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Jewish Learning Professionals Group

Jewish Learning Professionals Group

Educating Jewish Educators

Ali Drumm is Director of Informal Education at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park and a graduate of Spertus Institute's Master of Arts in Jewish Professional Studies. This is an excerpt of an article she wrote for JUF News.

For adults who wish to learn about Judaism, explore Jewish history, or enjoy a dose of Jewish culture, our local Chicago community provides plenty of possibilities. Programs can be found at synagogues and community centers, downtown cultural institutions and suburban libraries, prestigious universities and the neighborhood cineplex.

Orchestrating these programs are a cadre of dedicated educators, each developing programs geared toward the members and constituents of their individual agencies and organizations. In many cases, this is done with limited financial resources and while juggling multiple roles. There hasn't been a community-wide framework to foster cohesion and avoid redundancy, and there haven't been opportunities for those in the field to meet colleagues, cultivate meaningful partnerships, and enhance their professional skills. Until now.

Beginning last January, I was fortunate to participate in a prototype designed to forge an organized and adept community of those who plan and present Jewish programs for adults. This forerunner to what will now be known as the Chicago Adult Jewish Learning Professionals Group (CAJLP) was presented by Spertus Institute in partnership with the JCC. It was created to build a Chicago-wide community of best practice. I believe we have laid a foundation for exactly that — a future of cross-institutional collaboration leading to enhanced quality, depth, and range of programs.

Furthermore, what we are doing is unique and should serve as a model for other Jewish communities. There are very few programs — locally or nationally — that bring together program directors and educators who plan programs for adult Jewish audiences. No outlet has existed for us to develop new skills, analyze challenges, and share successes with our professional peers.

Several partnerships have already emerged and I am thrilled to report that ongoing monthly professional development sessions have begun. These are open to all area professionals working in adult Jewish learning. A multi-institutional collaborative program will be designed, implemented, and evaluated by members of this group. If you'd like to be included, contact program organizer Dr. Dean Bell, Spertus Provost and Vice President, at

I encourage my peers to participate.

The impressive list of past presenters includes:

Stephen Brookfiield
of University of St. Thomas
on Creating Communities of Professionals

Kirsty Montgomery
of Osher Lifelong Learning Institute
on Community Program Development

David Shyovitz
of Northwestern University
on Jewish Text Study: Between Transmission and Transformation

Dr. Hal M. Lewis
of Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership
on Lay Professional Relations

Jenna Weissman Joselit
of George Washington University
on Jewish Arts and Culture

Catherine Marienau
of DePaul University
on Adult Learning Theory

Rachel Fish
of Brandeis University
on Israel: Topics & Resources

Pilot project funded by the Community Foundation for Jewish Education and the Jewish United Fund. Ongoing initiative funded by the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ali Drumm

Ali Drumm