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:
Speaking about the ITJA, its director, Dr. Diane Tickton Schuster said:
- 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
- Offering "learning community" experiences for professionals who themselves aspire to create such communities for others.
"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.