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
Register

Current Offerings:

Please scroll down for full course descriptions. 

Advanced Mussar (Course closed to new participants) Rabbi Eric S. Gurvis Beth-El Temple Center, Belmont Mondays, 7-9 p.m., September 16; November 4, 18; December 9; January 13; February 3; March 2, 30; May 4; and June 8. Register
Advanced Mussar (Course closed to new participants) Rabbi Marcia Plumb Private home, Newton Wednesdays, 7-9 p.m., September 4, September 18, October 23, November 6, November 20, December 11, January 8, January 22, February 5. Register
Advanced Mussar (Course closed to new participants) Rabbi Eric S. Gurvis Temple Beth Shalom, Needham Thursdays, 8:15-9:45 a.m., September 12, 26; October 17, 31; November 14; December 5, 12; January 9, 23; February 6, 27; March 5, 19; April 2, 30; May 14, 28; and June 11. Register
Contemporary Jewish Life and Living (Course closed to new participants) Rabbi Lila Kagedan Private homes in Needham and Newton Wednesdays, 11-12:30, September 25; October 16; November 6; December 11; January 8; March 4; and April 22. Register
CJP Womens Past Leaders (Course closed to new participants) Layah Lipsker Private homes in Brookline Tuesdays, 10 a.m. – Noon, September 24, October 29, November 5, 19; December 3, 17; January 7, 21; February 4, 25. Register
Crises of Leadership in the Wilderness: From Exodus to the Book of Numbers (Intermediate Level) Rachel Adelman Hebrew College Mondays, 4-5:30 p.m., September 9, 16, 23; October 28; November 4, 11, 18; and December 2, 9, and 16. Register
Cultivating an Authentic Relationship to Self, Others and God through the  Lens of the Hebrew Months Ketriellah Goldfeder Private residence, Sharon Sundays, 7:30-9 p.m., September 8, 15, 22; October 27. November 3, 10, 17, 24; December 8 and 15.  Register
Embracing an Adult Version of Faith (Course closed to new participants) Layah Lipsker Private residence, Needham Sundays, 7-8:30 p.m., September 22, November 3, December 1, January 5, February 23, and March 8.  Register
Identity and Transitions (Course closed to new participants) Layah Lipsker Private homes, Swampscott Wednesdays, 7-9 p.m. September 25, October 30, November 6, November 20, December 4, and December 18. Register
Israel: Examining its Many Contours (Course closed to new participants) Rachel Fish Hebrew College Mondays, 12-2 p.m., September 23; October 7, 28; November 18; December 9; January 6, 27; February 10; March 9, 30; April 27; and May 11. Register
JewFood: Cooking Jewish Recipes from Around the World (Young Adult Course) Rabbi Elie Lehmann BU Hillel Mondays, 7:30-9 p.m., September 16, 23; October 7, 28; November 4; and Friday, November 8 (dinner and learning session). Register
The Jewish Road to Character: A Journey into the Practice and Study of Mussar Rabbi Eric S. Gurvis Temple Emanuel, Newton Thursdays, 7:45-9:15 p.m., October 24; November 7, 21; December 5, 19; January 2, 16, 30. Register
Life Cycle Events through the Lens of Kabbalah Layah Lipsker Vilna Shul Thursdays, 12-1:30 p.m., September 26, October 31, November 7, November 21, December 5, December 19. Register
Miriam Fund Learning Circle: Life Cycle Events through the Lens of Kabbalah Layah Lipsker Hebrew College Tuesdays, 1-2:30 p.m., September 24, October 29, November 5, November 19, December 3, December 17, January 7, January 21, February 4, February 25, March 10, March 31. Register
