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.

Explore our mindfulness and meditation, texts and traditions, arts and culture, and social action classes, or create your own Open Circle with seven friends or colleagues.

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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

Open Circle Classes and Registration

Register for Winter/ Spring 2019 Open Circle Jewish Learning classes in the following table, find all of our offerings in the accordion menus below, or create your own salon on any topic ranging from Israel to the Torah.

Winter/ Spring 2019 Open Circle Jewish Learning Classes: 

Course Name Instructor Location Time Register Link
Advanced Mussar Va’ad David Jaffe Private Residence, Sharon TBD Register
Beloved Child: A Study of the Akedah from Antiquity to Modernity David Bernat Boston Synagogue Thursdays, 7:30-9 p.m., January 31; February 7, 14; March 14, 28; April 4, 11; May 2, 16, 30 Register
Cultivating an Authentic Relationship with Yourself, Others and God Through the Lens of the Hebrew Months Ketriellah Goldfeder Private Residence, Sharon Sunday evenings, January 6, 20; February 3, 17; March 3, 17; April 7; May 5, 19; June 2, 16. Register
Book of Exodus, Part II Rachel Adelman Hebrew College Mondays, 4-5:30 p.m., Feb. 4, 11, and 28; March 4, 11, and 25; April 1, 8, 15, and 29. Snow Day: May 6th Register
Jewish Contemporary Life and Living/ the Leadership Development Learning Circle Lila Kagedan Private Residence Wednesdays, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m, October 10; November 14; January 16; February 13; March 27; April 10. Register
Jewish Food & Identity/ the Cookbook Learning Circle Lila Kagedan Private Residence Wednesdays, 12:30 p.m. – 2 p.m., September 26; October 24; November 28; December 12; February 6; March 6. Register
Jewish Religious Movements Rachel Greenblatt Vilna Shul, Boston Mondays, 7:30 p.m., February 26, March 12, March 26, April 9, April 23, and April 30 Register
Kaballah:  The Spiritual Side of Judaism Layah Lipsker Vilna Shul, Boston Tuesdays, 10:30 a.m., Jan 22; Feb 12 and 26; March 5 and 19; and April 2 (April 4 snow date) Register
Mussar Practice Group Rabbi Eric Gurvis; Temple Emanuel, Newton Thursdays, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m., February 14, 28; March 14, 28; April 11; May 2, 16, 30. Register
Mussar Practice Group Rabbi Eric Gurvis Beth Shalom, Needham Thursdays, February 7; March 7, 21; April 4, 25; May 9, 23; June 6, 13; Register
Mussar Practice Group Rabbi Eric Gurvis Temple Isaiah, Lexington Mondays, 7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., February 11 and 25; March 11 and 25; April 8; May 6 and 13; June 3 and 17. Register
Mussar Practice Group Nina Piken Private Residence, Lexington Tuesdays, 7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m., February 12, 26; March 19; April 2, 23; May 7, 21; June 4. Register
Niddah and Queer Experience Becky Silverstein Mayyim Hayyim, Newton Wednesdays, February 6, 13, 27; March 6, 13; and Saturday, February, 23 (off-site meeting after Shabbat at Becky Silverstein’s house) Register
Rabbinic Thought: God, Body, Soul Shani Rosenbaum Temple Sinai, Brookline Mondays, Feb 11, 18, 25 March 4, 11, 18 April 1, 8 Register
Shabbat Table Rituals – A Practical and Spiritual Guide: Creating Heaven on Earth Lev Friedman Private Residence Tuesdays, 7:30-9 p.m., January 2, 9, 26, 23, February 13, 20. Register
Rethinking Reproduction: A Conversation with Tradition Shani Rosenbaum Private Residence Thursdays, 8-9:30 p.m., arch 7, 14, 21, 28; April 4, 11. Register
Spiraling Through Time: Radically Rethinking Our Relationship to Land Rabbi Getzel Davis & Leora Mallach Hebrew College Tuesdays, 7-8:30 p.m., May 21, May 28, June 4, June 11, June 18, June 25 Register
Spirituality and Social Justice: Abraham Joshua Herschel & Martin Luther King, Jr. Or Rose Temple Israel, Natick Thursdays, 9:30-11 a.m., April 25th-May 30. Register
Torah Babes Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld Hebrew College, Newton Mondays, 9:30-11 a.m., February 4, 18; March 4, 11, 18; April 15; May 6, 20. Register
Torah Study through a Hasidic Lens Lev Friedman Private home, Newton Mondays, 7-8:30 p.m., April 1, 8, 22; May 6, 20, 27. Register
Women of Valor Layah Lipsker Hebrew College, Newton Tuesdays, 9:30 a.m. – 11 a.m., October 23; November 6; December 4; January 8; February 5; March 5; April 2; May 7./td> Register
Young Couples Group Todd Markley Private Residence, Needham Thursdays, October 18, November 29, December 20, January 31, February 28, March 28, April 25, May 23 Register

Open Circle Jewish Learning Offerings:

Mindfulness and Mysticism Circles

Discover meditation, mysticism, and mussar, a Jewish spiritual discipline through which to nurture the soul, the spirit, and the capacity to live mindfully.

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!

Fall Semester: Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., October 4, 11, 18, 25; November 1, 8, 15, 29; December 6, 13. Instructor: Rabbi Dov Y. Bard; Location: Boston Synagogue, Boston; Fee: $200.

>> REGISTER

Lexington: Instructor: Nancy Weiss; Location: Lexington; Fee: $180. 

 >> REGISTER 

  • Sharon: Instructor: David Jaffe; Location: Private Residence, Sharon; Fee: $160. 

>> REGISTER

During this series of 10 classes you will create and/or reinvigorate a daily Jewish practice that is mindful, compassionate and that supports you to develop a more authentic relationship to yourself, others and God. These classes will include Torah text study, mindfulness and body centered exercises, journaling and compassionate listening partnerships. This intimate group of women will be supported between classes with a private/secret Facebook group as well as one private personal coaching session with Ketriellah.

Fall Semester: Instructor: Ketriellah Goldfeder; Location: Private Residence, Sharon; Fee: $200. 

Spring Semester: Sunday evenings, Jan. 6, 20; Feb. 3, 17; March 3, 17; April 7; May 5, 19; June 2, 16. Instructor: Ketriellah Goldfeder; Location: Private Residence, Sharon; Fee: $220. 

>> REGISTER

  • Mondays, 4-5:30 p.m., Feb. 4, 11, and 28; March 4, 11, and 25; April 1, 8, 15, and 29. Snow Day: May 6th. 
  • Location: Hebrew College
  • Instructor: Rachel Adelman
  • Fee: $200

>> REGISTER

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!

Fall Semester: Thursdays, 7:15 p.m. – 8:45 p.m., October 4, 11, 18, 25; November 1, 8. Instructor: Merry Arnold; Location: Temple Sinai, Brookline; Fee: $120

>> REGISTER

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

  • Belmont: Mondays, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m., October 22; November 19; December 17; January 7; February 4; March 4; April 1, 29; May 20; June 3; Instructor: Rabbi Eric Gurvis; Location: Beth El Temple Center, Belmont; Fee: $200.
  • Lexington: Mondays, 7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., October 8, 29; November 5, 26; December 3, 10; January 14, 28; Instructor: Rabbi Eric Gurvis; Location: Temple Isaiah, Lexington; Fee: $160. 
  • Newton: Thursdays, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m., October 4, 18; November 1, 15, 29; December 13; January 3, 17; Instructor: Rabbi Eric Gurvis; Location: Temple Emanuel, Newton; Fee: $160. 
  • Needham: Thursdays, 8:30 a.m. – 10:15 a.m., September 13, 27; October 11, 25; November 8; December 6, 20; January 10, 24, 31; Instructor: Rabbi Eric Gurvis; Location: Beth Shalom, Needham; Fee: Fee: $200. 
  • Sudbury: Wednesdays, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., October 3, 17, 31; Nov. 14, 28; Dec. 12; Jan. 9, 23; Feb. 6, 20; March 6, 27; April 10, 24; May 8, 22; June 5, 19; Instructor: Rabbi Eric Gurvis; Location: Congregation Beth El, Sudbury; Fee: $360. Register.

