I know, I know, I still have to tell you how much I loved Limmud! But for a second, I have to rave about all the wonderful Jewish learning experiences I’ve had lately in Riverdale.
I love classes. What I miss most about my time on the Upper East Side was the amazing wealth of classes that were available at my local shul (shuls really as shul-hopping was common). I spent almost every Shabbat in shul all day. As soon as we were done with lunch, we’d head back for an exciting shuir (class). I think the shul on the UES was good at multi-level programming or maybe it wasn’t and it was just programming that targeted me (the newly observant) at the time.
While I can learn independently quite well, I prefer learning in a classroom with other students, especially those who ask the questions I don’t think to ask. So aside from trying more creative ways to learn (I’m about to make contact with my Partners in Torah telephone learning chavruta/partner), this week, I also caught a interesting parsha class at Kingsbridge Center of Israel, a shul down the hill from Riverdale where my good friends have recently become “the rabbi and Rebbetzin of the shul.”
My friends have such creative events because they’re just starting out and they want to attract new members. From an event where we learned about the benefits of raw food (adventures and fulfilled my quota of trying to get more vegetables in my diet!) and got to eat amazingly tasty events—I don’t care that it looked like dirt, kale mixed with apple juice just tastes awesome–to an upcoming event I featuring a Moroccan food Shabbos with half the proceeds (which I’m sure the shul needs) going to Haiti.
I wonder if some shuls have either gotten complacent in their programming or if they aren’t in touch with how to target the varied populations in some shuls. As a former teacher who struggled with “differentiated instruction” (teaching in a way that reached many different students at many different levels), I understand the issues. At the annual Women’s Health & Halacha Day at the Riverdale Jewish Center yesterday, many older women offered that this was the first year they felt there was really programming that targeted them instead of young singles and young marrieds with children or who are trying to have children. One woman was asked to be on the planning committee for next year and she said she’s definitely going to sign up.
At WH&HD, I actually went to more than one of the events targeted to older women because the baby-centered sessions really didn’t interest me or relate to my current experiences. Strangely enough, I can relate more to “empty nest syndrome” than I can to “pre-marital and prenatal testing.” In fact when I spoke up at the “empty nest syndrome” session and I was treated like a clueless child (the same happened at the osteoporosis session), I had to clarify that not only did I experience it when my sister who I had kidnapped at 14 had left the home for college, I am actually quite a bit older than I look.
I wonder if too many Orthodox shuls are doing the same old same old (which indeed has to continue because I wouldn’t want to shut out people who love what the shuls are already doing). But I think especially for the newly religious and converts without yeshiva backgrounds, this doesn’t always work. (And while I offer this criticism, I do want to say that I also understand, I have seen first-hand with friends working at shuls how hard it is to coordinate ANY kind of programming.
By the way, yes, I do know that it is quite a luxury to complain about programming when so many of my readers live in one shul towns. In Riverdale, there are at least four or five Orthodox synagogues within walking distance, not to mention Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative synagogues with really great programming, too. I know in areas where the Jewish community is not so large things are very different. Riverdale, aside from the synagogues, has more than one kosher market, a kosher fish market, more than one pizza place and two bakeries, etcetera, etcetera. I realize my husband and I might end up in a very different kind of place but I’ve also realized that I will be in a different position (unable to really criticize the programming in the same way because I’ll have to put up or shut up—create the programming I need or stop complaining). That will be an interesting change.
See tomorrow’s post for “Part 2” of this longish post…