A Jewish educator anywhere in the world can now seek the accumulated knowledge available at the The Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration. With the introduction this spring of a degree that can be completed online, geography is no longer a bar to attendance in an Azrieli Master’s program.
A grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation, intended to generate new school leaders and teachers, is the impetus behind the program, according to Dr. David Schnall, dean of the Azrieli school.
“We’ve had many requests to provide an opportunity for people outside of the New York area in both formal and informal education,” he said. “There is a summer program, but many people still could not commit to spending an extended period of time away from their hometowns.”
While graduate degrees in education are available at most local universities, Azrieli offers a unique focus on Jewish education, though the school’s in-house offerings now include New York State accreditation, as well.
Over 200 students enroll in the traditional, on-campus program, including many candidates for ordination at Yeshiva University’s affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.
Recruiting for the online program is underway. The 36-credit degree is open to qualified students that have earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, have a strong background in Judaic Studies, and live in a community with an Azrieli-approved Jewish day school where students can fulfill their field work requirements.
To assure maximum flexibility for students in different time zones, most classes in the program are asynchronous, meaning students need not attend class at the same time.
Mrs. Yonina Lermer, is a graduate of Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women who has a master’s degree from Azrieli in Jewish education, and is now completing a second one, in Judaic education. Lermer lives in the New York area but chose to take an online course at Azrieli that was a better fit with her schedule as a teacher at Yeshiva Har Torah in Little Neck.
“With the kids and working, traveling to the city to go to class seemed overwhelming. I could have enrolled in a program at the college around the corner from my house, but I wanted to do this through Azrieli,” Lermer said.
Not only did Lermer find the online class convenient, but she also developed a new social network and found herself even more engaged with her coursework than in her traditional classes. Dr. Ilana Turetsky, whose course in differentiated instruction Lermer completed, requires students to post their assignments online. Students then read each other’s work, post comments, and are required to reply to the comments as well.
In four asynchronous classes during the semester, students were able to see and hear each other in real time. This provided the best of both worlds, Lermer felt, allowing her to gain knowledge and practical ideas from fellow students that were in California, Pennsylvania, and Florida.
Turetsky recently moved made aliyah, and will continue offering this course, in addition to courses in Teaching Chumash and Models of Teaching, from her new home in Sha’alvim, Israel.
“While I miss the face-to-face engagement with students… I find that in the classroom, some students are naturally more inclined to speak up than others. Online, I get to hear every student’s response to articles and get to see every student’s application of the material,” explained Turetsky, who received both her master’s degree and doctorate from Azrieli.
“There is simply no option to sit back and passively listen to a lecture,” she added.
Aside from the global access the new online program provides, Schnall points out that “in doing this we also model for our students the use of distance technology in their own schools, encouraging them to collaborate across geographic boundaries in providing a more advanced or wider variety of classes and projects, especially to smaller schools whose students might otherwise be deprived.”
The application and interview process for the program can be completed online and scholarships are available. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.