    >> REGISTER

  • Lexington: Tuesdays, 7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m., October 9, 23; November 6, 20; December 4, 18; January 8, 22; Instructor: Nina Piken; Location: Private Residence, Lexington; Fee: $160. 

>> REGISTER

  • Winchester: Tuesdays, 7-8:30 p.m., October 23; November 13, 27; December 18; January 8, 29; February 19; March 12; Instructor: Rabbi Marcia Plumb; Location: Temple Shir Tikvah, Winchester; Fee: $160.

>> REGISTER

  • Sharon: Instructor: Ronit Ziv-Kreger; Location: Private Home, Sharon; Fee:  $160. 

>> REGISTER

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.

  • Spring Semester: Mondays, Feb 11, 18, 25; March 4, 11, 18; April 1, 8
  • Instructor: Shani Rosenbaum
  • Location: Temple Sinai, Brookline
  • Fee: $160>> REGISTER

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.

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.

  • Wednesday evenings, January 2, 9, 26, 23, February 13, 20, 2019; 
  • Instructor: Lev Friedman;
  • Location: Private Residence.

>> 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, and Sfat Emet. Each text we encounter will offer insight into our psycho-spiritual lives with the aspiration that our own interiority will be illuminated and expanded though its study. We will look at Moses, Miriam, Pharaoh and other biblical characters and locations as archetypes. What do Egypt/Mitzrayim and the Wilderness/Midbar have to do with us? Is God’s Presence found in the text? What do the texts reveal about faith and doubt, belief, our inclinations toward good and evil? The class will utilize music, meditation, hevruta (paired) study and group discussion. Six-weeks at a private home. Limited to ten participants.

  • Mondays, 7-8:30 p.m., April 1, 8, 22; May 6, 20, and 27. 
  • Instructor: Rabbi Lev Friedman
  • Location: Private Residence.
    >> REGISTER

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.

  • Instructor: Debra Rosenblum;
  • Location: Private Home, Arlington;
  • Fee: $120.

>> REGISTER

Contact Rabbi Jordan Schuster, Associate Director, Open Circle Jewish Learning, at jschuster@hebrewcollege.edu or 617-559-8674.


Art and Culture Circles

Experience Israeli film, poetry and short stories; examine the works of Jewish authors and artists around the globe; and analyze the connections between literature and the Bible.

  • Wednesdays, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m, October 10; November 14; January 16; February 13; March 27; April 10.
  • Instrutor: Lila Kagedan;
  • Location: Private Home;
  • Fee: $120(FILLED)

  • Wednesdays, 12:30 p.m. – 2 p.m., September 26; October 24; November 28; December 12; February 6; March 6.
  • Instructor: Lila Kagedan;
  • Location: Private Home;
  • Fee $120.(FILLED)

Contact Bernice Lerner, Dean of Adult Learning, at 617-559-8709 or blerner@hebrewcollege.edu.


Texts and Traditions Circles

Explore Jewish rituals, practices and values, such as those surrounding Shabbat, death and grief, the start of a new month, and ritual immersion. Or delve into vibrant Jewish texts, including the Torah, Talmud, and contemporary Jewish thought.

