Global Day of Jewish Learning in Your Community

The Global Day of Jewish Learning unites over 500 communities in 43 countries through study of Jewish texts. Drawing participants from every point on the religious, communal and ethnic spectrum, its organizing partners include Federation's partner the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Hillel International, Shefa Institute, and us—The Jewish Federations of North America. 


This year's Global Day—Sunday, November 20—focuses on Under the Same Sky: “The Earth is Full of Your Creations,” an exploration of our world and nature. Alongside his monumental works of scholarship and commentary, Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz spearheads this world-wide annual event via the Aleph Society.  

Here, Karen Sponder, the Global Day’s project director, outlines the top five reasons why The Global Day of Jewish Learning can be a valuable opportunity for your community. 


The Global Day helps us implement the words that Rabbi Elie Kaunfer shares.


I grew up without learning Jewish texts. For my Bat Mitzvah, I memorized and sang back a lengthy Haftorah – without even reading what it meant in English. But I found myself really liking Hebrew school, and as I got older I wanted to learn more about Judaism. I had the opportunity after college to spend the year studying Jewish texts (at Pardes Institute in Jerusalem). I have found Jewish text learning to be essential to my personal Judaism and my connection to the global Jewish people – since we share the same texts, regardless of differences in background or geography. 


The Global Day selects an annual theme and spends the year developing resources surrounding this theme. I love that in doing so, I get to do the learning – to read the texts and each year realize how many layers and possibilities there are in the Torah and Talmud. I see firsthand just how much our modern culture and lives are influenced by these incredibly nuanced sources. 


The Babylonian Talmud (Ta’anit 23a) tells this great story about Honi the Circle Maker (translation and commentary by Rabbi Steinsaltz in Koren Talmud Bavli):


One day, he [Honi] was walking along the road when he saw a certain man planting a carob tree. Honi said to him: This tree, after how many years will it bear fruit? The man said to him: It will not produce fruit until 70 years have passed. Honi said to him: Is it obvious to you that you will live 70 years, that you expect to benefit from this tree? He said to him: That man himself found a world full of carob trees. Just as my ancestors planted for me, I too am planting for my descendants. 


This text makes me ask myself: What am I 'planting' now? What is it that the next and future generations will inherit from us? What kind of world am I shaping? These are the questions that the Global Day wants to ask. Perhaps together we can appreciate our "carob tree" of Jewish heritage and its fruits for future generations. 


Challenge yourself and your community. Consider joining the Global Day of Jewish Learning to plant the seeds of learning.

Top 5 Reasons to Hold a Global Day of Jewish Learning:


  1. Build community. 

    Do you find yourself looking for accessible ways to connect people with Jewish tradition? Learning together is something that we can all do together, regardless of differences in our age, ethnic background, and Jewish denominations. The Global Day of Jewish Learning offers you a way to convene Jews from across all spectrums together through study and thereby build community. 

    “I have found the Global Day to be extremely effective in bringing together both denominationally-affiliated and unaffiliated members of the Jewish community to spend a spirited day learning together…no matter what their level of experience with Jewish text. Our participants have left previous Global Day events anxiously awaiting the next Global Day.”
    --Mark Freedman, Executive Director, Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee

    “It is another opportunity to build relationships with community members and for community members to build relationships with each other.”
    --Talia Smoklin, Coordinator of Jewish Education, Jewish Federation of the Bluegrass

  2. Promote peoplehood.

    Over 500 communities in 43 countries participate in the Global Day of Jewish Learning. It's by learning simultaneously, engaging with our shared inheritance of Jewish texts, that we can unite Jews across the world. We experience the power of Jewish peoplehood when we acknowledge the diversity of global Jewry while also unifying around our shared heritage. 

    “The Global Day brings a slice of Jewish peoplehood to our 'shtetl' here in suburbia. This year Rabbi Gershom Sizomu of Uganda will be our speaker."
    --Rob Goodman, Director, South Hills Community Engagement Initiative, Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh

  3. Ask powerful questions in a Jewish framework

    Jewish learning is conversation-based.  It insists on questioning and bringing different opinions to bear on even the smallest points. It asks each person around the table to participate actively.

