Sarah Levy

The Professional Jew: A New Way of Connecting to Judaism

For many people, what they do (as in their profession) defines them and consumes their waking (and often non-waking) time. They struggle to create work/life balance and are constantly connected to the office through modern technology. They often cannot fathom trying to commit to one more obligation, especially if it’s not going to help them professionally.

So, as they saying goes, “If you cannot beat them, join them.”

In Denver, we found a way to reach these busy professionals and connect them to Judaism. We have prioritized the professional development of our professionals through a Jewish lens.

We have held sessions such as “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Jewish Communal Professionals” for Jewish communal professionals which connected Stephen Covey’s seven habits to Pirkei Avot as a way of tying our Jewish tradition to the best-seller.

We have held classes for both lawyers and doctors that count as continuing education that incorporate Talmud and Jewish philosophy and were taught by people well-versed in classical Jewish texts.

We have held a series on inclusion for lay and professional leaders who are committed to making their worlds a little more accessible to everyone.

We have worked with the educators in town to hold a gathering of teachers, using a verse from the Talmud as our theme: “Much have I learned from my masters; more from my colleagues than from my masters; and from my students, more than all,” showing that we can learn from everyone (and that learning from everyone is a Jewish ideal).

In today’s world, adult Jewish education competes not with the other forms of adult Jewish education, but with every opportunity that offers a way to spend time. Yes, the Jewish program at the local synagogue is competition, and the Jewish seniors brunch might be competition. But, the Broncos game is also competition. The latest movie is competition. Time with family or friends is competition. Sleep is competition.

Viewing our programming this way forces relevance and forces us to connect with our potential students where they are, going to them instead of expecting them to come to us…and our program is stronger for it. We encourage others out there to use professional development to connect Jews to Judaism, whether it be an organization offering professional development or an individual framing opportunities in such a way as to glean specific benefit. After all, we don’t all have to be “professional Jews” to learn something about our professions from our Judaism.

About the Author
Dr. Sarah Levy holds a Master of Jewish Education and Certificate in Day School Education from Hebrew College as well as a Certificate of Advanced Jewish Studies as a graduate of the Pardes Educators Program. She has also earned a Doctorate of Education from Northeastern University with a Certificate in Jewish Leadership Studies. She has over twelve years of experience in the field of Jewish education, including experiential, supplemental and day school education. After teaching for the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, MD for the past three years, she now lives with her family in Denver, CO where she teaches for Denver Jewish Day School, coordinates a synagogue high school educational program, is the director of adult education for the Colorado Agency for Jewish Education, and develops Jewish Studies curriculum for different programs locally and virtually.