Jewish education is front and center at Shaare Torah in Gaithersburg, including a new program called “Spring Into Jewish Learning,” which the congregation’s rabbis are touting as a way to refresh Jewish knowledge and provide new ways to look at Judaism.
The program is set to start with weekly classes beginning on Feb. 25 and planned through June on a variety of topics that will shift from week to week. These classes are creating a sense of excitement in the community according to Jennifer Kramer, the programming and communication coordinator at Shaare Torah.
“It’s an adult education program that Rabbi Annie and Rabbi Yosef came up with … Our community is really looking to connect and to communicate and to learn more, not just on an upper level, but as sort of a refresher or even what we’re calling an introduction to it,” Kramer said.
The content will focus on Jewish topics that will provide an educational experience open to everyone but is more focused on the adult segment of the congregation, according to Kramer.
“It goes through all of the different things that people want to know about – the calendar, the Torah and Talmud, Shabbat and Kashrut,” Kramer said.
This program is in addition to other interesting educational opportunities that the congregation recently offered. Most notably, author and former White House speechwriter Sarah Hurwitz came and spoke to the congregants about her book, “Here All Along,” which focuses on rediscovering Judaism.
Congregants learned about Hurwitz’s Jewish journey and some of her unique perspectives on Judaism. It was a highly anticipated event according to Kramer, and it showcases that desire for Jewish learning at the synagogue.
They contacted Hurwitz through an age 55-plus Havurah group that had a connection to her, and the group has recently been working to help schedule speakers and assisting with other programming.
And the efforts from this group combined with the success of the event featuring Hurwitz led the leadership at the synagogue to consider additional avenues to pursue in the group education realm, which helped with the creation of the Spring Into Jewish Learning program.
“We’ve been thinking about doing something similar [to the Hurwitz event] for a while, but there’s been such an interest in doing more. [Learning] the hows and whys, and why we practice the way we do, and what we practice, what our belief system is,” Kramer said.
She added that the focus on education, and specifically community-based education, was something that the synagogue had seen an increased interest in since the COVID-19 pandemic and could serve as a bounce back for the community that faced such isolation during the various shutdowns when the disease was running rampant.
“It’s [the increased interest] been since COVID, and people wanting to reconnect. We have been seeing a lot of our congregation wanting to connect Jewishly since Oct. 7 [as well], unfortunately, but it’s also nice because everyone wants to be together and do more and I think that’s part of it,” Kramer said.
Kramer gave credit to the congregation’s rabbis for being able to put the program together and providing people with an even more fulfilling religious community experience.
“The rabbis put together this course, which I think people will really enjoy, and it’s a great way for people to get together and be in a community and to learn … They’re so great about putting together all of these things and they really have the pulse of the community,” Kramer said.
Kramer stressed the great excitement that she is sensing over these programs, and this excitement provides a very positive outlook on the direction of the community as they continue to recover from the pandemic and the deeply traumatic events of Oct. 7 through building unity and diving back into Jewish education.
“We are so grateful that our community is so interested in so many different things and we want to reach people where they are, and we want to make sure that we are giving them what they need and what they’re looking for. So, this is our way of doing that,” Kramer said. “These sessions, I think, are going to be helpful.”