JTS's Department of Community Engagement offers educational programming to the broader public beyond the community of matriculated JTS students, including a wide range of adult learning programs (courses, lectures, conferences, visiting scholars, digital learning, and curriculum development) as well as continuing education and professional development for rabbis and other Jewish professionals. The department's mission is to share the richness of JTS's resources with North American Jewry so that JTS can serve as a leading educational voice and resource for the Conservative movement and the vital religious center, both intellectually and spiritually. We do so in a way that is uniquely associated with JTS as an institution of higher education and Jewish learning-embodying our commitment to "scholarship in service to Judaism and the Jewish community" through learning experiences that are sophisticated, intellectually stimulating, accessible, text-based, academically rooted, relevant, and meaningful. Through these compelling encounters, JTS has direct value added in the Jewish lives of communities and individuals.
CORE PROGRAM AREAS:
Adult Jewish Learning at JTS
JTS offers high level, academically rooted adult learning programs with our outstanding faculty on our 3080 Broadway campus. Major offerings include:
- Context: a two-year intensive study experience covering the sweep of Jewish history and civilization and the major texts of the Biblical, Rabbinic, Medieval, and Modern periods. A new two-year cohort began in September 2014.
- Additional community learning courses on a range of topics. For example, The Jewish State: From Vision to Reality -- an 8-session course on the history of Zionism and the State of Israel -- begins in October 2014.
- Summer Learning Conferences: short, intensive learning programs for targeted audiences, including Jewish professionals. For example, the NAASE Week of Study, for executive directors of Conservative synagogues, will convene for the 25th time in June 2015.
Community-Based Learning with JTS Faculty
Transcending the walls of 3080 Broadway, JTS partners with local communities and conveners in a variety of program areas both in and beyond the Conservative movement. Major offerings include:
- Adult learning courses of varying lengths around the tri-state area feature in-depth exploration of specific topics in Jewish history, philosophy, religion, arts, and literature with JTS faculty.
- JTS Days of Learning bring our faculty to communities across North America for intensive days of study. Recent examples include the annual Wagner Institute in Chicago and days of learning in Houston, Rockville, and the Twin Cities.
- Visiting scholar programs: JTS faculty offer guest lectures, teach in weekend Shabbatonim, and participate in lecture series involving multiple scholars. One vehicle for these programs is JTS's Hereld Institute for Jewish Studies, which allows JTS to send its faculty to communities that are underserved in terms of Jewish learning.
- JTS Where You Work: short lunch-time courses taught by JTS faculty, offering Jewish learning in manageable doses that are compatible with professional schedules. Locations vary around Manhattan, hosted by JTS supporters at their places of business. This program will launch with a series on Jewish business ethics in Fall 2014.
Public Lectures and Events at JTS
JTS's public lectures and events articulate a vision of what Judaism in North America is and might become. They feature engaging personalities -- scholars, writers, community leaders -- and conversations that bring Jewish tradition into dialogue with current issues, exploring through a Jewish lens the vital topics that affect our lives. Themes include the Jewish family, prayer and spirituality, Israel, ethics and public policy, music and visual culture, interreligious issues, and Judaism in the contemporary public sphere. Speakers and events in 2014-15 include Roz Chast (author and famed New Yorker cartoonist) on the theme of caring for aging parents; Daniel Jones, editor of the Modern Love column of the New York Times, on the challenges of marriage and relationships in contemporary society; Roberta Kaplan, who argued the DOMA/Windsor case before the U.S. Supreme Court; and the Israel Chamber Project in conjunction with the Juilliard School.
JTS's Louis Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies, Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue, and other centers also sponsor frequent public lectures and programs.
Continuing Rabbinic Education
Continuing education and professional development opportunities for rabbis further JTS's mission of training excellent rabbis and leaders for the Conservative movement and the vital religious center, supporting and nurturing them beyond their years in rabbinical school. Major offerings include:
- The Rabbinic Training Institute (RTI), which will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2015, draws approximately 60 rabbis each year. This five-day off-site retreat includes text study, professional development, and personal/spiritual development with expert scholars, trainers, and facilitators from JTS and beyond.
- Live online courses that provide rabbis with ongoing Jewish learning opportunities at a high level, both for their own spiritual and intellectual benefit and also to enhance what they are able to offer their congregants and students. This program will launch with a course taught by Dr. Benjamin Sommer in November 2014.
- Webinars geared towards upcoming holidays and other timely matters. This program launched with a High Holiday sermon seminar with Rabbi Eliezer Diamond in August 2014.
Digital Learning and Engagement
Digital learning platforms allow JTS to be an accessible, high quality educational resource for Jews around North America and beyond. Our new on-campus video recording studio supports the execution of our digital learning programs. Major offerings include:
- Sound Bytes of Torah from JTS: short videos (2-5 minutes) featuring JTS teachers offering nuggets of wisdom on the texts, traditions, and themes of upcoming holidays. A total of 25 videos have been released already in 2014, prior to Passover, Shavuot, and the High Holidays. Subscribe to Torah from JTS.
- Torah From JTS: this weekly publication -- released via email and social media and also distributed by many synagogues in print -- is read by thousands of Jews across North America each week and is a powerful vehicle for bringing JTS scholarship to the broader Jewish community, elevating the level of dialogue and literacy and offering readers new meaning and relevance in ancient texts. Subscribe to Torah from JTS.
- The "Learn" Website: A companion site to the JTS website -- www.learn.jtsa.edu -- contains a trove of JTS-originated Jewish learning resources, including hundreds of parashah and holiday commentaries, videos of major lectures, podcasts of Library book talks, archival recordings of The Eternal Light radio program, Sound Bytes of Torah videos, and lessons taught by JTS faculty on video for public audiences. Every piece of content on the site is indexed, filterable, and searchable by numerous criteria (author, theme, series, parashah, holiday, etc.).
- JTS Curricula: JTS is now in the process of creating complete courses-including videos, texts, teaching guides, and companion resources online-allowing congregational rabbis and other educators the opportunity to offer high level content that they have neither the time nor the expertise to produce on their own, and giving their congregants/students a JTS learning experience through materials that are excellent in both quality and presentation. The pilot course, to be produced in 2014-15, will be on Jewish Ethics.
- Conservative Judaism Today and Tomorrow: Chancellor Eisen's new publication -- a series of essays articulating his vision for modern Judaism -- is now available as an e-book on Amazon.com, and supplementary online resources are currently in development. These materials will be used in several pilot congregations in Fall 2014 to facilitate study and discussion of what it means to live an engaged Jewish life in a Conservative context.
- Webinars and Live Online Courses as described above, for rabbis and other professional and lay audiences. Customized online courses for synagogues and other learning groups are available.
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT STAFF:
Rabbi Julia Andelman, Director of Community Engagement
Stacy Asch, Administrative Assistant
Rabbi Tim Bernard, Director of Digital Learning and Engagement
Dr. Alisa Braun, Academic Director
Lynn Feinman, Program Administrator
Tom Kagedan, Director of Public Events
Tani Schwartz-Herman, Program Director