Learners Matter Most: The Rest Is Commentary

Spring, 2017

Source: Gleanings, Volume 4, Issue 1


The Jewish world needs to realize that the world has changed considerably since most institutions of Jewish education were established. In order to have impact on the vast majority of Jews today, Jewish education must stop defaulting to literacy over values, texts over ethics, and the past over the present and future. For Jewish learning to be both meaningful and relevant it must empower Jews (and fellow travelers) to thrive—in their personal success and happiness, in being more socially connected to each other and their communities—and better equipped to make the world a better place.

This tilt toward the learner being the center of Jewish education is not an acquiescing to the egocentrism of millennials and Generation Z today. It is a fundamental acknowledgement that for Jewish education to be successful, it must be focused on making a positive difference in the lives of Jews today. This is foundationally different to Jewish education that has traditionally seen its purpose as making people more Jewish, allowing Jewish institutions to prosper, and making the Jewish community stronger.

Instead, the significant outcome that Jewish education and engagement should be tackling is that Jewish educational experiences enable people to thrive as human beings in the world today—as human beings, in their various communities, and in the world at large.

This is not the vision of Jewish education as the transmission of skills and knowledge delivered by an educator that Holtz describes. It is a new paradigm for what matters most in enduring Jewish education today. It includes the relationships we develop, the pride we inculcate, and the positive emotional connections to being Jewish that we enhance. In the language of positive psychologists, Jewish education, if it is to be valuable to people today, must empower individuals to thrive and to flourish. Jewish wisdom has the inherent capacity to inform this new paradigm for Jewish education. Whether Jewish educators, leadership, and communities are willing to accept this new reality will largely impact the future of the Jewish people.

Read the entire article at Gleanings.

Updated: May. 03, 2017