Every year since 2007, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has organized training seminars in the former Soviet Union (FSU) for informal Jewish education professionals working in local organizations supported by the JDC. In 2013, the JDC launched a new initiative – the Jewish Educators Program (JEP) – in order to introduce a "train the trainers" strategy. In this program, a cadre of local professionals was trained to provide training to the broader informal educational staff. It was felt that local trainers could best address the local context and would have the additional benefit of empowering the local community.
The Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute (MJB) conducted an evaluation of the training seminars between January 2014 and February 2015. The focus of the evaluation was on the two types of training carried out by local professionals: Jewish renewal staff and youth club directors. The study examined the implementation of the training seminars, the contribution to the participants and the way they applied the acquired knowledge and skills in their work in the community. In addition, the study included several case studies of community activities conducted by local program staff to enable a better understanding of these activities and their contribution to the participants.
We examined the perspective of two groups:
1. Participants in the training – using self-administered questionnaires at the end of each training and 4-6 months after the end of the training.
2. Members of the community who participated in activities carried out by graduates of the training using semi-structured telephone interviews. For this purpose, three types of activity were chosen; each was examined in two different communities.
Among the main findings:
The graduates of the training reported that the seminars contributed to raising their professional level by imparting knowledge, professional concepts, and new tools for informal Jewish education.
At the end of the seminar, most of the participants expressed the intention to apply what they had learned to their activities in the community. Six months later, a relatively low percentage of them reported that they had already done so. However, many of them reported that they were planning to do so in the future.
The case studies indicated that the participants in the community activities were very positive and they reported a range of contributions, such as broadening their Jewish knowledge, strengthening ties with the Jewish community, and strengthening social contacts.
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