Using imaginative role-play combined with engaged research and mentorship, The Jewish Court of All Time (JCAT) is a blended learning program serving Jewish day schools across North America that provides a compelling context for students to write extensively, to explore the “big ideas” of the past and present, and to develop insight into how to live a meaningful Jewish life in a pluralistic society.
JCAT has run every year since 2009, with support from the Covenant Foundation, the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), and an anonymous donor. Well over 5,000 middle school students, dozens of teachers, and faculty and student mentors at five universities have taken part in JCAT over the years. JCAT has also been the subject of several published articles and doctoral dissertations, and its study helps to advance the field in such areas as Jewish history education, teacher education and professional development, engaging with controversial issues, and learner-centered pedagogies.
JCAT uses aspects of Jewish history to frame discussion of current issues. Each year the simulation asks the question, “What does it mean to learn from history?” in the context of a different scenario. In recent years, students explored the question of reparations in conjunction with the story of the MS St. Louis and examined the myriad complexities related to the absorption of African refugees in Israel. In our Spring 2023 simulation for congregational schools we investigated questions of free expression and the regulation of hate speech inspired by the neo-Nazi invasion of Skokie, Illinois. In Fall 2023, with questions of racial injustice and inequalities having come to the forefront of public awareness with great urgency, our day school simulation will explore the topic of Jewish-Black relations, a vitally important issue with unique historical roots.
Over the years, JCAT has offered a rich learning experience to its student participants, as well as ongoing professional development to dozens of teachers in the United States, Canada and Mexico. To quote one of those teachers, “the biggest impact from JCAT was that students were not only introduced to new information, they were challenged to think about important issues with new perspectives. By learning about their characters and disconnecting from their own personal perspectives, students were able to realize how context, religion, race (and) upbringing can change how you relate to something, and were able to understand that by considering another’s viewpoint, we can be more empathetic.”
Interested in learning more about or helping to support JCAT? Contact Project Co-Director Jeff Stanzler at email@example.com
Selected Articles about JCAT
- Meredith Katz (2020) The Jewish Court of All Time: Role Playing for Civic Engagement, eJewish Philanthropy, March 12, 2020.
- Meredith L. Katz & Jeffrey S. Kress (2018) Jewish history engagement in an online simulation: Golda and Coco, Leah and Lou at the Jewish Court of All Time, Journal of Jewish Education, 84:2, 196-221
- Miriam Haier (2021) Learning from History with JCAT: Twelve Years Later, Sight Line, May 29, 2021
- Aimee deNoyelles & Miriam Raider-Roth (2015): Being an ‘agent provocateur’: utilising online spaces for teacher professional development in virtual simulation games, Technology, Pedagogy and Education, DOI: 10.1080/1475939X.2015.1049652
- Deborah Skolnick Einhorn (2016): Planning the Unplannable: When Life Interrupts the Curriculum, Ha’Yidion, Spring 2016