Kudos to The Jewish Standard for an informative and very timely reportage regarding Limmud Jan. 21 and its creative and innovative efforts to promote intellectually engaging and spiritually uplifting adult education. It is lamentable that because of Limmud’s locations and the fact that it occurs only once a year, a vast number of potential and eager participants are unable to partake in these valuable undertakings. Despite these reservations and a number of ancillary logistic obstacles, it is heartening to see that the Limmud initiatives are a phenomenal success both here and abroad, especially in light of a critical fundamental problem concerning serious engagement in meaningful, intellectually invigorating, and spiritually revitalizing Jewish adult education.
Although a vast array of adult education courses are being offered by almost every synagogue or religious institution, be it in the form of series of courses by scholars in residence or individual lectures, a real systemic problem exists in the nature and the framework of these lectures – namely, the self-imposed ghettoization and inward-looking character of the courses’ content and context, due to the fact that those in charge of adult education, spanning the full gamut of denominational constituencies, invariably select the speakers from a predetermined virtual list of acceptable, ideologically, and religiously like-minded candidates. The fear of exposing their constituents to “dangerous” ideas that might, heaven forbid, expand the scope of thinking and challenge certain tenets of preconceived conventional wisdom renders these lectures predictable, tedious, and often mind-numbing. Indeed, it is this fear, which dulls the mind and dims the vision, that is one of the principal reasons for the troubling lack of participation in the currently available adult education courses.
Consequently, in order to attract the large number of mature, intelligent, and hungry minds seeking to become seriously engaged in thought-provoking learning and meaningful introspection, it is imperative that new creative and viable opportunities for adult education be explored and additional resourceful and innovative avenues be established.