IT’S AUGUST. As the summer sun shines on local kids starting to dread their return to school, parents rejoice and look forward to a return to routine. But, as we all know, learning doesn’t begin and end with school. Learning is a lifelong endeavor. In fact, the more you know, the more you realize you have yet to learn.
Limmud (learning) is also a value that drives so much of our lives as Jews. We are, after all, “People of the Book”. And a recent study by the Pew Research Center backs up that notion, finding that Jews are the world’s most-educated religious group. Nearly all Jews have had some formal schooling – with an average of more than 13 years of formal schooling. This is four more years of schooling on average than the next-most educated group (Christians). Jews also have the highest rate of higher education – 75 percent – compared with 40 percent of Americans generally.
One way Jews participate in learning beyond formal education is through Torah study, a fundamental cornerstone of our faith. Chavruta is a traditional rabbinic approach to Talmudic study in which pairs of students analyze, discuss and debate a shared text. Chavruta is sort of the anti-Twitter. It goes way beyond 120 words and encourages one to dig deep into their spiritual understanding, to question and analyze. And it inspires people to engage with our community by underscoring that collective learning can be powerful.
Of course, whether in school or at our congregations, we don’t “just” deepen our knowledge through education. We also form our identity and beliefs and become empowered. We cultivate curiosity and creativity, and extend our thinking abilities. We become better people.
We also connect to others through learning. We build relationships with teachers and fellow students. We expose our vulnerabilities and share our perspectives and talents.
A central part of our mission at Jewish Federation & Family Services (JFFS) is strengthening Jewish community. One of the ways we accomplish this is by fueling education and learning opportunities at our Jewish day schools, community partner organizations, congregations, and elsewhere throughout Orange County. We strive to make learning programs and services more accessible and inclusive because we know it makes our community better.
Indeed, opportunities to partake in learning and growing – as a person, as a Jew, as a professional – abound in the Orange County Jewish community. I encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities. Take a class at your congregation or the JCC to warm up your brain before the High Holy Days. Challenge yourself to try something new by enrolling in an online course or at a local college. In doing so, you can enhance your life and be a living example to your children and grandchildren that learning never ends, that there is extraordinary value in life-long education.