The Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA) will cease operations as of July 1. In an announcement sent out Friday, Cass Gottlieb, chair of JESNA’s board of directors, noted the dramatic changes that have taken place in the communal and educational landscapes in recent years.
“Jewish education today is in a period of dynamic change, with new actors at every level and a growing focus on innovation and collaboration as keys to enhancing its impact in the 21st century,” she said. “I know that our leadership remains committed to advancing Jewish education’s growth and transformation and will remain involved in this work on many levels.”
As JESNA winds down its operations over the next few weeks, its leaders will be speaking with a wide range of institutions, organizations and funders to identify how best to ensure the continued operation of its most successful programs and to make its intellectual resources available to the field, the announcement said.
JESNA, which was founded in 1981, downsized dramatically in the past four years, more than halving its budget and staff, and last year narrowing its focus from a range of Jewish educational venues to innovations in the Hebrew school world, also known as “complementary education.” In January it announced it was considering merging with New York’s Jewish Education Project.
At the time, Jonathan Woocher, the top professional at JESNA, told The Jewish Week that the changes at his organization were “driven in part by a world in which people want to see direct value for money they spend” and “don’t want to sustain bureaucracies.”
The federations’ National Federation/Agency Alliance, once JESNA’s primary source of funding, reduced its allocations to JESNA from approximately $1 million in 2006, to $563,000 in 2012.
“The kind of multipurpose national service agency model that was in existence when JESNA was created in 1981 isn’t as relevant as it once was,” Woocher said earlier this year.