Over the next several months, we want to share a closer look to our HaKaveret Designers. This month we spoke with Jeff Kiderman, Executive Director of the Affordable Jewish Education Project (AJE), in New York City.
What do you find most enjoyable about working in Jewish education?
I think that Jewish day school education is one of the bed rocks of the Jewish community, and to be able to spend each day trying to make it better and more accessible is something I'm really lucky to be able to do.
What are some of the barriers to accessibility in Jewish day schools?
Well, affordability is definitely my thing. The problem of affordability has been around for at least twenty years, and while I think we would all agree that we would love every Jewish child to have the opportunity to have a Jewish day school education, regardless of whether or not they can afford it, our system isn't necessarily achieving that goal. There are Jewish children that aren't being born because of the fear of the cost of raising them and educating them. In addition, Jewish day school education is not appealing to a vast majority of Jewish children and families.
What have you been up to as a HaKaveret designer?
The focus has been on learning. Taking subjects that we think need more insight and seeing what is already out there on those subjects. We chose some of the more interesting areas to look into and we're trying to learn as much as possible so we can be best equipped to come up with good ideas at our next retreat.
Has anything surprised you?
The main thing that surprised me is how little research there already is. On most topics we're looking at, there's really not a lot of studies that have already been done.
What does your dream day school look like?
My dream school would consist of three things:
- So exciting and so good that everybody would want to go there - even people that don't care about Jewish education.
- A school that really is affordable and accessible to the entire community.
- A school that's a great school because its Jewish.
Read more about Jeff Kiderman and AJE in this recent New York Jewish Week article.