Going back to school

Ever since leaving university aged 21 with my history degree, I have dreamed of returning to studying. If this had been merely an ambition I would have given it up some time ago. An ambition only exists for as long as it remains realistically achievable but, as I have joyously come to realise, a dream is not time-bound; it lasts forever.

So here I am, in my sixtieth year, studying an MA in Jewish Education at the London School of Jewish Studies. It is a two-year degree awarded by Middlesex University. Formal learning comprises a two-and-a-half hour tutorial every Tuesday evening during the academic term at the LSJS campus at Albert Road, Hendon.

There are fascinating books and articles to read and assignments to complete including essays, presentations and group projects. For a non-teaching professional, it has been a true voyage of discovery, signposted by the theories and practice of teaching and learning in both Jewish and wider contexts. At its heart, the MA programme addresses two eternal questions; what does our Judaism teach us about how to live and how do we pass on what we have learned to future generations of Jews, both young and old.

Why have I chosen to study at LSJS? Because of its legacy and its vision. LSJS (formerly Jews’ College) has been the leading educational institution in Anglo-Jewry for over 160 years. Browsing its library shelves and with tens of thousands of volumes, scholarly articles and precious documents, which have inspired generations of Rabbis, teachers, writers and students of all backgrounds, is an education and a privilege.

But it is the LSJS of today rather than yesteryear that prompted me to undertake this programme. It is a place that lives and breathes tradition and modernity, where men and women attend classes and study authentic Jewish texts and topics together as equals.

The MA programme is led by two of Anglo-Jewry’s most brilliant and influential educators; LSJS’s Dean of Studies Rabbi Dr Raphael “Rafi” Zarum, and Rabbi Michael Pollak who leads on secondary school curriculum development at Partnerships for Jewish Schools (PaJeS). They are supported by a top team of visiting academics. There are eight students on this year’s programme and we receive highly personalised attention from Rafi, Michael and other tutors whenever needed.

Why Jewish education? I could have chosen any number of more academically oriented degrees but the programme appealed to me on many levels, not least as a “Jew in the Pew” who wants to learn more about our vast and rich heritage, and understand better who we are, what we do and how to pass on this knowledge.

Our tutorial group comprises professional teachers and informal educators. As an executive and career coach, I am the only member of the cohort who is not involved full-time within the Jewish community and for me a significant attraction has been the opportunity to explore some of the challenges and issues being addressed daily by these talented Jewish educators.

Having not been inside a classroom for thirty-seven years, I was a little apprehensive and intimidated by the prospect of going back to college. How would I feel working alongside fellow students some of whom are less than half my age? How would I manage my assignments, in particular the discipline of writing essays within a structured timetable? Fortunately LSJS could not be further removed from the austere academic setting of my undergraduate days. Rafi, Michael and Programme Director Dr Tamra Wright have the gift of understanding how to put their students at ease and willing them to fulfil their own individual potentials.

The new academic year at LSJS starts in September. LSJS is also preparing new distance learning versions of the BA and MA degrees, to be launched (subject to validation) in January 2018. Whether you are contemplating a new or resumed career as a teacher, or you just want to study for a worthwhile and rewarding degree discovering the treasures of your Jewish heritage which are so close at hand, pop into LSJS and have a chat with Rafi or Tamra.

David Levenson, MA Jewish Education Programme 2016 – 18

For information about LSJS’s MA and BA programmes commencing in September 2017, contact: 

About the Author
David Levenson is a former CFO and a non-executive director on various company and organisational boards. David is the founder of Coaching Futures, an independent coaching and advisory practice which supports board chairs, CEOs and directors. David is a member of Belmont United Synagogue in London, and a frequent visitor to Israel. His son's family live in Modiin.
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