Jewish Academy, Interfaith Dialogue Part of Potpourri of Classes

Last year, the Adult Education Task Force, made up of 30 volunteers, educators, and clergy from every synagogue and Jewish organization in Orange County, came up with an idea for advanced adult learners who wanted to go beyond taking a course here and there. An eclectic sub-committee made up of a Reform educator, a Chabad rabbi, and three adult learners, developed an outline of the “Academy without Walls,” a coordinated education program that includes offerings from the Bureau of Jewish Education, Community Scholars Program, synagogues, colleges, and online programs.

Headed by Rabbi Michael Mayersohn, the Jewish Academy of Growth and Learning is sponsored by the Bureau of Jewish Education and the Community Scholars Program and funded primarily by the Jewish Community Federation. The certification curriculum is structured over (at least) three years, allowing students to customize their certification by choosing a variety of learning formats. Rabbi Mayersohn will work with students in a one-on-one fashion to customize a program or help someone to obtain a Master’s degree in Jewish studies.

The newest initiative of the academy is an online lecture series, in which Orange County rabbis will provide talks and lectures via streaming video and give participants a chance to ask questions, Rabbi Mayersohn said. For the most up-to-date information, sign up on the Academy update list, or visit www.jewishacademyOC.org.

Rabbi Mayersohn also directs the Alliance for Christian and Jewish Studies (www.renewingstrength.com), which evolved, because as he explained, “There used to be a lot of interfaith dialogue between clergy and leaders. Now we’re getting lay people studying each other’s traditions.”

“There’s a surprising level of interest and enthusiasm among Christians about ancient and contemporary Judaism, to understand our beliefs about God, salvation, and the Messiah,” he added. “Similarly, Jews want to know about Christianity.”

Twenty-five high school students in the T.A.L.I.T. program are taking a class about Christianity. The Bureau of Jewish Education also offered a four-session adult program taught by Rabbi Mayersohn. “Jews Learning About Christianity,” gave participants a chance to explore what Jews should know about Christianity, what we have in common, and what separates us. “The classes give Jews a chance to learn about Christianity from original texts, rather than hearing about it from evangelicals and the media,” Rabbi Mayersohn explained.

This month and next, Rabbi Mayersohn will teach another class, “Marrying Our Faiths,” along with Dr. Joan Kaye, Director of the Bureau of Jewish Education. The six-session class will meet on Monday evenings, 7:30 to 9 p.m., April 4, 11, and 18, and May 2, 9, and 16 at the Samueli Jewish Campus in Irvine.

“When Jews and Christians marry, two different faiths and cultures meet in one home,” Rabbi Mayersohn said. “The discussions will help couples to understand the faith of their partner in an accepting and non-judgmental atmosphere. Typically, one or both people in an intermarriage care about their religious identity but cannot answer the questions of their partner.”

The fee for “Marrying Our Faiths” is $95 in advance, $115 on April 4 and couples can come for a sneak preview on April 4 for $15. Registration for either class can be sent in advance to the BJE, One Federation Way, Ste 205, Irvine, CA 92603. For more information call 714-336-0904 or contact Rabbi Mayersohn at redsrav@aol.com.

“We’re taking the next steps in creating a community that has a serious and high-quality adult education program to go along with a top-notch youth education program,” Rabbi Mayersohn summarized.
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