A brief correction on some details shared in the June 21 news article, “Little shuls, big impact.”
The Torah University program at Congregation Kol Ami in Tampa, Fla., was not a program with a “fake” graduation, as the report suggests. Rather, the program, from its inception, was the brainchild of Rabbi Joel Wasser who was cited for his educational work in Best Teachers in America.He capitalized on the findings of noted sociologist Jack Wetheimer in the American Jewish Year Book of 2005 which described transitions in the American synagogue and the desire for intensive text learning.
Wasser created a serious program of learning, perhaps second to none in the country, which offered text-based study on a weekly basis covering topics such as Rambam,Mishna, Kabbalah, and contemporary Jewish thought.
The graduation was anything but a “fake.”Rather, congregants diligently fulfilled requirements from a number of disciplines and amassed credits through completing essays, sharing class presentations, and mastering numerous synagogue skill sets. This serious study program catered to the congregation’s clientele of intellectually sophisticated doctors and lawyers and required literally years to complete.
The program should be held up as a model for others to emulate rather than referred to in any context as a fake. I should know of his fine work as an educator: I am completing a doctorate in Jewish education and I’m his brother!
Cantor Eric L.Wasser