Hebrew College will be closed Sept. 26 & 27 in observance of Rosh Hashanah. Shana tova u'metukah!

Open Circle Jewish Learning Fall 2022 Courses

Young Adults

Mystical Underpinnings of Teshuva: Elul through Sukkot (7 sessions)

Instructor: Rabbi Getzel Davis
Dates: 9/1, 9/8, 9/15, 9/22, 9/29, 10/6, 10/13
Day and Time: Thursdays 8-9:30 p.m. Eastern Time
Location: Online via Zoom
Fee: $126
Register: Register now

Mystical tradition has it that the 40 days between the start of the month of Elul and the end of Yom Kippur constitute an auspicious period during which to engage in teshuva (forgiveness and return). This soul-accounting and forgiveness process can be one of the most intense spiritual practices in Jewish tradition—and it is most rewarding. Dive into a textual and experiential exploration of teshuva during the month of Elul in preparation for the Days of Awe and teshuva. We will be learning about the practice of Cheshbon Hanefesh – “Soul Accounting” by Menachem Mendel Levin, as well as teachings on transformation from Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, Rabbi Alan Lew, and the Zohar. Journey from the Elul period, through Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and all the way to its resolution on Sukkot. No prior knowledge of Hebrew language or Jewish mysticism is necessary, only an open mind and heart.

Blessings (Mishna Brachot) (6 sessions)

Instructor: David Mahfouda
Dates: 11/3, 11/10, 11/17; 12/8, 12/15, 2022
Day and Time: Thursdays, 7-8:30 p.m.
Location: Online via Zoom
Fee: $108
Register: Register now

What is blessing? How do we bless? What does blessing do? In this experimental, practice-based, research and discussion group, we will be reading Mishna Berachot alongside descriptions of the of the numinous in contemporary and classical sources — from a variety of cultures, disciplines, and spiritual disciplines.

Cook the Book: Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food (8 sessions)

Instructor: David Mahfouda
Dates: 10/23, 11/13, 12/18, 2022, 1/8, 2/12, 3/19, 4/23, 5/21, 2023
Day and Time: Sundays 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m. Eastern Time
Location: Online via Zoom
Fee: $144
Register: Register now

We will cook our way through Claudia Roden’s classic, The Book of Jewish Food, using the season, upcoming holidays, and Roden’s own writing as a guide. Each class will focus around one recipe that students will be aware of ahead of time, so they can prepare. Some of the cooking will be done as a group and some before or after. The recipes serve as jumping off points for discussions on their origins and history. We will be exploring the ways recipes connect us to the people and communities who made them before us. The questions we’ll be asking are: Why does this recipe come from this community? What does it tell us about the time and place where the recipe originated? How can we use this recipe (or a slight adaptation of it) in our own life as a form of connection to the season/upcoming holiday/to our Jewishness? Note: You do not need a copy of The Book of Jewish Food in order to participate.

Dreaming with Rabbi Nachman (6 sessions)

Instructor: Rabbi Getzel Davis
Dates: 10/27, 11/3, 11/10, 11/17, 12/1, 12/8, 2022
Day and Time: Thursdays, 8-9:30 P.M. Eastern
Location: Online via Zoom
Fee: $108
Register: Register now

Come and dream along with Rebbe Nachman of Breslev and discover Rebbe Nachman’s most famous story “The Seven Beggars”.  Rebbe Nachman would tell amazing stories, almost fairytale-like in their construction, filled with the most esoteric Kabbalistic symbolism. These stories mirrored his personal dreams and often can reflect our own. He was explicit that his stories were designed to arouse us all from our spiritual slumber and connect us on an almost pre-intellectual level to the Divine. They are also fun, wacky, and thought to be some of the first Jewish fiction. All are welcome to join, regardless of Jewish background, Hebrew/Yiddish skills, or faith. *There will be an expectation of about 10 pages of reading in preparation of each session. All will be invited (but not required) to bring their own dreams or daydreams for spiritual inquiry.

Mysticism, Music, and Mindfulness (6 sessions)

Instructor: Rabbi Alison Adler & Aaron Zev Katz
Dates: 10/13, 10/20, 10/27; 11/3, 11/10, 11/17, 2022
Day and Time: Thursdays, 7:30-9 p.m.
Location: In-person, Temple Bnai Abraham, Beverly, MA
Partner Organization: Temple Bnai Abraham, Beverly, MA
Fee: $108
Register: Register now

Come Join Rabbi Alison Adler and Aaron Zev Katz for the study of Jewish mystical texts, reflection, and singing as a spiritual practice. Nigunim (wordless melodies) have long been part of the Jewish mystical tradition as a way of increasing joy, comfort, and connection to the Divine (if you can hum Happy Birthday, you can sing a nigun!). This course will also help ground us and find more balance and connection.

