Posted on November 26th, 2016

Adult Enrichment: 26 years and counting

For over 25 years a group of dedicated, devoted, and enthusiastic adults meet every Sunday morning at Lakeside Congregation for Adult Enrichment. We begin the morning with a small group for weekday t’filah. We also host a lox and bagel brunch and then we get down to business as we meet for 90 minutes; we have about 30 speakers over any school year. Sometimes we have a theme that takes us through a whole year and occasionally we just have monthly topics.

The weekend before Thanksgiving, we hosted Jim Kenney from Common Ground in Deerfield, Illinois, who spoke about “Reflections on the 2016 Election.” We had over 100 people in attendance and for a small congregation of 300 families that is a great turnout. How did this adult education solidify and continue to grow over the years? This is not an easy question but one I can attempt to answer.

• We call our Sunday morning lectures “Adult Enrichment” which we hope will signal to our congregants and community attendees that these lectures are not meant to be a class. You can come one week and miss the next 3 weeks because our classes do not build one upon the other. Occasionally we have a series of 2 or 3 sessions on one topic but all Sunday mornings can stand on their own.
• We depend on dynamic speakers and if they are enjoyed one year we bring them back, if not the next year, perhaps in a few years.
• We set the calendar for Adult Enrichment 8-10 months in advance. Speakers are sometimes surprised that we are full for the year in September.
• We plan our topics and speakers by September and then have a bookmark with all of our speakers ready to pass out at the High Holy Days.
• We budget for the speakers.
• We ask our participants to help defray the cost of the lox and bagel brunch by being a “sponsor” once or twice a year.

I am very proud of our program and excited every Sunday morning to see so many adults coming into the building to participate in this program. Both my rabbi and I do one or two Sunday mornings and then we find exciting speakers in our community. This adult study has fostered friendships, spearheaded social action projects and helped us to move forward many different agendas including ritual or even taking a trip to Israel. One of our upcoming Adult Enrichment Sunday programs is “the Plight of the Refugee; how you can make a difference in the refugee crisis.” We are planning on sponsoring a refugee and working with HIAS and what a great way to start this campaign. I am getting ready even now to plan more Adult Enrichment programs as I look forward to 2017-2018.

Vanessa Ehrlich, RJE, is the Director of Lifelong Learning at Lakeside Congregation in Highland Park, Illinois. She blogs at In One Ehrlich.