Mussar (Course closed to new participants) Laila Goodman Temple Isaiah, Lexington Tuesdays 7:15-9:15 p.m., September 24, October 29, November 5, November 19, December 3, December 17, January 7, January 14, January 21, February 4, February 25, March 17, March 31, April 7, April 28, May 12. Register
Mussar for Moms (Course closed to new participants) Rabbi Marcia Plumb Rashi School, Dedham Wednesdays, 8:30-10:00 a.m., October 30; November 13; December 4, 18; January 8, 22; February 5, 26; March 11; April 1, 22; May 6, 20; and June 3. Register
Mussar Study: Year 2 (Course closed to new participants) Rabbi Eric S. Gurvis Temple Isaiah, Lexington Mondays, 7:15-9 p.m, September 9, 23; October 28; November 11, 25; December 2, 16; January 6, 27; February 10, 24; March 23; April 13, 27; May 11, 18; and June 1, 15. Register
Opening the Gates: A Personal Exploration of Teshuva and Forgiveness Rabbi Mona Strick Boston Synagogue Thursdays, 7:30-9 p.m., September 5, 12, 19, 26; October 3, 10, 17, 24, 31; and November 7. Register
Parashat Ha-Shavua Through a Mussar Lens Rabbi Eric S. Gurvis Temple Emanuel – Newton Mondays, 10-11:30 a.m., Oct. 28; Nov. 2, 11, 18, 25; and Dec. 2, 9, 16. Register
The Road to Jewish Character: A Taste of Mussar Rabbi Eric S. Gurvis Temple Beth Shalom, Needham Tuesdays, 7:30-9 p.m., September 17, October 15, 29; November 12, 26; December 3, 17; January 7, 21; February 4, 25; March 3, 17, 31; April 7, 28; and May 12, 26. Register
Sarnoff to Seinfeld: Televisual Jews in Historical Context Rachel Greenblatt Vilna Shul Mondays, 7:30-9 p.m., October 7, 28; November 11, 25; December 9, 16. Register
Shal-Om: Introduction to Jewish Meditation and Mysticism (Young Adult Class) Rabbi Getzel Davis Private home in Cambridge Thursdays, 7-8:30 p.m., October 3, 10, 17, 24, 31; November 7, 14, and 21. Register
Soul Cycle: Spiritual Insights into the Jewish Holiday Cycle Ryan Leszner and Rabbi Daniel Schaefer Ohabei Shalom, Brookline Thursdays, 6:30-8 p.m., September 12, 26; October 17, 31; December 12; January 9; February 6; March 5; April 2, 16; May 7, 21. Register
Top 10 Jewish Innovations (Young Adult Course)  Rabbi Ellie Lehmann BU Hillel Thursdays, 5-6:30 p.m., September 19, 26; October 3, 10, 17, 24; November 7, 14, 21; December 5. Register
Torah Study through a Hasidic Lens Rabbi Lev Friedman Private home, Newton Wednesdays, 2-3:45 p.m., September 4, 18; October 16, 23; November 20; December 4, February 5, 19; March 4, 18; and April 8, 29. Register
Women of Valor Open Circle (Course closed to new participants) Layah Lipsker Private homes in Newton Mondays, 12-1:30 p.m., September 23, October 28, November 4, November 18, December 2, December 16, January 6, January 23, February 3, February 24, March 9, March 30. Register
Writing Through
a Jewish Lens: A Jewish Women’s Writing Workshop
Joan Leegant Hadassah-Brandeis Institute at Brandeis University Wednesdays, 7-8:30 p.m., October 30; November 6, 13, 20; and December 4, 11. Register
Zivug: From Finding Love to Transitioning to Marriage (Young Adult Class) Rabbi Getzel Davis Private Home in Cambridge Wednesdays, 7-8:30 p.m., October 2, 16, 23, 30; November 6, 13. Register