Plagues and Prophets in Performance (6 sessions)

Instructor: Kyra Smith & Noah Strauss
Dates: 10/25, 11/1, 11/8, 11/15, 11/22; 12/6, 2022
Day and Time: Thursdays, 7:30-9 p.m.
Location: Online via Zoom
Fee: $108
Register: Register now

Sick and disabled people are the experts on their own experience and that expertise is prophetic, especially in plague times. This plays out in dramatic literature of the AIDS pandemic. In this course, we turn to plays written during and about the AIDS pandemic – Angels in America, The Normal Heart, and Rent – to discover how and why prophets behave as they do, especially in the age of pandemics. Through this course students will discuss prophetic wisdom throughout plagues, dramatic literature of the AIDS epidemic, and write about their own experiences of prophetic wisdom in our contemporary pandemic era.

Portrayals of Jewish Mothers: From the Bible to the Borscht Belt (6 sessions)

Instructor: Elisha Gechter
Dates: 10/24, 11/7, 11/14, 11/21, 12/5, 12/12, 2022
Day and Time:Mondays, 8-9:30 p.m.
Location: Online via Zoom
Fee: $108
Register: Register now

Come study the images and tropes society has used to portray and promote Jewish motherhood throughout Jewish history. From stereotypes to those who broke the mold, we will examine the legacies, both ancient and modern, real and imagined, that Jewish mothers have left. Explore the Biblical Sara, who is the first Jewish mother and portrayed as fiercely protective, up through the TV character Rose Maisel who is on the more cavalier end of the spectrum, and many in between. Beginning with Jewish texts and multi-media sources, we will discuss how these women serve as prototypes and consider how their qualities inspire or irk us.  Dig into the stories of mothers across identities, observances, regions, and time.


Social Action

Fat Liberation through a Jewish Lens: Learning from the Last 50 Years (5 sessions)

Instructor: Rabbi Minna Bromberg
Dates: 10/23, 10/30, 11/6, 11/13, 11/20, 2022
Day and Time: Sundays, 12:30-2 p.m
Location: Zoom
Fee: $105
Register: Register

Ready to get oriented to the wondrous world of fat liberation? Already knowledgeable but interested in studying core fat liberation texts in a Jewish context? As we get ready to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of the Fat Liberation Manifesto (written by Jewish women), this course will explore written material and other resources from a variety of voices in the fat liberation movement. What’s changed in the movement’s first five decades, and what has stayed the same? We will look at how fat liberation intersects with anti-racism, disability justice, queer theory, feminism, and, of course, Jewishness. Participants will develop their understanding of how this movement connects and/or stands in tension with weight-based healthcare, diet culture, body positivity, Health at Every Size, Intuitive Eating, and more.

The Fragility of Democracy: The Rise of Nazism and its Lessons for Today’s Jewish Community  (8 sessions)

Instructor: Jan Darsa
Dates: 10/19, 10/26, 11/2, 11/9, 11/16 11/30, 12/7, 12/14, 2022
Day and Time: Wednesdays, 8-9:30 p.m.
Location: Zoom
Fee: $168
Partner Organization: Lexington Institute of Jewish Studies (LIJS)
Register:
 Register

How does a democratic society evolve into a dictatorship? What are the choices individuals make that enable this to happen? In this course we will explore how it was possible that people who were thought to be the moral barometers of society, e.g. doctors, lawyers, and judges became participants in dictatorship and genocide. Just how did the Nazis build such a large and devoted following, and how was propaganda used to create allegiance and promote hatred? The factors of politics and of human behavior that allowed Germany to transform itself from a democracy into a dictatorship will be examined. By looking at decisions people made during the rise and the subsequent takeover of power by the Nazis, we will explore this period of history and how the responsibility for losing or sustaining a democracy belongs to both its leaders and citizens as we investigate how members of a society, with a lens on Jewish values, can work to prevent something like this from happening again.

Stepping Forward: Repairing What is Broken and Restoring What We’ve Lost  (6 sessions)

Instructor: Rabbi Sonia Salzman
Dates: 10/12, 10/19, 10/26, 11/2, 11/9, 11/16, 2022
Day and Time: Wednesdays, 7:30-9 p.m.
Location: Temple Emanuel, Newton, MA
Fee: $126
Partner Organization:Temple Emanuel, Newton, MA
Register:
 Register

What do we do when our world is on fire? It’s not easy to figure out how to make things better in our communities and beyond. And after dealing with COVID these past years, the energy to do something might not really be there. We might also feel discouraged when considering the vastness of the issues at hand– our democratic system is threatened, climate change makes our existence vulnerable, voting rights and reproductive rights are under attack – to name a few of the things that make it hard to remain hopeful. But despair is not an option; our tradition can help us refuel, recharge, and reframe. It can provide perspectives that sustain us as we take on this hard work. We’ll unlock and unfold together the wisdom of our tradition so that it can speak to us and to the issues of our day and help us move from exhaustion and despair to a place of hope and action.


