Suburban Temple-Kol Ami in Beachwood will launch its new educational program that emphasizes unique classes that are open to both child and adult members on Sept. 10.
The program, “Our Tent: Innovative Jewish Learning for Everyone,” will offer new classes in trimesters throughout the year and is the result of almost three years of research into best educational practices for the temple, said Rabbi Shoshana Nyer, director of lifelong learning.
“The congregation just felt like it was time to say, ‘What are we doing and what could we be doing it better?” Nyer said.
Nyer said the temple initially decided to re-evaluate its educational programming because it hadn’t refined its vision since it was created in 2005 and wanted to ensure it was still serving the synagogue community. The Reform congregation began research by reading scholarly articles on best practices, surveying congregants – for which they had a 33 percent response rate – and conducting focus groups.
“It showed Jewish education was really important to them,” Nyer said of the high-response rate to the survey, which was written in part by the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland.
According to Nyer, the research suggested temple members were interested in having more options for classes, especially for adults since they have a high-rate of baby boomer membership. They also wanted opportunities for learning across generations. Previously, the temple offered a traditional religious school for children and separate classes for adults, all held on Sunday mornings.
“When you are choosing what you are learning, the chances of incorporating that learning and that sticking is greater,” Nyer said, which was key to forming the program.
As a result “Our Tent’s” first trimester will begin from 9 a.m. to noon Sept. 10 and will continue Sunday mornings through Oct. 29 (no classes Oct. 1). Mornings will start with “The Café” – a casual 20-minute gathering before classes begin (youth will have a separate morning hangout time called “The Lounge”). Then, two 55-minute learning sessions will be offered at 9:25 and 11:05 a.m., with religious services in between. During each of the two learning sessions, there are between two and four class choices for each age range to attend, Nyer said.
Rabbi Allison B. Vann, president Kim Rosner and lifelong learning committee co-chair Ori Akrish also all said in an email they were proud of and excited about the program.
Vann said, “I am proud of the congregation’s understanding of 21st-century learning and of their willingness to create and be part of a program that offers real Jewish learning in experiential and fun ways.”
The temple also recently received a new innovation grant from JECC, which was supportive of the new program.
Nyer said some particularly unique classes offered include “The Jewish Values of Bob Dylan,” “Jewish Yoga” and “Lego My Holidays” – a class offered around Jewish holidays where students create related scenes out of Legos.
While there are some classes geared toward children and others for adults, Nyer said the largely integrated learning model already seems popular – most first trimester learning sessions already have about 30 people registered.
Suburban Temple members may register for classes at bit.ly/2wMOpNM. Classes are free to attend for adult members and they can choose any combination of open classes, however there is a fee for students at religious school ages.
“We were always given the permission to dream big – not only to think outside box, but to say the box doesn’t even exist,” Nyer said.