HUC-JIR announces the establishment of the Institute for Teaching Jewish Adults - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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HUC-JIR announces the establishment of the Institute for Teaching Jewish Adults

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Monday, February 3, 2003

Improved Professional Development Services for Jewish Professionals 

Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion Announces the Establishment of the Institute for Teaching Jewish Adults

"Better development opportunities for Jewish professionals, means more knowledgeable and more engaged Jewish communities." That was the message today from Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute for Religion (HUC-JIR) as it announced the establishment of the Institute for Teaching Jewish Adults (ITJA), the first of its kind in the USA. 

Directed by Dr. Diane Tickton Schuster, the ITJA will be based at HUC-JIR in Los Angeles with the goal of developing programs and resources to enhance the professional development of rabbis, cantors, educators and communal professionals. 

Some of the ideas being explored by the ITJA include:

  • Offering opportunities for rabbis, cantors, educators and communal professionals to explore how they respond to the needs of adults within their communities.
  • Developing a cadre of Jewish professionals specially trained to offer top- quality adult-centered Jewish learning programs
  • Helping Jewish professionals to become aware of the rich body of research on adult learning that can help them design programs to reach the widest range of learners.
  • Providing a laboratory to try out innovative teaching strategies, including approaches to mentoring colleagues and advanced learners.
  • Offering "learning community" experiences for professionals who themselves aspire to create such communities for others.

Speaking about the ITJA, its director, Dr. Diane Tickton Schuster said: 

"Today, more and more adults are seeking additional opportunities for Jewish learning. Many are searching for meaning, wondering what they can learn from tradition that will help them with their urgent spiritual questions. Some are hungry for substantive discourse and are looking for likeminded peers who love learning and need to learn. The wide range of learners, however, has meant that the challenge of working well with different learners can be daunting. 

"A good teacher is a lifelong learner, too. For too long, Jewish professionals have had limited access to high quality continuing professional education programs. Unlike lawyers, doctors, teachers and other professionals, Jewish professionals rarely have a chance to revitalize their work through new learning. The Institute will provide a setting in which rabbis, educators, and others who work with adults can learn not only about how adults learn best but about themselves as teachers and as learning mentors. 

"That is why we are looking at new ways of helping Jewish professionals respond to the learning needs of adults in their communities. New perspectives on teaching, program design and alternative methods of learning can all improve the adult Jewish educator's experience. 

"The ITJA and its commitment to the development of Jewish professionals come at an important time for Judaism. Concerns over Jewish literacy and the need to develop an informed leadership are becoming commonplace in our community, affecting every family and synagogue. It is increasingly important that Jewish professionals who work with adults understand the learning needs of this highly diverse constituency and the best strategies for teaching them." 

Several focus groups will be organized in February to look at learning and teaching needs and ways of addressing them. A four-week pilot program about the field of adult learning and the rabbi as adult educator is being planned for this spring. 

Dr. Diane Tickton Schuster is a member of the Visiting Faculty at HUC-JIR; she also teaches at the Institute for Informal Jewish Education at Brandeis University and in the Counseling Department at California State University at Fullerton. Her book, Jewish Lives, Jewish Learning, will be published by the UAHC press in the summer of 2003. She recently co-authored Meaning, Connection and Practice: Contemporary Issues in Adult Jewish Learning with Lisa Grant, Meredith Woocher, and Steven M. Cohen. 

In addition to her teaching and research, since 1995, Dr. Schuster has addressed audiences at numerous conferences for Jewish professionals including the Alliance for Adult Jewish Learning, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Conference on Rabbinic Education, the National Association of Temple Educators, the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the University of Judaism, and at events hosted by synagogues, Federations and bureaus of Jewish education. 

Dr. Schuster received a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan, a master's in social welfare from the University of California, Berkeley and a Ph.D. in education from Claremont Graduate University. Her previous scholarship focused on the lives of educated women, and with Kathleen Hubert she edited the book Women's Lives Through Time: Educated American Women of the Twentieth Century (Jossey-Bass, 1993). 

Dr Schuster and her husband Jack, who is Professor of Education and Public Policy at Claremont Graduate University, are longstanding lay leaders at Temple Beth Israel in Pomona, California. Their older daughter Jordana is studying at Harvard Divinity School following two years as Program Director for Yale Hillel. Their younger daughter Ariana is a sophomore at Pomona College.

Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates leaders to serve North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, museums, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding.