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York U. and Western Canada Coalition Win Grant to Tackle Jewish Teacher Shortage in Western Provinces

TORONTO, December 20, 1999 -- York University's Jewish Teacher Education Program, in partnership with the Western Canadian Coalition of Jewish Educators, has won a $185,000 grant from the Covenant Foundation in New York to address one of the most crucial challenges faced by today's Jewish community -- the shortage of teachers at Jewish Day Schools.

It is the first time the prestigious foundation has awarded a Canadian proposal. "The Covenant Foundation saw this project as a model for other Jewish communities in North America seeking to prepare and recruit qualified teachers," said York Prof. Alex Pomson, co-coordinator of the Jewish Teacher Education Program and Koschitzky Professor of Jewish Education at York. "It is recognition that York is uniquely placed to develop innovative solutions for day schools facing pressing personnel needs," said Pomson.

York is the only public university in North America that certifies teachers for both the Jewish Day School and the public systems concurrently. York's Jewish Teacher Education Program is a partnership between the Faculty of Education, the Centre for Jewish Studies at York, and the Toronto Board of Jewish Education.

The proliferation of Jewish Day Schools across North America over the past decade reflects a concern in the Jewish community about a dilution of Jewish culture. This has created a huge demand for certified teachers. New schools opening in Toronto alone during this period have made the competition for scarce resources acute, particularly in smaller Jewish communities, such as those in western Canada.

The York-western Canada project will recruit up to five students, every two years, from Jewish communities in Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia. The students will enter York's Jewish Teacher Education Program in the Faculty of Education, where they will acquire field-study and practice teaching experience both in Toronto and western Canadian schools. The grant will also allow York to work with partner schools in the west as special sites for teacher preparation. The western Canadian Jewish communities will provide scholarship support of up to 50 per cent of university tuition and living expenses for the students during their undergraduate years. In return, students will commit to working for at least two years in day schools in western Canada.

The Western Canadian Coalition of Jewish Educators was formed in 1997 by a group of Jewish day schools in Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Calgary to work cooperatively in meeting program and personnel needs. It is coordinated by Joshua Ben-Simon, who, Pomson says, has played a crucial role in galvanizing communities in the west to see the teacher shortage as a common problem requiring common solutions. "The grant acknowledges Ben-Simon's hard work and the coalition's imaginative response to the kinds of challenges faced by most Jewish communities today," said Pomson.


For further information, please contact:

Dr. Alex Pomson
Koschitzky Professor of Jewish Education
Faculty of Education
York University
(416) 736-2100, ext. 88762

Susan Bigelow
Media Relations
York University
(416) 736-2100, ext. 22091


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