So already, I am about to sign up for an adult learning program that's being co-sponsored by Hebrew College and the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston. The program, called Me'ah, takes its name from the Hebrew word מֵאָה, which means one hundred, and it begins next fall. As the Hebrew College web site explains,
"Participants are immersed in reading core Jewish texts, grappling with concepts representing cultural and political movements from four historical periods — biblical, rabbinic, medieval and modern.The application invites applicants to submit an optional essay about their educations, Jewish and secular, and also about their reasons for wanting to enroll in the program. So what follows is the optional essay I wrote this morning.
"Me'ah courses comprise 100 hours of class time over two years. During this time, you will have the chance to contemplate new and broad-minded ideas and acquire a scaffold upon which you can later build."*
Last week, a friend told me about the Me’ah program being offered at Harvard Hillel, and immediately I decided to sign up. I feel deeply Jewish, often seek to understand more about Judaism, and regularly struggle to strengthen my connection to G-d—and I do believe in G-d. I believe that Me'ah will provide me not only with a place and a time for study, but a community with whom to wonder and learn, and with whom to stay the course. Despite my yearnings for greater connection to G-d, I am not someone who goes to Shabbat services, and I don’t fully understand why I don’t. I also don’t understand why I did not simply write, “I do not go to Shabbat services.” Who is that “someone” to whom I’m feeling the need to refer?
Though my sisters and I are all married to non-Jewish men to whom religion is unimportant—I’d describe my husband as culturally Christian, profoundly spiritual, and completely supportive of all the ways I choose to embrace and explore my Jewishness--we come from a strongly Jewish family whose members practice Judaism differently but committedly. My nephew, a citizen of both Israel and the USA, is pursuing rabbinic studies; several of my first cousins are very observant Orthodox Jews; other relatives, particularly on my father’s side of the family, have long been active in various Reform and Conservative synagogues and Jewish causes. As differently as our Judaism plays out day to day, many of us light candles on Friday night, although many of us do not understand the Hebrew that we can read and chant.
My Jewish/religious education began at Temple Emeth’s Hebrew School in South Brookline, and continued formally through my early adolescent years at Temple Beth Shalom in Needham. I was not bat mitzvahed—although years later I participated in an adult Jewish education program at an area synagogue that led to a shared bar/bat mitzvah-like experience for the group of us. Later on, I attended Jewish adult learning summer institutes at Brandeis (I believe they were URJ**-sponsored) for several summers. For a number of years, I was a member of Temple Ohabei Shalom (where I did sometimes attend Shabbat services) and took advantage of some adult learning opportunities there.
At the same time, I was teaching “The Bible as/in Literature” and “Religion and Literature” at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, so I kept learning about the Bible, about religion and the challenge of teaching about religion in public schools, about different religions.
|From my cousin's Facebook page|
This is all to say that I’ve been learning and stopping learning, learning and stopping learning for a long time. It’s time to learn again, to try again.
which I turn to again and again, has reassured me about my Jewishness and, even more importantly, about the possibility of developing a meaningful relationship with G-d. So I send you a link to one of my posts, “The King is in the Color Field,” that’s about the possibility of that new relationship, which I hope I will move closer to by participating in the Me’ah program: <http://soalready.blogspot.com/2014/09/the-king-is-in-color-field.html>.
* Me'ah Adult Learning Program. Me'ah | Www.hebrewcollege.edu. Web. 14 Apr. 2015. <http://www.hebrewcollege.edu/meah>.
** Union for Reform Judaism
** Union for Reform Judaism