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 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
Advanced Mussar (continuation from last year) Rabbi Eric S. Gurvis Congregation Beth El, Sudbury Wednesdays, 7:00-8:45 p.m., October 30; November 13, 20; December 4, 18; January 22; February 5; March 4, 18; April 1, 29; May 13, 27; June 10. Register
Advanced Mussar (Course closed to new participants) Rabbi Marcia Plumb Private home in Newton, spring Wednesdays, 7:00-9:00 p.m., February 19; March 4, 18; April 1, 22; May 6, 20; June 3. Register
All Who Wander Are Not Lost (Course closed to new participants) Layah Lipsker Private home in Swampscott Tuesdays, 6:30-8:30 p.m., October 29; November 5, 19; December 3, 17; January 7, 21; February 4, 25; March 31. Register
Climate Justice / Climate Equity and Judaism Rabbi Katy Allen Hebrew College Mondays, 7:00-9:00 pm, November 4, 11, 18; December 2, 9, 16. 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
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
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
Exploring Jewish Ideas of Gender, Sexuality and the Body (Course closed to new participants) Rabbi Natan Margalit Temple Sinai, Brookline Mondays, 7:15-8:45 p.m., November 4, 18; December 2, 16; January 6, 20; February 3, 17; March 2, 16, 30; April 13, 27; and May 11, 25. Register
God Wrestling: Jewish Explorations (Course closed to new participants) Rabbi Natan Margalit Private home, Brookline Sundays, 4-6 pm, October 27, November 24, December 15, January 26, February 23, March 22, April 12, May 17. Register
How to Live in Oasis Time: The Experience of Shabbat (Young Adult Course) Matt Ponak The Common Street Spiritual Center in Natick Sundays, 1-2:30 p.m., October 13, 27; November 10, 17, 24; December 1, 15, 22. Register
Identity and Transitions (Course closed to new participants) Layah Lipsker Private homes in Newton, Needham, and Weston Wednesdays, 11:30 am to 1:30 pm, November 6, December 4, January 8, February 5, March 11, and April 1. Register
Identity and Transitions (Course closed to new participants) Layah Lipsker Private homes in Swampscott Wednesdays, 7:00-9:00 pm, September 25, October 30, November 6, 20, December 4, and 18. Register
In It for the Long Haul: Resilience Tools for Educators Rabbi Leora Abelson Private home in Boston Saturdays, 5:00-7:00 pm, and Thursdays, 6:00-8:00 pm, December 7, 14, 19; January 4, 11, and 16. 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: Series 2 (Young Adult Course) Rabbi Elie Lehmann BU Hillel Mondays, 7:30-9 p.m., November 11, 18, 25; and December 2, 9. Plus Friday, November 22 (dinner and learning session). Register
Jewish Mindfulness (Young Adult Course) Beni Summers Private home in Somerville Wednesdays, 7:15-8:45 p.m., December 4, 11, 18; January 8, 15, 22. Register
The Kaballah of Relationships (Course closed to new participants) Layah Lipsker Private homes, North Shore Mondays, 7:30-9:00 p.m., October 28; November 4; December 2; January 6, 20; February 3. Register
Lexington Moon Hill Advanced Creative Mussar Nancy Weiss Private home in Lexington Thursdays, 7:00-9:00 p.m., October 17; November 7, 21; December 5, 19; January 16, 30; February 13, 27; March 5, 19; April 16, 30; May 7,  21; June 4. 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, Beginner to Intermediate Level Merry Arnold Temple Sinai, Brookline Thursdays, 7:15 to 8:45 pm, October 31, November 7, 14, 21, December 5, 12, 19. 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 Practice Group (Course closed to new participants) Rabbi Marcia Plumb Shir Tikvah, Winchester Tuesdays, 7:30-9:00 p.m., November 5, 12; December 3, 17; January 7, 21; March 10, 24; April 7; May 5,  12; June 2, 16. 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
Needham Learning Circle, Young Couples Group (Course closed to new participants) Rabbi Todd Markley Private homes in Needham Thursdays, 7:30-9 p.m, November 21, December 12, January 9, February 27, March 12, April 30, May 21. 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
Reclaiming a Personal and Spiritual Judaism (Course closed to new participants) Layah Lipsker Private homes in Waban, Boston, Newton, and Wayland Monday, 10/7, 7:30-9:30 pm; Thursday, 10/31, 9:30-11:30 am; Monday, 12/16, 7:30-9:30 pm; Thursday, 1/23, 9:30-11:30 am; Monday, 2/24, 7:30-9:30 pm; Monday, 3/30, 7:30-9:30 pm. 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
Shal-Om: Introduction to Jewish Meditation and Mysticism (Young Adult Course) 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
Soulful Learning and Growth Ronit Ziv-Kreger Private home in Sharon Mondays, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m., October 28; November 4, 11, 18; December 9, 16; January 20, 27; February 3, 10, 24; March 2,  9, 16,  30. Register
Spiraling Through Time: Radically Rethinking Our Relationship to Land Getzel Davis and Leora Mallach Hebrew College Tuesday evenings, 6:30-8:00 pm, January 14, 21, 28; February 4, 11, 18, 25. Register
Spiritual Road Side Assistance: Torah for Feeling “Stuck” and Mysticism (Young Adult Course) Emily Rogal Private home in Somerville Wednesday evenings, 7-8:30 p.m., October 23, 30, November 6, 20, December 4, and 18. Register
Torah as Inner Journey: A Dive into Early Chasidic Mysticism (Young Adult Course)  Rabbi David Curiel Workbar Union, 31 Union Square, Somerville Mondays, 7:30-9 pm, November 11, 18, 25, December 2, 9, and 16. Register
Torah Babes / The Torah of Relationship (Course closed to new participants) Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld Hebrew College Mondays, 9-10:30 am, September 16, October 7, October 28, November 11, November 25, December 9, January 6, January 20. Register
Torah Study through a Hasidic Lens (Course closed to new participants) 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
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
Zivug: From Finding Love to Transitioning to Marriage (Young Adult Class) Rabbi Getzel Davis Boston Synagogue Wednesday evenings, 7:30-9 p.m., November 20; December 4, 11, 18; January 8, 15. 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