    This year's focus is especially "global," looking at nature and nurturing, ecology and the environment, cycles and seasons. It's a focus that's important to all of humanity, raising important questions about our role as members of both an environmental and social ecosystem. 

    "The Global Day is a turnkey way to allow our synagogues and JCC to offer an additional learning opportunity. Federation facilitates, and each organization can do things on their own terms."
    --Rob Goodman, Director, South Hills Community Engagement Initiative, Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh  

  4. Connect with extraordinary Jewish teachers and leaders (live webcast)

    The Global Day's annual live webcast series brings exceptional teachers to communities everywhere. Past participants include author Dara Horn, Rabbi David Wolpe, singer/songwriter Naomi Less, multimedia artist Hanan Harchol, and Rabbi Elie Kaunfer. Any community can tune in to these live sessions in real-time, or watch recordings later. This is the future of Jewish study - making world-class teachers and scholars available to learn with, everywhere. See videos from previous years.

    "While the internet has done much to improve our lives, it often facilitates a more atomized, disconnected world. Thankfully, this day of learning offers us the opportunity to leverage the internet to connect deeply – to Torah and to each other." 
    --Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Mechon Hadar

  5. Leverage Jewish education in the biggest way

    You can use the Global Day of Jewish Learning to showcase all of your educational offerings, or to start a year of theme-based learning. 

    Two Federations that introduce their communities to their full range of educational offerings on the day include The Jewish Federation of Rockland County, which invites the community to learn with its Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning, and the Jewish Federation of the Bluegrass, which makes the community-wide event available to its youngest members by including a PJ Library component.  

    "Global Day of Learning is core to the philosophy of the Jewish Federation & Foundation‘s ideals. It’s our pleasure to see Jews from all over Rockland County come together to taste our community learning opportunities such as Melton and Midreshet."
    --Roberta Seitzman, Director of Adult Education, Jewish Federation & Foundation of Rockland County

    "In addition to meaningful learning sessions led by community lay-leaders, each year we have a PJ Library program, inspired by the resources offered by PJ Library, and a JFS Jewish Family Life Education program. These pieces have enhanced our Global Day experience, and Global Day has given us a great way to engage with our community members."
    --Talia Smoklin, Coordinator of Jewish Education, Jewish Federation of the Bluegrass


The Global Day makes it easy for you to manage the day’s learning program. The Global Day Toolbox includes:


  • Curriculum materials for adults, middle school and elementary school children (available in English, Russian, Spanish and Hebrew)
  • Early childhood family programming content in partnership with PJ Library
  • A video class on the theme with Rabbi Steinsaltz
  • Live webcasts from luminaries of Jewish learning from around the world
  • A guidebook with tips on planning learning events
  • Marketing materials and support


Why is Torah and Text study so important? Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz says:


“The mitzvah of Talmud Torah – Torah study – is a fundamental precept of Judaism. The Sages tell us that the Torah is one of the three things the world rests on, and that "the study of Torah outweighs all the other mitzvot" in importance and in the reward attached to it. A deeper understanding of this mitzvah requires that we distinguish between its two aspects, one within the other. The study of Torah is, first, the way that knowledge of Torah in all its dimensions – theoretical and practical, abstract and concrete – is acquired. It is through such study that one obtains guidance for life.  It is through such study alone that one attains knowledge of Judaism itself.


The study of Torah also has another, inward aspect to it: it is itself a mitzvah and an important one, not only a means but also an end, an act inherently meaningful regardless of its practical consequences. The study of Torah is not a matter of learning "about" Judaism, but is itself one of Judaism's essential components. Just as every mitzvah-fulfilling act derives meaning from the link it creates between the doer and the Giver of that mitzvah, so too does talmud Torah establish a connection between the learner and the Source of the text.  Torah is both a gateway leading into the palace of Judaism and a great hall within that palace.”


For reflection and discussion:


  • Which of these top 5 reasons most resonates with you? Who are the key stakeholders that would be part of the Global Day in your community?
  • How can joining the Global Day add the most value to your community?
  • Which of the resources provided (below) is most interesting to you?


For further reading related to the 2016 theme: