Open Circle Jewish Learning

Open Circle Jewish Learning, sponsored by Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP), brings together small groups of curious, engaged learners with exceptional educators to dive into an array of compelling topics and practices.

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Open Circle Jewish Learning
  • time Adults of all ages
  • location Living rooms, synagogues, and community spaces
  • duration 6 to 18 Sessions
Contact Us

Current Offerings:

Please scroll down for full course descriptions. 

We have recently moved to a new online payment system. If you encounter any problems, including not receiving a registration confirmation via email for your class, please email Anna Katsevman (akatsevman@hebrewcollege.edu). Please be sure to log out of the system and refresh your history once you have paid for your class, even if you are registering for more than one class or for a second person in the same household. Please note that we only accept payment via credit card or e-check, and all are subject to a 4% administrative fee.

Courageous Conversations: Engaging Across Lines of Difference Rabbi Or Rose Temple Israel of Natick Thursdays, 9:30-11:00 a.m., April 23, 30; May 7, 14, 21, 28. (Six sessions, $120) Register
Creatistic Ways of “Knowing”: A Not-for-Artists-Only Workshop Rabbi Carol Glass and Julie Leavitt Hebrew College Tuesdays, 7-8:45 p.m., March 24, 31; April 21, 28; May 5, 12. (Six sessions, $120) Register
Crises of Leadership in the Wilderness: From Exodus to the Book of Numbers (Intermediate Level, Spring Session) Rachel Adelman Hebrew College Mondays, 4-5:30 p.m., February 10, 24; March 2, 16, 23, 30; April 20 and 27; May 4, 11. (Ten sessions, $200) Register
Cultivating an Authentic Relationship to Self, Others and God through the  Lens of the Hebrew Months (Spring Session) Ketriellah Goldfeder Private residence, Sharon Sundays, 7:30-9 p.m., January 12, 26; February 9, 23; March 8, 22; April 26; May 10, 24; and June 7, 21. (Eleven sessions, $220)  Register
Eser 2020 – Hindsight is 2020: Judaism’s Ten Most Surprising Moments (Young Adult Courses) Various Instructors Various Locations March through May 2020–dates depend upon site. Click here for more details. Register
Jewish Mindfulness (Young Adult Course) Beni Summers Private home in Somerville Wednesdays, 7:15-8:45 p.m., January 29; February 5, 12, 19 and 26; March 4. (Six sessions, $60) Register
Jewish Paths of Transformation: Find the Hidden Light Within (Young Adult Course) Matt Ponak Common Street Spiritual Center, Natick Sundays, 1-2:30 p.m., April 19, 26; May 3, 10, 24, and 31. (Six sessions, $60) Register
The Kabbalah of Relationships Layah Lipsker The Vilna Shul Thursdays, 12:00-1:30 p.m., February 6, 27; March 12, 26;  April 2, 23. (Six sessions, $120) Register
Loss and Transformation: Maintaining Hope when Optimism Is Elusive (Flash Sale: Reduced Price!) Rabbi Katy Allen Temple Reyim, Newton Thursdays, 7:15-8:45 p.m., March 12 and 19; April 2, 23, and 30; May 14. (Flash sale for six sessions, $60) Register
Mussar–A Jewish Path to Spiritual Development Rabbi Carol Glass Or Atid, Wayland Mondays, 7:00-9:00 p.m., January 13, February 3, March 2, April 6, May 4, June 1. (Six sessions, $120) Register
Six Jews of Vilna Rachel Greenblatt The Vilna Shul Wednesdays, 7:30-9:00 p.m., January 29; February 12, 26; March 11, 25; April 1. (Six sessions, $120) Register
Spiraling Through Time: Radically Rethinking Our Relationship to Land Getzel Davis and Leora Mallach Hebrew College Tuesday evenings, 6:30-8:00 p.m., January 21, 28; February 4, 11, 18, 25; March 3. (Seven sessions, $105) Register
Writing Through
a Jewish Lens:
A Jewish
Women’s Writing
Workshop (Spring Session)
Joan Leegant Hebrew College Tuesdays, 7-8:45 p.m., March 17, 24, 31; April 21, 28; May 5. (Six sessions, $120) Register
Zivug: From Finding Love to Transitioning to Marriage (Young Adult Class) Rabbi Getzel Davis Private Home in Brighton Mondays, 7:30-9:00 p.m., January 27; February 3, 10, 17, 24; and March 2. (Six sessions, $60) Register

If you are current student looking for details on a course in which you are already enrolled, please click here.

