Posted on October 23rd, 2012
Shaping Jewish identity, building community, and studying the spiritual and intellectual richness of Jewish tradition can be enlightening and dynamic communal learning experiences. But for this type of learning to be effective and engaging, innovative and skilled teachers are needed to guide the process.
Through its pluralistic network of self-organized Torah study groups, Kevah already empowers individuals to take ownership of their Jewish and spiritual lives by creating their own micro-communities. Kevah study groups, such as “Peninsula Russian young adults” and “Oakland hipsters,” meet monthly to examine relevant Jewish themes. Now, with its new Teaching Fellowship, Kevah is also helping to create tomorrow’s innovative Jewish educators. Kevah’s Director and Founder Sara Heitler Bamberger, a 2012 recipient of the Joshua Venture Group’s Dual Investment Program, developed the organization in order to more deeply engage a critical age group perfectly suited for Kevah’s approach to learning – young Jewish adults.
Along with Kevah, the Jim Joseph Foundation recognizes the potential of a “network-based” approach connecting learners to talented teachers. These “do-it-yourself” study groups – in which participants choose their fellow learners, the Jewish subject matter, and their teachers – are especially appealing to today’s young adults accustomed to numerous options in almost all facets of daily life.
A year long program featuring mentorship, workshops and retreats, personalized guidance in curriculum development, and regular communication between the Fellows, the Fellowship will enable dynamic young adults to become tomorrow’s creative and effective Jewish educators. This helps fill the vital need to connect young Jewish adults, eager to study and grow spiritually, with educators to guide this experience.
The 2012 - 2013 cohort of 25 Fellows represent a variety of Jewish backgrounds. Many are graduates of learning programs that provide immersive opportunities to study Jewish texts, such as Pardes Institute and Mechon Hadar. Eleven Fellows already have been matched with and will teach new young adult Kevah groups in Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. As the Fellowship continues, other Fellows will be paired with study groups from young adult communities such as Moishe House, Hillel, and Birthright NEXT.
“I've been teaching informally and without guidance and I've really struggled to feel those classes were successful,” says Kadin Henningsen, a current Fellow. “Kevah has given me a very clear framework around how to both build and facilitate a class. The Fellowship could end here and I would leave feeling a sense of more confidence and preparedness. I'm thankful that I will continue to have an opportunity to learn additional skills over the next year.”
Hundreds of young adult learners are expected to be engaged during the grant period, and the Fellowship’s long-term effect on Jewish education has the potential to be profound. These young adults, the future of Jewish learning, should have the skills to infuse big ideas and meaningful discussion into the heart of the Jewish experience. As the Fellowship continues, and as it continues to evidence success, Kevah moves closer to its goal of catalyzing, facilitating, and supporting pluralistic study of traditional Jewish texts on a national level.
The Jim Joseph Foundation awarded a $250,000 grant to develop and launch the Kevah Teaching Fellowship in March 2012.