Adult Education: A New Frontier in the Jewish Day School Movement?

Mar. 03, 2017

Source: The Lehrhaus


An intriguing development is unfolding on the Jewish day school scene. In recent years, numerous Modern Orthodox schools have entered the field of adult education.

In addition to the six Torah MiTzion Kollels that are housed on North American day school campuses, many schools now offer learning opportunities to their parent bodies and the wider community. For instance, The Frisch School features an adult education tab on its website, replete with past shiur recordings and upcoming parent learning opportunities. In addition to its annual Aseret Y’mei Teshuva Yom Iyun and “Day of Big Ideas,” Maayanot Yeshiva High School offers adult education classes on subjects as varied as Ulpan, Judaism and Social Action, Torah and psychology, Parshat Ha-shavua, Navi, Perspectives on the Akeidah, and Repentance. Torah Academy of Bergen County runs an annual Shavuot afternoon of learning, housed in local shuls, open to the community. Fuchs Mizrachi’s website lists a “Head of School Book Club.” SAR offers a full complement of daytime shiurim and an evening reading discussion group.

A number of schools have hired a Rosh Beit Midrash, who teaches a steady flow of community shiurim. A few years ago, Shalhevet High School founded the Shalhevet Institute, which, according to the school website, aims to add "an important layer to the Los Angeles Jewish educational landscape that helps further promote higher Jewish learning in our community." To commemorate its centennial, Yeshiva University High School for Boys is offering a year-long lecture series, day of learning headlined by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

My own institution Kohelet Yeshiva is another excellent case in point. Our Beit Midrash was built with an eye toward educating not only our students but also our families and the wider community. In the words of the school mission statement, the Beit Midrash models "the centrality of a vibrant makom Torah and the pursuit of lifelong limud ha-Torah for all members of the Jewish community."

Other schools are considering moving in similar directions. I have recently fielded queries from educators and school presidents across the country who are thinking about adding substantial community education elements to their programs, and would love to learn more about what we're doing in Philadelphia. The trickle is beginning to resemble a steady stream.

Why Adult Education?

Day Schools are confronted with a particularly daunting mission. In addition to providing a rigorous dual education, they work indefatigably to inspire students religiously. At times, this mission feels Sisyphean. Our children are saturated in modern culture. Too often, turning their attention toward a Torah lifestyle is a terrifyingly daunting task. Even when our efforts appear to meet with success, students often regress to the mean. Moreover, despite their remarkable commitment to day school education, not all parents are positioned to inspire religious growth in their children. Indeed, any honest educator will confirm that this is one of the greatest challenges confronting Modern Orthodoxy. It follows, then, that to best inspire our students, we must inspire our families and communities. To thrive religiously, our children must inhabit spiritually nurturing ecosystems. In a word, schools have begun to invest in community education because it is critical to the success of their mission of educating children.

Read the entire article at The Lehrhaus.

Updated: Mar. 29, 2017