Current Course Descriptions

How do we express our deeply held values and convictions while remaining open to learning with and from people who hold different, even opposing, views? Whether internal to the Jewish community or across religious or cultural lines, holding the tension between our particularity and universality is an ongoing challenge. In this course, we will explore a number of case studies relating to religious, political, and ideological challenges, asking both how we would weigh in on the matters at hand and how we might do so with passion and compassion. Our study will also include exploration of a number of Jewish and general sources related to issues of dialogue, humility, pluralism, dignity, and truth and reconciliation.  

Instructor: Rabbi Or Rose

Temple Israel of Natick: Thursdays, 9:30-11:00 a.m., April 23, 30; May 7, 14, 21, 28.

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We will explore how creative and artistic responses to Torah reveal new ways of “knowing” sacred Jewish texts. Sessions 1-5 will include text study, small-group discussion, and immersion in a creative or artistic modality. At the final gathering, each participant will present their original, creative response to a text studied in class. No prior experience necessary!! We will establish a non-competitive, joyful environment wherein participants can comfortably experiment and support each other.

Instructors: Rabbi Carol Glass and Dr. Julie Leavitt

Hebrew College: Tuesdays, 7-8:45 p.m., March 24, 31; April 21, 28; May 5, 12.

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This course explores crises in leadership in the Torah, from populist revolts to rivalry on high. We will review the sin of the Golden Calf and the breaking of the Tablets and Moses’ response to the ministering women and their gift of mirrors. We will also address several crises in the desert sojourn: the grumblings for meat, questions of prophecy, the sin of the spies, and Korah’s rebellion. Readings will draw from classic and modern sources. Prior text experience with the Hebrew Bible or Meah course required.

Instructor: Rachel Adelman

Hebrew College: Mondays, 4-5:30 p.m., February 10, 24; March 2, 16, 23, 30; April 20 and 27; May 4, 11.

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These sessions will include Torah text study, mindfulness and body centered exercises, journaling and compassionate listening partnerships to help cultivate an authentic relationship with self, others and God.

Instructor: Ketriellah Goldfeder

Private Home, Sharon: Sundays, 7:30-9 p.m., January 12, 26; February 9, 23; March 8, 22; April 26; May 10, 24; and June 7, 21.

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Looking back on many millennia of Jewish existence, there have been some particularly unconventional and surprising moments in our tradition. In Eser 2020, we’re looking at these moments in relation to current themes and trends within the modern Jewish community, using these past events to offer new insights into how we understand contemporary Jewish identity for young adults.

Topics include:

  • Discovery of Ethopian Jewry (1867)
  • Baruch Spinoza (1655)
  • Trefa Banquet (1883)
  • Mushroom Synagogues shut down (1920s)
  • Golden calf (biblical)
  • Abraham’s Circumcision (biblical)
  • G*D of Vengeance arrests (1923)
  • Stars banned at Dyke March (2018)
  • Revival of Hebrew language (1881)
  • David and Batsheva (biblical)

Named for its 10 sessions, Eser brings together young adults throughout Greater Boston each spring to explore contemporary issues and ideas through a Jewish lens, and to build connection and community through conversation. Eser participants meet  for 10 sessions of facilitated discussion and Jewish learning around a specific “top ten” theme in convenient locations across the Boston area.

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Taught by Beni Summers, this 6-part class will look at relevant intersections between Jewish practice and mindfulness, and more specifically, will move through a typical day in a busy life and how we can infuse more moments of life with present moment awareness. We will look at some Jewish texts, the latest research pertaining to mindfulness and its benefits on the brain, and will also play around with creating our own mindful Jewish rituals. No previous mindfulness experiences necessary.

Instructor: Beni Summers

Private home in Somerville: Wednesdays, 7:15-8:45 p.m., January 29; February 5, 12, 19 and 26; March 4.

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Sometimes when we ignore a problem it goes away, but most of the time it doesn’t. This is true for our outer lives as much as it is for our inner lives. Join Student Rabbi Matt Ponak for an exploration of mystical teachings on facing negativity head-on.  For millennia, Jewish spiritual teachers have interpreted sacred texts with the understanding that suffering, if we approach it with intention, can be a blessing in disguise. Along with these teachings, Matt will lead body-centered meditations that can allow the transformation of darkness into light to be felt experientially. Come join us to learn the universal wisdom from this ancient source.

Instructor: Matt Ponak

Common Street Spiritual Center, Natick: Sundays, 1-2:30 p.m., April 19, 26; May 3, 10, 24, and 31.

