Today we’d like to introduce you to Rabbi Danielle G. Eskow.
Rabbi Danielle, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
About seven years ago I was working with a student in Washington State, about three hours from the closest synagogue. He was preparing for his Bar Mitzvah and we would work on the phone once a week for half an hour at a time. I quickly realized that we should be using Skype (which at the time was considered “high tech”) in order to create more of a connection and a “face to face” learning experience. Having grown up in a home with a businessman for a father, I thought up the idea of what is now Online Jewish Learning, but at the time was called “My Bar Mitzvah Tutors.” My sister Marisa and I co-founded the company and the two of us did everything: from scheduling lessons, recruiting students, creating curriculum, invoicing, etc. We initially started with thirty students in the first year.
Last year was our seventh year and we have approximately 300 active students and 15 synagogues who are using our program. About three years ago we shifted from My Bar Mitzvah Tutors to Online Jewish Learning because we wanted people to really “get” what we do: all types of Jewish learning from Hebrew reading to prayer fluency and adult learning. We have students who are six years old learning aleph-bet (The Hebrew Alphabet) to a 96-year-old woman who became a Bat Mitzvah. We currently have two part-time amazing staff who are local as well as 35 awesome educators who are all over the US, Canada, and Israel. We teach students and families from Los Angeles to Morocco, from Miami to Qatar and all the places in between. It has really been amazing to see the company grow from a small “mom and pop” shop out of my small apartment in New York to an international tutoring company serving Jewish individuals, families, and communities regardless of their background, prior experience, or hectic schedules.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has been a really exciting and challenging road. Initially, we were trying really hard to get synagogues and institutions to partner with us, but it was too early. We really began at the beginning of Jewish institutions exploring online learning as a tool. Now we are partnering with many institutions who are excited about adding an online component to their community programs. The other big struggle is how to find the families that are unaffiliated. How do we find people who do not know we exist but are looking for a flexible, meaningful, and customized Jewish learning experience? One of the ways in which we have addressed this challenge is through focusing a lot of our marketing efforts on Google advertising, which has been great for us in terms of driving clients to our website. Another challenge has been how to scale.
One of the best parts of our program is that it is “high-touch” and every family talks to me or one of our executive team members, has a personalized and customized learning experience and has us as consultants for the entire learning process. We want each person and each family to feel as if they are the center of our program. This is really important to us but has made it more difficult to scale. We are currently launching some new products that will diversify what we offer a bit and that is really exciting.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Online Jewish Learning – what should we know?
Our company is really special. A lot of company owners will say that, but ours is a business that was started by family and is run like a family. The team and staff members are all valued like family-and everyone contributes to the future success of the company. Our primary services are one-on-one tutoring and small group classes. We work with both affiliated (synagogue affiliation) and unaffiliated families from all over the world. We work with all types of students, families, and Jewish backgrounds. Many of our students come from families with one Jewish parent and we create a program that is welcoming and embracing of their families.
We work with families with students who have special learning needs and we match our students with teachers who will best meet our students’ learning styles, challenges, and goals. We are most known for our Bar/Bat Mitzvah program. We work with hundreds of students each and every year-many who never dreamed a Bar Mitzvah was in the cards for them. We work with students who have struck out year after year at Hebrew School because they just “couldn’t get it” whether it was due to their learning styles or challenges, health reasons, family, social challenges, etc. It is amazing to watch students and families connect to their Jewish identities and feel that they are part of a warm community in our program.
What sets us apart from other programs is that we customize our program for each and every student. We believe that no two students or synagogue are the same, and therefore we customize our program for each individual or community. Learning is a personal process and we work hard to ensure that each student feels supported, seen, heard, and comfortable in their learning. That is truly special.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I feel that especially in the Jewish world it is often hard to find relatable “leaders.” Growing up I remember never having a rabbi or a Jewish educator that I could really relate to. I have found that one of my qualities that have led to my success as a Jewish educator, entrepreneur, and the rabbi is that I can relate to others, no matter their age, stage of life, or Jewish background. I also feel that related to this is my compassion for others. I always approach each individual, family, and community as their own unique person or group and cater to what they are looking for, their needs and goals. Jewish education and relationships are not one size fits all.
Being a rabbi for me is so much more than being an educator, a preacher, or a leader. It is about making the world a better place and being with the people-being present with them-whether it is life cycle events, counseling, or learning. So many of my friends, community members, students, and families have told me that what they love so much is that they finally feel as though they have a rabbi and a community that fits them, as they are. I have found throughout my work the company as well as my most recent project of my “Rabbi Mom” blog that all people are really looking for is for someone to “see” them, to make them feel special, connected, and valued-to be supported. That is what it is all really about at the end of the day feeling connected to others, feeling valued, and feeling part of the Jewish community. If I can do my part through Online Jewish Learning, Rabbi Mom, and through my own personal relationships then I feel that I have done my part in “Tikkun Olam” which means “repairing the world” in Hebrew. And we all know, this world could use all of our help in “repairing” our individual and greater communities.
- Address: PO Box 1412 Brookline, MA 02446
- Website: www.onlinejewishlearning.com
- Phone: 617-963-0902
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org