Commentary: Observations on Yom Limmud
By Charlene Neely
LA JOLLA, California–The Agency for Jewish Education assembled its most diversified and enthusiastic group of lectures and programs for the 2010 Yom Limmud program. The Jewish Community Center was filled with crowds of people seeking education on a multitude of subjects, from Messiahs to Nature -Deficit Disorder. This community program is designed to bring together, educators from our community schools, students from our schools ( all Religious schools in the community are closed so parents, teachers and students can attend ), and members of the community seeking educational opportunities. Yom Limmud is a major community education endeavor and the Agency and its sponsors under the Mark Mann Memorial Fund Educator Lectures (the late Mark Mann and this writer were in the same Confirmation class many years ago at Beth Israel) have worked to enhance teacher training and adult education in San Diego over the last five years. Yom Limmud should be a time to meet other people in the community who share a thirst for Jewish Education.
I attended the Richard Louv session on Ecology, Environment and Nature Deficit Disorder, introduced by Rabbi Lenore Bohm. I thought here was a subject that would attract young adults. Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder is not only an award winning book, but the beginning of a revolutionary program to bring children back to nature. The statistics showing the disconnect between children and nature are astounding. At a time when there is talk of climate crisis, global warming and endangered species and Avatar is becoming the greatest money making movie in history, our children are further away from nature than ever before. They spend less time outdoors than any previous generation. Their lives are programmed with inside activities, computer time, TV time and the pressures of homework. That idealized concept of playing in the backyard or lying on a hill gazing at the moving clouds and using one’s imagination has become mythical. Richard Louv ‘s presentation was a little lackluster in places but his commitment to the subject was impressive. It is not just “nice” if our children experience nature it is essential to their health and mental growth. Although it would have helped if he had given directions that educators and families could have used to stem this tide, he did direct us to his web site www. childrenandnature.org. The web site is both educational and functional as it presents a myriad of activities for both educators and families. This presentation tied directly into the celebration of Tu B’Shevat.
The Agency for Jewish Education has done an exemplary job in providing programs, but the key to great success is getting young adults and families to attend. As a longtime educator, I was happy to see so many familiar faces and a little disappointed to see few young adults and families attending. If we as a community cancel religious schools we should give parents an incentive to attend with their children. We expect our teachers to attend and for many schools it is part of a teachers’ contract to do so. Perhaps we needed to expect the same from our students and families. Attending Yom Limmud should be part of the curriculum of all Jewish schools. There are few city wide opportunities for children to see their teachers and parents learning together. After all, lifetime learning has always been the strength of our community, we have endured and thrived because of our devotion to learning. What better example could we give then our total support for Yom Limmud. I hope many people will begin now to plan for more family attendance for next year.
Neely is a freelance writer based in La Mesa