 


Current Course Descriptions:

This group builds on previous Mussar Va’ad experience in pursuit of this inspiring and rich Jewish spiritual discipline that helps us to nurture the depth of soul and spirit. This year, we circle back to a few middot (soul-traits) from previous years as well as expand our understanding practice with new middot to be chosen by the group.

Instructor: Rabbi Eric S. Gurvis

Beth-El Temple Center, Belmont: Mondays, 7-9 p.m., September 16; November 4, 18; December 9; January 13; February 3; March 2, 30; May 4; and June 8.

Temple Beth Shalom, Needham: Thursdays, 8:15-9:45 a.m., September 12, 26; October 17, 31; November 14; December 5, 12; January 9, 23; February 6, 27; March 5, 19; April 2, 30; May 14, 28; and June 11.

>> REGISTER

Mussar (ethics) is the Jewish wisdom tradition that teaches us how to act according to our highest values. In this advanced course, we will continue to explore specific character traits and give students a chance to work on aligning behaviors with our core values. Through this practice we will see the impact of Mussar on our lives, in our homes and on our thinking and behavior.

Instructor: Rabbi Marcia Plumb

Private home, Newton: Wednesdays, 7-9 p.m., September 4, 18; October 23; November 6, 20; December 11; January 8, 22; and February 5.

>> REGISTER

We are a multigenerational group of women who have previously served as Presidents or Campaign Chairs of CJP’s Womens Philanthropy (previously known as Women’s Division). We have been learning together for over 5 years. This year we will explore how we, as adult modern Jewish women embrace faith, life & family, using biblical texts, modern readings & Kabbalah to inform our discussions.

Instructor: Layah Lipsker

Private homes, Brookline: Tuesdays, 10 a.m. – noon, September 24; October 29; November 5, 19; December 3, 17; January 7, 21; February 4, 25.

>> REGISTER

The class will explore contemporary issues of Jewish Life, Living and Ritual.

Instructor: Rabbi Lila Kagedan

Private Homes, Needham and Newton: Wednesdays, 11-12:30, September 25; October 16; November 6; December 11; January 8; March 4; and April 22.

>> REGISTER

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., September 9, 16, 23; October 28; November 4, 11, 18; December 2, 9, 16

>> REGISTER

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., September 8, 15, 22; October 27. November 3, 10, 17, 24; December 8 and 15.

>> REGISTER

How do we think about faith as modern Jews? Explore biblical and Talmudic texts, plus the philosophy of Maimonodes, Rabbi Soloveitchik and Heschel, as we tackle the question of what it means to think like a Jew.

Instructor: Layah Lipsker

Private home in Needham: Sundays, 7:00 to 8:30 p.m., September 22,  November 3, December 1, January 5, February 23, and March 8.

>> REGISTER

How we see ourselves is everything. To be comfortable in one’s skin, one has to be able to manage a shifting identity that must change with every transition. Through biblical narratives, we will explore the challenge of knowing oneself fully, in order to share a light that is unique.

Instructor: Layah Lipsker

Private homes in Swampcott: Wednesdays, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., September 25, October 30, November 6, November 20, December 4, and December 18.

>> REGISTER

This course takes a look at Israeli society, history and the Israeli relationship with global Jewry through the lens of current events, literary works, and sociological trends. The objective of the course is to provide a historical context while understanding the impact on today’s relationships and the challenges and opportunities of engaging with Israel in all of its complexities.

Instructor: Rachel Fish

Hebrew College: Mondays, 12-2 p.m., September 23; October 7, 28; November 18; December 9; January 6, 27; February 10; March 9, 30; April 27; and May 11.

>> REGISTER

The JewFood cohort is a great opportunity to make friends while cooking classical recipes from Jewish communities around the world. Each week we will learn about a different Jewish community and cook some of their delicacies. Join us for great food, friendship and learning.

Instructor: Rabbi Elie Lehmann

BU Hillel: Mondays, 7:30-9 p.m., September 16, 23; October 7, 28; November 4; and Friday, November 8.

>> REGISTER

Mussar is a Jewish spiritual discipline that helps us to nurture depth of soul and spirit. Through the exploration of Jewish wisdom and insight, we develop a way of living that reflects inner-peace, ethical living, and deepened appreciation for life’s blessings.

Instructor: Rabbi Eric S. Gurvis

Temple Emanuel, Newton: Thursdays, 7:45-9:15 p.m., October 24; November 7, 21; December 5, 19; January 2, 16, 30

>> REGISTER

Explore Jewish lifecycle events, as they are seen through the eyes of the soul’s journey into and out of this physical world. Includes a discussion on reincarnation, heaven, and hell in Jewish thought, as well as our major life cycle events.

