Making Torah Relevant to ‘Next Gen’

JTS Launches New Continuing Education Initiative for Rabbis at 2012 RA Convention

This year at the Rabbinical Assembly (RA) Convention, The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) will offer a groundbreaking continuing rabbinic education track. It will be open to 40 Convention registrants on a first-come, first-served basis. The theme for the track is “Making Torah Relevant to ‘Next Gen’: You’re the App for That!”

“Next Gen” refers to Gen Xers and Millennials, generations that have rejected the notion of synagogue membership. Conservative rabbis know traditional sources, honor contemporary scholarship, and seek to make it relevant for spiritually curious generations. While Next Gen often place the quest for personal meaning ahead of synagogue affiliation, their interest in authentic, sophisticated Torah study can become a primary medium for reconnecting them to synagogue community. Rabbis will learn how to take the JTS signature approach to teaching Torah, one that bridges the gap between contemporary scholarship and the quest for personal meaning, and use it to connect with these younger generations.

The new track marks another initiative in Chancellor Arnold M. Eisen’s expanded vision of strengthening JTS’s role as a provider of premier continuing education programs for alumni and Jewish communal professionals. Over the course of the RA Convention, participants in the JTS track will study with Chancellor Eisen, one of the world’s foremost experts on American Judaism; other distinguished JTS faculty; and adjunct experts in adult learning theory and social media. Hayim Herring, who was engaged by Chancellor Eisen to help develop new JTS continuing education initiatives, will also be teaching.

Participants in the JTS convention track will study with Chancellor Eisen, one of the world’s foremost experts on American Judaism. Sessions will be led by Dr. Judith Hauptman, the E. Billi Ivry Professor of Talmud and Rabbinic Culture; Jane Shapiro (an adult education expert and lead educator for the Chancellor’s Mitzvah Initiative); Michael Rosenzweig, CEO of the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia; and Ali Veshi, CNN Anchor and Chief Business Correspondent. Mr. Rosenzweig and Mr. Velshi will be speaking about the use of social media in cultivating and engaging younger audiences, and the impact of social media on their respective fields. Rabbi Hayim Herring, PhD, will also be teaching a session based on his new book, “Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today: Creating Vibrant Centers of Jewish Life.”

Those who have basic familiarity with social media tools will benefit most from the program, as the focus will be on exploring how these tools can be leveraged to engage Next Gen with relevant, meaningful Torah.

  • Rabbis of all ages and experience with social media tools are encouraged to participate. 
  • We will not be focusing on the technical aspects of social media; rather, we will explore how these tools (and the broader cultural milieu that they are a product of) affect the learning styles of younger adults and the pedagogical approach of rabbis.
  • No matter how successful participants may be at engaging congregants, they will be challenged to grow even further by the diverse retreat faculty.  In particular, rabbis will explore adult learning theories and practices in relation to their rabbinate.
  • Finally, rabbis will have the opportunity to develop a teaching unit that brings together all of these different pieces.  For this component, they will be grouped with peers who have a similar facility with social media.

The JTS track comprises 10 hours of learning. It is scheduled to begin around 1pm on Sunday and finish at about 2pm on Wednesday. The sessions on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday overlap with breakfast and limmud. Attendance at all sessions is required in order to receive a certificate of completion from JTS. Participants will still be able to attend most plenary sessions and all evening programs.

Participants will be charged a modest $99 materials fee for the JTS track, and those who attend all sessions and successfully implement a follow-up project will receive a certificate of completion from JTS.

Space is limited. Registration is now open. The registration deadline is Friday, March 16 or as soon as all spots are filled.

For more information, please contact Rabbi Ashira Konigsburg at (212) 280-6066 or; or Rabbi Hayim Herring at (612) 859-1650 or


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