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Take a mystical ride through Genesis, with text study and discussion on the existential relevance of these familiar stories. Why do we need a creation story that is clearly not meant to be read literally? What is the Garden of Eden really about? Explore themes of identity, boundaries, and an adult version of faith.

Instructor: Layah Lipsker

Vilna Shul: Thursdays, 12:00-1:30 p.m., February 6, 27; March 12, 26;  April 2, 23.

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An interactive class designed to awaken within participants new and deeper awareness of the tools at their disposal for coping emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically with climate disruption, rising levels of hatred, and other global concerns, as well as challenges in their personal lives. Sessions will focus on the inter-connections between personal and communal loss and between loss and transformation and the possibility of moving from chronic toxic stress or post-traumatic stress disorder to post-traumatic growth. Exercises will involve exploring and connecting four kinds of “sacred texts”: the texts of the Earth, the texts of our lives, the texts of our communities, and the texts of our tradition, as a way to find deeper connections to and among all of them, along with options for exploring vehicles for activism.

Instructor: Rabbi Katy Allen

Temple Reyim, Newton: Thursdays, 7:15-8:45 p.m., March 12 and 19; April 2, 23, and 30; May 14.

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Mussar asks us: What steps can I take to bring my life closer to my spiritual potential? How do I make lasting changes in my life? What lessons can I learn from previous generations? Mussar is a path of spiritual development. By refining personal soul traits such as patience, humility, trust, and gratitude, you become more aware of your inner life and thus are able to contribute to Tikkum Olam (repair of the world).

Instructor: Rabbi Carol Glass

Or Atid, Wayland: Mondays, 7:00-9:00 p.m., January 13, February 3, March 2, April 6, May 4, June 1.

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As the Vilna Shul returns to its renovated, historic location in Beacon Hill, we will seize the opportunity to look, close-up, at Vilna of the Old Country, the “Great City of Israel, Jerusalem of Lithuania,” whose emigres founded this Boston synagogue a century ago. Examinations of six specific lives will provide a window through which to see diverse religious and secular aspects of this East European Jewish cultural center, and to consider what its legacy means for us today. 

Instructor: Rachel Greenblatt

Vilna Shul: Wednesdays, 7:30-9:00 p.m., January 29; February 12, 26; March 11, 25; April 1.

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How could Shabbat, Shmitah (sabbatical), and agricultural cycles disrupt our assumptions about what it means to own, rest, and relate to the earth and each other? We will delve into rabbinic and biblical agricultural wisdom to inform our contemporary understandings and practice.

Instructors: Getzel Davis and Leora Mallach

Hebrew College: Tuesday evenings, 6:30-8:00 pm, January 21, 28; February 4, 11, 18, 25; March 3.

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Good writing is an act of discovery not just for the reader but for the writer. In this workshop, we will explore and reflect on our lives through the act of writing. Our texts will be short pieces by Jewish women who will be our teachers in our study of the writer’s craft. Topics will range from childhood to Jewish life to motherhood/daughterhood, work, travel, home, and the nature of memory itself. This class is open to anyone who has a desire to explore life through writing. No prior experience or coursework required.

Instructor: Joan Leegant

Spring Session at Hebrew College: Tuesdays, 7-8:45 p.m., March 17, 24, 31; April 21, 28; May 5.

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A Course for Young Adults:

Join Rabbi Getzel for a 6-class series directed toward couples on love, ‘beshert,’ and the conscious transition to marriage. Through Jewish wisdom, text study, 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 a wedding.

Instructor: Rabbi Getzel Davis

Private home in Brighton: Monday evenings, 7:30-9 p.m., January 27; February 3, 10, 17, 24; and March 2.

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Contact Rabbi Natan Margalit, Director of Open Circle Jewish Learning. Please note that while we warmly welcome inquiries from new teachers and groups, we may have to place some interested groups on a waitlist for the spring due to the great interest in the Greater Boston community for our classes.

Want to learn more about Open Circle Jewish Learning?

If you need additional information or want to create your own course, please contact Rabbi Natan Margalit, Director of Open Circle Jewish Learning, at nmargalit@hebrewcollege.edu.

For questions about registration, please contact Helaine Denenberg, Administrative Coordinator of Open Circle Jewish Learning, at hdenenberg@hebrewcollege.edu.

If you are a teacher and wish to submit a proposal for consideration for Summer or Fall 2020, please fill in this form (click here).