Instructor: Layah Lipsker

Vilna Shul: Thursdays, 12:00-1:30 p.m., September 26, October 31, November 7, November 21, December 5, and 19.

>> REGISTER

Explore Jewish lifecycle events, as they are seen through the eyes of the soul’s journey into and out of this physical world. Includes a discussion on reincarnation, heaven, and hell in Jewish thought, as well as our major life cycle events. Open to any female identifying learner.

Instructor: Layah Lipsker

Hebrew College: Tuesdays, 1-2:30 p.m., September 24, October 29, November 5, 19; December 3; 17; January 7, 21; February 4, 25; March 10, 31.

>> REGISTER

In our fifth year of studying Mussar together, we look forward to continuing to deepen our practice.

Instructor: Laila Goodman

Temple Isaiah (Lexington): Tuesdays, 7:15-9:15 p.m., September 24; October 29; November 5, 19; December 3, 17; January 7, 14, 21; February 4, 25; March 17, 31; April 7, 28; and May 12.

>> REGISTER

Mussar (ethics) is the Jewish wisdom tradition that teaches us how to act according to our highest core values. This course will explore specific character traits and will be geared toward exploring how Mussar can help us as parents. No prior knowledge is needed.

Instructor: Rabbi Marcia Plumb

Rashi School, Dedham: Wednesdays, 8:30-10:00 a.m., October 30; November 13; December 4, 18; January 8, 22; February 5, 26; March 11; April 1, 22; May 6, 20; and June 3.

>> REGISTER

In this class, we will continue to explore the spiritual path of Mussar study by focusing our practices on various Middot, studying texts, and joining in Hevrutah practice.

Instructor: Rabbi Eric S. Gurvis

Temple Isaiah, Lexington: Mondays, 7:15-9 p.m., September 9, 23; October 28; November 11, 25; December 2, 16; January 6, 27; February 10, 24; March 23; April 13, 27; May 11, 18; and June 1, 15.

>> REGISTER

This group builds on previous Mussar Va’ad experience in pursuit of this inspiring and rich Jewish spiritual discipline that helps us to nurture the depth of soul and spirit. In year 3 we circle back to a few middot (soul-traits) from previous years as well as expand our understanding practice with new middot to be chosen by the group.

  • When: Thursdays, 10-11:30 a.m.,

    October 24; November 7, 21; December 5, 19; January 2, 16, 30; February 13, 27; March 12, 26; April 23; May 7, 21; and June 4.

  • Where: Temple Emanuel, Newton
  • Instructor: Rabbi Eric S. Gurvis

Registration FULL.

Starting in the month of Elul we will journey together towards the High Holidays. Grounding ourselves in text selections from the Talmud, Maimonides, Hasidic Masters, High Holiday liturgy and contemporary voices we will explore what is at the heart of Teshuva – the work of returning. How does Teshuva expand our relationships with each other, ourselves and Divine Presence? Through study, discussion,song and personal reflection we will wrestle with both the challenges and spiritual opportunities of the Yamim Nora’im.

Instructor: Rabbi Mona Strick

Boston Synagogue: Thursdays, 7:30-9 p.m., September 5, 12, 19, 26; October 3, 10, 17, 24, 31; and November 7.

>> REGISTER

The Mussar tradition emphasizes the refinement one’s personal attributes and the development of middot or spiritual qualities such as humility, patience, gratitude, equanimity, and others.  In this series, we will explore the weekly Torah portion through the lens of Mussar, and the teaching of classic Mussar texts and teachers. Each week we will explore the Torah portion from the vantage point of a particular middah (soul-trait, or quality) No previous Mussar experience is necessary. All texts will be presented in English translation.

Instructor: Rabbi Eric S. Gurvis

Temple Emanuel, Newton: Mondays, 10-11:30 a.m., Oct. 28; Nov. 2, 11, 18, 25; and Dec. 2, 9, 16.

