By Levi Stein, Observer & Eccentric
This summer, students at the West Bloomfield based Michigan Jewish Institute (MJI) will begin a unique program that unites local students and teachers with the global Jewish community in a dynamic way. A new online degree program in Judaic Studies is the latest course of study available to students at MJI.
“I would like to enable a community of learners to share knowledge and experience and to grow together,” said MJI director, Rabbi Dov Stein, of West Bloomfield. “That’s the real goal of the program. We aim to provide both the academic knowledge and training to create a strong base of Jewish awareness for a global community.”
The Institute has offered both college and high school students the opportunity to pursue advanced courses in Jewish studies for more than 12 years.
The Michigan Jewish Institute, which offers Bachelors degree programs in a variety of disciplines, has long been a pioneer in the use of internet technology in education. The MJI online program represents the combination of their experience in web based courses and Judaic Studies. The program uses cutting edge web technology to bring challenging courses in traditional Jewish scholarship, pedagogy, and leadership training to students. Other courses are offered to those who want to train for positions as teachers, counselors and lay leaders.
The technology enables students and staff to form a global community and prepare to meet their leadership roles after graduation.
Students are able to focus on one of three tracks: Jewish Leadership, Jewish Education, or General Judaic Studies. Advanced courses in Jewish Law are also available though MJI.
The goal is to cultivate in students a deep commitment to community service grounded in a sense of Jewish traditions, history and values. Classes cover the Bible, Rabbinic literature, Jewish law, history, Jewish philosophy and Hebrew language.
The emphasis on global outreach and connectedness echoes a prominent theme in the talks of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of righteous memory, on technology and science as tools to spread the wisdom of Judaism. “The advance of scientific understanding is increasingly revealing the inherent unity in the universe, as expressed in the forces of nature. Being aware of this can serve as a preparation and prologue to future time when the Creator’s simple, uncompounded Unity will become evident.”
While the worldwide web has done much to illustrate the underlying unity and interdependence of the world as a whole, the use of the web to create a global classroom, takes these ideas to a whole new level. It brings with it the ability to foster a community of students and teachers working together, sharing knowledge and experience, and coordinating their programs free of the usual constraints of geography and, in some cases, time. And that interconnectedness, if MJI has its way, will help strengthen Jewish continuity far beyond the Detroit area.
Registration for the next semester closes March 26. More information on the program and courses is accessible through MJI’s Web site at www.mji.edu. There is also the option of logging in and trying out a class as a guest student before deciding to register for the full program.
Chanah Kroll contributed to this story.