Monthly Archives: March, 2014

Fellow Profile: Gilad Weisner

Gilad Weisner is a member of DeLeT Cohort 12 at HUC-JIR. He is completing his internship in 1st and 7th grade classrooms at Pressman Academy in Los Angeles, CA.


Before Gilad entered DeLeT, he worked in entertainment marketing. He thought that he had found his career—but after five years of working at advertisement agencies and teaching religious school on the weekends, he found himself really drawn to his work in the classroom. The director of the religious school he worked at saw that he was considering a career of formalized Jewish education, and told him about DeLeT.

Gilad was surprised at how much work it is to become a teacher. He considers teachers to be our “unsung heroes,” and is impressed at the amount of impact that a teacher can have on a student. While he finds his internship work very challenging, he also finds it significantly rewarding.

One feature of DeLeT that initially attracted Gilad was the fact that it was subsidized, and that fellows are also paid a stipend. He was in slight disbelief that it would be possible to change direction with his career without additional financial obligations. Now that he knows more about day school education, he loves it, and cares deeply about staying in the field. He is impressed with the academic and personal attention that the students get in Jewish day schools, and wants to be able to do his part to contribute to their experience.

The DeLeT fellows just completed an Educational Technology course, and this class really resonated with Gilad. He is excited at how technology can enhance the students’ educational experience—he and his mentors are often looking to find ways to employ technology to make their classroom more interactive. At the same time, they realize that technology is a tool, and are constantly assessing to make sure that the methods they use are an asset to the curriculum, and do not dominate the curriculum.

Gilad is completing his internship at Pressman Academy, a Los Angeles day school that has a long history of involvement with the DeLeT program. He feels very lucky to work at Pressman; it reminds him of Israel, from how much Hebrew is spoken to how close relationships are formed. Approximately 13 faculty members are either alumni of the DeLeT program or have mentored a DeLeT fellow. Gilad says that he feels a strong sense of pride being a DeLeT fellow in this context, and that seeing his school’s dedication to DeLeT is proof that it works.

Gilad feels that DeLeT is most influencing his classroom management skills. He still is able to preserve his own charismatic personality with his students, but is now able to play to his strengths, and focus that charisma. He also notices that there is more cohesion between the lessons he writes, and he has learned a more formalized way to write lesson plans. His involvement in DeLeT has elevated him from someone who taught religious school on the weekends for supplemental income to someone who sees himself as a Jewish educator.

When Gilad looks to the future, he hopes he does not forget the passion that he had as he starts his teaching career. Right now, he is fervently committed to becoming a Jewish educator who uses Responsive Classroom (a classroom management philosophy), and who revisits his curricula yearly to prevent himself from becoming stale. He hopes he does not lose this enthusiasm for reflective practice, making sure he is constantly trying to make himself better. He feels that thanks to DeLeT, he has a clear vision of what education should be.

Meet the Mentor: Mira Lev

ImageMira Lev is a 2nd grade Hebrew/Judaic studies teacher at San Diego Jewish Academy in San Diego, CA.  

My name is Mira Lev and I have been molding children who are proud and knowledgeable about their heritage since 1982. Prior to coming to the USA I taught in Ulpan programs in Israel, teaching new immigrants Hebrew and Israeli customs.  I have been teaching in Jewish day schools for 31 years in Michigan, Arizona and California, including the last 11 years here at SDJA.

The DeLeT program is in its inaugural year at the San Diego Jewish Academy.  I feel honored to be selected as part of this program and to share both my passion for teaching and over 30 years of experience with someone just beginning her career in Jewish education. While I hope I have imparted knowledge to my fellow, I have derived a lot of knowledge from her as well.

Having someone in the classroom shadowing me has challenged my teaching strategies and has fine-tuned certain aspects of my approach.  In addition, the discussions that follow each class have further pushed me to evaluate how I deliver Judaic-based curriculum.  I am thrilled as a senior Jewish educator to help my fellow in her development as a Jewish educator and to help her create future classrooms that will enrich the lives of Jewish students our San Diego Jewish Community and the global Jewish Community as well.

Sharing and collaborating with other educators enriches me as a teacher, and hopefully has an impact on my fellow.  Sharing my education approach, professional practice, values, ideas, and teaching techniques with my fellow serves us both. I feel I am becoming a better teacher since I have the chance to see, think, and evaluate my lesson planning and teaching strategies with my fellow. Seeing the growth in the fellow and me throughout the year has been inspiring and motivating. Finally, I enjoy the opportunity to learn, collaborate, share, and connect with everyone in the DeLeT program.

