Lifelong Jewish Learning


"Rabbi Tarfon and the elders were once reclining in the upper story of Nithza's house in Lydda, when this question was raised before them: Is study greater, or practice? Rabbi Tarfon answered saying: Practice is greater. Rabbi Akiva answered saying: Study is greater, for it leads to practice. Then they all answered and said: Study is greater because it leads to action" (Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Kiddushin 40b).

Is study greater, or practice? Ultimately, the answer may not matter. We study for the purpose of maintaining a Jewish way of life. For this reason, lifelong Jewish learning is a mitzvah. Jewish learning leads not only to Jewish literacy but also to ritual competency and commitment to the sacred task of tikkun olam (repairing the world).

As Reform Jews, who value excellence in our secular learning, we must rededicate ourselves to obtaining that same excellence so that study of Torah becomes Torat hayim ("a life of Torah").

Just as the Jewish people have kept the Torah alive, so has the Torah kept the Jewish people alive. As Rabbi Eric Yoffie stated in his 1997 presidential address, "There is no task more urgent and no mission more compelling than the deepening of Jewish learning at all levels."

It is not enough to say talmud Torah k'neged kulam (the study of Torah is first and foremost). We must prove it by our actions.

THEREFORE, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations resolves to:

  1. Assist member congregations in evaluating and modifying their educational programs to ensure that they demonstrate the values of lifelong learning through their programs and activities;
  2. Assist our member congregations to assess and coordinate their various learning programs by:

    (A) Encouraging collaboration among planners and providers, including religious school departments, adult education providers, WRJ education providers, youth educators, brotherhood programmers, and neighboring Reform Jewish day schools; and

    (B) Integrating various formal and informal educational efforts into a broad and deep plan for Jewish education;

  3. Applaud the Commission on Adult Jewish Growth, Youth Committee and Commission on Education for convening the first Consultation on Jewish Education and for modeling the ideal for collaborative dialogue. We further encourage these commissions to work collectively to provide necessary resources and models of lifelong learning for use by UAHC congregations, in our camps and in Reform Jewish day schools;
  4. Work with HUC-JIR and other arms of the Reform Movement in developing and providing training seminars for congregational teams of rabbis, educators and cantors as well as volunteer leaders, so as to assure the proper integration of programming and collaboration on the congregational level;
  5. Call upon the UAHC Press to include among its highest priorities the publication of books that enhance and encourage lifelong Jewish learning;
  6. Urge member congregations to devote human and financial resources to programs that achieve the goal of lifelong Jewish learning;
  7. Work with the various organizations of our Reform movement to coordinate their educational efforts to make lifelong Jewish learning an explicit priority in their planning and programming, and to offer training workshops, model programs and colloquiums on lifelong Jewish learning at the 2001 UAHC Biennial Convention; and
  8. Encourage a discussion among the UAHC and its affiliates to develop a coherent vision of lifelong Jewish learning to be presented at the 2001 UAHC Biennial Convention.