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Jewish learning Meeting the Moment:
Focusing on Community

By Kim Bodemer

The deepest, most meaningful, and most effective form of resistance is to continue to live—and help others live—full, rich, faithful, courageous Jewish lives in vibrant Jewish communities. In this sense, it is more vital than ever that we continue to pursue our educational mission—nurturing Jewish learning, Jewish leadership, Jewish life. If we lose ourselves amidst the noise of the moment—if we lose our collective sense of identity, meaning, and purpose—we have lost everything.

— Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld, President of Hebrew College

Like so many of you, the last two and half weeks have felt like months. Watching events unfold in Israel, with loved ones in harm’s way is excruciating, and yet, as President Anisfeld urges us to do in the above quote, we have to move forward with our daily lives and focus on community, and can find some healing by deepening our Jewish learning. Sometimes that’s hard to do, and we must listen to our bodies and care for ourselves. And sometimes, the routine helps us to feel a sense of normalcy and opportunities to recognize glimmers of hope.

Adult Learning instructor, Hebrew College alumnus and extraordinary Israel educator, Dr. Jonathan Golden, has shared how he is framing conversations for the groups he’s working with in response to the October 7 attack and the ongoing war: “heart (emotional/personal), head (analytical/knowledge/understanding), and hand (doing, civic, action).” In a recent conversation with Jonathan, he shared that in the first few weeks, all the conversations have been related to heart and hand. He explained that participants need a space to share their feelings, their worries, and their stories. They need to feel like they are helping in some way. We discussed what will be needed when the community is ready for the third phase, gaining understanding of the events and the history, even as they imagine what happens next.

Hebrew College Adult Learning is engaged in this work both independently and with community partners. We co-sponsored two community forums for parents and teens, one in person and one online, that reached more than 140 participants. We will continue to work with our partners at CJP and others to offer meaningful learning opportunities for this cohort. As part of our new initiative G.R.O.W. with Hebrew College, participants across the country and the world will have the opportunity to learn with Rabbi Dr. Neal Gold about Israel on Wednesday, November 8 at noon EST (9 am PST) via Zoom, and we are working to put together a session in early December exploring the realities facing young people on college campuses.

In addition to the ways we are working to meet the needs of our learners now, we are also thinking about the needs going forward. We already have some amazing learning opportunities planned for the coming months. The courses provide normalcy, growth, connection, and hope. Whether you are interested in exploring Jewish Music, or The Surprising Story of the First Modern Jews, want to travel to Spain as part of thoughtful learning community, learn Hebrew or explore other learning options, Hebrew College has something for you.

The Adult Learning team also welcomes the opportunity to hear from you about what you want to learn. You can email your ideas to me directly or join a community gathering on Zoom to discuss ideas for courses on Thursday, November 16 at 8 pm EST. You can register for this gathering by clicking here. We strive to be responsive and really want to hear from you.

kim-bodemerKim Bodemer is Director of Adult Learning at Hebrew College in Newton, MA. Hebrew College Adult Learning programs include Me’ah, Open Circle Jewish Learning, and Hebrew College Ulpan. 

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