Fellow Profile: Yael Tzalka

ImageYael Tzalka is a member of DeLeT Cohort 12 at HUC-JIR. She is completing her internship in a 2nd grade classroom at Sinai Akiba Academy in Los Angeles, CA.

Yael knew she wanted to become an educator. She had already been accepted to another teacher preparation program, but her mother, who teaches in a Jewish day school and works with many DeLeT alumni, convinced her to look into the program. As Yael perused the website, she thought it was too good to be true—she saw it as an opportunity to mix her Jewish roots with her passion for education, and was impressed with the amount of individualized attention each fellow receives. Because this program appeared to be so tailored to who Yael was, she decided to forego her other acceptance and pursue her teaching credential through DeLeT.

For Yael, having the opportunity to learn in a cohort has been an invaluable part of her DeLeT experience. She feels that the members of her cohort bring out the best in each other. On one hand, she notices the academic benefits—they study together, work as chevrutah partners, and collaborate for projects. On the other hand, cohort-based learning has also impacted her personal life; Cohort 12 has become like a family, encouraging each other, and confiding in each other at times. Yael is very grateful to have them as peers, colleagues, and friends.

Yael feels that the support structure that is built in to the DeLeT program is a defining characteristic that helps DeLeT shine in comparison to similar programs. Yael’s Clinical Educator has helped to facilitate her academic growth in the program, assisting her with coursework, questions about her internship work, and personal struggles: “She challenges me to be the best version of myself I can be.” Her mentors have also played an influential role in her experience, and have helped her learn about classroom community, as well as teaching techniques and routines. They have given her feedback on her teaching, and have helped her become a better teacher. 

Yael has continued to feel supported by the DeLeT administration, as well. She feels that their roles do not fit in an easily defined box. They come to the table with their vast experience in academia and day school leadership, and make themselves available as a resource for the fellows.

Another piece of the DeLeT puzzle that Yael has found to be beneficial is the DeLeT teaching faculty. The professors teach disciplinary pedagogy from the perspective of different subjects, and Yael finds herself constantly thinking about how she can transfer this information best to her students this year and in the years to follow. The professor’s role is not just give the fellows information, but to shape them as teachers. Yael feels that she is being pushed to succeed, not just to get an A.

Yael can see the good in others, and wants to inspire people to be reflective and to be open to new ideas. She also has a knack for seeing how different parts of an organization work in synchronicity to create a machine, and understands how each piece influences those around it. For these reasons, she is entertaining the idea of becoming a school administrator one day. For the foreseeable future, she wants focus on her classroom teaching, working to establish a secure experience base in teaching.

The DeLeT acronym stands for Day School Leadership Through Teaching. We are looking forward to being able to watch Yael as she perpetuates the “L” in DeLeT, and are excited to see what kind of leader she becomes in the realm of Jewish education. 

Inside DeLeT This Week: Teaching Israel

Here is a look into the  final session in the Integrated Social Studies 2 (Teaching Israel) class, taught by Alan Rusonik. 

The focus of this week’s lesson was on “Day School Israel Education in the Age of Birthright.” The class began with a discussion about the differences between “education” and “advocacy” and our role in this regard as Jewish day school teachers.

We also discussed the pre-class reading, “Day School Israel Education in the Age of Birthright” by Alex Pomson and Howard Deitcher. Pomson and Deitcher report on a multi-method study inspired by the questions, “What are North American Jewish day schools doing when they engage in Israel education, what shapes their practices, and to what ends?”

They organize their findings around an analytical model that helps distinguish between what they call the conditions (denomination, school size, age level and school history), intensifiers (mission, visionary leadership and Israel coordinator), and vehicles (for example, curriculum, Israel trips, informal events, etc.) that help to determine the outcomes of day school Israel education. Understanding the conditions, intensifiers, and vehicles will help schools determine best practices and assist schools in making informed decisions regarding Israel education.

Finally, we had final project presentations, which was to prepare a lesson about Israel and present part of their lesson to the other fellows. Six fellows presented last week and six fellows presented this week. This week’s lessons ranged from topics including the role of the IDF, comparing the governments of Israel and the US, the importance of symbols, comparing the landscapes of California and Israel, and a lesson on leadership, comparing the leadership of David Ben Gurion to George Washington. We spent a lot of time, and gave a lot of thought to the lessons and presentations. Following each presentation the fellows critiqued the lessons and shared their impressions on how each lesson presented best practices regarding Israel education.


