The Identities of Teachers in Jewish Day Schools: Descriptions, Development, Impacts, and Relationships

Thumbnail Image

Persistent link to this item

View Statistics

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


The Identities of Teachers in Jewish Day Schools: Descriptions, Development, Impacts, and Relationships

Published Date




Thesis or Dissertation


This study is rooted in several interests of the researcher: 1) Literature focusing on the importance of teacher identity development for pre-service and in-service teachers; 2) Several crises in the Jewish community including the high rates of assimilation and the shortage of teachers for Jewish day schools; and 3) The belief of Jewish communal leaders that Jewish education and Jewish educators hold one of the keys to addressing these issues. The purpose of this case study is to examine the extent to which teachers in Jewish day schools self-identify as teachers, as Jews, and as Jewish teachers/educators; to what they attribute the development of their various identities; how the identities interact; and how such identifications shape their beliefs about teaching and learning. The "case" that was studied was graduates of the DeLeT (Day School Leadership through Teaching) Program at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (Los Angeles) and Brandeis University (Waltham, MA), a teacher preparation program specifically for teachers in Jewish day schools. Through studying this case, the researcher believes that the prior findings of others on teacher identity was expanded and extended. Furthermore, he holds that an understanding of several additional identities--Jewish identity, Jewish teacher identity, and Jewish educator identity--relevant to Jewish education and Jewish educators is helpful to Jewish community professional and lay leadership as they struggle with the crises alluded to previously. Many findings emerged from this research. Aside from the interview data providing an in-depth understanding of teacher identity, Jewish identity, and Jewish teacher/educator identity, issues such as the impact on identity of Israel experiences and the influence of the teacher's role in her or his school surfaced. Additionally, the data led to the learning that various forms of identity development can be affected in a teacher preparation program. One of the significant overall "learnings," however, was that, in thinking about the identity of teachers, it is not sufficient to look only at "teacher identity." Teacher educators and those responsible for in-service teacher development must also take into account, for example, the teacher's religious, national, and cultural identities. It is clear from this study that these parts of a person's identity impact her or his teacher identity and vice-versa and the boundaries between these "identities" are porous, ambiguous, and mutable. Teacher identity simply does not exist in a vacuum. This reality becomes even more vital when the teacher is working in a religious context or in a school with a particular mission (e.g. social action). These mission-driven schools are highly invested in values as well as content and the "person" of the teacher as an authentic role model becomes critically important. In addition to exploring the many layers of identity that affect teachers in general, and Jewish educators in particular, the researcher also proposes a formal definition of the term "Jewish educator." This term, used regularly in scholarly and practitioner literature is not defined and its meaning is not clearly understood by those who use it. Therefore, this definition has been developed based on the interviews conducted (more than 80% of which were with people who consider themselves to be Jewish educators) and the experience of the researcher. Its purpose is to put the conversation about this term "on the table" for discussion and refinement.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2014. Major: Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Advisor: Dr. Peter W. Demerath. 1 computer file (PDF); xii, 260 pages, appendices A-C.

Related to




Series/Report Number

Funding information

Isbn identifier

Doi identifier

Previously Published Citation

Suggested citation

Tornberg, Robert E.. (2014). The Identities of Teachers in Jewish Day Schools: Descriptions, Development, Impacts, and Relationships. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

Content distributed via the University Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor. By using these files, users agree to the Terms of Use. Materials in the UDC may contain content that is disturbing and/or harmful. For more information, please see our statement on harmful content in digital repositories.