Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Jewish Education for Adults

Rabbi H's Rabbinic Journey: This is a blog post ... just right for the last days of July, as we all prepare to begin to start to think preliminary and tentative thoughts about the new APS school year, which will begin on Tuesday August 13.

As it turns out - school and education, teaching and learning are not just for the young.

And since the Jewish education of most Jewish adults ended when they were kids - there is plenty of room for these grown-ups to expand their knowledge.

But how? Abq Jew hears you ask.

Well ... first of all, take a look here at Abq Jewish Adult Education. Next - if the open-ended age bracket fits - take a look at Abq Jewish 50+ Education, right here.

And of course take a look at Abq Jew's page dedicated to Lifelong Learning at Congregation Albert. But then ... well, it gets complicated.

Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld of Congregation Albert explores some basic issues facing his congregation in his blog (YES! Rabbi H has a blog!), which you can find here. Rabbi Rosenfeld's got the copyright; all rights reserved.


Jewish Education for Adults
by Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld

With the reorganization of Congregation Albert's professional and administrative teams, I have taken over the responsibility for coordinating most of our educational offerings geared towards adults. I have spent much of the summer thinking about Jewish Education for Adults, and here is what I know:
  1. Most people end their Jewish education as children or at best in high school.
  2. Because we teach our children about Judaism at an age appropriate level and most people end their formal Jewish education as children their view of Judaism is frozen in time.
  3. Among other reasons, because their view of Judaism is frozen in time, many Jews have separated themselves from the organized Jewish community and synagogues in particular.
  4. Judaism is a sophisticated religion that needs to be studied at an adult level to truly understand its complexities and subtleties.
  5. We need to develop Jewish educational experiences (both formal and informal) that help Jews understand Judaism so that they are willing to engage Judaism as a part of their lives.
  6. If we do not educate our Jewish adults in a systematic, sophisticated and effective manner, their commitment to Judaism and their potential for a fulfilling Jewish life is greatly diminished.
With these as my guiding principles, I have examined the adult Jewish education programs of dozens of congregations from every branch of Judaism, and here is what I have found.
  1. Few congregations have a systematic approach to adult Jewish education.
  2. Most courses are taught because the rabbi wants to teach that particular topic or someone volunteered to teach that topic.
  3. Outside of a few Orthodox or community wide Jewish education programs geared toward adults most programs expect the people to "come to the mountain" rather than bringing the classes to the people.
  4. Adult Jewish education is the lowest priority for funding in synagogues. That is, other than endowed scholar in residence programs, congregations (including Congregation Albert) expect their adult education programs to cost the congregation very little or actually make a profit.
The questions which we have to answer are:
  1. What does it mean to have Judaism as an integral part of one's adult life?
  2. What do we want/expect adult Jews to know about Judaism?
  3. How can we proactively bring adult Jewish education to our Jewish community, rather than wait for people to come to us?
  4. What positive role can technology play in our quest to bring adult Jewish education out into the community?
  5. Who can we partner with in our community to maximize the effectiveness and reach of our adult education efforts?
What I know and what I have found
are the guides by which Congregation Albert
will be developing its adult Jewish education program -
to answer these questions over the coming years.


Rabbi Harry L. Rosenfeld became Rabbi of Congregation Albert on July 1, 2011. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio and received a Bachelor of Science degree from John Carroll University in 1976. He received a Master's degree in Hebrew Letters from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1980, was ordained in 1981, and received the Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa in 2006. 

He has also pursued course work in the Jewish Studies doctoral program at Spertus Institute of Judaica. After ordination he served as Assistant Rabbi in Memphis, Tennessee (1981-1984), Rabbi of Congregation Beth Sholom in Anchorage, Alaska (1984-2000), and Senior Rabbi of Temple Beth Zion in Buffalo, New York (2000-2011).

He was honored by the Alaska State Legislature in 1994 for his community work against racism and again in 2000 for his 16 years of service to the people of Alaska. He served on the board of the Interfaith Council of Anchorage, which named their annual interfaith service award in his honor.

1 comment:

Julian Tepper said...

How about using the Five Books of Moses as an historical text and timeline to teach what comprises a history of the world that it describes, with the practical day-to-day considerations that fill in the interstices of the larger events?

Julian Tepper
Code Word Reading Robot

PS - Gosh, I hope the above is tame enough to gain blog author approval.