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. We will 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

Congregation Beth El, Sudbury: Wednesdays, 7-8:45 p.m., October 30; November 13, 20; December 4, 18; January 22; February 5; March 4, 18; April 1, 29; May 13, 27; June 10.

>> 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.

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

Spring session: Wednesdays, 7-9 p.m., February 19; March 4, 18; April 1, 22; May 6, 20; and June 3.

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Take a personal journey alongside the Jews who wandered in the desert. What does it mean to wander? How does personal and communal transformation take place? Discover the Kaballah of wandering in order to discover your essence.

Instructor: Layah Lipsker

Private home, Swampscott. Tuesdays, 6:30-8:30 pm, October 29; November 5, 19; December 3, 17; January 7, 21; February 4, 25; March 31.

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This series of six classes will explore the issues of climate justice and climate equity in the context of Jewish tradition. Rabbi Katy Allen, Jewish Climate Action Network – MA, will facilitate and provide a Jewish lens for consideration of issues raised by guest leaders of frontline communities, who will share their stories and the work they are doing. Guest speakers will be: Leilani Mroczkowski, Food Justice Organizer – Youth Coordinator, Chelsea Green Roots; Andrea Nyamekye, Campaign and Policy Director, Neighbor to Neighbor; Dwaign Tyndal, Executive Director, Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE); and Rev. Vernon K. Walker, Program Manager, Communities Responding to Extreme Weather (CREW).

Instructor: Rabbi Katy Allen

Hebrew College: Mondays, 7-9 pm, November 4, 11, 18; December 2, 9, 16.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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In this class we’ll explore Jewish ideas and practices relating to the body, especially questions of sexuality and gender. Through classic texts of Tanakh, Midrash, Talmud, Kabbalah and Hasidut, as well as a secondary readings by contemporary scholars and writers, we’ll ask such question as how Judaism has approached non-binary gender identities, how ideas of masculine and feminine have been woven into the fabric of texts from Torah to Kabbalah, how sexual pleasure has been valued as well as controlled, and more. All primary source texts will have English translations.

