Joint Jewish Educational Program (J-JEP)

Committed to creating the most dynamic and vital Jewish educational experiences possible for our children and families, Congregations Beth Shalom and Rodef Shalom respectively, are pleased to celebrate the successful collaborative effort that is the Joint Jewish Educational Program (J-JEP). Our shared commitment to educational excellence, coupled with a common belief in the value of working in concert for the benefit of our families and wider community, leads us to conclude that this collaborative initiative is the best means of providing the finest possible educational program for our K-7 students. Though there is seemingly much that separates our congregational communities, the professional and lay leaders of our congregations believe there is far more that we share in common than that which distinguishes us, and that we will all be the better for our learning alongside and from one another.

Questions and Answers:


Who are the Stakeholders?
Congregation Beth Shalom and Congregation Rodef Shalom’s Boards are committed to providing a stellar supplemental Jewish educational program for our children. Involvement by representatives from our school community will be essential to this process.

Who is the director of J-JEP?
Liron Lipinsky is the founding director of the JJEP program.
Liron works in partnership with Rabbi Seth Adelson of Beth Shalom, and Rabbis Aaron Bisno and Sharyn Henry from Rodef Shalom.

How did J-JEP come about and why?
Lay Leaders and the Rabbis of both congregations began meeting in 2011 to discuss venues and opportunities for collaboration between the two congregations. During the course of discussions the leadership recognized that there were opportunities for adult and youth collaborative programs. The leaders along with the Rabbis constitute what is known as J-JEP’s Steering Committee.
The leadership team collaborated to develop ways that the religious school experience could be enriched by integrating our children in a Joint Jewish Educational Program.

Why did this collaboration begin? Who approved it?
Rabbi Bisno wrote an article about Courageous Conversations that appeared in The Jewish Chronicle. Rabbi Bisno called upon Jewish organizations to seek ways to work together. Beth Shalom’s Former Rabbi, Rabbi Werbow, and the leadership of Beth Shalom have been meeting with groups to seek collaboration in the community at large. Both Congregational Boards approved the initiatives of seeking to collaborate with one another with an eye towards integrating our religious schools.

How did the two congregations begin collaboration?
During the 2011-2012 school year, the two communities brought their 7th grade classes together on Sundays for Judaic classes. During that year they studied Jewish Ethics, History and Culture and participated in Social Action activities. The following school year we brought together all of our Kindergarten through 7th grade students for Sunday Religious School programming.

Has this program been successful?
Yes, it has been a positive experience for the participants and their families.

How do we know the program works?
We continuously survey our students regarding program satisfaction, improvements that can be made, and interests they have in Jewish education. We also measure our program’s success through attendance rate, which is stellar.

What is the role of the J-JEP committee?
The primary task of the J-JEP committee is to act as an advisory panel for the Director on the topics of: Visioning for JJEP, Parent engagement, Marketing/community presence, Serving as a representative body for parents of each respective congregation, and analysis of program effectiveness.

Who decides the curriculum?
The Director of the school, Liron Lipinsky, is ultimately responsible visioning, planning, and analysing the curriculum with guidance from the Rabbis.

Who will hire the teachers?
The Director hires the teachers.

Will our students learn the various perspectives held by our respective movements?
The J-JEP will work best if all teachers and students are able to engage in honest discussions that are respectful and inclusive. More unites us than divides us. Yes there are distinctions between our movements but there are also differences in how each of us practices and the beliefs we hold. In an age appropriate manner we will endeavor to address all issues in an open, pluralistic and egalitarian fashion.

What will be taught in the Sunday classes?
History, Ethics, Life Cycle Events, Arts, Culture, Holidays, Israel, Holocaust, etc, will be taught based on what is appropriate for each grade and age.

Will conversational Hebrew or Liturgical Hebrew be taught?
J-JEP offers four different Hebrew options for their students. Students and their families have the option of enrolling in either liturgical or conversational Hebrew programs based on the goals they have for their learning.

Who is eligible to participate in this school?
All Beth Shalom and Rodef Shalom members are able to participate in J-JEP; however, membership in either congregation is not required. J-JEP participants that are not members of either host congregations pay a community fee in addition to tuition.

Is there a role for families?
Yes families are always encouraged to become involved in their children’s educational process and families will be invited to become engaged in the school.

Who determined the costs of the J-JEP?
The Board and Finance Committees of the respective congregations determined fees.

Who will create the budgets?
The Director of the school with guidance from the respective finance committees will create and maintain the budget of the school.

What about enrollment forms?
Enrollment forms for J-JEP are available on JJEP.org. Early enrollment discount is available during the month of June for the following school year.

Where will the classes be held?
J-JEP’s main Religious School program meets at Rodef Shalom on Sundays from 9:30 to Noon. There are Hebrew options that meet at Rodef Shalom and at Beth Shalom.

What about Bar and Bat Mitzvah programs and classes?
The Bnai Mitzvah program is separate from J-JEP. Youth will continue to study with their respective Rabbis and educators in their own synagogue or temple.

What about youth programming?
Youth programming will continue to be organized by both congregations. However, all J-JEP participants are invited to participate in the youth programming at Rodef Shalom and at Beth Shalom. Please contact Yael at eads@rodefshalom.org and/or Marissa at youthdirector@bethshalompgh.org for more information.