure that offline engagement and unplugging remain critical components to our lifestyle?
  5. How can we foster, identify and activate natural and latent networks within our school, between our schools and to our local and global communities?
    1. How can schools develop vibrant and fruitful collaborations with community leaders and organizations to promote increased ownership, integration in our students educational journeys and organizational effectiveness?


  1. I would also look at the importance of PD/learning. If we want to innovate, use technology, develop lifelong learners - we need to educate ourselves on how to do all of this and how to help others achieve it.

  2. Great questions, for sure. I would echo Anna's comment about professional development... Or maybe, to usr a Tony Wagner term, R & D. Educators play a key role in modeling, but how many of us are prepared to do that?