Jewish Cultural College Established in Sweden

Since 2000, Paideia has offered an intense One-Year Jewish Studies Program in Sweden with a maintained focus placed on textual literacy, but the country was  lacking in adult level programming  with a Jewish perspective for the greater Swedish populaion.. This past fall, Paideia established the first Jewish Cultural College in Scandinavia with the backing of Sweden’s Judiska Centralradet (Jewish Central Council) and official accreditation from Sweden’s Ministry of Education. Throughout the  process the Paideia Cultural College was mentored by Abdulkader Habib, who established the Islamic Kista Folkhögskola in Stockholm and brought to light how the existence of Christian and Islamic cultural colleges in Sweden pointed toward the void of a Jewish equivalent in the country. This is a great accomplishment for educators in Sweden and displays exactly what can happen when  scholars and leaders work together towards the cause of equitable representation and observation of different cultures and practices.

The goal of Paideia in the foundation of this institution is clear: promoting the goal of Jewish textual literacy by highlighting the importance of having an established knowledge of the texts and teachings. Paideia has stated that there are multiple intended audiences for the program. For example, the institution is meant to help individuals accumulate Jewish knowledge inside the Swedish Jewish community. Noa Hermele, the rector of Paideia Cultural College, explained that cultural college curriculums taught him a great deal about Jewish philosophy, Jewish law, and other aspects of the Jewish experience that he was not intimately aware of. All these aspects, to him and others, are an important  of the current goals of the institute.

Paideia has a vested interest in “being open to anyone with an interest and capability to add to Jewish culture” i and has made it a mission to bring knowledge of Jewish education to individuals not within Sweden’s established Jewish community. Barbara Spectre, Paideia’s founding director, has spoken on the positive impact that engagement with Jewish culture can have in the scope of today’s climate. Barbara Spectre, specifically, sees value in debate and questioning to evaluate text and promote discourse that allows us to insert our own voices into the cultural conversation. When asked to elaborate,rbara Spectre stated “There’s something about being able to add your own voice, and in a sense, differing from former interpretations, [showing that] there is something still incomplete. That notion of contribution by shaving away from the accepted – I think there’s something marvelous in that.” In stating this and expounding on the viewpoint of Paideia’s administration, Spectre has displayed that an open-minded cultural approach is of paramount importance when exploring the philosophies and belief systems of groups within a country’s demographic. With the opening of  The Paideia Jewish Cultural College, Sweden is showing the positive impact that cross-cultural approaches to learning can have in promoting equitability and a more enlightened cultural landscape.


Barbara Spectre Discusses the Importance of New Jewish Cultural College in Sweden

Paideia has, since 2000, provided a one-year Jewish studies program for academics to practice textual literacy. Until this year, however, there has not been a formal popular education program for Jewish Studies in Sweden. This has since changed with Paideia’s foundation of a new Jewish Cultural college. The program has been several years in the making, and Paideia’s administration is excited at the prospect for several reasons. In this article, Paideia’s founding director Barbara Spectre, gives her take on why the founding of a Jewish Cultural college is an exciting concept for many.

Barbara Spectre has spoken openly on the prospect of Paideia’s founding of a Jewish Cultural college and how it will have a positive impact on the greater cultural discussion. Spectre has stated “…the notion of being able to open up and interact, not only teach Judaism but have people react to Judaism and be part of the discourse, I think is a tremendously and increasingly important aspect of how a Jewish institute should function in the world today”. Barbara Spectre displays a commitment to the spirit and goals of folkbildning—that is, seeking knowledge with openness and freedom. Paideia and the program do not shy away from critique when it comes to evaluation of teachings and encourages them as part of intimately interacting with the texts.

Spectre also notes that it is important to utilize our own voice when learning Jewish subjects, and the concept of being able to freely evaluate texts is a huge benefit to the cultural conversation. She notes that there is “something about being able to add your own voice, and in a sense, differing from former interpretations, there is something still incomplete.” There is an inherent value to one’s personal experiences and grasping the concept of cultural modernity when interacting with religious texts and establishing their relevance in today’s world. Too often do we shy away from debate and questioning when learning subjects that are important to us, but  Paideia wishes to encourage open-minds and the concept of cross-cultural learning. After all, Abdulkader Habib (Director of Kista Cultural College, the sole Islamic Cultural College in Swden) provided the mentorship and interest in equitable representation of minority cultures in terms of adult level learning and  played an instrumental role in the establishment of Paideia’s cultural college’s establishment.

Barbara Spectre

Medal Awarded by King of Sweden is Fitting Tribute for Efforts by Barbara Spectre

Barbara Spectre

In a world as large as ours, it’s easy to see how cultural and religious ignorance takes hold. We’re often only able to grasp issues at home while problems abroad are paid lip service by the masses. Barbara Spectre, founder of Paideia – the European Institute for Jewish Studies in Sweden, refused to sit idly by and let this fate befall the Jewish people of Europe. Already irreparably affected by World War II and the fall of Communism, there was a deep need to understand the issues and systems that could be used to empower an entire   culture [A1]  once again. For her efforts – which we will detail further below – Barbara Spectre was recently awarded the King’s medal by King Carl Gustav XVI of Sweden. Paideia was founded in Stockholm, Sweden in 2000 and this honor at the Royal Palace was given for “outstanding contributions to Jewish culture in Sweden and internationally.” The honor is the culmination of decades of work by Spectre and one she is immensely proud of.

The objective of Paideia, according to the organization’s website, is “to actively promote the renewal and flourishing of European Jewish cultural and intellectual life in the wake of the Holocaust and the trauma of Communism, to support cultural diversity and to disseminate humanistic values.” To this end, the organization has been lauded internationally for its work to empower some 700 Europeans across 40 countries. One-third of program graduates hold PhD’s and they’ve gone on to launch more than 200 ventures benefitting Europe’s diverse Jewish communities  These graduates are also teachers, artists, lawyers, journalists and more; they have all also committed themselves to  Paideia’s unique educational alchemy that, according to Barbara Spectre,  combines academic excellence and entrepreneurial activism in the service of the Jewish people.

A French graduate, Sophie G., is quoted as saying that Barbara Spectre embodies the traits of a “great teacher” who goes well beyond the role of “transmitters of texts” and instead continues to inspire future generations. This graduate went on to say that Barbara Spectre “taught me not only what we can demand of our texts, but also what our texts demand of us. For that, and for her warmth, her care and humor, I am forever grateful.” Paideia, according to the organization’s website, takes a pan-European, non-denominational and pluralistic approach to education. Thus, this French graduate could have easily studied alongside “individuals from 12-15 different European countries.” As a resident of Jerusalem, Barbara Spectre has had her own horizons widened when it comes to studying Jewish perception across continents. Being honored for helping others widen their own horizons is a fitting tribute.