17 October 2018
One of the critical metrics for measuring the vitality and sustainability of a Jewish community is the number of adults engaged in learning. Beyond the value of children being educated in schools, often a compulsory activity, adults who continue their learning in multiple settings do so as a compelling activity, in response to a more mature search for meaning and purpose, and to embark on a journey sparked by curiosity.
Nationally, the number of adults engaged in Jewish learning has increased greatly. Researchers point to a number of benefits. I invite you to check off those features and benefits of adult learning that may apply to (and motivate) you:
- With life-spans increasing and work options changing, adult learning is a way to prepare for new and diverse career choices, sometimes called one’s “second act”
- Life-long learning helps keep your brain working and is beneficial for memory, attention span, language fluidity and problem solving
- Adult learning is highly social, and there is evidence that people with strong social connections tend to be happier and live longer
Research printed in The Adult Jewish Education Handbook (Goodman and Katz) discusses the compelling benefits of adult Jewish learning:
“Learning is a way of strengthening one’s Jewish identity and connection to our tradition. Additionally, since much of Jewish learning is done with others, it augments community building. Through studying together, people get to know one another in a personal, often deep and meaningful way. These study experiences can lead to friendships as well as the formation of havurot (fellowship groups) that gather for celebrations, holiday observances, and the doing of righteous deeds.”
They go on to explain another important point of motivation that is critical for the complex world we live in, and the transitional stages adults experience:
“When Jewish adults have disruptive or ‘disorienting’ experiences that challenge previously held worldviews, they sometimes wonder if Judaism can help them to ‘understand’ their situation in new ways. When these adults embark on new meaning-making, new learning can transform their view of themselves as Jews…As Jewish adults mature and grapple with pressing questions and ambiguities, they discover paradoxes in their thinking about Judaism and their lives as Jews…and find it beneficial to engage in learning and discourse with other learners…”
In order to address the above stated individual development and community building benefits, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington has set adult Jewish learning as a strategic priority. By investing in adult Jewish education, Federation aims to be the catalyst for creating a culture of learning in Greater Washington that reaches individuals and families with content that is timely, relevant and applicable to the lives of its participants. Together with collaborative partners working in this field, we hope to cultivate a new cadre of committed, engaged lay and professional leaders with whom we will co-create a diverse, pluralistic and dedicated Jewish community.
So, are you curious? Are you wondering how to reboot your own learning?
- Learning for adults involves a wide variety of activities and venues, including classes, reading books and magazines alone or in a book club, attending Jewish drama/art/music presentations especially with “talk-back” sessions and guided field trips to Jewish museums and historical sites. Make sure you register for updates from Federation’s Jconnect to keep up with all that’s happening across our community.
- Stoke your curiosity and personal literacy by reading books from one of many suggested lists, including:
- The Internet as Jewish Classroom: There are literally thousands of websites, blogs and online platforms for adult Jewish learning available. MyJewishLearning is the leading trans-denominational website of Jewish information and education. Offering articles and resources on all aspects of Judaism and Jewish life, the site is geared toward adults of all ages and backgrounds, from the casual to non-Jews searching for a better understanding of Jewish culture, to experienced learners wishing to delve deeper into specific topic areas.
- Podcasts: Through the wonderful world of technology, ten-minute Torah talks or juicy bits of Judaism can come to your inbox or phone weekly – or even daily. Podcasts give us the opportunity to listen to topics we want to hear when we want to hear them. It’s the ultimate do-it-yourself Jewish learning experience. Browse this list from Moment Magazine.
The great sage Hillel was able to consolidate the message of Judaism “on one foot.” But there is so much more, and even he asked, “If not now, when?”
You can email [email protected] with questions or for suggestions. Hope to see you around the Jewish learning beltway!