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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

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Centre for Jewish Education appoints new director

Tags: Jewish learning
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Ed Segalowitz

Ed Segalowitz, formerly UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s chief of corporate affairs, has been appointed executive director of the federation’s Centre for Jewish Education, effective last month.

Chari Schwartz, who served as acting executive director of the centre, is now its associate director. Schwartz, who has a 28-year history as an educator, and Segalowitz, whose background is not in education, constitute the senior “team” of a staff of five.

In 2009, the centre’s predecessor, the Centre for Enhancement of Jewish Education (the Mercaz) was downsized and restructured, eliminating 10 of 14 full-time jobs. As well, its budget was cut from $13.8 million to $12.6 million, while tuition subsidies were increased by $500,000. Its 2011/2012 budget is $12.3 million.

At the time, the federation announced its intent to enhance the capacity of community day schools to provide “direct education services, rather than receiving services supplied by the Mercaz.

Segalowitz’ appointment represents the implementation of the entity’s new role, Sokolsky told The CJN last week. “Nothing has changed significantly since [the restructuring.]

He added that federation lay leaders chose Segalowitz, who has worked in the Jewish community for more than 25 years, for his expertise in organizational strategy, development and capacity building.

Sokolsky said that other institutions are undergoing similar changes, with leaders “relying on their team to provide the background specific to the organization.”

The centre works collaboratively with the schools, Sokolsky said. “Most of the schools are very resourceful and advanced in understanding curriculum and educational requirements of students. In terms of capacity building, they’re looking for support and advice in areas of cost savings, marketing, fundraising and strategic planning.”

Segalowitz said the mandate of the centre is “to help the education sector develop its capacity, both in day schools as well as supplementary.”

Before the Mercaz was downsized, it ran programs including professional development days, and the Midrasha L’Morim (Jewish teachers’ seminary), which is no longer in operation. “It was put on hold and I don’t think it’s starting up,” Segalowitz said.  

Two years ago, instead of organizing its annual professional development (PD) day, the centre provided grants to schools for professional development. It is still organizing Rikudya, the annual dance festival for students, and Zimriya, an annual song festival.

In 2010, Paul Shaviv, director of education at the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto, wrote a report detailing more than 60 recommendations for the new entity.

“That was a discussion document,” Segalowitz said, adding that it was followed up by a second document.

He said in a phone interview that he couldn’t comment on whether any recommendations were being implemented. He is still getting oriented, he noted as well.

The centre has just launched an initiative to enhance supplementary education and expand the number of options available for families who “do not now engage in supplementary education and might consider it as an option,” Segalowitz said. The initiative is part of JESNA’s (Jewish Education Service of North America’s) WOW! Project, which will also run in other cities in North America.

Half the Jewish children ages 4 to 17 in the Toronto area are either in day school or supplementary schools, Segalowitz said. “We’re looking at how to sustain what we have and how to attract the others as well.”

As well, he added, “we’re meeting with the day schools to deal with other issues that are under discussion at the moment.”

Among those issues is the high cost of tuition. “Over the next 12 to 18 months, we’re looking to build a plan.”

Sokolsky said the federation’s commitment to Jewish education is “stronger than ever.”

He said an increased emphasis on informal and supplementary Jewish education does not mean a decreased emphasis on day school education.  “The Toronto federation puts in more money in Jewish education than all the 10 largest federations after us do in total. I don’t think it’s a zero sum game.”

He added that despite high day school tuition fees, the rate of day school attendance has not changed in recent years relative to the size of the school-age Jewish population.

“If we’ve reached some sort of saturation point, we can’t ignore that there’s a vacuum in terms of the opportunity for supplementary education. As well, he said, supplementary education – in addition to providing a sense of Jewish identity – “seems to be an intrinsic part of synagogue life. I’m hoping this will be a way of reigniting people’s connections with their synagogues.”

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