Arts & Culture

Ansky, Asch, Aleichem & Adler: A Journey Through Yiddish Theatre (6 sessions)

Instructor: Elliot Lazar
Dates: 10/12,10/19, 10/26; 11/16, 12/7, 12/14, 2022
Day and Time: Wednesdays, 4:30-6 p.m.
Location: Zoom
Fee: $216
Register: Register now 

In recent years, Yiddish has made a comeback. Jews all over the world are reclaiming and reviving the language of their ancestors. This extends into the arts as well, from the popular web-series Yid-Life Crisis to the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, whose acclaimed Yiddish-language production of “Fiddler on the Roof” will soon be starting a national tour. This course will explore the history of Yiddish theatre in both Europe and North America through close engagement with Yiddish plays combined with historical context. How did Ansky’s The Dybbuk inspire Chayefsky’s “The Tenth Man?”  How did Vogel’s “Indecent” renew interest in Asch’s “God of Vengeance?” Like a good Yid, theater answers one question with another, creating a dialogue that has been going on for centuries and will continue long after we’re gone.

Behind the “Jews-ic” (6 sessions)

Instructor: Matt Robinson
Dates: 10/12,10/19, 10/26; 11/16, 12/7, 12/14, 2022
Day and Time: Mondays, 12:30-2 p.m.
Location: Zoom
Fee: $216
Register: Register now 

The history of Jews in the American music industry is both historic and contemporary. From liturgical chants brought from Eastern Europe to the latest Jazz, Rock, Punk, and Rap, Jews have had an integral role in developing the sounds that have defined nearly every era of 20th century music. Discover and discuss the people and places that helped introduce and ingrain Jews in the music biz and meet some of the people who came to prominence both in front of and behind the microphone (including some you may not have known were Jews!)

Coats of Many Colors-The Stories of Joseph Through Images (6 sessions)

Instructor: Leann Shamash
Dates: 10/23, 10/30, 11/6, 11/13, 11/20, 12/4
Day and Time: Sundays 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m. Eastern Time
Location: Online via Zoom or in person
Fee: $216
Register: Register now 

The story of Joseph is full of drama, starting with his coat of many colors, through his journey to Egypt. Through images that we create or images that we already have on our phone or in albums, we will explore the many themes of the Joseph story, including themes of sibling rivalry, jealousy, dreaming, journeys, truth and lies, empowerment and famine. What are the qualifications for this class? Curiosity to learn more about the Joseph story, a camera and imagination. Please contact the instructor for more details on the class if you have questions, at leannshamash@gmail.com.)

Cook the Book, Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food (8 sessions)

Instructor: Ariella Amshalem
Dates: 10/23, 11/13, 12/18, 2022; 1/8, 2/12, 3/19, 4/23, 5/21, 2023
Day and Time: Sundays 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m. Eastern Time
Location: Online via Zoom
Fee: $144
Register: Register now 

We will cook our way through Claudia Roden’s classic, The Book of Jewish Food, using the season, upcoming holidays, and Roden’s own writing as a guide. Each class will focus around one recipe that students will be aware of ahead of time, so they can prepare. Some of the cooking will be done as a group and some before or after. The recipes serve as jumping off points for discussions on their origins and history. We will be exploring the ways recipes connect us to the people and communities who made them before us. The questions we’ll be asking are: Why does this recipe come from this community? What does it tell us about the time and place where the recipe originated? How can we use this recipe (or a slight adaptation of it) in our own life as a form of connection to the season/upcoming holiday/to our Jewishness? Note: You do not need a copy of The Book of Jewish Food in order to participate.

Plagues and Prophets in Performance (6 sessions)

Instructor: Kyra Smith and Noah Strauss
Dates: 10/25, 11/1, 11/ 8, 11/15, 11/22, 12/6, 2022
Day and Time: Mondays, 8-9:30 p.m. Eastern Time
Location: Online via Zoom
Fee: $108
Register: Register now 

Sick and disabled people are the experts on their own experience and that expertise is prophetic, especially in plague times. This plays out in dramatic literature of the AIDS pandemic. In this course, we turn to plays written during and about the AIDS pandemic – Angels in America, The Normal Heart, and Rent – to discover how and why prophets behave as they do, especially in the age of pandemics. Through this course students will discuss prophetic wisdom throughout plagues, dramatic literature of the AIDS epidemic, and write about their own experiences of prophetic wisdom in our contemporary pandemic era.


