Podcast: Erica Brown on Educating Jewish Adults

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Chapter 1: The Craft of Pedagogy

Chapter 2: Unsettling Education

Chapter 3: Institutional Failure and Asking the Wrong Questions

Chapter 4: Chabad, Shabbat, and the Bible

The twenty second Mishnah of the fifth chapter of Pirkei Avot is one of the most celebrated rabbinic descriptions of the depth of the Torah tradition. “Ben Bag-Bag said: Turn it, and turn it over again, for everything is in it.” The texts of the Jewish tradition sustain endless new layers of meaning; so many, in fact, that the wisdom of the Torah can be plumbed for a lifetime.

And while Jewish educators think a lot about how to educate the young, less attention is paid to how Jewish education should continue into the fullness of adulthood. This is a weighty question; not least because Jewish parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents are the most direct and perhaps most influential teachers of Jewish children, who will be influenced at least as much by their home environment, and what happens around their Shabbat table, as they are by what happens in the classroom of the school. So who’s thinking about educating these educators, the mothers and fathers of the next Jewish generation?

In this podcast, Tikvah Senior Director Jonathan Silver is joined by Dr. Erica Brown, one of the most prominent teachers of Jewish text in the United States and someone who has carved out a niche in adult education.

In 2010, New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote an op-ed about Erica’s teaching and writing. He wrote that, “Brown’s impact stems from her ability to undermine the egos of the successful at the same time that she lovingly helps them build better lives.…Most educational institutions emphasize individual advancement. Brown nurtures the community and the group.” In this conversation, Dr. Brown elucidates how she thinks about Jewish education, the health of Jewish institutions in the United States, and her calling as a teacher and builder of communities of Jewish learning.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Baruch Habah,” performed by the choir of Congregation Shearith Israel.

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