Reinventing Adult Jewish Learning

By Betsy Dolgin Katz

Format: Hardcover



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Reinventing Adult Jewish Learning is essential reading for those who seek to set the trends for the Jewish future in America. It is a startling fact that since January 1, 2011 more than 10,000 American Baby Boomers are reaching the age of 65 each and every day; and that this will continue every day until December 31, 2030. It is also a fact that in a recent study American Jewish Baby Boomers expressed their determination to stay "active, productive, challenged, and intellectually engaged." The Jewish community confronts this radical reality now, even as Jewish Baby Boomers themselves seek to make their extended years more meaningful and discover adult Jewish learning among their most profound choices.
It is little wonder then that the past few decades have witnessed an unprecedented expansion of adult Jewish learning. Forward-looking congregations now offer high level courses for members; unprecedented numbers of Jewish adults have enrolled in national programs like the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School, Meah, Wexner Heritage, and the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute; continuing education is a priority for venues like the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, Gratz College, Boston Hebrew College, and Cleveland College; programs like Limmud attract greater attendance each year; and membership organizations have begun to target advanced Jewish education as a necessary component for their continued relevance.
These efforts"and the ideas gleaned through them"provide invaluable keys for today's professional leaders, funders, administrators, teachers, and adult students. They are the heart of Reinventing Adult Jewish Learning, as the narrative examines how the field of adult Jewish learning has recreated itself and thrived. The pioneers of this new field, drawing on the past, encountered challenges that American Jewry had never before witnessed.
Author Betsy Dolgin Katz has been at the center of this fray for much of her career and for more than two decades as North American Director of the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School. Her book describes the history, the experiences, the people involved, and the outcomes achieved.
Katz briefly reviews the history of adult Jewish education in America, examines the creation of synagogue and communal programs, and discusses special concerns like teacher development and Israel education. Through anecdotes and personal observation, she describes the evolution of the incredibly successful Adult Mini-School and similar adult learning models. She includes short vignettes contributed by twenty-four distinguished colleagues in a feature called "Other Voices" that affords glimpses into every nook and cranny of adult Jewish learning in American today.
The result is a combination of professional memoir and guidebook filled with shared vision, the results of honed skills, and the experiences of those who had the desire to learn, the willingness to grow, and the flexibility to create in order to bring adult Jewish learning to the fore. Reinventing Adult Jewish Learning provides the present generation of learners, educators, rabbis, and leaders the means to reflect on the vital importance of adult learning, the language to use in advocating for adult Jewish learning, and the paths to follow for achieving excellence. It explores prospects for future development, includes suggestions for building new models, and exposes obstacles that must be overcome in order that adult Jewish learning can provide new meaning and new vitality for the American Jewish community in the challenging decades ahead.
Advance Praise for Reinventing Adult Jewish Learning
Both a personal memoir and a guide to educational practice, Betsy Katz's Reinventing Adult Jewish Learning, is an essential volume for anyone involved with contemporary adult Jewish education. One of the legendary figures in this field, Katz brings a lifetime of experience and wisdom to this illuminating and helpful volume.
Dr. Barry W. Holtz, Dean, William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education; Theodore and Florence Baumritter Professor of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America; author of Back to the Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish Texts
Betsy Dolgin Katz takes us through a very personal journey of Jewish adult education, bringing to life the history and development of the field in North America at the same time. She helps us understand why adults come back to the classroom and the transformational powers of Jewish learning on adult development, helping us hear the voices of those whose lives have been changed in the process.
Dr. Erica Brown, Leading with Meaning; adult educator, education consultant; author of Inspired Jewish Leadership: Practical Approaches to Building Strong Communities
What is there not to like about a book highlighting the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School as a representation of adult Jewish learning in North America? Betsy and her colleagues have accurately described the ups and downs of the creative process and the wonderful qualities and quirks of working with my mother, Florence Zacks Melton, z"l. This professional memoir, however, is much more than that. In describing the past four decades of adult Jewish education, it enumerates lessons to be passed on to leaders, funders, administrators, teachers, and adult students. At the same time, it provides us with the language to use in advocating for learning that strengthens American Jewish life. As someone who works with Jewish community leadership across the country, it is on my required reading list!
Gordon Zacks, chairman of the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School Board of Directors, author of Defining Moments"Stories of Character, Courage, and Leadership
Reinventing Adult Jewish Learning is a landmark book that presents its subject within the context of American Jewish life and the theory and practice of adult education. The great achievement of Betsy Katz is her ability to weave these diverse worlds together through painstaking research, thoughtful analysis of experiences, and sensitive story telling. In this volume, she models the best principles of adult learning producing a volume that expands the mind and inspires the heart.
Dr. Barry Chazan, Professor of Education, Spertus College, co-author of Ten Days of Birthright Israel: A Journey in Young Adult Identity
There is no one better qualified than Betsy Katz, who has been at the heart of adult Jewish learning movement in North America for more than two decades, to chronicle the growth of adult Jewish education over that period and to assess its significance. In Reinventing Adult Jewish Learning, Katz has given us both a personal narrative and an insightful history of the re-invigoration of adult Jewish learning in the last decades of the 20th century, responding to and helping to shape American Jews' growing desire to better understand and find greater meaning in their heritage. From her unique vantage point as the longtime North American Director of the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School she describes the features, evolution, and impact of that seminal program, and also sets it into the context of other developments that created a rich landscape of adult learning options. Katz deftly combines thoughtful analysis with personal recollections"her own and those of other key players in the story"to give a lively and human face to one of the major new and defining thrusts in American Jewish life over the past quarter century.
Dr. Jonathan S. Woocher, Chief Ideas Officer, Director, Lippman Kanfer Institute, JESNA