Jonathan Lev’s career came full circle when he joined the Boulder Jewish Community Center (Boulder JCC) as Executive Director in 2010. While his path to his current position was winding, he credits his CU Boulder teacher education experience as foundational to his work now and experiences along the way.

“So much of what I do is because of my education background,” he said.

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After graduating with teacher licensure in mathematics in December 2001, Lev was not interested in substitute teaching, so to pass the time, he went to work for a renewable energy startup, where his education background helped him articulate the benefits of the burgeoning field. He later moved to the East Coast as the director of a Jewish summer camp, where his education background helped strengthen the outdoor education curriculum. After completing a Master’s in Public Administration from New York University and Hebrew and Judaic studies coursework, the Chicago native found himself back in Boulder after a recruiter encouraged him to apply for the Executive Director position at the Boulder Jewish Community Center (JCC).  

At the Boulder JCC, Lev has helped build a new campus offering robust programming for community members from infants through older adults. The center is a community-wide resource that is founded on Jewish principles yet open to community members of all faiths and backgrounds. Since taking the helm ten years ago, Lev has helped grow the center, which includes a working farm, early childhood center, art exhibitions, musical performances, and more. Leaders from other community centers around the country and internationally come to tour the Boulder JCC’s early childhood center with its shared leadership and integrated pedagogy.

“We built a full-scale educational farm with goats and chickens, educational beds, a greenhouse, and barn,” he said. “ Our Early Childhood Center focuses on a constructivist approach. We use what the children are fascinated by and then enhance it by bringing in music or connecting it to art or being on the land. Those are all integrated pieces, so they’ll work on something in the classroom that then flows into the art studio and comes back to the classroom. They’re not coming into the art studio to do ‘crafts time.’ It’s not separate but part of the whole learning process.”

In many ways, the services the Boulder JCC offers are an embodiment of Lev’s own varied interests in education, the outdoors, arts, activism, and community connections.
“What I really love doing is building community and bringing people together around common purpose,” he said.

“I love leading an organization that’s strongly rooted in powerful ideals and broadly connected to the entire Boulder County community. To me, that’s where we can effectively create the community we want to live in, and we can uplift one another. I don’t know where else I would find all of these things. To me, that’s where we can effectively create the community we want to live in, and we can uplift one another. I don’t know where else I would find all of these things.”


This story is part of an Alumni Connections series featuring alumni who are putting their education background to work in meaningful ways and on the fringes of the field. 

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