Dr. Gil Graff has served as Executive Director of BJE since 1993. He is animated by the conviction that Jewish education is an enduring source of meaning, enriching the lives of those who experience it and enabling them to bring valuable perspective to building better communities. Gil, who has been a teacher, school administrator and camp director, takes a broad view of Jewish education and is inspired by the diverse settings of Jewish learning and experience to which BJE relates, and the opportunity of working with educators and lay leaders from all streams of Jewish life.
Gil studied education as an undergraduate and, while working as a teacher and administrator at Jewish day and supplementary schools, earned a Masters degree in educational administration (CSUN), a law degree (UCLA School of Law), and a PhD in Jewish history (UCLA). A native of Los Angeles, Graff joined the BJE staff as Assistant Director, in 1985, after serving as Director of Camp Ramah in New England. Gil finds great satisfaction in working with BJE staff and board leadership, in partnership with others, to identify and implement strategies to better meet constantly evolving Jewish educational needs.
For example, as summer Israel trips became ever more numerous in the 1990s, BJE sunset its pioneer Summer Ulpan-in-Israel program for teens, and now conducts BJE March of the Living, leading the largest teen group (with 200+ high school seniors, each year) of any city in the United States participating in International March of the Living. While, in the closing decades of the twentieth century, BJE’s work with Jewish day schools focused largely on curriculum development and personnel credentialing, BJE has, in more recent years, turned its attention to encouraging, supporting and incentivizing day school endowment development, helping schools access government services to strengthen student learning, and facilitating communities of practice for such groups as Heads of School, admissions directors, development directors, and cohorts of educators from a variety of disciplines. Similarly, BJE’s work in support of early childhood and part-time Jewish education has evolved, with BJE playing a vital role in building educator networks, disseminating best practice, and providing opportunities for professional growth.
Gil is the author of three books and numerous articles on issues of Jewish education, history, and law. He is particularly interested in the encounter of Jews and Judaism with modernity. He has taught graduate and professional school students as an adjunct faculty member at American Jewish University, Hebrew Union College, Touro College, Spertus Institute, and the Academy for the Jewish Religion. Among his many fellowships and honors, Dr. Graff has been a California Senate Fellow, a Jerusalem Fellow, and a Visiting Scholar at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. He currently serves on the board of the California Association of Private School Organizations and on the Board of Visitors of Loyola-Marymount University’s School of Education.
Gil and his wife Robin, also a Jewish educator, are the parents of two sons and a daughter who, as their parents, benefitted from attending BJE-affiliated schools. Ari and Ilan practice law; Talia serves as Director of Programs at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. The elder of the Graffs’ grandchildren is delighted each day with his learning experiences at a Jewish pre-school; his younger brother looks forward to similar opportunities.
"Jewish Law and the Law of the State: A Study in Authority and Dissent,” in Authority and Dissent in Jewish Life, Purdue University Press, ed. Leonard Greenspoon, 2020: 85-98.
"Reflections on Jewish Education in the Writings of Eliezer Berkovits." Australian Journal of Jewish Studies Volume 32 (2019): 89-104.
Jewish Tradition in a Western Key: Essays on Jews and Judaism in a Changing World, 1789-1939. Academica Press, 2019.
"Halakhah as Torat Hayyim: The Values-Conscious Halakhic Visions of Eliezer Berkovits and Emanuel Rackman." Journal of Modern Jewish Studies 18, no. 3 (August 2019): 330-342.
"Jewish Education, Past and Present: Israel Friedlaender Revisited" Journal of Jewish Education, Winter, 2016: 311-328.
"Giving Voice to 'Torah-true Judaism' in the U.S., 1922-1939: Leo Jung and the Legacy of the Rabbinerseminar." Modern Judaism, Spring, 2014: 167-187. Reprinted by permission of Oxford University Press in A Century at the Center: Orthodox Judaism & The Jewish Center, The Toby Press, ed. Zev Eleff, 2018: 253-278.
"Modernity, Judaism and Jews," in Bloomsbury Companion to Jewish Studies, ed. Dean Phillip Bell (2013): 181-206.
"Toward an Appreciation of the American Legacy of Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer: The U.S. Rabbinate of Three Hildesheimer Students." Modern Judaism, Spring, 2011: 167-188.
"First Stirrings: Jewish Education, American Style, 1776-1880," in Educational Eclectics: Essays in Memory of Shlomo (Seymour) Fox, Mandel Foundation and Keter Press, eds. Shmuel Wygoda and Israel Sorek, 2009: 99-125.
"And You Shall Teach Them Diligently": A Concise History of Jewish Education in the United States, 1776-2000. JTS Jewish Education Series, 2008.
"Central Agencies (Bureaus) of Jewish Education." In What We Now Know About Jewish Education, Torah Aura, eds. Roberta L. Goodman, Paul A. Flexner, Linda D. Bloomberg, 2008: 365-372.
Co-author, "History of Jews in Los Angeles." Encyclopedia of American Jewish History (2007), 1:132-134.
"Jewish Education in the United States of America." Encyclopedia Judaica, 2nd ed. (2007), 6:189-204.
"Public Schooling and Jewish Education, 1845-1870: A Contemporary Perspective." Journal of Jewish Education, Spring-Summer, 2003: 69-76.
"Primary Sources Revisited: Methodology in the Study of Jewish History in Jewish Secondary Schools," in Academic Approaches to Teaching Jewish Studies, University Press of America, ed. Zev Garber, 2000: 297-315.
"Whither Jewish Education? The Educational Meaning of a Transformational Event." Journal of Jewish Education, Spring, 1996: 35-37.
"Dollars, Education and Jewish Survival." Jewish Education, Spring, 1994: 12-13.
"Nachmanides and the Maimonidean Controversy: Unity and Diversity—A Legacy of Sepharad." Jewish Spectator, Spring, 1993: 33-35.
"Bureaus of Jewish Education and the Supplementary School." Jewish Education, Winter, 1992: 12-14.
“Priests, Sages and the Jurisdiction of the High Court, 50-100 C.E.: A Note on the Demotion of Rabban Gamaliel.” Shofar (Purdue University), Winter, 1990: 1-7.
“Community Based Models of Post-Bar/Bat Mitzvah Jewish Education: The L.A. Experience.” Jewish Education, Winter 1988:41-44.
“Samson Raphael Hirsch: 100 Years Later.” Shofar (Purdue University), Fall, 1988: 48-59.
“From Jerusalem to Brunswick: The Metamorphosis of Dina de-Malkhuta Dina” (Hebrew). Bitzaron, Spring, 1986: 59-63.
Separation of Church and State: Dina de-Malkhuta Dina in Jewish Law, 1750-1848. University of Alabama Press, 1985.