Mindfulness

Advanced Mussar Study/Practice Group (8 sessions)

Instructor:  Rabbi Marcia Plumb
Dates: 9/13 – Planning Session (1 hour zoom) 10/25; 11/1, 11/15, 11/29, 12/6, 12/20 2022; 1/10, 1/17, (1/31 Makeup Date) 2023
Day and Time: Tuesdays, 7:30-9 p.m. Eastern Time
Cohort: Temple Shir Tikvah Winchester
Location: Online via Zoom or in person
Fee: $288
Register: Register now 

Our advanced Mussar class is an in-depth exploration of Mussar’s series of character traits, with the guidance of an inspiring instructor, Rabbi Marcia Plumb. Everyone in the course — both individually and as a group — engages deeply with the material and explores ways in which to apply the concepts to our own lives. Essential questions include these: (1) What are the Mussar middot and how can we understand them? (2) How can we use the Mussar middot to enhance our spiritual growth and our daily behavior, and the alignment between the two? (3) What can we learn from the instructor and each other in our exploration and practice of Mussar? (4) How can each of us contribute to the growth of others in the group?

Blessings (Mishna Berachot) (6 sessions)

Instructor: David Mahfouda
Dates: 11/3, 11/10, 11/17; 12/1, 12/8, 12/15, 2022
Day and Time: Thursdays, 7-8:30 p..m. Eastern Time
Location: Zoom
Fee: $216
Register:  Register now

What is blessing? How do we bless? What does blessing do? In this experimental research and discussion group, we will be reading Mishna Berachot alongside descriptions of the numinous in contemporary and classical sources — from a variety of cultures and disciplines. Reading and out of class exercises will be assigned to deepen our engagement with this material. Please budget 1-2 hours of practice time in addition to our scheduled meetings.

Finding the Gifts and Healing the Traumas of our Jewish History through Dreamwork (3 sessions)

Instructor: Linda Schiller
Dates: 10/24, 10/ 31, 11/7
Day and Time: Mondays 6-7:30 p.m. Eastern Time
Location: Online via Zoom or in person
Fee: $108
Registration: Register now

We carry with us both the wounds and the gifts of our ancestors. In this class, using psycho-spiritual dreamwork and guided waking meditations to access our dreams and memories, we will find means to honor and heal our ancestral wounds. We can inherit both bright gifts and past traumas that then show up in our dreams. Through the Pardes system of dreamwork designed by the instructor, we will explore these legacies through waking and sleeping dreamwork. We will also draw on the works of holocaust scholars Dr. Rachel Yehuda and Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, and of kabbalist and mystic Catherine Shainberg. This dreamwork will allow us to access deepening layers of knowledge, to receive buried wisdom, and bring healing forwards and backwards in time to our families and larger tribe. We will create a safe container for this work, and if you have dreams that need healing attention, please bring them with you to the class.

Mussar for a Meaningful Life (8 sessions)

Instructor: Laila Goodman
Dates: 10/30, 12/20, 12/11, 2022; 1/8, 1/29, 2/12, 3/5, 3/26, 2023
Day and Time: Sundays 10-11:30 a.m. Eastern Time
Location: Online via Zoom or in person
Fee: $288
Registration: Register now

Mussar is an ancient Jewish practice that helps one to work on incorporating ethical principles in small everyday actions. In this course, we will study character traits such as patience, respect, and gratitude and share our practice in working on incorporating small steps into our behavior. The class is based in Jewish texts and Jewish practice and the work is done through self-reflection and setting small goals. It provides a structure and opportunity do the inner work of exploring and discovering your moral fabric. Which character traits come naturally to you and have helped you to be a source of strength and comfort? Which character traits have been exposed as areas to work on to be your most holy, best self? We will learn about how to notice your behaviors and how to take small steps to work toward wholeness. This is a course that touches heart and head. Come discover your “soul curriculum,” a peek into a path that can help you to tap into your holiness.

Thirst of the Soul: An Exercise in Practical Mysticism (5 sessions)

Instructor: Rabbi David Curiel
Dates: 11/15, 11/22,11/ 29; 12/6, 12/13
Day and Time: Tuesdays, 7:30-9 p.m. Eastern Time
Location: Online via Zoom or in person
Fee: $180
Registration: Register now

What does your soul thirst for? How can you tell? Join Rabbi David Curiel in an exploration of text, meditation, and contemporary neurobiology as we seek to better understand the nature of the soul and how to give it expression. We’ll follow Hachsharat haAvrechim – “The Training of Youth”—an instruction manual for the soul by Rabbi Kolonymous Kalman Shapira, the 20th century Piaseczna Rebbe—as well as contemporary research into the vagus, aka “soul nerve,” which researchers posit helps us better understand the body/mind as one interrelated system. Each session will be a mix of a short text study and a guided body-based meditation, framed by this soul nerve research, providing practical techniques for your existing or emerging meditation practices. No prior knowledge or experience is required, just an open heart and the allowance for the possibility that deep change is possible.

