Lisa D. Grant, Associate Professor of Jewish Education at HUC-JIR/New York, and Diane Tickton Schuster, Director of the Institute for Teaching Jewish Adults (ITJA) at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, have been awarded a research grant of $140,000 by the UJA-Federation of New York's Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal (CoJIR). The funding will support a four-phase study of the impact of JLearn, a long-term, broad-based adult Jewish learning initiative that reaches across the Long Island (NY) Jewish community. This study will be the first longitudinal study of Jewish adults, providing insights to how Jewish lives and Jewish learning intersect over time.
Beginning in June 2005, as co-principal investigators, Grant and Schuster will develop a record of the experiences of JLearn participants, ultimately constructing a complex and nuanced portrait of the longer-term effects of adult Jewish learning on individual learners and their communities. Using multiple data collection approaches (communal analyses, learner surveys, interviews, focus groups, and classroom observations), they will document ways that the overall Jewish community is transformed by the growth and change of JLearn participants. The study will provide a basis for systematic comparison between those Long Island communities where JLearn programming is active and those where it is not. The findings will help UJA-Federation of New York to make informed decisions about future allocation of resources and the further development of adult Jewish learning programs.
The JLearn inquiry is unprecedented in the Jewish community, where, to date, research has provided only "snapshots" of Jewish adult life at one point in time. Establishing a base for longitudinal follow-up will enable future scholars to measure the impact of adult Jewish learning across time, across generations, and across communities. In granting this research award, CoJIR noted that this study will have policy implications for the American Jewish community reaching far beyond the regional focus of the JLearn initiative.
This research builds on Grant and Schuster's earlier study of the impact of learning on students at the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School, a two-year Jewish literacy program (A Journey of Heart and Mind: Transformative Jewish Learning in Adulthood, JTS Press, 2004), as well as their other work on adult b'nei mitzvah, text learners, and effective teaching practices in Jewish adult education.
This research project grows out of the New York School of Education's (NYSOE) preparation of professionals specializing in the teaching of Jewish adults. The research findings will be integrated into the NYSOE's and ITJA's programs.