I just returned from a very exciting experience in Phoenix, Arizona. I had the honor of being part of the faculty for LimmudAZ. This was a day long education market place open to the Jewish community of Phoenix. Some 55 classes were offered during the day. The classes covered the range from Yoga to contemporary Israel, from food to the changing aspects of contemporary Judaism. Over 400 people chose to spend the day studying. This was the first such Limmud for Phoenix. It will not be the last.
What was a message that was delivered? Other than the obvious one of community and diversity, I think there was something else, something that needs to be discussed in the corridors of Jewish institutional life. I was very interested to see the demographics of the attendees. It was my observation, confirmed by some other people there, that the vast majority of those at LimmudAZ were over 50. On a beautiful 80 degree sun splashed day, they came to study. My sense is that this reality is part of a larger tide of Boomers who are seeking meaningful adult approaches to their Judaism. What is challenging, and in many ways frustrating, is the sense that the non Orthodox denominations of contemporary Judaism seem to be drifting away from creating meaningful programs of outreach to mature adults. No one doubts the need for programs and resources that focus on youth. The importance of that cannot be denied. The camping programs alone are a constant source of development of new Jewish professionals. However, there seeems to be a growing trend to focus most of these resources (and yes, we all know they are scarce) at the expense of adults, who, have the desire and time to seek greater meaning. What is also happening is that this void is being filled by events such as Limmud and a growing number of creative and independant educational experiences.
At a time when liberal denominational influence seems to be declining, why discount what is the majority of one’s membership. WIth 25% of our community 65 years of age and over, it would seem that there is a ready market for sincere and meaningful outreach to this cohort to as to develop a sense of mature spirituality and learning.This is a subject we will return to and we would love your comments.
Mazel tov to Rabbi Elana Kantor and her group who organized LimmudAZ. They have already set the date for 2016 and reserved even more space.
Rabbi Richard F Address, D.Min