When Chabad representative Shiffy Landa brought multiple intelligences to her classroom in St. Louis’s Epstein Hebrew Academy, her husband Rabbi Yosef Landa took note.
For those not up on education trends, multiple intelligences proposes that there are all kinds of minds. Some learn visually. Others learn by doing. Rabbi Landa received an Adult Educator award from the St. Louis Jewish Federation for bringing multiple intelligences to his teachings of Chasidic philosophy.
Rabbi Landa created “Windows to the Soul,” a visual approach to studying Chasidic philosophy. “I am firm believer in the need to take subtle and delicate concepts in Chasidus and lend a visual aspect to it,” said Rabbi Landa. Traditional teaching in the age of television and internet eye candy is not enough. “Garbing abstract learning in an image brings understanding,” he said.
Chabad-Lubavitch has long been known for charting new paths towards effectively disseminating Jewish thought. When the Google was yet an obscure math term, and the Yahooligans were still in high school, and E-bay was a slot at the local dock, Chabad was already teaching Judaism on the ‘net. Rabbi Landa’s absorption of innovative educational theory for use in his Chabad Chasidism classes is part of that tradition. He also was among the first Chabad rabbis to offer university-style courses through Chabad’s Jewish Learning Institute (JLI).
For his quarter-century long commitment to high quality Jewish adult education, Rabbi Landa was selected from among 600 Jewish communal professionals to receive the award from the Jewish Community Professional Association (JProStL). His nominator wrote, “I was extremely impressed with Rabbi Landa’s didactic style and the depth of his knowledge.” As a participant in Rabbi Landa’s recent Jewish Learning Institute course on the Holocaust, the nominator added, “I am truly blown away by his excellent handling of this difficult, but important topic.”
Being honored the very first year JProStL presented awards is more than a personal tribute. “You cannot separate me from Chabad,” said Rabbi Landa. “The fact that the Jewish Federation and the Jewish Community Professional Association was comfortable with that and selected me as the first one to receive the award makes a statement that they recognize Chabad’s unique role in the area of adult Jewish education.”
On the day of JProStL award reception, before a crowd of 120 St. Louis community members, Rabbi Landa lit the second candle on a menorah that held a branch for each of the eight Jewish professionals honored at the event. “A candle can share its flame without diminishing itself. Jewish communal professionals give selflessly and only strengthen themselves by their giving,” said event chair Jody Rubin.
Lighting the menorah as a symbol of service and bringing light to the world is an act that fits well with Rabbi Landa’s visual approach to teaching. He has also hosted conferences on Talmud and contemporary law that are accredited by the Missouri Bar Association.
JProStL’s Professional Excellence Awards were initiated because “there are so many outstanding professionals working for the Jewish community and not really a venue where their accomplishments are recognized,” said Rubin, who is the associate director of St. Louis’s Jewish Community Center’s Early Childhood Center.
Rubin said all the nominations were high quality. “They were really like tear-jerker nomination forms,” she said. Rubin, who has studied with Rabbi Landa, believes the honor is well deserved. “I personally hold Rabbi Landa in the highest regard.”