Recession Bites as Jewish Educators Downsized

Losing Work But Gaining Perspective on Life

Former Director: Bebe Jacobs worked in Jewish education in England.
Courtesy of Bebe Jacons
Former Director: Bebe Jacobs worked in Jewish education in England.

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Published February 11, 2013, issue of February 08, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

With existing models of Jewish education proving to be too expensive nowadays, Jacoby is convinced that new ones must be developed, and that baby boomers need to get with the 21st-century program. “We’ve got to be looking at hybrids that blend technology and traditional in-person, brick-and-mortar approaches.”

Piecing it Together

In this economy, especially when your family depends heavily on your income, it’s not always feasible to wait until another full-time job becomes available after you’ve been laid off.

Abra Greenspan, 55, found a part-time job as an administrator at Lehrhaus Judaica, a San Francisco Bay Area Jewish studies adult school, after restructuring last May ended her 12-year tenure as a full-time director of youth education at San Francisco’s Congregation Emanu-El.

Not in a financial position to wait around until a full-time opportunity presented itself, Greenspan was glad to have found the job at Lehrhaus and is supplementing it with a variety of short-term and one-off teaching gigs. She’s also doing some b’nei mitzvah tutoring to help make ends meet.

Greenspan is busy networking, but for right now, while her youngest child is still in high school, she cannot consider any positions outside the Bay Area. She’d prefer to stay in Jewish education, but is not wedded to going back to work at a synagogue. “I’m curious to see what is out there in museums, JCCs and maybe consulting,” she said.

But in no way is she putting all her eggs in the Jewish community basket. “Right now I am applying for full-time positions in educational leadership and project management in non-Jewish educational non-profits,” Greenspan said.

At this point, she’s picking up whatever part-time work she can find and putting out feelers wherever she can. “You’ve got to keep doing it. You don’t know what will take you where.”

On the Other Side of the Pond

It’s not only here in America that middle-aged Jewish educators are finding themselves needing to start over. Bebe Jacobs’s entire career has been in Jewish education in the U.K., save for a few years when she was director of education at a large Reform congregation in Toronto. The 57-year-old, who prides herself on having introduced the concept of whole family education to the British Jewish community, worked in educational leadership in the U.K.’s Reform and Liberal denominations and trained teachers at the U.K.’s Department of Jewish Education. Then, after all her successes, she found herself out of a job.

In 2009, Jacobs was replaced as director of education at North Western Reform Synagogue (known as Alyth) by the synagogue’s youth director. Then, at the end of 2011, the DJE teacher-training program was cut. “The whole department has collapsed in recent months. There are no more jobs left and no more consultant work to be had,” she said.

Fortunately, Jacobs has a coaching practice to fall back on. Over the years, she trained in coaching, and now she’s stepping up her parenting coaching for families (“It’s like [the British TV show] “Supernanny,” but not quite as intense,” she says) and wellness coaching for companies.

“I feel a sense of loss that I’m not going back to Jewish education. I always thought that I’d be a Jewish educator with a coaching business on the side, not a full-time coach,” she said. “But there simply aren’t Jewish education jobs available. I’ve applied for some, but I’m not even getting interviews, even though I am probably the best qualified person in the U.K. for them.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.