Engaging with arts and culture is an increasingly popular way for American Jews, particularly young adults, to experience Jewish life, learning, and community. Yet, for these experiences to have meaning and resonance, skilled educators are needed to help guide participants. The George Washington University’s groundbreaking Master’s in Experiential Education and Jewish Cultural Arts (EE/JCA) — the only of its kind in the U.S.— now training its fourth cohort, is a field leader in developing educators who create and implement these dynamic cultural offerings.
The EE/JCA program provided me with an immersive intellectual experience that was as intense as it was textured. It greatly expanded my ability to interpret and appreciate Jewish cultural life in ways that enhanced both my personal and professional worlds. As an experienced educator, I found that the program’s focus on Jewish experiential education reinforced and deepened my understanding of successfully engaging people of all ages in ways that are active, meaningful, and that have a lasting impact on their connection to Jewish life… The relationships I built with my cohort members inspired me to feel confident about my contributions to the landscape of our academic and professional worlds while supporting me during the busy days of reading, research, and writing. My cohort members became colleagues and friends, a crucial element of my experience in the program.
– Jennifer Fechter, cohort 3
The intensive 13-month, cross-disciplinary curriculum combines coursework in Jewish cultural arts and experiential education with elective courses tailored to students’ individual professional needs and interests. During the school year, students enjoy hands-on, supervised field placements at a broad range of Washington, DC-area Jewish arts, culture, social service, and educational organizations. This element of their training is followed by the Capstone Fellows course—a summer internship placement offering the opportunity to pursue full-time work at exemplary Jewish arts and education organizations around the country and abroad, among them the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco and Polin in Warsaw, Poland.
The EE/JCA program has fulfilled me academically, personally, and professionally in ways I never thought possible. I am valued as an individual, but also gain strength from my cohort and the professors who challenge and support me. The course material delves into a broad range of topics, from theory to cultural study to Jewish content, but most importantly, I am not confined to the four walls of the classroom. The content I learn in class and the discussions I have with my classmates enriches my fieldwork at the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, an opportunity I have because of this program. All of these elements- experience, intellectual study, peer relationships, individual freedom- have been essential to my development as a Jewish educator. The EE/JCA program is the only one of its kind and I am privileged to be part of it.
– Erin Pirkle, cohort 4
Graduates are prepared to work in Jewish museums and arts institutions, community centers, college campus groups, social service organizations, and other innovative educational and cultural settings.
Since its launch in 2014, the EE/JCA Program has evolved to meet the needs and interests of its students and of the field. Today, students are especially interested in utilizing the arts and different methodologies of experiential education to address social justice issues and to help develop a heightened sense of civic responsibility. A track in the Master’s program focuses on teaching in social justice initiatives. Additionally, in response to growing interest in cultural and heritage tourism, the program will soon offer a track that zeroes in on the relationship between travel and experiential education.
The program attracts a diverse group of students from various backgrounds, empowering them with the license to be creative. The GW faculty is proud of the large and welcoming tent the program creates, with room for different people and perspectives. Students leave with new knowledge, deeper skills, and innovative approaches to engage people in Jewish cultural arts.
The George Washington University’s Master’s in Experiential Education and Jewish Cultural Arts (EE/JCA) is accepting applications for cohort 5. Program faculty includes Michael Feuer, Dean of the Graduate School of Education and Human Development and Professor of Education Policy; Jenna Weissman Joselit, the Charles E. Smith Professor of Judaic Studies & Professor of History;; and Benjamin M. Jacobs, Visiting Associate Professor.
This post appeared first on the Jim Joseph Foundation blog, which supports this program.