Parenting with Mussar (6 sessions)

Instructor: Rabbi Marcia Plumb
Dates: 10/26, 11/2, 11/9, 11/16, 11/30; 12/7
Day and Time: Wednesdays, 9:15-10:45 a.m. Eastern Time
Location: Online via Zoom or in person
Fee: $108
Registration: Register now

Parents often wish for an instruction manual as they raise their children, especially in challenging times. Parenting is one of the hardest jobs, and we need all the help we can get. Mussar is an ancient Jewish method for inner spiritual development. It gives us texts and guidance for finding balance, calm and objectivity in all aspects of life. In this course, we will use Mussar to help us become the best parents, and people, we can. Parents of all ages and stages are welcome. No prior experience with Mussar is necessary. Texts will be available in English.

Zivug: Conscious Transitions into a Second Marriage (6 sessions)

Instructor: Rabbi Getzel Davis
Dates: 10/25: 11/1, 11/8, 11/15, 11/22, 11/29
Day and Time: Tuesdays, 8-9:30 p.m. Eastern Time
Location: Online via Zoom or in person
Fee: $216
Registration: Register now

Join Rabbi Getzel and a cohort of other couples for a six-class series on love, partnership, and the conscious transition to a second (or subsequent) marriage.  Second marriages end in divorce even more often than the first, so spending time visioning together and setting expectations can really help start a new marriage off on the “right foot.”  Through Jewish wisdom, guided exercises, and frank conversations, we will explore the growth and maintenance of vibrant relationships. Open to couples (all gender and multifaith expressions of partnership strongly welcome) in the year preceding or following the wedding. Each of the six classes will be on a separate topic: Stories We Tell Ourselves About Love and Marriage Healthy Conflict, Money, Finances, and Debt, Moral/Religious/Spiritual Differences, Intimacy and Sex Partner Roles Ancient and Modern.


Parenting & Grandparenting

Antisemitism and Our Kids: A workshop Series for Parents and Grandparents (4 sessions)

Instructor: Jan Darsa, Dr Jonathan Golden, and Yoni Kadden
Dates:  10/23, 11/6, 12/11, 2022; January 22, 2023
Day and Time: Sundays, 5-6:30 p.m.
Location: Temple Beth Shalom, Needham MA
Fee: $72
Registration: Register now

The TBS K-12 Learning Programs and the Antisemitism Awareness Initiative are partnering with Open Circle Jewish Learning at Hebrew College for a four-session course aimed at helping adults unpack and discuss antisemitism with their children as well as help them grow their Jewish pride. The class is open to parents and grandparents of all ages and stages.

 

Parenting with Mussar (6 sessions)

Instructor: Rabbi Marcia Plumb
Dates: 10/26, 11/2, 11/9, 11/16, 11/30; 12/7
Day and Time: Wednesdays, 9:15-10:45 a.m. Eastern Time
Location: Online via Zoom or In person
Fee: $108
Registration: Register now

Parents often wish for an instruction manual as they raise their children, especially in challenging times. Parenting is one of the hardest jobs, and we need all the help we can get. Mussar is an ancient Jewish method for inner spiritual development. It gives us texts and guidance for finding balance, calm and objectivity in all aspects of life. In this course, we will use Mussar to help us become the best parents, and people, we can. Parents of all ages and stages are welcome. No prior experience with Mussar is necessary. Texts will be available in English.


Texts & Traditions

Reading the Rabbis: Rabbinic Writings on the Holidays, Section 1: High Holidays (3 sessions)

Instructor: Rabbi Natan Margalit, PhD
Dates: 9/8, 9/15, 9/22, 2022
Day and Time: Thursdays 3-4:30 p.m. Eastern
Location: Zoom
Partner Organization: Aleph: Alliance for Jewish Renewal
Fee: $108
Register: Register now 

If you know some Hebrew but want to get closer to being able to read the Mishnah, Medieval commentators, and Hasidic Masters on your own, this is the class for you. We’ll dive into the Mishnah on Yom Kippur which describes the processes of teshuvah (return to one’s source or better self) and kapparah (atonement) on Yom Kippur. We’ll read the Mishnah itself as well as some medieval commentaries. We’ll also take a short look at a Hasidic commentary or two. Since reading these texts is not only about technical skills but also about interpretation, we’ll also discuss the ideas as they come up. Learning Torah takes on a whole new meaning when one can access the treasury of Jewish texts in the original—you can experience the thrill of gaining the skills to participate in this core Jewish spiritual practice.

