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Asking the Clergy: Why should adults take religious education classes?

From left, the Rev. James Barnum of Bellmore

From left, the Rev. James Barnum of Bellmore Presbyterian Church, Narinder Kapoor of the Multi-Faith Forum of Long Island and Rabbi Yaakov Reiter of Chabad of Roslyn. Credit: Steven Levine; Narinder Kapoor; Tzvi Reiter

Religious education classes are often part of growing up on Long Island. For some adults, the learning continues even after their bar or bat mitzvah, first holy Communion, marriage or other religious rite of passage. This week’s clergy discuss the value of continuing to study one's own and other religions.

Narinder Kapoor

Member, board of directors, Multi-Faith Forum of Long Island, Melville

As we grow into adulthood, we need to understand the meaning of our existence and our mission on this planet. Until and unless we educate ourselves in the disciplines of ethics, morality and kindness, we are helpless to provide guidance to younger generations.

Srimad Bhagavad Gita, the most holy treatise in Hinduism, which is also called “The Song of God,” says that better knowledge and concentration with a focused mind is better than practice. (Chapter XII, Verse XII) This is the prime reason that we the adults must be educated in religious education. Our brains are conditioned to think that we are all separate entities with separate souls.

Hinduism reminds us that we are not individuals at all, we are all intertwined. We are all connected. Continuing as adults to learn about our faith’s respect for diversity, acceptance, empathy and selflessness becomes the guiding force to love everyone.  

The Rev. James Barnum

Pastor, Bellmore Presbyterian Church

As a pastor for the past 42 years, with a doctorate of ministry in spirituality from Columbia University, I find that all my classes as an adult have enriched me.

Religion classes, especially taken with other faith institutions, can build more awareness of yourself and the world around you, and help you overcome fear and isolation. Too often I find people are carrying a latent anger at God because they are holding onto a wrong image of who God is, or are hurt over a breach of faith in their childhood upbringing, or a great disappointment with God in their adult life.

People today are not aware of their own God-given purposes in life, and how their religious heritage has enriched the world. There is a growing ignorance of how our religious institutions have benefited our country and have played an important role in our pluralistic society.

Conversations and education about God and faith were historically at the center of public discourse. Join a class and experience how your world may just open up to others.

Rabbi Yaakov Reiter

Adult education director, Chabad of Roslyn

In my 25 years of experience teaching adult education at Chabad of Roslyn Jewish Center, I have found a variety of reasons to continue religious education, from being able to answer kids’ questions, to being better prepared to follow prayer services, to those seeking answers to a faith-challenging event such as illness or loss of a loved one.

The underlying reason for many, however, is that their primary religious knowledge is from their few years at Hebrew school preparing for their bar or bat mitzvahs. As they grow older, and seek more meaningful life experiences, looking for answers about the meaning and purpose of life, they realize they may only have a superficial knowledge of Jewish history and practices. They want to know more of the why, not just the what. That is what they hope to gain at an adult education class.

At Chabad I see this all the time. Men and women from all Jewish affiliations and backgrounds come to Chabad, an acronym for three Hebrew words that translate to wisdom, understanding and knowledge. Chabad communicates the deepest teachings of Torah, Jewish mysticism and authentic kabbalah, in a manner that is easily understood, intellectually stimulating and most importantly, relevant.

DO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS you’d like Newsday to ask the clergy? Email them to LILife@newsday.com. Find more LI Life stories at newsday.com/LILife.

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