Article by Rabbi Anna Gerrard, Outreach Director, Liberal Judaism

Lifelong learning is a Jewish tradition that dates back to late antiquity and has become a symbol for the Jewish people, the people of the book.  If the first line of the Shema is the core learning objective of Judaism then the first paragraph is the lesson plan.  “Teach them diligently to your children; speak of them in your home and on your way, when you lie down and when you rise up.”

We are usually quite good at the first part, teaching them to our children, but an engaged adult membership is the key to a successful community and to children that are inspired by their role models to love learning and love Judaism.

If your community does not have a full time Rabbi or has never had an adult learning programme, it can be daunting to know where to start.  Who will teach?  Who will come?  What will we learn?  But it is actually a lot easier that you might think.  All you really need is a space (a living room will do), a facilitator, and access to learning materials.

Running short courses is usually the most successful as it enables people to commit in bite-size chunks – perhaps four to six sessions per course.  These could be weekly, fortnightly or monthly, depending on the demographic and geography of your community.

If a member of your community, a local academic or another good contact is available then they could run one of these short courses on their specialist subject.  If this is not possible and you want to offer a broader programme that looks at all aspects of Liberal Judaism, then you might want to use the Access to Liberal Judaism curriculum that is available on this Resource Bank.

The Access to Liberal Judaism curriculum is designed as a comprehensive programme for those wishing to convert to Liberal Judaism and for Jewish people who feel that there are gaps in their Jewish knowledge.  It can be taught by a Rabbi/Educator, led by a facilitator or followed by a collaborative study group.

Case Studies

Gloucestershire Liberal Jewish Community

This is a community of 80 adults and 30 children with a part time Rabbi and no building.

The GLJC Learning Circle takes place on a weekday evening five times per academic term (approximately fortnightly).  It is held in a member’s home with the lounge, dining room and kitchen being used for different groups.

19:00 – 20:00       Hebrew I – basic reading skills, taught by an Israel member (4 students)

Hebrew II – prayer book fluency, facilitated by a group member (4 students)

Hebrew III – Torah translation, facilitated by a group member (3 students)

Hebrew IV – conversation & literature, taught by the Rabbi (5 students)

20:30 – 21:30       Access to Liberal Judaism, member facilitates A2LJ curriculum (6 students)

Aspects of Liberal Judaism, Rabbi teaches termly topics (8 students)

Herefordshire Jewish Community

This is a community of 35 adults and 5 children with a visiting Rabbi and no building.

The HJC Learning Circle meets on a monthly basis in the homes of two different members due to the wide geographical spread of the community.  Each group is facilitated by one of the group members and they follow the A2LJ curriculum.  Those who are studying for the purpose of conversion submit their written responses to the discussion questions to their sponsoring Rabbi.  HJC’s visiting Rabbi facilitates one or two extra Learning Circle sessions per year for both groups together.