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Adult Education: Beyond Traditional Text Study
By ISJL Education Fellow Sierra Debrow
Leading up to my Bat Mitzvah, my mother told me that my Jewish education did not end once I finished leading the musaf (additional service). Learning about Judaism, Jewish culture, and my place within it, was a lifelong process, she told me. This, of course, is not only true for me, but for all of us. Our Jewish education should last longer than our time in religious school and we should continue to make it relevant to our adult lives. Below are some ideas on how to reinvent adult education and programming within your own community.
VAK It Up!
Traditional text studies, where participants sit at a table with a source sheet in front of them and hold a discussion, work great some learners, but not for all. Try something new with your text studies by making sure that they include something for visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners! Adding another component to your text study to make it work for learners of all styles. Create a communal art project to explore text in a visual way. Turn the discussion questions into a scavenger hunt to get participants up and moving while they analyze what the text means to them. Play a game that requires people to draw, write, and move, bringing the text alive as they do so. This way, all of your learners will stay engaged and learn something along the way!
A Congregation that Cooks Together, Learns Together.
Food, in a way, is magical. It brings people from all walks of life together, fostering a space for us all to share our own cultures and perspectives while learning about those of the people we share it with. It not only builds relationships, but it also can build gateways to learning about our own history. Recipes and food trends have changed over the course of Jewish history and can tell us a lot about the lives of Jews from various places around the world over time. Pick a time period and a place, research some recipes, and cook together as a congregation! While food is in the oven or cooling down, come together to look at the connections between what you made and the lives of Jewish people in the time and place that the recipe comes from. What a delicious way to learn together!
Make a Mid’rash (Rabbinic Explanation)
Have you ever wondered why Noah sent a dove out of the ark instead of another bird? Maybe a mid’rash (rabbinic explanation) is right for you! A mid’rash is a way for scholars and rabbis to fill in gaps in biblical stories and connect these stories to our modern lives. Many artists’ depictions of these stories that can spark interesting discussions when compared side-by-side with the texts. The Tali Education Fund has a website that shares these ‘visual mid’rash’ online for free. For a more hands-on exploration of visual mid’rash, make your own! For a guide to constructing an artistic mid’rash, check out Jo Milgrom’s Handmade Midrash: Workshop in Visual Theology.
Billy Joel once said that music is “an explosive expression of humanity.” With that in mind, why not use songs and their lyrics as the basis for a text study? Some Jewish songs, like Saul Kaye’s Jonah, attempt to reframe texts or play off of the original story. Others, like Dan Nichol’s album Beautiful and Broken: Music for Prayer, give us new ways to look at a variety of prayers. Even secular music is not out of the question! Many songs can be connected to our Jewish values, prayers, and stories. Check out this playlist of secular music through a Jewish lens for some examples!
No matter how you decide to spice up your adult education programs, the ISJL Education Department is here to help! We have supplemental spirals, such as the Southern Jewish History spiral, Text Study Supplement, and Family Education Handbook, to draw creative programming from. Your Education Fellow is also here to help create new, exciting programming that is unique to you and your community’s needs!