Instructor: Rabbi Natan Margalit

Temple Sinai in Brookline: Mondays, 7:15-8:45 pm, November 4, 18; December 2, 16; January 6, 20; February 3, 17; March 2, 16, 30; April 13, 27; and May 11, 25.

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In this class we’ll explore a variety of ways that Jews throughout the centuries have wrestled with, sought out and puzzled over the experience of God, the sacred or holiness. We’ll look at classic stories, texts of prayers and meditations, as well as other paths for engaging the heart, mind and spirit with the mysterious and ineffable sense of holiness. Going from biblical stories to Hassidic and Kabbalistic spiritual quests, we’ll relate these past experiences to our own experiences of, and questions about, finding the sacred in our lives.

Instructor: Rabbi Natan Margalit

Private home in Brookline: Sundays, 4-6 pm, October 27, November 24, December 15, January 26, February 23, March 22, April 12, May 17.

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Join Rabbinical Student Matt Ponak to learn about the ancient Jewish art of rest, relaxation, and pleasure that we call Shabbat. This class is an offering of Jewish wisdom for people of all backgrounds. Through spiritual texts, stories, discussion, and Shabbat dinners at Matt’s home, we will learn how to find and embrace an oasis in time.

Instructor: Matt Ponak

The Common Street Spiritual Center in Natick: Sundays, 1-2:30 p.m., October 13, 27, November 10, 17, 24, December 1, 15, and 22.

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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.

Private homes in Newton, Needham, and Weston: Wednesdays, 11:30 am to 1:30 pm, November 6, December 4, January 8, February 5, March 11, and April 1.

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In a context where US structures and systems devalue public education and the sacred work of teachers, we’ll dig deep into Jewish tradition, which holds teaching and learning with the highest reverence. Exploring a variety of topics, such as the relationship between teachers and students, methods of transmitting knowledge, and learning as an act of resistance, we join generations of thought partners, who also wrestled with the challenge, joy, opportunity and, yes, despair of being a teacher. This is an opportunity for teachers to talk, strategize, lament, laugh, and learn together. Drawing on Jewish spiritual practices to build resilience, we’ll learn about and practice strategies for nourishment, resistance, and strength, to help us stay in it for the long haul.

Instructor: Rabbi Leora Abelson

Private home in Boston: Saturdays, 5:00-7:00 pm, and Thursdays, 6:00-8:00 pm, December 7, 14, 19; January 4, 11, and 16.

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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.

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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

Series 1, BU Hillel: Mondays, 7:30-9 p.m., September 16, 23; October 7, 28; November 4; and Friday, November 8. [Series 1 is FULL.]

Series 2, BU Hillel: Mondays, 7:30-9 p.m., November 11, 18, 25; and December 2, 9. Plus Friday, November 22.

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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

Wednesdays, 7:15-8:45 p.m., December 4, 11, 18; January 8, 15, 22.

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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

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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

Private homes on the North Shore: Mondays, 7:30 to 9:00 p.m, October 28; November 4; December 2; January 6, 20; February 3.

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For those familiar with Mussar and practice, bring your creative curiosity and enthusiasm to this advanced group that meets at a home in Lexington. With guidance from an outside off site consultant who provides some materials and helps shape sessions, participants determine middot studied, take turns co-facilitating each session, and innovate kabbalot practices. Sessions involve experiential learning and draw upon creative proclivities of facilitators.

Instructor: Nancy Weiss

Private home in Lexington: Thursdays, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m., October 17; November 7, 21; December 5, 19; January 16, 30; February 13, 27; March 5, 19; April 16, 30; May 7, 21; June 4.

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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.

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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

Mussar, the study and practice of Jewish ethics and self-development, 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! The group is suitable for beginners, and for those with previous Mussar experience.

Instructor: Merry Arnold

Temple Sinai, Brookline: Thursdays, 7:15 to 8:45 pm, October 31, November 7, 14, 21, December 5, 12, 19

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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.

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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.

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Mussar is the Jewish spiritual renewal movement which focuses on connecting spiritual growth with day-to-day living and behavior. Practicing Mussar entails working in a group to enhance spiritual and behavioral growth by finding the balance in personality traits such as humility, patience, gratitude, and responsibility. Mussar uses traditional writings, contemporary poetry, group discussions and personal exercises to help the participants progress on their own paths of learning how to best connect their daily lives with their spiritual values.

