Toolbox Help

How the Toolbox Works

The Toolbox resources answer three essential questions: Why Change, What to Change, and How to Change:

  • Why” gives you articles, speeches and other materials that address motivations for change and visions of Jewish learning as it can be.
  • What” shares examples of vision statements, model descriptions, and case studies from congregations across North America.
  • How” offers guidebooks, exercises, protocols, and text studies to guide the process of change in a positive and productive fashion.

Looking for a specific resource? You can use the search box (top right) to search for a topic, author, title, or keyword or use the Tag Cloud (at right). Come on in and browse!

About the Toolbox

The resources in the Toolbox represent over 20 years of collaborative work with ECE congregations, staff, and partner organizations.  Whether you are an, education director, rabbi, cantor, teacher, executive director, parent or lay leader you’ll find resources you can use.  You can mix and match the resources to best suit your needs.  

Types of Resources:

Articles – Focus on the change process, the big ideas and rationale behind change, and the role of vision.  

Vision Statements – Share examples of vision statements created by congregations who went through an in-depth and collaborative visioning process.  

Case Studies – Highlight examples of congregations who have gone through the entire change process with ECE.  

Guidebooks – Comprehensive guides, developed for  initiatives of the ECE and its partners, such as The RE-IMAGINE Project, LOMED, and The Leadership Institute spell out the entire change process in detail with meeting plans, facilitation guides, handouts and more.

Exercises and Protocols – Scripted activity guides that show you how to facilitate productive conversations in team planning meetings.  

Text Study – Jewish texts (biblical, rabbinic, and modern) with discussion questions illuminate challenges and tasks of the change process.  

Model descriptions – Alternative models of Jewish learning define new structures, pedagogies, and roles for learners and learning that don’t necessarily look like “schooling.” Examples of  alternative models include: family learning, Shabbat learning, and Jewish service learning, project-based learning.  These descriptions include the why, what, where, when and how of Jewish learning.  


The Toolbox can provide you with many of the resources you need to engage in educational change in your congregation. You may choose to seek out consultation to assist you in using these resources.

More About Change

As anyone who has attempted to change an organization–especially one with long-standing traditions–knows, change can be difficult and messy. This is especially true in congregations where lots of people have differing views and many people feel a stake in both how things are done now, how they have “always been done around here,” and how they will be done in the future. And roles and relationships between members, rabbis, educational leaders, lay leaders, and others can be complex and ambiguous.

Nevertheless, synagogues need to adapt to their ever-changing environments. Why? The schooling model of congregational education is at least a century old. Think how much the world has changed in the last century, particularly with regard to:

  • The makeup and dynamics of families,
  • Our daily lives and those of our children,
  • Our society and the technology we use,
  • Our ideas about what constitutes “good” education, and even
  • Our goals for Jewish learning.

Expecting to succeed at Jewish education using the same old structures, methods, and models seems naive and unrealistic at best. That means innovation to bring about change is imperative to create new models, adapt new pedagogies, and invent new approaches that bring the beauty, meaning, and relevance of Judaism to the lives of successive generations of Jews and their loved ones.

Nobody can do this work alone. We know from experience and research that, among other things, successful change takes:

  • Patience and partners,
  • Focused energy and bold vision,
  • New vocabulary and timeless ideas, and
  • Repeated cycles of experimentation and reflection.

And in congregational life, it requires buy-in from many groups of people with disparate interests and investments. Innovators in congregational education can learn a lot from creative corporations and start-ups but congregations are different. Re-imagining Jewish learning in a sacred community of members, leaders, clergy and professionals requires that we adjust change methods from other organizations to the uniqueness of synagogue life. Transforming congregational education is truly holy work.

The Experiment in Congregational Education (ECE) has spent over 20 years building the tools, methods, materials and processes that congregations use to bring about innovation successfully. Evidence shows that congregations that have been through a process with the ECE and our partner organizations have not only benefited from changes in the way they do education; they also have enhanced their capacity for change. Their leaders have learned how to make innovation happen in a positive and productive way, without the rancor and resistance that sometimes can accompany change.

And now, many of those tools, methods, processes, and materials—along with examples from innovating congregations—are available to you here in The Toolbox. Browse, learn, and find what you need to help you on your journey of change and innovation.