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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.

An impressive list of presenters includes:

October 29, 2015
Stephen Brookfiield
University of St. Thomas
Creating Communities of Professionals

November 19, 2015
Kirsty Montgomery
Osher Lifelong Learning Institute
Community Program Development

December 17, 2015
David Shyovitz
Northwestern University
Jewish Text Study: Between Transmission and Transformation

January 28, 2016
Dr. Hal Lewis
Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership
Lay Professional Relations

March 31, 2016
Jenna Weissman Joselit
George Washington University
Jewish Arts and Culture

April 14, 2016
Catherine Marienau
DePaul University
Adult Learning Theory

May 26, 2016
Rachel Fish
Brandeis University
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.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ali Drumm

Ali Drumm