A Study of the Usefulness of Jewish History Knowledge in Jewish Communal Professions

By Makenzie Means

Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), April 2012

Little research exists on Jewish communal professionals' level of Jewish history knowledge and its importance to their jobs. This thesis aims to fill that scholarly gap through interviews with program directors from eight Jewish professional Master’s programs, an examination of the history course offerings for each of the programs, and a survey that measured self-selected Jewish communal professionals' knowledge of Jewish history and how valuable it is to their careers.

Survey respondents demonstrated an average level of Jewish history knowledge, with greater than fifty percent "passing" the quiz. Though program directors and respondents asserted that modern Jewish history, American Jewish history, and the history of Israel were the most important elements of Jewish history for communal professionals, quiz takers did not answer questions related to those fields correctly at a higher rate than questions on other aspects of Jewish history. It was also expected that respondents with a certificate or master’s degree from a Jewish professional program would have a greater level of Jewish history knowledge and perceive that knowledge to be more valuable to them, but this only held true for respondents with a degree or certificate in Jewish nonprofit management. The sole discrepancy among communal professionals in terms of their levels of Jewish history knowledge and the perceived value of that knowledge was between CEOs and development professionals.

Though the survey's sample population was rather small, the data concluded that history is important for Jewish communal professionals—but only to an extent. Knowledge of Jewish history helps frame their work as professionals and understanding major trends in Jewish history can aid in problem solving. However, the survey data showed that knowing Jewish history plays a greater role in enhancing their Jewish identity and connecting them with the global Jewish community than it does in advancing their career.

Topic: History, Professionalism, Professional Development, Jewish Communal Service, Jewish Organizations, Jewish Literacy

Name of Publication: HUC-JIR School of Jewish Nonprofit Management (formerly School of Jewish Communal Service) Masters Theses

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Genre: Thesis

Coverage: United States

Language: English

Copyright Holder: Author

Copyright Information: Download for personal use only.

Bibliographic Information:
Means, Makenzie. A Study of the Usefulness of Jewish History Knowledge in Jewish Communal Professions. HUC-JIR School of Jewish Nonprofit Management (formerly School of Jewish Communal Service) Masters Theses. Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR). April 2012: http://www.bjpa.org/Publications/details.cfm?PublicationID=14160


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