The Jewish Resource Specialist Initiative: Adaptation from the Source

Posted on 01/24/2020 @ 12:00 PM

In biology, adaptation is a change or the process of change by which an organism or species becomes better suited to its environment.

CAJE Miami is the first community to adapt the Jewish Resource Specialist (JRS) initiative, thanks to a generous grant from the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.

The JRS project originates in San Francisco and is just completing its third and final cohort. All of the early childhood education (ECE) centers in the San Francisco and Bay area have participated in the JRS initiative and currently have educators in their schools who are Jewish Resource Specialists.

Joy Schandler, the CAJE JRS Director, spent 4 days in San Francisco, at the source of this innovative program. She met with both the JRS director and coordinator, toured 4 ECE programs, spoke with ECE directors and participated in a community of practice (CoP) meeting of this year’s JRSs, who are in their 3rd and final year of the program.

Some of Joy’s take-aways:

  • Adaptation and change requires time and practice in order for the change to become systemic
  • Relationship-building is essential and is the core of engagement work
  • Jewish learning makes Jews and Jewish educators
  • It takes time and deliberate intention to integrate Judaism seamlessly into the ECE curriculum and culture

Miami has just completed a half of the first of three years of our JRS pilot program. We have adapted and customized our JRS initiative in several ways to maximize its success in each of our five locations: the Dave and Mary Alper JCC, Temple Judea, Temple Beth Sholom, Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center and Beth Torah Benny Rok Campus

  • CAJE altered the requirements of having one JRS at each location. In one site, we have two professionals who are sharing the duties of the JRS.
  • CAJE customized a data collection approach that incorporates the key goals of the JRS program and elicits responses from parents, teachers, directors, clergy and executive directors.
  • CAJE changed how the ECE directors at our pilot sites meet. Instead of meeting 2 times a year in person and 2 times a year via conference calling, the group decided that it was important and powerful to be together, in person, for each meeting, in order to build a sacred space together to share highlights and concerns, visions and goals.



For more information on the JRS Initiative, please contact Joy Schandler.


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