  • Thursdays, 7:30-9 p.m., January 31; February 7, 14; March 14, 28; April 4, 11; May 2, 16, 30
  • Instructor: David Bernat
  • Location: Boston Synagogue
  • Fee: $200

    >> REGISTER

  • Tuesdays, 7-8:30 p.m., December 3, 10, 17; January 7, 14, 28.
  • Instructor: Rabbi Ariel Burger.
  • Location: Congregation Sha’aray Shalom, Hingham;
  • Fee: $120.

    >> REGISTER 

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.

  • Mondays, 7:30 p.m., February 26, March 12, March 26, April 9, April 23, and April 30.
  • Instructor: Rachel Greenblatt
  • Location: Vilna Shul, Boston.
  • Fee: $120.

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.

  • Tuesdays, 10:30 a.m., Jan 22, Feb 12 and 26, March 5 and 19, April 2 (April 4 snow date)
  • Instructor: Layah Lipsker
  • Location: Vilna Shul, Boston
  • Fee: $120.

    >> REGISTER 

  • Tuesdays, 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m., October 23; November 6 and 20; December 4, 11, 18.
  • Instructor: Layah Lipsker;
  • Location: Hebrew College, Newton;
  • Fee: $120.(FILLED)

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.

  • Instructor: Rabbi Becky Silverstein
  • Location: Mayyim Hayyim, 1838 Washington Street, Newton
  • Fee: $120>> REGISTER 

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.”

  • Thursdays, 9:30-11 a.m., April 25th-May 30, Temple Israel, Natick
  • Instructor: Or Rose
  • Fee: $120>> REGISTER 

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.
  • Mondays, 9:30-11 a.m., February 4, 18; March 4, 11, 18; April 15; May 6, 20, Hebrew College, Newton.
  • Instructor: Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld
  • Cost: $183

>> REGISTER

  • Tuesdays, 9:30 a.m. – 11 a.m., October 23; November 6; December 4; January 8; February 5; March 5; April 2; May 7.
  • Instructor: Layah Lipsker;
  • Location: Hebrew College, Newton;
  • Fee: $160.(FILLED)

This longstanding group continues to do Jewish learning around Torah, prayer, Israel, and current events through a Jewish lens.
  • Thursdays, 7:30-9 p.m., October 18, November 29, December 20, January 31, February 28, March 28, April 25, May 23, Private homes, Needham
  • Instrutor: Rabbi Todd A. Markley
  • Cost: $183

>> REGISTER

Contact Bernice Lerner, Dean of Adult Learning, at 617-559-8709 or blerner@hebrewcollege.edu.


Social Action Circles

Join together with your peers to learn about the importance of the practice of tikkun olam (repair the world), tzedek (justice), and tzedakah (charity) in Jewish tradition, work with community organizers in local advocacy organizations, and make a difference through a meaningful social action activity on a specific theme.

“Rethinking Reproduction” will employ deep readings of Jewish text to explore questions at the heart of debates around reproductive justice: how do we make, and talk about, individual and communal choices around having and raising children? How do we build societies that reflect our values of human life, the sanctity of bodies, bodily integrity and autonomy? Explore topics ranging from the nature of personhood to the experience of infertility; from caretaking to the evolution of the “Jewish family.”

At the conclusion of the course, participants will choose from a range of action options, including supporting a local organization dealing with a challenge addressed in our learning, and/or teaching about reproductive justice through a Jewish lens in a local Jewish secondary or day school.

  • Instructor: Shani Rosenbaum (she/her)
  • Location: Cambridge

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.

  • Class meets Tuesdays, 7-8:30 p.m., May 21, May 28, June 4, June 11, June 18, June 25, plus site visit TBD.
  • Instructors: Rabbi Getzel Davis & Leora Mallach
  • Location: Hebrew College
  • Fee: $80. Tuition assistance is available.

>> REGISTER

Contact Bernice Lerner, Dean of Adult Learning, at 617-559-8709 or blerner@hebrewcollege.edu.

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, want to create your own salon, or have questions about registration, please contact Bernice Lerner, Dean of Adult Learning, at blerner@hebrewcollege.edu or 617-559-8709.