Instructor: Rabbi Marcia Plumb

Shir Tikvah, Winchester (library): Tuesdays, 7:30 pm-9:00 pm, November 5, 12; December 3, 17; January 7, 21; March 10, 24; April 7; May 5, 12; June 2, 16.

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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.

This Learning Circle is comprised of couples raising preschool and elementary school-aged children and includes a wide array of learning and discussions around Torah, Jewish ethics and values, holiday celebrations, parenting children, and Jewish perspectives on current events.

Instructor: Rabbi Todd Markley

Private homes in Needham: Thursdays, 7:30-9 p.m, November 21, December 12, January 9, February 27, March 12, April 30, May 21.

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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

No matter your background, affiliation, or knowledge of Judaism, we all acquire our understanding of God and religion from others. As parents we are entrusted with our children’s souls as well as their bodies, and by embarking on our own spiritual journey, we can better facilitate theirs. In these classes, we will build on our amazing experience in Israel and on the strong bond we have formed as a group, to continue to mine Jewish rituals and texts and see what resonates for us.

Instructor: Layah Lipsker

Private homes in Waban, Boston, Newton, Wayland

Monday, 10/7, 7:30-9:30 pm; Thursday, 10/31, 9:30-11:30 am; Monday, 12/16, 7:30-9:30 pm; Thursday, 1/23, 9:30-11:30 am; Monday, 2/24, 7:30-9:30 pm; Monday, 3/30, 7:30-9:30 pm.

>> 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

 

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.

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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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In this 12-session Mussar course, we will delve into Jewish wisdom texts and spiritual practices designed to help individuals balance key character traits in ways that lead to more fulfilling relationships with oneself, others, one’s community, and God. Mussar is a practice, so to gain the full benefit of this course, planning to practice between sessions, even if only 5 minutes a day, will help us integrate the learning into our lives.

While the class will meet for 12 sessions, please mark your calendar for the following 15 dates to allow for winter weather cancellations and occasional work-related travel by our instructor.

Instructor: Ronit Ziv-Kreger, PhD

Private home in Sharon: Mondays, 6:30-8:00 p.m., October 28; November 4, 11, 18; December 9, 16; January 20, 27; February 3, 10, 24; March 2, 9, 16, 30.

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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 14, 21, 28; February 4, 11, 18, 25.

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Prior to the High Holidays, it is customary to reflect on our lives and consider the ways in which we have been hurt and have hurt others. We draw up the Google maps for our plans to change and transform, and oftentimes…end up right back where we started. In this class, we will explore the Jewish wisdom and technologies surrounding how we acknowledge, accept, and transform the complicated and beloved patterns of our lives. Through explorations of contemporary texts, Jewish mindfulness (Mussar), and other traditional Jewish spiritual texts and tools, we will spiritually–and if needed literally–develop the tools to dig ourselves out of the ditches we find ourselves in. This class is a partnership with the Riverway Project.

Instructor: Emily Rogal

Private home in Somerville: Wednesdays, 7-8:30 p.m., October 23, 30, November 6, 20, December 4, and 18.

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Walk the terrain where the intellect meets the soul with Asiyah’s Rabbi David Curiel and rabbinic intern Matt Ponak in this exploration of chassidic mysticism through the teachings of two early rebbes: Menachem Nochum Twersky, known as the Chernobyler rebbe and Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav. This will be a journey in dropping into the deep end of kabbalah through chassidic thought, with frequent digressions to buoy you along. The course assumes no prior knowledge of the subject or Hebrew; all levels welcome!

Instructor: Rabbi David Curiel

Workbar Union, 31 Union Square, Somerville: Mondays, 7:30-9 pm, November 11, 18, 25, December 2, 9, and 16.

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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.

Instructor: Rabbi Sharon Anisfeld

Hebrew College: Mondays, 9-10:30 am, September 16, October 7, October 28, November 11, November 25, December 9, January 6, January 20.

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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.

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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.

Registration is full for this course.

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

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

This class is now full.

 

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.

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Boston Synagogue: Wednesday evenings, 7:30-9 p.m., November 20; December 4, 11, 18; and January 8, 15.

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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.

 

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.