Reading the Rabbis: Rabbinic Writings on the Holidays, Section 2: Hanukkah (6 sessions)

Instructor: Rabbi Natan Margalit, PhD
Dates: 10/20, 10/27, 11/3, 11/10, 11/17, 12/1, 12/8, 2022
Day and Time: Thursdays 3-4:30 p.m. Eastern
Partner Organization: Aleph: Alliance for Jewish Renewal
Location: Zoom
Fee: $216
Register: Register now 

If you know some Hebrew but want to get closer to being able to read the Medieval commentators and Hasidic Masters on your own, this is the class for you. We’ll explore the Rambam’s (Maimonides) Mishnah Torah, laws of Hanukkah along with commentaries. We’ll also dive into some Hasidic commentaries on the spiritual meaning of Hanukkah. Since reading these texts is not only about technical skills but also about interpretation, we’ll also discuss the ideas as they come up. Learning Torah takes on a whole new meaning when one can access the treasury of Jewish texts in the original—you can experience the thrill of gaining the skills to participate in this core Jewish spiritual practice.

Reading the Rabbis: Rabbinic Writings on the Holidays, Sections 1 & 2: High Holidays and Hanukkah (9 sessions)

Instructor: Rabbi Natan Margalit, PhD
Dates: 9/8, 9/15, 9/22, 10/20, 10/27, 11/3, 11/10, 11/17, 12/1, 12/8, 2022
Day and Time: Thursdays 3-4:30 p.m. Eastern
Partner Organization: Aleph: Alliance for Jewish Renewal
Location: Zoom
Fee: $324
Register: Register now 

If you know some Hebrew but want to get closer to being able to read the Mishnah, Medieval commentators, and Hasidic Masters on your own, this is the class for you. We’ll dive into the Mishnah on Yom Kippur which describes the processes of teshuvah (return to one’s source or better self) and kapparah (atonement) on Yom Kippur. We’ll read the Mishnah itself as well as some medieval commentaries. We’ll also take a short look at a Hasidic commentary or two. Since reading these texts is not only about technical skills but also about interpretation, we’ll also discuss the ideas as they come up. Learning Torah takes on a whole new meaning when one can access the treasury of Jewish texts in the original—you can experience the thrill of gaining the skills to participate in this core Jewish spiritual practice.

An Introduction to Talmudic Stories (6 sessions)

Instructor: Rabbi Lev Friedman
Dates: 10/24, 11/7, 11/21, 12/5, 12/19; 1/2/2023
Day and Time: Mondays 7:15–8:45 p.m. Eastern Time
Partner Organization: Temple Sinai, Brookline
Location: Zoom
Fee: $216
Register: Register now 

Fully one-third of the Talmud is made up of folklore, yet these sections are often overlooked. In this class the participants will be introduced to the complexity, depth, imagery and values embedded in these stories.

How We Became the People of the Book: Audacious Translations that Saved Judaism (6 sessions)

Instructor: Rabbi Navah Levine
Dates: 10/25, 11/1, 11/8, 11/15, 11/22, 11/29, 2022
Day and Time: Tuesdays Noon-1:30 p.m. Eastern Time
Location: Zoom
Fee: $216
Register: Register now 

After the destruction of the Second Jerusalem Temple in 70 C.E. and the loss of the nation-state, the Jewish People might well have ceased to exist. Instead, through the creative power of translation and interpretation, the diaspora community evolved from one united only through a shared sacred text, into one united through committed engagement with that sacred text. How was new life breathed into that text? How were we transformed from being a People with a Book into the People of the Book? In this six-week course, we will survey the history and impact of the earliest biblical translations. As we read biblical texts, translations, and related allegorical explanations (midrashim), we will explore the evolving views on select themes such as: monotheism, prayer, the centrality of study of Torah, human free will and the urge to do evil, the centrality of Jerusalem, the Holiness imperative, and the theology of exile.

Israeli Current Events (2 sessions)

Instructor: Dr. Shayna Weiss
Dates: 10/12, 12/16, 2022
Day and Time: Wednesdays 12:30-2 p.m. Eastern Time
Location: In Person at Temple Emanuel
Partner Organization: Temple Emanuel Newton
Fee: $72
Register: Register now 

Join Associate Director of the Schusterman Center of Israel Studies at Brandeis University Dr. Shayna Weiss for a discussion about contemporary issues in Israeli society. Topics include the upcoming elections in Israel, the impact of the war in Ukraine, Orthodoxy and the state, and more!

Living in The Image (6 sessions)

Instructor: Rabbi Eric Gurvis
Dates: 10/20, 10/27, 11/3, 11/17, 12/1, 12/15
Day and Time: Thursdays 7:15-8:45 p.m.
Location: Online via Zoom
Fee: $216
Register: Register now 

One of the most profound teachings of Jewish tradition comes form the opening chapter of our Torah, the notion that each person is created B’tzelem Elohim – “in the image of God.” In this series we will explore how this concept evolved over the course of the development of Jewish tradition. How did the concept expand, and what does it mean for us, in our lives, to live mindful that we are created b’tzelem Elohim? How does and should this concept impact our lives and relationships?

