For adults who wish to learn about Judaism, explore Jewish history, or crave a dose of Jewish culture, our local Chicago community provides plenty of possibilities. Programs can be found at synagogues and community centers, downtown cultural institutions and suburban libraries, prestigious universities, and the neighborhood cineplex.
Orchestrating these programs are a cadre of dedicated educators, each developing programs geared toward the members and constituents of their individual agencies and organizations. In many cases, this is done with limited financial resources and while juggling multiple roles. There hasn't been a community-wide framework to foster cohesion and avoid redundancy, and there haven't been opportunities for those in the field to meet colleagues, cultivate meaningful partnerships, and enhance their professional skills. Until now.
Beginning last January, I was fortunate to participate in a new program designed to forge an organized and adept community of those who plan and present Jewish programs for adults.
The Certificate in Adult Jewish Learning-presented by Spertus Institute in partnership with the JCC-was created to build a Chicago-wide community of best practice. I believe we have laid a foundation for exactly that-a future of cross-institutional collaboration leading to enhanced quality, depth, and range of programs.
Furthermore, what we are doing is unique and should serve as a model for other Jewish communities. There are very few programs-locally or nationally-that bring together program directors and educators who plan programs for adult Jewish audiences. No outlet has existed for us to develop new skills, analyze challenges, and share successes with our professional peers.
We met monthly at the Mayer Kaplan JCC in Skokie for presentations both theoretic and practical.
Several partnerships have already emerged and I am thrilled to report that ongoing monthly professional development sessions will begin this fall. These will be open to all area professionals working in adult Jewish learning. A multi-institutional collaborative program will be designed, implemented, and evaluated by members of this group. If you'd like to be included, contact program organizer Dr. Dean Bell, Spertus Provost and Vice President, at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit
I encourage my peers to participate. The sessions were extremely beneficial for those with sole responsibility for this area at their organizations. For those like me, working with a team, I encourage you to attend together. Three of us from my congregation participated, giving us a shared knowledge base with which we are already elevating the work of
Including myself, graduates of the Certificate in Adult Jewish Learning include: Abby Ashkenazi of JCC Chicago, Kayla Avraham of Davar Skokie, Dr. Dean P. Bell of Spertus Institute, Leann Blue of Congregation Beth Shalom, Rolly Cohen of the Board of Jewish Education, Marci Dickman of Beth Emet, Ali Drumm of North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Vanessa Ehrlich of Lakeside Congregation, Marcie Eskin of North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Stacey Flint of Spertus Instiute, Diane Halivni of Bayit Evanston, Shalom Klein of Rogers Park Community Development and Jewish B2B Networking, Tracey Lipsig Kite of Jewish Child and Family Services, Lori Sagarin of Temple Beth Israel, Eve Samson of the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, Beth Schenker of Spertus Institute, Anita Silvert of Chai Mitzvah Foundation, Paula Spitz of the Board of Jewish Education, Merle Tovian of North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, and Ilene Uhlmann of JCC Chicago.
Ali Drumm is Director of Informal Education at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park.
Spertus Institute is a partner with the Jewish United Fund in serving our community. Find out more at spertus.edu.