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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What is a Congregation of Life-Long Learners?

A congregation of life-long learners is one whose mission and daily activities are designed to satisfy the quest for Jewish knowledge and meaning of all its members including its parents, children, singles, young marrieds, empty nesters, seniors, volunteers, pre-service and in-service teachers, mentor and expert teachers, rabbi, education director, cantor, lay leaders, and support staff. It is a congregation that studies and strives to live a Torah-centered life. A congregation of life-long learners recognizes the fact that the Jewish people have a set of challenging questions they continually confront during their entire life span. *Rabbi Jan Katzew (2007) writes: “… Jewish learning is a lifelong marathon, and we need to equip ourselves for long-term thought and practice.” Accordingly, a congregation of life-long learners is not one focused on providing its children with sufficient knowledge and skills to successfully complete the bar or bat mitzvah rite of passage.

**Jack Wertheimer (December, 2005) summarizes the changes in the direction of congregational education over the past fifty years from being focused on the Bar and Bat Mitzvah to being a congregation of life-long learners. He writes:

A few decades ago, observers of the Jewish community lamented the “pediatric Judaism” promoted by synagogues. Congregational programming tended to focus on the needs of children in the years before Bar and Bat Mitzvah. Today we think about Jewish education as an enterprise for Jews of all ages. Family education programs seek to involve parents in their children’s schooling. But even this is giving way to more sustained and robust adult education curricula. Proportionately far more parents are engaged in serious Jewish study than was the case 50 years ago. Parents also feel a greater sense of responsibility to reinforce Jewish education than was the case in the past.

* Katzew, J. (2007). Educational State of the Union. NY: Union of Reform Judaism. Retrieved January 30, 2009.

** Wertheimer, J. (2005). Linking the Silos: How to Accelerate the Momentum in Jewish Education Today. New York, New York, NY: The AVI CHAI Foundation.

On the next post we will discuss this question: What is a Jewish Community of Cooperative Learners?

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