Summer Spotlight: New Instructors and Courses
Dr. Sandra Lilienthal
Jewish Education is NOT Just For Kids: Exploring the Adult Learner
Although lifelong learning is ingrained in Jewish tradition, it was only towards the end of the twentieth century that scholars began to study the adult learner and articulate best practices in adult education. In this course, we will examine early 21st century adult learners, exploring developmental stages and generational characteristics... read more
Sandra Lilienthal received her Masters degree in Jewish Studies and her Doctorate in Jewish Education from Gratz College. She is part of the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning faculty, writes curricula for adult education, including Rabbi Steinsaltz’s Global Day of Jewish Learning. Sandra also has weekly classes for independent groups of adult learners in the South Florida area. Sandra is a frequent speaker at Jewish education conferences, synagogues and other Jewish organizations. Sandra sits on the Board of Gratz College, as well as on the Board of Limmud North America. 
Sandra has great enthusiasm for teaching Judaism as a living religion, and infusing true passion for it among those who study with her and is a 2015 winner of the Covenant Award for Excellence in Jewish Education.
Ellen Allard
Sing, Move, Play, Pray: Supporting Cognitive, Linguistic, Social, Physical & Spiritual Development In The Jewish Classroom
Developmentally Appropriate Practice (D.A.P.) is at the foundation of excellence in education. This eight week intensive NEXT course will prepare participants to practice D.A.P. through music, and help them understand the vitally important role that music can play in enhancing and strengthening... read more
Ellen Allard, an award-winning recording artist, composer, performer, and educator is one of the most popular and influential Jewish musicians on today’s vibrant contemporary Jewish music scene. With over 40 years of performing and teaching experience, as well as 14 CDs and seven songbooks in her catalog (plus a library of over 300 songs that she has composed), Ellen continues to charm fans with her interactive, infectious, and entertaining music. Widely recognized for her appeal to people of all ages, Ellen’s songs have become the gold standard when it comes to engaging Jewish audiences. With a strong commitment to building community through music, Ellen has a charismatic and charming way of encouraging participants to sing along. She knows exactly how to engage and hold her audience’s attention – sometimes light-hearted, sometimes serious, always meaningful. Widely recognized for her appeal to people of all ages, Ellen’s songs have become the gold standard when it comes to engaging Jewish audiences. With a strong commitment to building community through music, Ellen has a charismatic and charming way of encouraging participants to sing along. She knows exactly how to engage and hold her audience’s attention – sometimes light-hearted, sometimes serious, always meaningful.
Howard Blas
Meaningful Modifications: Meeting the Diverse Needs of B’nai Mitzvah Students & Their Families
Young Jews “become” bar and bat mitzvah at ages thirteen and twelve respectively. How individuals, families and communities “have” a b’nai mitzvah and mark this rite of passage has varied through place and time. This course will offer a framework for assessing student and family needs and suggest accommodations, modifications and options which can be implemented in synagogues in all denominational settings, based on the individual learner’s interests, passions, strengths and areas of challenge... read more.
Howard, a social worker and special education teacher by training, teaches Jewish Studies and bar/bat mitzvah to students with a range of disabilities and “special circumstances. Howard has 35 years of experience working with families and students in envisioning and preparing for a wide-range of b’nai mitzvahs, from traditional to creative.He currently serves as director of the National Ramah Tikvah Network of the National Ramah Commission and of the Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah in Northern Califonia. Howard previously served as the director of the Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah in New England for 15 years. Howard has led five Tikvah Ramah Israel trips. And served as group leader for three Shorashim Birthright Asperger trips to Israel.
Howard writes regularly for many Jewish publications including the Jerusalem Post, Chabad.org, JNS (Jewish News Syndicate), ejewishphilanthropy, The New Normal (of the New York Jewish Week), and Sight Line (Covenant Foundation). Howard received the S’fatai Tiftakh Award from Boston Hebrew College’s Center for Jewish Special Education in 2012 and the 2013 Covenant Award for Excellence in Jewish Education. Learn more: www.HowardBlas.com.
