I don’t have enough time in my life.
No kidding, right? None of us do. In my case, after I factor in work, classes, events, my kids’ events and sports, my wife’s schedule, and time to keep the house in order, there’s almost no time left. If I want to run, or work out, or even read, it requires substantial pre-planning, waking up early, or going to bed late. In short, it’s very challenging to make time for anything that I want to do.
Similarly, one thing we hear time and time again in Jewish Education is that there’s “not enough time” for kids to commit to Jewish learning. We’re busy. We’re practicing. We have other commitments.
This presents both a problem, but at the same time an opportunity.
In some ways, Judaism is timeless. In others, it is time-bound. Shabbat will be Shabbat, our holidays will take place on the same dates each year, and the cycle of our calendar is both eternal and eternally rewarding. On the other hand, there’s something to be said for a Judaism that exists not just in the time constraints of Saturday mornings, Sunday mornings, and weekday afternoons.
What might be required is a fundamental realignment of Jewish life and its assumptions about when things can and should happen.
For example, there’s really no reason why I shouldn’t be as excited about going to synagogue on Friday night instead of Saturday morning. There are in fact many compelling reasons why it’s better to do so- Kabbalat Shabbat and Friday night Maariv are short, the tunes are beautiful, and you can come home and put the kids right to bed. (If you grew up with Reform Judaism, then this is might be how you already programmed, in which case you’re wise to this tactic.)
On a different note, there’s something to be said for re-examining when Jewish things take place. Should religious school have to take place first thing Sunday morning? Is it more likely to be successful on a Sunday evening? Or midweek only? One of the reasons Kesher is so successful is because there is no Sunday requirement. Might we learn from that? Why does education have to happen in synagogues? JSU has been wildly successful in challenging that model.
Logistically this isn’t easy. What would it take for a religious school to change its Sunday timing or go to midweek only? What would it mean to provide different portals into Shabbat celebration that equally validate attending different services at different times? What would that mean for a community? What would it mean to have education and programming move out into the community as opposed to expecting everyone to walk through your doors for the same services?
Many synagogues are experimenting with “School in shul” models, which has kids come on Shabbat morning instead of Sunday mornings to free up Sundays for families. Others are moving away from weekly sessions, and instead trying to have less-frequent programming that is more experiential and flexibly scheduled, and takes place in settings other than the synagogue.
Depending on where you’re coming from, this might be intuitive, or it might be blasphemous. I’ll play it straight down the middle and say that as a relatively old-school Judaism kind of guy this is both an opportunity for innovation but an angst-causing issue for traditional structures.
But for me, at least, I need to start thinking outside the box for both my personal Judaism and how I make time for it, and for the way in which we create a new landscape for Jewish Education that moves beyond fixed times and locations and into one that meets the needs of a more transient, less patient, more technologically-savvy, and less institutionally-focused population of learners.
It’s time to make time work for us.