School’s out for the summer, and I know that some of you, dear students and teachers, are grateful for the pause. Believe me: I feel you. And so I want to warn you that this column is all about learning, especially learning for fun, a concept that may be a challenge for you to even consider. So I won’t be offended if you skip this month’s edition of Dispatches from the Diaspora.
For those continuing to read, I want to start a conversation about what I call DIY Judaism. How can we support each other in learning about our tradition so that we can make choices about our practice, rather than take Jewishness for granted?
I know I’m not the only one out there who likes to study and learn. Some might even call this a Jewish value, or at least a value associated with nerds and graduate students. However, despite my PhD, I don’t love to sit in a classroom. I am partly a kinetic learner and I appreciate learning by doing, as well as participating in experiential learning processes. This self-awareness, in concert with my interest in Jewish learning, leads me to wonder whether we have Jewish learning opportunities in our community, for adults, that are based in doing and in action. I am interested in finding or creating non-judgemental opportunities that empower people with skills and knowledge so that they can choose to practice their Judaism in a way that feels best for them.
Kashering dishes/Making blessings on different categories of food and drink/Putting up and taking down a mezuzah
Our community offers many diverse recreational adult and children’s courses and programming on Jewish subjects, including the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning, various introduction to Judaism courses offered by our religious leaders, JET’s many programs and classes, etc. But, what about classes which deal with the practical ins and outs of practicing our Judaism? I want to connect with other curious people who want to learn about Jewish activities without the pressure of converting or becoming more frum. And without the pressure of being told that some of these activities are obligations reserved for men.
Blowing the shofar/Tying tzizit/Making your own tallit/Counting the Omer
Do you already belong to a congregation or youth group that learns how to do these activities? Does your chavurah take them on? If you aren’t taking a conversion class, or if the family you grew up in wasn’t religious, or if you don’t belong to a congregation, or you don’t have a rabbi to talk to, how do we learn to do things so that we can choose whether or not we want to make them a part of our personal Jewish practice?
Cleaning a house for Passover/Shopping for Passover according to different levels of observance, some based on culture/Blessings for finding the symbolic chametz and blessings for burning the chametz
Baking challah/Lighting and blessing Shabbat candles/Saying the various Shabbat blessings including Kiddush and blessings for children/Making Havdallah to close Shabbat
In Chicago, SVARA – www.svara.org – is a “traditionally radical yeshiva” that is “dedicated to the serious study of Talmud and committed to the Queer experience.” Could we build a learning community in Ottawa that is egalitarian, experiential, feminist, and dedicated to sharing Jewish knowledge to adults from all walks of life? Could it be ambulatory, democratic, empowering, progressive, and based on learning by doing?
Creating your own blessings according to the blessing structure/Living and engaging our commitment to social justice/Doing tikkun olam – truly doing the work of repairing the world
I want us to have access to our rich and beautiful traditions, no matter what we grew up with. I want us to know as much as we can so that we can engage responsibly with our past in order to live respectfully in the present. I want us to love our Judaism and be invested in it as full participants. I’m still working on a catchy name for this initiative, and I am open to your suggestions and ideas about how to support progressive Jewish learning and enthusiastic Jewish curiosity. For now: class dismissed.