Retired Minds: Terrible Things to Waste

Larry Emmett isn't a high school history teacher or college professor; and his students – who enjoy learning little-known facts about Jewish history in his classes – aren't the type to burn the midnight oil cramming for exams or the SATs.

The retired lawyer is actually a volunteer teacher with the Temple Association for Retired Persons, a learning community based at Temple University's Center City campus; and his students are simply looking to learn a little more about a slew of subjects that interest them.

Emmett, who with the start of classes on Sept. 19 will teach "European History With a Jewish Emphasis," said that about 80 percent to 85 percent of the students in his class are Jewish.

Last semester, he taught "The Golden Age of Spanish Jewry," and dispelled some prominent myths about Jewish life in the medieval Spain.

Emmett said that most Jews characterize that era as a time riddled with violence and expulsions. But from the 27 books he's read on the topic, he concluded that at least part of the era was, in actuality, a peaceful time for Jews in the region.

While Emmett's course is one of only two Jewish-focused courses scheduled for the semester – "Israel: Past and Present" is also on the docket – Jewish content doesn't seem to be lacking in the program as a whole.

"Sometimes, Jewish issues come up in courses like history or current events," said Leonard Tishgart, a semi-retired criminal lawyer who tries to attend TARP courses just about every day. "When you're talking about the government and Iraq, the conversation somewhat gravitates toward Israel. People can get very animated."

A Bit on the Older Side
Despite its name, there are no age requirements for TARP members but, according to Pat Rooney, director of the program, the average student is a bit older than 70.

"Some people, when they reach a certain age, are lost puppies without things to do," reported TARP president Dick Leff, who started taking classes in the program about 12 years ago. "Just about every day, I have a place to go."

For a $200 annual membership fee, TARP students may take as many classes from the roster of more than 50 offered – everything from art and architecture to computers and the Internet – that they can fit into a schedule.

In previous years, instructors taught courses in Hebrew and Yiddish, but a lack of attendance forced those subjects off the course list.

Other area universities offer programs for senior citizens. The University of Pennsylvania allows men and women over the age of 55 – also for an annual fee – to be silent auditors in its undergraduate lecture classes.

Likewise, Rosemont College offers three- and six-week courses and individual lectures specifically geared for the 55-plus crowd.

Although TARP's program contains no grades, examinations or term papers, Leff said that students can, at times, experience stress just like their undergraduate counterparts, especially when it comes to course selection time.

"The main problem is that some classes I like are at the same time," he said. "It's frustrating – pleasantly frustrating," that is.



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