Jewish cultural arts degree will train leaders for summer camps, museums

Media Credit: Greta Simmons | Hatchet Photographer
The National Museum of American Jewish Military History sits on R Street.

Two of GW’s graduate schools will pair up to launch a program that promises to prepare leaders of Jewish cultural programs, like museums and summer camps.

The master’s degree in experiential education and Jewish cultural arts is the first of its kind nationwide and would be awarded by both the Graduate School of Education and Human Development and the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

The two-year joint-degree program will kick off this June, offering courses such as a seminar class called museums as institutions, which requires students to intern four days a week in a Jewish cultural organization or museum in D.C.

The degree will build off Columbian College’s existing Jewish cultural arts programs and the education school’s museum education program, which focuses on teaching techniques for more casual settings, said Michael Feuer, dean of the Graduate School of Education and Human Development.

“We are putting the two curriculums together to offer rigorous preparation to students hoping to work in places where those programs come together, such as Jewish summer camps or synagogue education programs,” Feuer said.

The University also received a $1.47 million grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation, a group that has funded Jewish education programs at New York and Stanford universities, to provide scholarships for top students.

That grant and University money could cover 85 percent of tuition for a handful of students.

Students will spend three years in a summer institute program, which will include leadership training and networking with members of DC’s arts community. They will present a capstone cultural arts event to culminate their degree during the final summer institute.

The curriculum stresses a balance between coursework and out-of-the-classroom learning, with students taking at most three classes in one semester and keeping time open for more hands-on learning.

Feuer said the program will advance the education school’s vision, and that it will help raise awareness of the school in its market.

“We believe this is an opportunity for us through this program to make a real difference in the world of American Jewish culture and experiential learning,” he said.

The master’s degree program is one of several new programs the school has looked to launch to help increase its enrollment, which has fallen 22 percent in the last five years.

Executive Director of GW Hillel Rabbi Yoni Kaiser-Blueth, said he hoped students at Hillel would be able to enroll in the program. He said the organization’s new building, which will open in January 2016, could include a gallery that would benefit the arts education program.

“I am excited about the many options the new building could yield. It could even be a hallway with a multimedia exhibit dedicated to Jewish cultural art. The graduate students in the new program could potentially intern or work at the gallery,” he said.

-Mary Ellen McIntire contributed to this report.

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