We will explore texts (in translation) from the Bible, to the Rabbis, to medieval philosophy (such as Maimonides), the Mussar and Hasidic traditions, as well as contemporary Jewish thought.

Living Seasonally through the Jewish Year (8 sessions)

Instructor: Ketriellah Goldfeder
Dates: 10/23, 11/20, 12/11, 2022; 1/22, 2/19, 3/19, 4/23, 5/21, 2023
Day and Time: Sundays 7-8:30 p.m. Eastern Time
Location: In person in a private home in Sharon, MA
Fee: $288
Register: Register now 

For women who are looking for a deeper, traditionally based but uniquely feminine Jewish spirituality within a community of like-minded individuals. We will explore and experience the nature of each Jewish month through text, conversation, journaling, listening partnerships, meditation, mindfulness practices, and other forms of creative expression. We laugh a lot, we share of our lives, and we support each other in trying to grow through the Jewish year.

Mystical Underpinnings of Teshuva: Elul through Sukkot (7 sessions)

Instructor: Rabbi Getzel Davis
Dates: 9/1, 9/8, 9/15, 9/22, 9/29, 10/6, 10/13
Day and Time: Thursdays 8-9:30 p.m. Eastern Time
Location: Online via Zoom
Fee: $126
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Mystical tradition has it that the 40 days between the start of the month of Elul and the end of Yom Kippur constitute an auspicious period during which to engage in teshuva (forgiveness and return). This soul-accounting and forgiveness process can be one of the most intense spiritual practices in Jewish tradition—and it is most rewarding. Dive into a textual and experiential exploration of teshuva during the month of Elul in preparation for the Days of Awe and teshuva. We will be learning about the practice of Cheshbon Hanefesh – “Soul Accounting” by Menachem Mendel Levin, as well as teachings on transformation from Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, Rabbi Alan Lew, and the Zohar. Journey from the Elul period, through Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and all the way to its resolution on Sukkot. No prior knowledge of Hebrew language or Jewish mysticism is necessary, only an open mind and heart.

One God, Many Aspects: Examining God Metaphors in Jewish Sacred Text (5 sessions)

Instructor: Naomi Gurt Lind
Dates: 10/30, 11/6, 11/13, 11/27, 12/4, 2022
Day and Time: Sundays 11-12:30 p.m. Eastern Time
Location: Online via Zoom
Fee: $180
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This course examines the many images and metaphors of God that are found throughout Jewish sacred text. For example, in the first blessing of the Amidah, God is referred to as: king, helper, savior, and shield. Elsewhere, we see God described as a shepherd, a builder, a bearer… even a moth. Sometimes God is described as compassionate, sometimes jealous, sometimes righteous. What do these images and descriptions mean within the context of the literature, and what do they mean for us as we construct a theology for our lives? Which God-metaphors are rich and robust for us? Which are troubling? Which leave us cold? In each session we will examine a handful of God-metaphors in their context and in conversation with our own lives and concerns. We will draw on Biblical sources and supplement them with commentary from our sages and from modern thinkers and poets.

Pirkei Avot – Ancient Wisdom (8 sessions)

Instructor: Rabbi Mona Strick
Dates: 10/13, 10/20, 10/27, 11/3, 11/10, 11/17, 12/1, 12/8, 2022
Day and Time: Thursdays 7-8:30 p.m. Eastern Time
Location: Online via Zoom
Partner Organization: Boston Synagogue
Fee: $288
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Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of our Fathers, contains wisdom that has been passed down through the ages. In our class we will explore this unique book of the Mishnah and delve into some of its most well-known passages: What is an argument for the sake of heaven? What should we look for in friendship? What is the definition of happiness? What are we called to do to repair the world? We will read through key passages using traditional and contemporary commentary to expand our conversation.

Realistic Utopias: What’s the Best Future We Can Hope For? (6 sessions)

Instructor: Aron Wander
Dates: 10/23, 10/30; 11/6, 11/13, 11/20, 12/4, 2022
Day and Time: Sundays 12:30-2pm Eastern Time
Location: Online via Zoom
Partner Organization: Temple Israel Boston
Fee: $216
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Are we fated to live in a dysfunctional, unstable, and violent world, or is a better future possible? In “Realistic Utopias: What’s the Best Future We Can Hope For?” we’ll focus on a Talmudic debate in which the rabbis discuss how different – or not different – the world of the Messiah will be from our own. At stake in the debate is the question of how “realistic” it is to hope for a better world. We’ll trace the Talmudic debate from its origins in the Torah, through its reinterpretation in the Middle Ages, and all the way to contemporary discussions. Along the way, we’ll meet hardheaded realists, hopeful dreamers, practical Messianists, Religious Zionists, Kabbalistic Communists, and other colorful characters. Each of them will be asking: what’s the best future we can hope for? And what’s our role in bringing that future about?

