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 todays professional leaders, founders, 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.