Daniel Bahner
Gender, Judaism, and LGBTQ Inclusion (presented in collaboration with Keshet )

Today, LGBTQ inclusion in Jewish spaces is a necessary topic of discussion as an increasing number of individuals openly identify as LGBTQ. At the same time, many LGBTQ people, especially transgender and non-binary youth, do not yet feel that their Jewish spaces are able to affirm their full selves. In this course, we will discuss terms and concepts to increase participants’ LGBTQ cultural competency (including the differences between sex assigned at birth, gender identity, sexual orientation, and attraction), explore how Jewish values and tradition.. read more
Daniel Bahner brings experience in program development, community building and social-justice education to Keshet. Originally from southwest Ohio, Daniel quickly formed a connection between his Jewish identity and the importance of inclusion and working toward a more socially just society. He dived further into social justice and Jewish thought while an undergraduate at Lehigh University. Studying classics and religion studies, Daniel learned the importance of reflecting upon the past, but at the same time finding meaning for the present. At the same time, he began to become involved in many social-justice education groups, winning multiple campus awards for his involvement. His passion for social justice and education continued during his graduate studies at New York University, where he received a master’s in higher education administration and student affairs.Daniel joined Keshet spending three years working at a small liberal arts college as assistant director of residence life. There, he trained students in building inclusive residential communities as well as assisting students whenever they had concerns about their community environment. Daniel was highly involved with campus-inclusion projects, presenting at conferences, putting together programs, sitting on committees and managing educational processes. For his work, he was awarded a major regional award for commitment to social justice. Daniel is excited to be working with communities across the country and helping to facilitate a larger conversation about inclusion and equity.
Emilia Diamant and Beckee Berger
Bringing Cultural Competency into your Classroom, School, Youth Group, and Community
 Cultural competency, as defined by the National Education Association (NEA), is “having an awareness of one’s own cultural identity and views about difference, and the ability to learn and build on the varying cultural and community norms of students and their families.” In this class, we will explore the concept of cultural competency as it relates to Jewish education. .. read more.
Emilia Diamant, LCSW, is the first Executive Director of Jeremiah Program-Boston. Jeremiah partners with low income single mothers and their children to help transition families from poverty to prosperity, two generations at a time. Emilia approaches her work at JPB with an eye toward how systems of racial inequity impact families Jeremiah supports. Emilia came to Jeremiah with a passion for partnering with women; she spent time volunteering at Planned Parenthood in North Carolina, and helped Latina mothers navigate bilingual book reading with their children. She is a co-founder of Rising Voices, a fellowship for female-identified Jewish teens looking to expand their writing skills. Emilia teaches racial justice, pop culture, and feminism at Temple Israel Boston’s teen program and around New England. Emilia was a JOIN for Justice Organizing fellow in 2012-2013. She has worked at the Brandeis Office of High School Programs, Centro Para Familias Hispanas in Raleigh, Peer Bridgers of PAI Raleigh, in transitional foster care homes and mental health facilities across North Carolina, and at MissionSafe in Boston. 
Beckee Birger currently works as the Program Director of Teen Leadership and Philanthropy at the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago. Her passion for social justice has led her through a variety of jobs, such as special education attorney, AmeriCorp program manager, and college career advisor at an education non-profit. She holds a BA from Suffolk University and a JD from DePaul University. She believes engaging people of all ages in political education and activism is critical to our future, and she's proud to celebrate her Judaism through a deep commitment to social justice. In her free time, she's helping to build a space for Jews of Color at the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, and she's an avid board game player.
Rabbi Ruti Regan
Applying the Neurodiversity Approach in Your Jewish Educational Setting
The neurodiversity* movement, founded by adults with developmental disabilities, has taught us that it is critically important to value all kinds of minds and include all learners on equal terms. Educators committed to teaching all learners are often in the difficult position of being without clear guidance on how to act on these inclusive values in practice.

Because learners with developmental disabilities have been excluded from most learning environments, most approaches to education have been designed primarily for typically-developing learners. Every inclusive educator is doing original research to some extent. ...read more.
Ruti Rabbi Ruti Regan is a feminist rabbi, disabled disability advocate, and Jewish inclusive education researcher. She writes the popular neurodiversity-focused blog realsocialskills.org, leads the weekly #ParshaChat twitter Torah study group, and serves as rabbinic disability scholar in residence at Matan. She was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2017 with an MA in liturgy and spiritual arts, and has also studied at the Drisha Institute and the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
Questions? Please contact:
NEXT@gratz.edu or (215) 635-7300 x135
NEXT at Gratz | Gratz College | 7605 Melrose Park, PA 19027 | 215-635-7300 | www.gratz.edu