The Sacred Feminine in Judaism (4 sessions)

Instructor: Kohent D’vora Grenn
Dates: 10/25, 11/8, 11/29, 12/13, 2022
Day and Time: Tuesdays 1-2:30 p.m. Eastern Time
Location: Online via Zoom
Partner Organization: Lilith Institute
Fee: $144
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What does “Sacred Feminine” mean? Is it a concept, an energy, someone in physical form? Are we talking about Goddess, a pantheon of goddesses, mortal women, a set of values, all these embodiments? The Sacred Feminine in Judaism is most often identified as Shekhinah, the female face of God, as “She who dwells within.” In this course, we will explore the attributes of female deities in pre-Judaic, pre-Rabbinic deities, in Shekhinah, in ourselves. We will discuss how we transmit female divinity through lifecycle rituals, in feminist or woman-centered prayers, blessings and midrashim, in kindling the Sabbath lights. We will also discuss the backlash against worship of a female divinity, and the false notion that Goddess worship is synonymous with idolatry. What would our world look like if we honored the Sacred Feminine in all?

The Tanakh in Historical Perspective (6 sessions)

Instructor: Dr. David Bernat
Dates: 10/25, 11/1, 11/8, 11/15, 11/22, 11/29, 2022
Day and Time: Tuesdays 7-8:30 p.m. Eastern Time
Location: Online via Zoom
Partner Organization: Temple Emanuel Andover
Fee: $216
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This course addresses the core issue of the Tanakh’s historicity. In other words, does the Hebrew Bible contain accurate accounts about real people, places, and events, or, alternatively, are the Biblical narratives well-crafted works of fiction and featuring only legendary figures? Is there a middle ground? To what extent can we make such assessments with confidence? Potential topics, depending on a final determination of the course’s length, include “Did the Named Matriarchs and Patriarchs exist, and if so, when and where did they live?” “Moses and The Exodus: Real or Imagined?” “Was David the Ancestral King of Israel, and what was the extent of his territorial reign?” “The Rise and Fall of The Northern Israelite Kingdome/House of Omri,” “Hezekiah’s Tunnel and the Assyrian Siege of Jerusalem,” “Temple, Shrines, and Altars: The Nature of Sacrificial Religion,” “Did our Ancestors Worship only one God, or Many Gods and Goddesses?” Finally, we will also tackle the question “Why does this matter?”

We are Bound, We are Cut Loose: Exploring a Jewish Ethic of Obligation and Liberation (6 sessions)

Instructor: Sara Klugman
Dates: 10/19, 10/26, 11/2, 11/9, 11/16, 11/30,  2022
Day and Time: Wednesdays, 6:30-8 p.m. Eastern Time
Location: Online via Zoom
Fee: $216
Register: Register now 

In this course, we will explore Jewish understandings of what it means to be “bound” and what it means to be “free” – and how they are related to each other. Grounding our study in the Binding of Isaac – a foundational trauma in the Jewish experience – we will explore ancient, rabbinic, and contemporary understandings of obligation: to tradition, to God, and to each other. Through traditional text study and contemporary cultural criticism, we will explore how Jewish text, story and embodied practice understands obligation, and freedom. We will explore how Jewish texts interrupt neoliberal capitalist understandings of “obligation” and “liberation” – and offer us an alternative ethic. Through study, discussion, and collaborative research, we will forge new understandings of what it could mean to be obligated to each other, and to be free. In addition to ancient and rabbinic texts, we will draw on cultural criticism, secular literature, queer/erotic theologies, and artistic inquiry.

When Does the Good Outweigh the Bad? Lessons from the Talmud (6 sessions)

Instructor: Rabbi Talia Laster
Dates: 11/2, 11/9, 11/16, 11/30, 12/7, 12/14, 2022
Day and Time: Wednesdays, 7-8:30 p.m. Eastern Time
Location: In person at a location in Brookline
Partner Organization: Congregation Kehillath Israel
Fee: $216
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From within one of the most troubling episodes of the Torah, the rabbis of the Talmud engage a basic human question: If I do bad things, can I still be thought of as a good person? Are there some good and bad deeds that “count” more than others? And who’s counting, anyway?  Through deep engagement with one section of the Babylonian Talmud, in Tractate Sotah, we will explore questions within the realms of ethics, theology, gender, literature, and more. We will use the SVARA* method of learning to carefully, creatively, and joyfully examine each word of the text of the traditional Talmud page in a fun and supportive environment.  No prior knowledge of Hebrew or Aramaic is required. We will use dictionaries, reference guides, patience, and courage to decode the original Hebrew and Aramaic together. As long as you know your Aleph Bet, you’re ready for this class!  (If there is interest, we will offer a prep session to go over the Hebrew alphabet too.) *SVARA: A Traditionally Radical Yeshiva is based in Chicago. Learn more at svara.org/learning/learning-at-svara.