>>REGISTER

Mussar is a Jewish spiritual discipline that helps us to nurture depth of soul and spirit. Through the exploration of Jewish wisdom and insight, we develop a way of living that reflects inner-peace, ethical living, and deepened appreciation for life’s blessings.

Instructor: Rabbi S. Gurvis

Temple Beth Shalom, Needham: Tuesdays, 7:30-9 p.m., September 17, October 15, 29; November 12, 26; December 3, 17; January 7, 21; February 2, 25; March 3, 17, 31; April 7, 28; and May 12, 26.

>> REGISTER

 

Jewish immigrants and their American-born descendants played critical roles in shaping the American entertainment business, yet their relationships to their religious and cultural heritage have been complex. In this course, we’ll explore representations of Jewish characters on broadcast television–from immigrant-era Goldbergs to modern-day shows like Transparent, Mrs. Maisel, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend–and their connection to the shifting place of Jews and Jewish culture in American society.

Instructor: Rachel Greenblatt

Vilna Shul: Mondays, 7:30-9 p.m., October 7, 28; November 11, 25; December 9, 16.

>> REGISTER

A Course for Young Adults:

Join Rabbi Getzel for a 8-class series on Jewish meditation and mysticism. We will gather each week as a community for guided meditation and text study. We will engage with mystical texts from The Zohar, The Baal Shem Tov, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, and the Esh Kodesh, and experiment with their meditative systems and states. No previous experience in meditation or Jewish text study necessary–only authentic curiosity.

Instructor: Rabbi Getzel Davis

Private home in Cambridge: Thursdays, 7-8:30 p.m., October 3, 10, 17, 24, and 31; and November 7, 14, 21.

>> REGISTER

The cycle of the Jewish year provides us with a road-map for spiritual growth and development. Come nourish your soul with song, meditation, and learning as we journey through the Jewish year. Each session will focus on a couple stories and prayers as we mindfully attune our souls to themes of the season.

Instructors: Ryan Leszner and Rabbi Daniel Schaefer

Ohabei Shalom, Brookline: Thursdays, 6:30-8 p.m., September 12, 26; October 17, 31; December 12; January 9; February 6; March 5; April 2, 16; and May 7, 21.

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Take a dive into ten of the most innovative, life-changing innovations that Judaism (the original start-up?) has given the world. Each week looks at a different concept and considers its impact on your life and the wider civilization. Come away with greater knowledge and skills.

Instructor: Rabbi Elie Lehmann

BU Hillel: Thursdays, 5-6:30 p.m., September 19, 26; October 3, 10, 17, 24; November 7, 14, 21; December 5.

>> REGISTER

We will delve into hidden meanings that lie beneath the simple reading of selected Torah texts through the lenses of Hasidic masters such as The Baal Shem Tov, Degel Machaneh Efraim, Rebbe Nachman, Me’or Einayim, and the Netivot Shalom. Each text we encounter will offer a springboard and/or insight into our psycho-spiritual lives with the aspiration that our own interiority will be illuminated and expanded through its study. The class will utilize music, meditation, hevruta (paired) study and group discussion. Limited to ten participants.

Instructor: Rabbi Lev Friedman

Private home, Newton: Wednesdays, 2-3:45 p.m., September 4, 18; October 16, 23; November 20; December 4; February 5, 19; March 4, 18; and April 8, 29.

>> REGISTER

 

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

Hadassah-Brandeis Institute: Wednesdays, 7-8:30 p.m., October 30; November 6, 13, 20; and December 4, 11.

>> REGISTER

This study group will explore topics regarding identity and transitions, embracing an adult version of faith, and life cycle events through the lens of Kaballah, among other topics.

Instructor: Layah Lipsker

Private homes, Newton: Mondays, 12-1:30 p.m., September 23; October 28; November 4, 18; December 2, 16; January 6, 23, February 3, 24; March 9, 30.

>> REGISTER

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 Cambridge: Wednesdays, 7-8:30 p.m., October 2, 16, 23, and 30; and November 6, 13.

