Graduate Theological Union

Torah Lishma: Study for Its Own Sake

GTU in the Community

Jhos SingerTorah lishma. This Jewish idiom, which means study for its own sake, bespeaks Jhos Singer’s passion. A San Francisco Bay Area Jewish educator, Singer is one of six 2006-2007 recipients of the Koret Jewish Educators Fellowship, administered by the Graduate Theological Union Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies (CJS). The program offers courses to Jewish educators for professional development and as an introduction to the CJS certificate program. The fellowships cover tuition for one class offered by CJS.

The Koret Jewish Educator Fellowships are a part of a project called “Jewish Perspectives: Bridging the Gap Between the Academy and the Public,” a CJS initiative to bring Jewish studies and celebrations to the community. Additional Koret Foundation funding for the Jewish Perspectives project supports visiting scholars and special lecturers. In spring 2007, Singer took the course “Gender, Law, and Talmud,” with visiting scholar Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert.

“As an educator, you give so much of yourself. It’s nice to receive the chance to do some learning myself,” says Singer, who teaches 5th–8th graders introductory methods for reading and understanding scripture, in addition to traditional Jewish celebration, prayer, and practice at Half Moon Bay’s Coastside Jewish Community Religious School. He says his GTU studies, made possible through the Koret Jewish Educators Fellowship, have rejuvenated his love of learning.

“The goal of my learning is to become a better teacher” he says, “and the result of being a better teacher is that I have a deep thirst to learn.”

So far, Singer has taken two courses for credit toward a Certificate in Jewish Studies. In addition to “Gender, Law, and Talmud,” he took “Hebrew: Post-Biblical Readings II,” taught in spring 2006 by Newhall Scholar Saul Friedman. Singer found the classes at CJS “engaging and encouraging,” citing the professors’ openness to dialogue while offering perspectives different than his own.

Singer says his rekindled delight in learning flows to his students at Coastside as he shares his new insights. In addition to his role as teacher, Singer is a maggid or spiritual leader, also offering the Coastside community his talents as a service leader, sermonizer, and musician.

“The goal of my learning is to become a better teacher, and the result of being a better teacher is that I have a deep thirst to learn.”

While Torah lishma — study for its own sake — is enough for now, Singer hopes that with help from the Koret Fellowship, he can complete the CJS certificate program, which he calls a “solid beginning” toward completing a graduate degree and the legal training to become a rabbi. “My continuing education wouldn’t be possible without the Koret scholarship,” he says. “Jewish educators typically don’t have formal training, so this program provides higher education and helps us become more competent teachers and leaders.”

Naomi Seidman, CJS Director and the mother of a child in a Jewish school, describes Jewish educators as the “saints and heroes of our lives.” “The more we can do for them,” she says, “the better it is for all of us.”

Click here for more information about the Graduate Theological Union Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies.