A few weeks ago, on a dark and windy night, I left work at Hebrew College and headed to St. Mary’s church in Brookline, to attend the first meeting of a new Me’ah Select class called, “All the Land in its Diversity is One: Jews, Christians and Muslims in medieval Spain.” After navigating a few snow banks, and finding a parking space, I entered the church, which is hosting this class, through its membership in the Brookline Clergy Association.
People began arriving—classmates from the last term greeted each other, former Me’ah students who had re-convened to take a new class together saved spaces for friends—there was a festive atmosphere in the room. The instructor, Dr. Deanna Klepper, arrived and after talking about a few logistics in the class, she launched into her preliminary discussion and lecture, outlining where her course would travel for the next 12 weeks. And travel we did. For the next hour, we viewed writings and medieval manuscripts, hearid medieval chants and songs related to the subject matter, and watched pictures of current and medieval life in Spain. Deanna brought me right into the 15th century for a glorious evening of reflection and analysis.
Part of what felt so valuable was the experience of being in the room with engaged and interested adult learners; their delight in the topic was infectious. In the division of Adult Learning at Hebrew College, we currently have approximately 350 students per year who pass through the doors of a Me’ah class, either though our traditional two-year program, called Me’ah Classic, or the new series of one-term classes we have created this year, called Me’ah Select, or through our new Me’ah online class focusing on the Bible, beginning in March 2016. To be in the presence of engaged, excited adult learners, who don’t mind doing readings for their classes, who are eager to learn, and understand deep, and often complicated yet meaningful topics, is truly energizing.
On our Adult Learning team, we deeply appreciate and relish the relationships we have developed with the many communities who come together to sponsor our classes—from the JCC’s on the North Shore and churches in Brookline to our many synagogue partners throughout the Boston metro area. We work with over 22 communities to develop and support our ongoing classes. It’s a delight to see people who may or may not have known each other before, work, learn and grow together as students.
So thank you Deanna, for bringing me back to the fifteenth century for a night. Thank you to all of the instructors in our Me’ah classes, who transport our students every week into the world of Hasidism, to the mind of Maimonides, to reflect on Modern Judaism, and to read Muslim and Jewish stories. And thanks for our students, who take risks, delve deep into original texts and sources, and come away, we hope, with new knowledge, understanding, new communities, and an appreciation for lifelong Jewish learning.
Sara Riedner Brown is associate director of Me’ah at Hebrew College.