>> REGISTER

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.

 

Past Offerings

It is time to shatter the complacency of the modern age! We need to address the loneliness and isolation of living a life without God by allowing Heschel to help us once again feel the presence of God’s living light and teaching. This involves both learning how to think and how to read religiously in such a way as to allow us to respond more effectively to the ultimate questions of our lives. This will require a careful reading and study, an ambitious reading over a ten week period, of the two leading works of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel — Man is Not Alone and God in Search of Man. We will quickly recognize that Heschel, even in his prose, is a poet. And we will find a “blazing fervor” where Heschel will reintroduce us to the experience of wonder so as to provide a life-long resource for reflection and prayer. This is the goal of the class!

Last offered in Fall 2018 with Rabbi Dov Y. Bard at Boston Synagogue. 

Last offered in Spring 2018 with David Bernat at the Boston Synagogue.

Previously offered in Spring 2019 with Rachel Adelman at Hebrew College.

This course will engage with the current case for reparations in America, and delve into texts and traditions to better understand what Judaism says about our duty to intervene in cases of theft and wealth hoarding, and how we can repair our world. Analyzing passages from Talmud, we will bring its ideas about retribution and reparations to the contemporary moment. Partnering with Kavod and Ujima, we will learn about current efforts to redistribute wealth and move towards organizing a community-constructed action project which implements the outcomes of our learning in our local communities. Regardless of your previous familiarity with Jewish texts or organizing, enjoy meaningful discussion and dive into action!

  • When: Tuesdays, 7-8:30 p.m., May 7 – June 18
  • Where: Private Residence in Porter Square
  • Instructor: Alona Weimer

Last offered in Fall 2018 with Rabbi Ariel Burger at Congregation Sha’aray Shalom, Hingham. 

An introduction to Mussar, the study and practice of Jewish ethics and self-development. Mussar offers a practical approach, rooted in Jewish teachings, to enhance our lives by studying and thoughtfully working on traits we wish to develop or improve in ourselves. These range from lovingkindness to curiosity, honor to humility. Join us as we work toward becoming the people we’d like to be!

Previously offered Fall 2018 with Merry Arnold at Temple Sinai, Brookline.

In our confusing and contentious time, many are seeking to find a greater sense of grounding in core virtues which can guide us, uplift us, and inspire us to become the best persons we can be. In this series, we will delve into the study and practice of some of the Mussar tradition wisdom for our lives in our times. Come travel Mussar’s “Jewish Road to Character” into a profoundly meaningful and nourishing spiritual practice for our Jewish souls, hearts and minds

Previously offered in Fall 2018 with Rabbi Eric Gurvis at Temple Isaiah, Lexington, and Spring 2019 with Rabbi Eric Gurvis at Beth El Temple Center, Belmont. 

Also previously offered in Fall 2018 wth Nina Piken at a private residence in Lexington; with Ronit Ziv-Kreger at a private residence in Sharon; and with Rabbi Marcia Plumb at Temple Shir Tikvah, Winchester.

Last offered in Fall 2018 with Lila Kagedan at a private residence. 

We commonly hear the newest spiritually-oriented Jewish organizations and educational institutions describing themselves as “post-denominational.”  But where did Jewish denominations come from? We will look at the European origins of Orthodox, Conservative and Reform movements that would come to dominate Jewish communal life in mid-twentieth century America, at the birth of Mordecai Kaplan’s Reconstructionist movement, and later, of the Renewal movement, in the US.   Our goal is to understand how these building blocks of Jewish communal structures came into place and took the shapes they did, helping individual learners, on their own, to distinguish what they see as “wheat from chaff” in their current functioning.

Last offered Spring 2019 with Rachel Greenblatt at Vilna Shul, Boston.

This course will focus on fascinating topics such as the nature of a soul, a different approach to faith, finding one’s purpose, and creating spiritual relationships.

Last offered Spring 2019 with Layah Lipsker at Vilna Shul, Boston.

For many queer and trans folks, talking about our bodies can be complicated; even more so in the framework of Jewish practices around menstruation. Join us for study and conversation about niddah (the practice of abstaining from sexual intimacy around the time of menstruation) within the context of queer relationships and bodies. We’ll talk about building healthy, holy relationships as we engage with traditional Jewish texts, voices from the queer community, and our own experiences. This course will focus on queer and trans voices and is open to people of all genders, sexualities, and experiences with menstruation.

Rabbi Becky Silverstein at Mayyim Hayyim, 1838 Washington Street, Newton.

The question of how we can stay resilient and committed to teaching in the midst of a challenging, at times demoralizing, world is one that deeply preoccupied the ancient rabbis.  It is a question that continues to concern those of us invested in education and justice work today.

This six-session course, open to educators of all backgrounds, will explore how the rabbis navigated, renegotiated and reinvigorated their identities as teachers and activists.  In addition to applying rabbinic frameworks to reflect on our own contemporary realities as public educators in Boston and Cambridge, this class will help us to think and strategize about how to organize our colleagues more effectively in an effort to bring about meaningful institutional and structural change.

  • When: Saturdays, 7:00-8:30 p.m., May 11, May 18, May 25, June 1, June 8, and June 15
  • Location: Private Residence in Jamaica Plain
  • Fee: $80. Financial assistance available upon request
  • Instructors: Rabbis Leora AbelsonShahar ColtLaura Bellows, and Daniel Schaefer

We will examine the social construction of race — and the consequences of this social construction – throughout history and into the present. We will identify the varied, interlocking ways in which white supremacy operates ideologically, institutionally, internally, and interpersonally in the United States. And we will evaluate our own personal racial identities and our family histories to identify whether and how we have benefited from or been harmed by racism and antisemitism.

Then we will move to action, studying historical examples of Jewish involvement in racial justice work and applying lessons learned to the contemporary needs of the racial justice movement. You will leave with a commitment to concrete action to expand our community’s racial justice work.

  • When: Sundays, 1-6 p.m., May 12 and May 19
  • Where: Temple Beth Zion, 1566 Beacon St, Brookline
  • This course is free

The Rabbinic era crucially shaped Judaism as we know it – both Jewish law and practice, and the way Jewish thinkers conceive of our world. How might we characterize “Rabbinic thought”? How did Rabbinic conversations deal with fundamental human questions: who and what is God? How do we relate to the body; to desire; to death and what lies beyond it? Our journey through rabbinic text will take us through a range of Rabbinic responses to these and other questions at the heart of the human spiritual experience.

Last offered Spring 2019 with Shani Rosenbaum at Temple Sinai in Brookline. 

This class is based on Alan Morinis’ book Everyday Holiness. It is for those who are new to Mussar or who would like to revisit the middot of Humility, Anger, Trust, Gratitude, Honor and Alacrity.  Theses classes are for those who have completed Season of Mussar I and are ready to dive deeper into their study and practice.

Previously offered.

 

Through text study of the Shabbat home blessings, with an emphasis on the Friday night kiddush and Saturday morning kiddush, we will deepen our understanding of what we are already doing at home on Friday evenings and/or Saturdays. We will learn texts from Talmud, Midrash and Zohar, which help us to address the following questions: How is Shabbat foundational to the Jewish concept of time? What do the blessings ask of us? What do all the words that we say actually mean? What do these rituals have to do with our lives? What insight can they offer to our own spiritual connections and calling?  Using music, reflection and meditation, we will delve together into the richness of Shabbat lore, Shabbat practice, and Shabbat community.  No Hebrew skills required, but certainly useful.

Last offered Spring 2019 with Lev Friedman at a private residence. 

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.

