Student recognized for creative Jewish educational concept

Andrea Rose Cheatham Kasper, Doctor of Education student at Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies, is a recent winner of the Jewish Futures Conference competition. The award came with the opportunity to address a session at the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly, a gathering of current and emerging Jewish leaders. The conference addresses today’s critical issues and highlights the best of the Federation movement. The Federation movement, as noted on The Jewish Federations of North America website, “protects and enhances the well-being of Jews worldwide through the values of tikkun olam (repairing the world), tzedakah (charity and social justice) and Torah (Jewish learning).” Kasper’s award-winning idea was the development of a Jewish vocational school, entrenched in Jewish thought and practice, with a hands-on approach to learning practical life skills. 

As part of the degree program, Kasper is pursuing a concentration in Jewish Education Leadership, which combines the Jewish professional education expertise of Hebrew College with the research and resources of Northeastern in a unique doctoral program for the research-driven practitioner. The Doctor of Education (EdD), Jewish Education Leadership concentration is designed to meet the needs of Jewish educators and professionals who wish to take on greater leadership responsibilities within Jewish educational or communal organizations. 

1. Congratulations on being a winner in the Jewish Futures Conference! What was your award-winning idea?

I submitted an idea for developing a Jewish vocational high school which would focus on skill-based learning and rigorous cognitive development heavily informed by Jewish practice, tradition and thought. This idea was developed as an alternative to a wholly academic focus within the North American Jewish community which values academic achievement, oftentimes diminishing other ways of engaging with the world.

The idea behind the last Jewish Futures Conference was “Prosumerism;” the idea, that today, we are in a unique situation where we are co-creating our world and Jewish experiences rather than simply accepting a more authoritarian view point about how to be Jewish in the world. “Prosumerism” is an exciting concept which radically shifts the way we look at Jewish life and learning. A Jewish vocational high school would attract students who are looking for an alternative way to engage with the world; families who are looking to create a different vision of the world of consumers who will be producers; and those who are looking to develop their diverse intelligence in a supportive and communal way.

2. You are currently pursuing a Doctor of Education with a concentration in Jewish Educational Leadership at Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies. Why did you decide to pursue this specialization? 

I have a master’s in Jewish Education from Hebrew College and was extremely satisfied with my experience there; it gave me a communal environment and introduced me to a whole new level of Jewish learning which I had not previously experienced. Now, living in Iceland, I want to continue to work on my career. As there is little to no Jewish community here, I have to do this from a distance and was thrilled to find this program. I am excited to challenge and expand my understanding of educational leadership while focusing on Jewish education specifically.

3. How has your education played a role in your career as a professional dancer? 

During my time at The George Washington University as an undergraduate student, I was dancing 30 hours a week and maintaining a full academic schedule. After graduating and moving to New York City, I quickly realized that it was that specific balance that kept me satisfied and also nurtured my creativity and output as a dancer/choreographer. Throughout my adult life, I have been working to balance these two interests. While living in Panama, I taught at a Jewish school, which my great grandparents founded, and danced with Momentum Dance Company. Before leaving, I was able to develop a piece for the company called “Inherited Memories” in which I explored my inheritance of Holocaust memories as an Israeli and a Jew. When I returned for my master’s degree, with the support of Hebrew College, I produced a contemporary dance concert TRACE, which premiered “Inherited Memories” in the U.S. This allowed me to develop three more pieces, one of which was a direct result of a Jewish short story class I took while in school. In general, I have not combined my dance with Judaism, although as a teacher at Prozdor in Boston, I taught a contemporary dance class through that lens.

4. What advice do you have for students in this program? 

With graduate school, you get what you put into your studies; you are responsible for determining how to creatively approach your work. Use the resources available to you – there is a strong online support system.

Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies (CPS) is committed to providing career-focused educational programs that are designed to accommodate the complex lives of motivated learners. Offered in a variety of innovative formats, CPS courses are taught by accomplished scholars and practitioners who have real-world experience. The result is an educational experience founded on proven scholarship, strengthened with practical application, and sustained by academic excellence.

Northeastern University is a global university with a tradition of partnership and engagement that creates an innovative, distinctive approach to education and research. Northeastern integrates classroom studies with experiential learning opportunities in 70 countries, and pursues use-inspired research with a focus on global challenges in health, security, and sustainability.