Lehrhaus: From 0 to 4,000 in 30 years

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“And you shall teach them…”

For millennia, those have been the watchwords of the Jewish people. Educating our children in the ways of Judaism has always been our priority, as it should be.

But what happens when the kids grow up and move to Pleasanton or, God forbid, Los Angeles. Who then will teach us?

For those of us lucky enough to live in the Bay Area, we have Lehrhaus Judaica. For three decades, Lehrhaus has been the region’s prime adult Jewish studies institution, keeping the flame of Jewish learning alight.

With the 30th anniversary of Lehrhaus Judaica now upon us, we extend our congratulations and deepest appreciation for the work done by this peerless institution.

As our story this week points out, it all began as an impossible dream in the mind of Fred Rosenbaum. Influenced by Franz Rosenzweig, founder of the first Lehrhaus in 1920s Germany, Rosenbaum sought to create a similar center of lifelong Jewish education.

With co-founders Rabbi Steven Robbins and Seymour Fromer, Rosenbaum established Lehrhaus Judaica in 1975. They offered a smattering of classes and drew only 150 students that first year. But under the leadership of Rosenbaum, as well as the executive director, Jehon Grist, and the board president, Eve Bernstein, Lehrhaus Judaica has grown tremendously in scope and impact.

Today, the school attracts the world’s finest Jewish scholars and lecturers. Every year, more than 4,000 students across the Bay Area attend Lehrhaus classes in Hebrew, Bible, Jewish history and just about every meaningful topic in the Jewish universe.

The annual Bible-by-the-Bay study-thon, which Lehrhaus hosted last year, is a huge success. A few years ago, Rosenbaum won a Covenant Foundation Award for his work in Jewish education. Lehrhaus even launched sister city programs in St. Louis, Nashville and Sacramento.

Lehrhaus excels not only in scholarship but also in bringing state-of-the-art technology into the classroom. The “Heritage” course on Jewish history utilizes an amazing CD-ROM set produced by the Revlon Foundation. Lehrhaus’ Ken Cohen pioneered its use.

More than 80 years ago, when Rosenzweig established a center of Jewish learning in Germany, no one cared about the students’ affiliation or degree of observance. All that mattered was a thirst for Jewish knowledge.

Rosenzweig’s miraculous Lehrhaus was lost in the ashes of the Holocaust. But today our own Lehrhaus Judaica stands as a testament to the eternal strengths of the Jewish people.

We wish the faculty and staff of Lehrhaus Judaica a heartfelt happy 30th anniversary.