It has been my pleasure to share my thoughts and ideas regarding Israel education with the DeLeT fellows. While the area of Israel education is both dynamic and complex, I believe the fellows now have a better perspective of the resources available, some specific strategies to employ, and an enhanced outlook of some of the key research available on the subject. Most importantly, I believe this class gave the fellows the opportunity to explore their own relationship with Israel, which is a critical exercise for all Jewish educators


Meet the Mentor: Frida Eytan



Frida Eytan is a Hebrew and Judaic Studies teacher at Sinai Akiba Academy in Los Angeles, CA.

It was my first day as a student-teacher, working alongside a very experienced teacher. I walked into her classroom and was quickly enraptured by the environment she created; the children were excited to be there and eager to learn. At that moment, I realized this is what I wanted to do. Soon after, with her encouragement, I was preparing model lessons in her classroom. Today, recalling those early moments in my career, I am honored to play a similar role as a DeLeT mentor and excited to be able to share my passion for teaching with someone just beginning their career.

I have been privileged to work as an educator at Sinai Akiba Academy since 1980, an institution whose goal is to create an outstanding learning environment. My goal as a teacher is to encourage children to learn through an experience that is challenging, fun, loving and positive. During my time at Sinai Akiba, I’ve been able to partake in the evolution of Jewish education at its roots as a participant in Tal Am’s pilot program, which is a curriculum built on an interactive Hebrew and Judaic Studies experience.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the DeLeT program for recognizing the importance of Jewish education, which is the centerpiece of our tradition. Moreover, the program has afforded me with the unique opportunity to share my insight and my professional experiences.

As educators, it is our duty to develop our children’s love for learning. As I like to put it, “teachers who love teaching…teach children to love learning.”

Meet the Mentor: Ora Gittelson-David


Ora Gittelson-David teaches Judaic studies at Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School in Palo Alto, CA. 

It is hard to believe that 10 years have passed since I first entered the HUC building in Los Angeles, ready to begin my journey as a DeLeT Fellow (the term used during Cohort 2 for interns). It was clear to me then that my career change was taking me from my office as a social worker to the vibrancy of a classroom. Beyond this rather obvious realization, I wasn’t quite sure where this journey would take me.

Fast forward ten years to August 2013. I have returned to DeLeT, this time as a Jewish Studies mentor for our new intern at Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School. This is actually the third time I will serve as a mentor; quite an honor whichever way you look at it. Three years after finishing the DeLeT program, I was first asked by Hausner and the program to be the Jewish studies mentor of our new intern, apparently making me the first fellow to complete the program in Los Angeles and then become a mentor. Each of my mentoring experiences have been rich and enriching in countless and different ways. The opportunity to be reflective of our own practice with our intern is a precious gift that I cherish, even on those crazy days when it may be hard to make it happen. Learning with and from our interns enables me to fulfill the value I hold so dear מכל תלמידי השכלתי “From all of my students I have learned and been enriched.” May we all go from strength to strength in both our teaching and learning with our students and our interns.

Inside DeLeT This Week: Teaching and Learning Seminar

Here is a look into this week’s Teaching and Learning Seminar, led by Rivka Ben Daniel, which is the DeLeT program’s core pedagogy class. 

This week we continued with our studies of one of the pillars of DeLeT, the integration of Judaic studies with general studies. We focused on exploring the difference between Compartmentalization, Coordination, Integration and Interaction.


Some Jewish day schools choose to separate Limudei Chol V’kodesh (general and Judaic studies) in order to keep the sacredness and integrity of the disciplines. Other schools struggle with Integration of Judaic studies with the rest of the subjects at school. It was challenging for the fellows to understand the difference between Integration and Interaction. While Integration of curriculum brings Judaism into contact with the culture of modernity, Interaction makes an effort to bring the two in dialogue with one another. In integration, the teacher can predict the outcome while in Interaction, the teacher brings the relation to the students’ awareness, but the student is the one who will make his/her own sense of the outcome. As we get ready to wear our “Jewish lenses” and seek opportunities for integration in our schools, we began to explore to what question Integration strives to respond.

“Why integrate?” Pomson, Peerless and Zeldin’s articles helped us answer questions like: Does integration promote the formation of healthy identity? Does it provide an avenue for educating the “whole” child? Does it offer a holistic view of the world? Does it prepare students to be responsible members of the Jewish community and the society at large?  When thinking about curriculum and looking at the world as a whole, we see that ‘dividing’ curriculum into sections is artificial. Being Jewish is not a separate entity; it connects us to the world around us. Judaism can help students be good citizens by applying Jewish values in their community.

Fellow Profile: Brent Rosen

Brent Rosen is a member of DeLeT Cohort 12 at HUC-JIR. He is completing his internship in a 2nd grade classroom at Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School in Northridge, CA. 

ImageBefore entering the DeLeT program, Brent was working for a company called California Weekly Explorer, through which he visited elementary schools in the Los Angeles area and led interactive history lessons for fourth through sixth graders. He loved what he did— the kids learned a lot, and had fun doing it—but eventually he started wanting more. He wanted to be the teacher in the classroom, able to see the students grow every day. He decided to pursue his teaching credential, and began researching what program would be best fit his life.

Brent was a little concerned with how he was going to be able to make this change. He and his wife both work full-time to support their daughter and mortgage, and he knew that taking a two-year pause in his career to go back to school was not an option. He also was apprehensive about the idea of attending a program at a large university. He remembered feeling “lost in the crowd” in college, and did not want to return to a lecture hall. He had heard about the DeLeT program through alumni he knew, and looked a little more closely at the program. Once he realized that DeLeT would allow him to combine credential preparation with a full-time paid internship, and that he would be able to participate in more personal cohort-style learning, he decided to apply.

One of DeLeT’s core principals is the importance of reflective practice. Once he started taking education classes in the DeLeT program, Brent came to an important realization about himself as a learner. He had never considered himself to be a good student, and used to shrug off questions about his education. After seeing how much success he was having in DeLeT, he realized that he simply had not been in the right learning environment for his learning style. Through Brent’s own reflections, the support of the DeLeT administration, and the support of his cohort, he is learning more and enjoying it more than he ever thought possible.

Another aspect of the academic program at DeLeT that resonates with Brent is the approach to learning taken by the DeLeT faculty. Each DeLeT instructor takes a vested interest in every fellow to ensure they are getting as much guidance as they need. This takes shape through multiple rounds of feedback on assignments, as well as narrative grading (as opposed to letter grading). Brent feels that this structure has helped him develop a deeper understanding of himself and of the learning process, which will in turn help make him a better teacher.

Brent is thoroughly enjoying his internship, which he is completing at Heschel Day School. He looks forward to going to work every day, and loves teaching. His mentor teacher, Deborah Cohen, teaches both general and Judaic studies, so Brent has the opportunity to practice integrating content, something that is highly valued at DeLeT. Deborah wants him to find his own way as a teacher, and gives him the freedom to do so in their classroom.

What stands out most to Brent about his experience in the DeLeT program so far is how supported he feels by the faculty and administration. All of the faculty members want the fellows to succeed, and Brent has benefited from their expertise. They care about the DeLeT fellows as people—he does not feel like a “number,” like he was worried about with other programs. We’re glad he found DeLeT to help him on his career path, and are lucky to have him as a part of Cohort 12.

Meet the Mentor: Alexis Spenchian

SAA LogoAlexis Spenchian is a new DeLeT mentor from Sinai Akiba Academy in Los Angeles.

When agreeing to be a part of the DeLeT program, I was excited to share my passion for teaching with someone just beginning his or her career.  I knew working with a DeLeT intern would give me the unique opportunity to share my love of teaching, as well as the chance to share the thoughts and reasoning I put into all my lesson planning and classroom decisions.

While I knew all of this would likely be a positive part of the experience from the start, actually experiencing these things has brought even more benefits and revelations then I anticipated.   As I share my motivations and philosophies with my DeLeT intern on a daily basis, I am forced to look even deeper at my own teaching practice and make sure that my decisions, both large and minute, have a true purpose and are well rooted in my overall teaching philosophy.  These discussions also allow me the chance to have a meaningful back and forth exchange about my choices, and my intern’s insightful comments and questions push me to evaluate and reevaluate my decisions even further than I did on my own.  Seeing my actions through my intern’s perspective, and hearing her observations and questions has also sparked new ideas and wonderings of my own.  Because good teaching is so dependent on honest, deep, and continued reflection, the presence of a DeLeT intern in my classroom has really enhanced my teaching and continues to do so every day.