Assorted Jewish education

The verdict on my biblical-Hebrew class remains murky. We had the sub this week and last (regular instructor was attending to a family situation overseas). The sub is doing a good job with a challenging situation. This week we had four students (last week it was three). This week the student who doesn't do homework was there and things slowed down again. :-( So we'll see what the regular instructor does once she's back and has conferred with the sub. (The aforementioned student complains about everything. This week she and I walked into the building together and she proceeded to tell me how this class isn't working for anyone and she doesn't know why she's wasting her time. I said something to the effect that she could probably get a partial refund if she acted soon, but I think it whooshed right over her. So, err, if she doesn't even think she's getting anything out of it, why exactly does she continue to burden the rest of us?)

Meanwhile, a fellow congregant suggested that I check out the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, a Christian seminary that does in fact (1) teach Hebrew classes and (2) permit students not seeking ordination. (If you're not seeking ordination, it appears that they do not care what your religion is.) Most of their classes are during the business day, of course, but they offer limited evening classes. That's the good news. The bad news is that in the evening slot, they alternate years among Hebrew, Greek, and something else -- so I could take evening Hebrew classes from them starting in the fall of 2010. I hope to have the problem solved before then. But there's ambiguious news too: while I was talking with the dean I asked "so, what time are those daytime classes, and is it fixed for the entire year?". She said they find that their language classes work best first thing in the morning, which is 9:00. It's possible that I could get my employer to agree to that (it would mean likely arriving around 10:45-11:00 three days a week). This requires thought.


A couple months ago I heard about a nifty-sounding online class on talmud taught by the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem. Online, but they want you to sign up with a chevruta (study partner). I set out to find one who would be compatable -- local, interested, and of comparable skill -- only to find out, when we went to sign up, that the class was full. :-( I guess even online classes have limits -- that makes sense given that there is a forum/discussion-list component. (The class is asynchronous, so it's not about having limited bandwidth for video conferences or the like.) With luck I am now on their mailing list and will hear about future classes in time.


Meanwhile, there's been a discussion on one of the Reform mailing lists about adult education for people who want something serious but can't enroll in full-time programs. The basic options there, as you might expect, are to take classes at local colleges if you've got 'em or to go somewhere for an intensive program. (Synagogues, at least in my experience, are not very successful with holding classes for advanced students, though there's someone in my congregation now who seems primed to pursue this and I'm trying to get involved.) For several years now I've been quite happy to plunk down a week or so of vacation time in pursuit of intensive study, so it's time once again to think about the options. (I think I find it easier to immerse myself for a week than to sandwich a few hours a week around work, family, etc.)

Last year I went to the Open Beit Midrash at Hebrew College, which I will do again but not every year. The learning was top-notch as far as it went. It had about 6-7 classroom hours a day; if I'm going to commit a week of vacation time, I want more of my day to be filled with learning. By comparison, when I did the Sh'liach K'hilah program, days were about 14-15 hours long (that included meals, which were working meals mostly), and I loved it.

Several people have recommended URJ Adult Learning Retreat (previously "Kallah"), which I am paying attention to. So far they have only announced a topic ("Israel at 60"), so I'm waiting to see a curriculum. (If it's mostly Zionism, I'm not so interested; if it's more text-based, that's better.)

The World Union for Progressive Judaism does a program in Israel that's been recommended. It's too late for this year, but I assume it recurs. This sounds like a mix of learning and tourism, proportions unclear (so posssibly points against for that; I'll enquire). If I can do something that doesn't cost me a day of travel in each direction (remember that vacation time), that'd be better. And, well, there's the air fare to consider.

Despite what I just said about travel, the summer program run by the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem is worth paying attention to. It's three weeks, which is rough on the cat-sitter, the spouse, and the PTO budget, but it sounds really promising. (I might have to defer to 2009.) I want to find out more about this.

Drisha has a summer program, but it's a month long and I just don't see that happening in the next couple years.

What else is out there that I might like?


Apparently either my associate rabbi mis-spoke or I mis-understood. He was not proposing that he and I study in chevruta on a long-term basis; he's too busy for that right now. He was proposing this as a stopgap until my rabbi, who's had to spend time recently on other issues, is again available. I had two appointments with the associate that had to get cancelled (this week and last) and I have an appointment with my rabbi this coming week, so unless my rabbi tells me at that meeting that we need to scale way back, it looks like the idea of supplementing my one-on-one-with-a-rabbi study wasn't viable. Bummer; I would have enjoyed learning with the associate rabbi (but not enough to give up study with my rabbi :-) ).

I've thought about the idea that hey, I had a chevruta lined up for that talmud class that fizzled, and we could do something. I don't want to lose that thought, but I think the two of us need some guidance and structure first (which the online class would have provided).


Well, that was awfully rambly...