A pilot academy that would give adult students in Orange County certificates of graduation for completing three years of Jewish study expects to accept its first students in September.
The Orange County Academy of Jewish Growth and Learning received funding approval for half its start-up budget from the county's Jewish Federation in January, after several months of delay.
The intent is to impose a quasi-academic structure on the existing but disparate array of Jewish study already taking place in synagogues, at Bureau of Jewish Education classes and Community Scholar Program (CSP) seminars.
"One quality adults are looking for is some communal recognition that they have engaged in a serious program of Jewish learning," said Rabbi Michael Mayersohn, who will serve as the academy's dean and sole employee. His job will include advising students on study topics and available resources.
Although the academy's certificate would not be recognized by accredited institutions elsewhere, the novel approach received much interest last month at a Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., conference of Jewish educators. The 350 educators, administrators and communal professionals, along with education-minded philanthropists, met to devise plans to bring new respect and rewards to the Jewish teaching profession.
"Several were interested in pursuing this," said Joan Kaye, executive director of the bureau, who attended. "No one's ever done anything like this."
Besides the Federation, the academy will be supported financially by the bureau, CSP and private donors.
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