So You Want to Be a Jewish Educator?

By: Eliana Sohn, Project Coordinator

This article isn’t about resumes, cover letters, or creating a model lesson (though you can read about that here, here, and here). It’s about bringing all of your heart, all of your soul, and everything you’ve got to the field of Jewish education. And don’t be fooled by the warm-fuzziness of this statement; keeping your heart and soul in education takes intention and strategy. There’s no better time to set those mindsets and actions than at the beginning.

Here are some first steps:

STEP 1: Really want it.

The greatest power you have as an educator (and as a human being) is the power of your will.

How badly do you want to make a difference?

How badly do you want Jewish children to feel ownership over their heritage – to study, strive, and genuinely make it their own?

Knowing what you want and why you want it will get you through the times when lessons seem to flop, students seem uninterested, and you feel limited in your ability to make a difference. Connecting with your deepest desire is necessary for anything you want to be successful at, but in a profession where it’s easy to go in with high hopes and burn out only a couple of years in, it’s so important to remind yourself why this work matters.

Right now, take out a piece of paper, a Word doc, or that (empty) gum wrapper in your pocket and write down your Why. Memorize it. Find quotes that remind you of it and pray for the privilege to fulfill it each day. You have what it takes, you just have to want it badly enough to make it work.

STEP 2: Collect experiences.

You don’t have to wait for an internship or fellowship to gain work experience. Contact the school or organization you dream of working for and see if they need a substitute teacher or temp.  Learn from the professionals you want to be like and learn a new skill like coding, grant writing, or theatrical design and see where it takes you. Of course, all of this makes for an awesome resume, but even more importantly, it makes for an awesome you.

STEP 3: Collect Knowledge.

Adventure is out there, and so are great resources that can help you create unforgettable learning experiences and environments. Websites like Edutopia and are great places to see what master teachers around the globe are doing to engage students. There are countless ways to design learning and inspiration within a classroom. See what’s worked for others and adapt it. Stay current in the latest pedagogical research, and see what other educators are talking about by following them on Twitter and joining online communities such as JEDLab and the Lookstein LookJed listserv.

STEP 4: Have an online presence.

Want to build a reputation as an ed tech savant or a systems enthusiast? Demonstrate your knowledge to the World Wide Web. Create a LinkedIn account and share your ideas there. Write a blog. Create an online portfolio of the work you’ve done.  As you build your online presence, don’t forget to include a recent, professional looking picture of yourself so people can easily put a face to the name. Having a polished and positive online presence makes it easier for employers to get a sense of who you are and what matters to you most.

STEP 5: Get your feet in the field by starting out on the ground floor.

Once you do land your first internship or job, don’t despair if it is not exactly what you’re looking for. In fact, you might not know what you are looking for until you see it. Be willing to do the less-than-glitzy work, not only because that’s what there is a need for, but because you’ll learn a lot from it. You might even learn that you like it.

STEP 6: Recognize that relationships are the new resume.

In 2016, you’re still going to need a hardcopy resume and cover letter (see above), so don’t torch those just yet! However, relationships are a much more powerful leverage, and you’re much more likely to get the job you want if you have relationships with people who believe you have what it takes. How do you build those relationships? Again, get your feet in the field. Identify people and organizations that you admire and want to learn from and find a way to learn from them. If you already know the person, send them an email asking for 15-20 minutes of their time. If you don’t know the person, find a common contact and see if they can make the introduction. Part of our job at the YU School Partnership is to help aspiring teachers make those connections. Rabbi Maccabee Avshiur ( and I ( are more than happy to do so.

On that note, I’d like to end with this thought: 

I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.
— Viktor Frankl

Eliana Sohn is a Project Coordinator at the YU School Partnership. Eliana coordinates YUSP’s leadership development programs, YU Lead and YU Lead HOS, which grants growth-oriented leaders access to the field’s most advanced resources, tools, and experts. Eliana also supports YUSP's placement services that include: the Jewish Job Fair, teacher placement, and - the only job board exclusively for careers in Jewish education. Eliana can be reached at .