By David Ariel
One of the greatest satisfactions for me, since moving to Boston, has been teaching in the Me’ah program, an adult Jewish learning initiative sponsored by Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston and Hebrew College. Me’ah consists of 100 hours of class time over two years devoted to understanding biblical, rabbinic, medieval and modern Jewish civilization. Me’ah participants read core Jewish texts, grapple with Jewish concepts, and study Jewish social, cultural, and political developments in these historical periods.
Hebrew College recently announced the launch of Me’ah Online which makes the highly regarded Me’ah program available for the first time to anyone- no matter where they live. The first Me’ah Online offering is “Journey through the Bible,” a ten session asynchronous class that covers the first of the four Me’ah historical periods. Renowned Bible scholar and veteran Me’ah instructor Professor Marc Brettler has designed and will teach the ten week course beginning the week of March 9 and concluding before Memorial Day.
I spoke recently with Dena Glasgow, Director of Faculty and Curriculum, Adult Learning, at Hebrew College, about this new development.
David: Dena, Me’ah is one of the most exciting developments in adult Jewish learning and has helped transform the Boston Jewish community. Please tell me about your plans for Me’ah Online.
Dena: Me’ah Online offers stimulating and high level online classes, taught by renowned faculty, to cohorts of around 15 participants. Me’ah Online video lectures, additional readings, class discussions, and media links are all available online and can be accessed at your convenience at a time that you choose from the comfort of your own home. Me’ah online videos are deliberately broken into short segments, accompanied by graphically interesting slides and creative opportunities to engage with the material. Me’ah Online is for the curious adult learner from all backgrounds.
David: Why has Hebrew College decided to offer Me’ah Online?
Dena: We decided to offer Me’ah Online because, for years now, people from all over the country have approached Hebrew College about bringing our nationally-recognized Me’ah program to their communities. Thanks to Me’ah Online, we are finally able to offer Me’ah to people from all walks of life, from the business executive in Chicago to the Bostonian who had been unable to commit to a class at a specific time and place.
David: What can people expect to learn in “Journey through the Bible” Me’ah Online?
Dena: In this class, participants will take an in-depth look into what is actually inside the most famous and influential book of all times. They will learn what the Bible meant in its earliest contexts and how it relates to other ancient Near Eastern Literature. Participants will also explore how the biblical collections that make up the Bible became “The Bible” and appreciate the difference between what the Bible meant and what it means today in different traditions. By studying the Bible, participants will build the scaffolding needed to better understand the development of Jewish ideas and practices.
David: Who teaches this course?
Dena: This Me’ah online class has been designed by and will be taught by Dr. Marc Brettler, the internationally recognized Hebrew Bible scholar. He is the Bernice and Morton Lerner Professor of Judaic Studies and a member of the Department of Religious Studies at Duke University. He was previously Dora Golding Professor of Biblical Studies and chair of the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University. He is co-editor of The Jewish Study Bible (2004), which was awarded a National Jewish Book Award, and author of How to Read the Bible, published by the Jewish Publication Society. He has been a popular Me’ah instructor since the program’s inception in 1995.
David: I can’t imagine a better choice to teach the first Me’ah Online course. Tell me more about the course.
Dena: The course is composed of fascinating lectures, recommended readings, and questions to ponder. Participants will enjoy over 13 hours of Professor Brettler’s lectures, which are broken into segments and interspersed with stimulating activities. An instructor-scholar will closely monitor the class discussion boards and respond to and guide students as they learn.
David: You describe this as an asynchronous online course. Can you explain?
Dena: Asynchronous learning is a student-centered teaching method that uses online learning resources to allow the participant to learn on his or her schedule, at a time and place of his or her choosing. It’s all about convenience for the adult learner.
David: What sort of technical expertise does the adult learner need?
Dena: None. If you can use your computer online, you can take the course. Our platform is easy to use and we offer technical assistance.
David: Can the adult learners communicate with the instructor and each other?
Dena: Absolutely! The class will be hosted on Schoology, a state-of-the-art online learning platform that is popular throughout the United States. On this platform, it is easy to send emails to the instructor and your cohort of fellow learners. Indeed, thanks to the small size of the cohort, you can expect to develop a sense of community with instructor and fellow students.
David: When does “Journey through the Bible” Online start?
Dena: We begin the week of March 9 and conclude before Memorial Day.
David: How much does it cost?
Dena: Thanks to philanthropic support, we are able to offer this class at $295.
David: How can we enroll?
Dena: Simply go to http://www.hebrewcollege.edu/meah-online and register. We will take it from there.
David: What would you like readers of this newsletter to do?
Dena: Your readers- rabbis, educators, professionals, volunteers- should circulate this information to their members. If they have further questions or suggestions, please contact me at email@example.com
David: Thank you.