Adam Peck, West End Strategy Team
NEW YORK — U.S. military personnel of all faiths and backgrounds are stationed across the globe in the service of their country. But for many Jewish service members serving in the U.S. and abroad, access to Jewish education is often limited at best. JWB Jewish Chaplains Council® (JWB), has created the Joint Religious Education Program (JREP) with support from the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps, to offer high-quality, no-cost courses so that individuals in uniform and their families can expand their personal knowledge of Judaism and its history, customs, practices, traditions, and beliefs.
JWB’s Joint Religious Education Program will offer three educational programs for Jewish service members and their families to choose from:
- ShalomLearning’s Jewish Values and Hebrew Language instruction program, designed for families with children entering kindergarten through 7th grade
- Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy of Bar Ilan University’s accredited and award-winning courses, for eighth grade through high school-aged students
- Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI) courses, for adults to study such topics as Jewish ethics, Jewish history and culture, and Jewish mysticism and philosophy, among other
JWB carefully selected the three educational programs based on their track records of success. All three are among the most highly regarded and widely used Jewish education curricula in the civilian world and will now be made available to Jewish military families as well.
“With the implementation of JREP, no longer will Jews in uniform and their families have to choose between service to our country and Jewish learning,” said Rabbi Tracy Kaplowitz, Ph.D., director of operations, JWB Jewish Chaplains Council®. “With support from the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps and partnerships with entities that offer high-quality Jewish education, JWB will ensure outstanding Jewish education for our service members and their families, enabling them to demonstrate their commitment to long-held Jewish values, even as they fulfill their duty to serve our country.”
Rabbi Zalman Abraham, director of vision and strategic planning for The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI), also expressed his support for the new initiative. “We are grateful for the opportunity to finally say yes to the dozens of chaplains who have requested our courses and we welcome soldiers and their families into the ranks of the 500,000+ JLI participants in 28 countries,” he said. “We are hopeful that these courses will provide an uplifting and thought-provoking way for soldiers stationed in remote regions to bond with fellow members of the tribe and replace feelings of isolation with a sense of community and peoplehood.“
“Providing positive Jewish experiences, helping children connect to their heritage and to their peers, is critical in building strong Jewish identities and passing on Jewish values,” said Chana German, executive director of The Lookstein Center at Bar-Ilan University. “Since our inception, we’ve been helping Jewish families provide meaningful Jewish educational experiences for their children. The Joint Religious Education Program opens up a whole new dimension to making Jewish education accessible to all.”
“We are honored and extremely enthusiastic to partner with JWB to support JREP by providing online educational experiences to children of service members with our innovative Jewish Values and Hebrew curricula that we provide to over 13,000 other students,” added Michael Feinstein, CEO of ShalomLearning. “Not only will students and families benefit from creating an online Jewish community across military bases, but students will also be able to apply the values they learn to real-life situations now and as they grow into adulthood.”
Classes will be offered both in-person and online via live, real-time instruction. Enrollment numbers will determine whether any given course is taught in-person. The courses are all free, thanks to full funding for the initiative by the U.S. Army.
For more information about the program, or to register, please go to JCCA.org/jrep.
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About JWB Jewish Chaplains Council®
JWB Jewish Chaplains Council® (JWB) is a nonprofit, U.S. government-accredited agency that serves the religious needs of Jewish military personnel and their families, wherever they serve, as well as patients in VA hospitals. Founded in 1917, on the cusp of World War I, the Jewish Welfare Board (JWB), as it was known at the time, sought to serve young Jewish men entering the military. Today, JWB Jewish Chaplains Council®, a signature program of JCC Association of North America, continues this work by honoring the service of Jewish men and women in the United States armed forces, safeguarding their rights, fulfilling their spiritual needs, and combating loneliness and isolation.
About JCC Association of North America
JCC Association of North America leads and connects the JCC Movement, advancing and enriching North American Jewish life. With 1.5 million people walking through the doors of more than 170 Jewish Community Centers and Jewish Community Camps (JCCs) each week, the JCC Movement is the largest platform for Jewish engagement on the continent. JCC Association, the convening organization of this dynamic network, partners with JCCs to bring together the collective power and knowledge of the entire JCC Movement, including 12,000 full-time and 41,000 part-time and seasonal professionals. By supporting them, together we enhance and strengthen Jewish life throughout North America. Learn more at JCCA.org or on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.