By Jacob Schaperow, editor-in-chief, @jschap1
More than 550 Jews convened in the Robert H. Smith School of Business’s Van Munching Hall for Routes, the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s day of Jewish learning Nov. 15.
The day-long event brought in Jewish educators and experts from the Washington Jewish community and beyond to speak about topics ranging from the Arab-Israeli conflict to Jewish medical ethics.
Senior Maxine Rich said she attended the event because she is “always interested in Jewish learning.”
“I didn’t have that much of a formal Jewish education, so whenever there is an opportunity for Jewish learning, I try and take it,” Rich, a double major in Arabic studies and government and politics, said.
This was Susan Janney’s second year attending Routes. Janney, a Bethesda, Maryland-based real estate agent, went to five different learning sessions over the course of the day, including a back-to-back performance of “ETTY,” a one-woman play about a Dutch Jewish woman living in Amsterdam during the Holocaust, and discussion among the attendees afterward.
Janney said the learning sessions got her thinking about what it is to be a Jew in today’s world.
“[Participating in Jewish learning] connects one with being a modern Jew. I’m Reform, so very modern,” she said.
Rich and Janney both attended Rabbi Evan Krame’s lesson entitled “We Made a Religion! The Start of Judaism in the Second Temple Period,” where the past president of Hillel at George Washington University described how the Jewish religion as it is practiced today emerged out of the events following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.
“It was a big history lesson …. And I am a political science student, so how the politics and the social aspects of the societies that the Jews found themselves in shaped Judaism – it was really interesting to me,” Rich said.
The Federation’s day of Jewish learning has historically been held on a college campus. Last year, the event took place at American University. The last time Maryland Hillel co-hosted Routes was in March 2012.
Fred Diamond, an event moderator, said he thinks it is important to have Routes on a college campus because of the formal education atmosphere.
“The rooms are a little more austere,” he said. “It’s a little more serious. You’re able to focus on the speaker as compared to looking at your phone or stepping out. It just adds to the whole inspiration in education and learning.”
Ezra Allswang was one of two student coordinators for the event. The junior communications major said he and the other student coordinator, senior communications and government and politics double major Danielle Leopold, were responsible for garnering student participation at the event.
“People came up to me and said I went to this one session or these two sessions and they enjoyed it, so it was nice that the kids who went enjoyed what they went to, and they got the most out of it,” Allswang said.
About 70 students attended Routes.
Allswang said he hopes students take away from the event “an understanding of how much time, energy and money goes into bettering the Jewish community, whether it be through learning or social justice activities or whatever it is, but just to realize … how beneficial it is to the Jewish community to have something like the Federation of Greater Washington that looks out for us and that wants us to succeed and grow.”