  • When: Tuesdays, 7-8:30 p.m., May 21, May 28, June 4, June 11, June 18, June 25.
  • Where: Hebrew College, Room 104
  • Fee: $80. Financial assistance available upon request
  • Instructors: Rabbi Getzel Davis & Leora Mallach

In this course we will explore the lives and writings of two celebrated religious figures in twentieth-century American life: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel. These remarkable individuals met in the early 1960’s and established a friendship based on shared values and mutual respect. Through our study, we will pursue several key biographical, theological, and political questions: How did each emerge as a public figure? What were their understandings of the relationship between religion and American democracy? What about ritual practice and ethical action? By studying Heschel and King together, we will have the opportunity to learn by way of comparison and contrast—including the impact each had on the other—thus offering us two intriguing models of “spirituality and social justice.”

Last offered Spring 2019 with Rabbi Or Rose at Temple Israel, Natick.

We often hear about immigrants’ rights, gun violence prevention, gender rights, and housing on the national level. But what about the local level? What Massachusetts laws address these issues? Join JALSA (the Jewish Alliance for Legal and Social Action) for an Open Circle Social Action Class in which we’ll look at local Massachusetts legislation through a Jewish lens. Led by JALSA’s Director of Communications Rachael Dubinsky and Program & Outreach Coordinator David Albright, this class will  help us to see what Jewish tradition offers in understanding local legislation and inspire us to take Jewishly-inspired action to make our voices heard in the legislative process.

  • When: Thursdays, 7-9 p.m., May 30-June 27, as well as Friday, June 28 for a Shabbat experience
  • Where: Private Residence in Cambridge
  • Fee: $80. Financial assistance available upon request
  • Instructors: Rachael Dubinsky and David Albright

The Shema — which commands us to bear witness to the oneness of all life — is one of the most essential declarations of our faith as Jews. And yet we live in a contemporary culture that often conspires to makes us feel disconnected — from our deepest selves, from each other, from God, and from the earth. Studying a wide range of classical and contemporary Jewish sources, we will reflect on what gets in the way of our capacity to live with a vibrant awareness of our deep interconnectedness as human beings — and how we might work to cultivate that awareness.


Last offered Spring 2019 with
Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld at Hebrew College, Newton. 

Join us in reading texts from the Talmud to Allen Ginsberg to Judith Butler and find lessons in queer survival, gender expression, Jewish sex, and gay liberation. We welcome queer community members and allies in the pursuit of Jewish wisdom to journey with us in making sense of where we belong in the Jewish tradition. The course will include information about local Jewish queer activism from Keshet and Eshel.

A non-binary community organizer, Elie will be pulling texts from social struggles, traditional Jewish writing, and modern social theory to explore and strengthen our understandings of Jewish queer survival. An alum of the Join for Justice Fellowship, they have been organizing and facilitating in the Jewish community for 6 years. Elie’s partner Emily Rogal, a second-year graduate student at Harvard Divinity School, will join in facilitation.

  • When: Tuesdays, 7:30-9 p.m., April 30 – June 18
  • Where: Private Residence in Cambridge
  • Co-Facilitators: Elie Leaderman-Bray and Emily Rogal

Those of us in our fifties, sixties, seventies and beyond can count ourselves as part of a history-making generation—pioneers in understanding and making the most of this “third chapter” of life. These years of aging are full of opportunities for learning, growth and finding new meanings and connections. The Wise Aging program provides resources and support to live the later years with spirit, resilience, and wisdom, drawing upon Jewish texts and traditions as our guides. Topics include: exploring this stage of life; a life review; relationship to one’s body; revitalizing and nourishing relationships; practicing forgiveness; learning to live with loss, change, and death, cultivating wisdom, and leaving a legacy.

Last offered with Debra Rosenblum at a private residence in Arlington. 

Last offered Fall 2018 with Layah Lipsker at Hebrew College, Newton. 

This longstanding group continues to do Jewish learning around Torah, prayer, Israel, and current events through a Jewish lens.
Last offered Fall 2018 with Rabbi Todd A. Markley at a private residence in Needham. 

The insights from my class continued to provide spiritual and intellectual nourishment throughout the week, enhancing my personal conversations with friends, family, colleagues, and even spilled over into social media posts

– Arinne Braverman, Jewish educator and consultant

Want to learn more about Open Circle Jewish Learning?

If you need additional information or want to create your own salon, 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.