Machar: Cultivating New Day School Professionals
The Machar Fellowship is a pilot professional development program run by Gann Academy in Waltham, Massachusetts, in partnership with deToledo High School in Los Angeles and the Abraham Joshua Heschel School in Manhattan. Originally conceived by Gann’s former head of school, Rabbi Marc Baker, Machar creates an on-ramp to the Jewish leadership pipeline by recruiting recent college graduates and developing their talent through work in Jewish day schools, mentorship and peer support. Their work experiences have ranged from marketing and admissions to classroom teaching and program design.
I grew up squarely within the pluralistic/conservative Jewish bubble, attending Camp Ramah Darom and studying under the mentorship of Rabbi Marc Baker at Gann Academy. My grandfather, Rabbi Harold Kushner, is an extremely important mentor and influence in my life. Despite (or perhaps, because of) this upbringing, I was exploring a career in education outside of the familiar day school realm. It wasn’t until Rabbi Baker approached me at a Gann reunion and encouraged me to become a Machar fellow that I reconsidered my next steps. He explained that the Machar Fellowship would offer me the opportunity to gain a new perspective on what it means to be a part of an inspiring community of learners.
I joined the faculty at the The Abraham Joshua Heschel High School and quickly discovered this to be true. Machar gave me the opportunity to jump into any aspect of day school life I sought to explore, and in each of these spaces, to develop a sense of ownership and independence. Rabbi Dahlia Kronish, Heschel’s director of Jewish and student life, helped me navigate the challenges of my first solo teaching experience, a Spanish class where I filled a last-minute open position. From our coaching conversations, I decided to shift toward another content area, social studies. I now assistant-teach an 11th grade history course alongside a veteran teacher. Similarly, after a year of co-leading Heschel’s Social Justice alternative tefillah, I designed and have been implementing a yearlong curriculum focused on developing students as social advocates. My mentors encouraged me to explore new opportunities and created an environment for me to have an impact on the school.
Being immersed as a professional, rather than a student, in this type of learning community also reinvigorated my interest in Jewish life. My colleagues invited me into their homes for chaggim, and I began to see that their love of learning was not confined to the walls of the school. By sharing festive meals with their families, I witnessed how Jewish teachings inspire both life and learning. I internalized the message of “אֵיזֶהוּ חָכָם? הַלּוֹמֵד מִכָּל אָדָם” (Pirkei Avot 4:1: “Who is wise? One who learns from every person”) and was reawakened as a learner and educator.
With this frame of mind, I gained a new perspective on how students can make meaning in their lives through their day school education. Our Machar summits focused on our role in building a Jewish future, something our cohort nicknamed “Judaism 3.0.” My immersive experience in the Heschel community has shown me that when students discover a relationship between their learning and how they live their lives, it fosters meaningful engagement with the world around them, unlocking their intrinsic motivation for learning.
Next year, I will be pursuing a master’s in teaching social studies from Columbia University Teachers College. Throughout my career, I hope to continue inspiring students to become engaged, civic-minded individuals and lifelong learners who feel a sense of obligation to their communities. My approach to social studies education has been shaped by my placement at Heschel. I move forward in my career with the understanding that learning and living meaningfully go hand in hand.