Student Spotlight: Liana Wertman
Master of Educational Leadership student
Tell us about The Torah Studio, which you founded.
The Torah Studio is an accessible and inclusive learning space that encourages people to take ownership of traditional Jewish Texts. I’m hoping to bring the excitement of a beit midrash experience to a whole new generation of Jews in a new way. We run all-levels text study classes that focus on partnered learning to help our learners build a personal relationship with Torah. Our classes build Jewish critical thinking that empowers our learners to question and connect to our Texts. I believe this offers a new feeling of ownership of Torah that changes how firmly we can feel rooted in Judaism, with weekly classes to help make this into a deep personal Jewish practice.
What is most meaningful about your work?
The most meaningful and exciting thing about teaching these classes is watching people get excited about Torah. We spend about 35 minutes a week in Hevruta – partnered learning – breakout rooms where the two or three learners do a close reading of the text we’re studying that week. I often jump into these rooms to check in on groups as they learn. A lot of people are nervous or hesitant to spend that much time studying just 10-20 verses with another person. But every week, I’m thrilled to jump into a room and find a new learner who doesn’t notice I’m there for a whole minute because they’re so engrossed in the text.
What are the special aspects of serving a community of this kind?
Getting to bring Torah to adult Jews is a gift. Torah is the communal language among all Jews, our core text, which means every Jew has some idea of what might be inside the text or at least that it exists. My classes are a space for people to connect to and deepen their understanding of that text – for the first time or the 100th – and I encourage every participant to voice their ideas as equals. Empowering adult Jews to own their Judaism through the texts, watching people find their own Torah and voice is powerful.
How does this experience strengthen your career goals?
Honestly, these are my career goals. I love Torah deeply, and I’ve committed to working to build a strong and beautiful Jewish future for everyone. I think Torah is at the center of that world, but we need new voices and ideas to share in that text to create a more vibrant Jewish world to come. Torah Studio is my way of strengthening and empowering those voices.
How do your studies in the MEdL program strengthen your knowledge and skills to do your work?
I had a love of Torah, experience studying it, a lot of practice running camp and Religious School programming, and a skill for community building. To make Torah important and exciting to this generation of Jewish adults requires more than that. In my first semester alone, the MEdL has strengthened my pedagogy, has focused my attention on data driven ways to create learner centered programming, and has provided me with courses about our texts and how to teach them from some of the top experts in the field. Most importantly, this program has pushed me to grow in so many ways because they are committed to supporting my career as a Jewish educator. The classes, the mentorship, the connections they’ve helped me make, and the care they have for my work has made this the best decision I could have made in this journey.
Judaism Unbound and The Torah Studio recently held PurimLIVE, a two-hour creative, musical and revolutionary romp through the Book of Esther. Find the recording here.