Open Circle Jewish Learning 20s and 30s

Open Circle Jewish Learning 20s and 30s brings together young adults in living rooms throughout Greater Boston to build connection and community through stimulating, accessible Jewish learning and conversation.

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Eser, our popular spring course, features 10 sessions of facilitated discussion and Jewish learning around a specific theme. The 2020 theme is: “Hindsight is 2020: Judaism’s 10 Most Surprising Moments.”

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young adults talking in living room
  • time 20s and 30s
  • location Living rooms and community spaces
  • duration 6-10 weeks (Open Circle Jewish Learning 20s & 30s) ; 10 weeks (Eser)

Spring 2020: Eser 2020

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

Topics include:

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

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

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Fall 2019 Young Adult Learning Circles

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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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 (Jamaica Plain): Saturdays, 5:00-7:00 pm, May 2, 9, 16 and 23; June 6 and 13.

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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., January 29; February 5, 12, 19 and 26; March 4.

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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.

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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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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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.

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

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

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Past Young Adult Learning Circles:

This 8 class series on Jewish mindfulness and meditation is open to all levels of practitioners. Led by Hebrew College student Genevieve Greinetz and Temple Emunah’s Beni Summers, Awakening to Daily Wonder Through Jewish Mindfulness offers texts and practices that will serve to create or deepen a regular, personal meditation practice for participants.Using the elements of our everyday to guide the eight sessions, we will explore different techniques and texts to cultivate awareness, acceptance, and a loving relationship with the present moment and ourselves in it. All are welcome and participants can expect to find joy and challenge in a supportive community along the way. Facilitators: Genevieve Greinetz & Beni Summers

Have you recently lost someone in your life? Are you looking to honor a loved one through Jewish rituals? Do the Jewish mourning rituals feel compelling to you? Are they not compelling enough? The Jewish tradition offers so many models of dealing with grief, but it can be overwhelming to contemplate how to integrate them and even to understand what they are. In this 6-session support and learning circle, led by rabbinical student Batya Ellinoy, we’ll explore what Judaism offers to get through difficult times, learn about Jewish rituals for grief and loss, and cultivate a community of supportive friends. Facilitator: Batya Ellinoy

 

We live in one of the most religiously diverse societies in the history of humankind. In this rich cultural context, how do we honor our similarities and differences, and create a vibrant and inclusive pluralistic ethos? This discussion group welcomes people who identify as religious, secular, seeking, or spiritually curious, who want to explore questions of identity, meaning, community, and justice with other young adults from different walks of life. Facilitators: Sara Gardner & Tom Reid

Never done Eser before and want to give it a try? Dying to revisit a past year’s theme? You’ll be able to explore past favorites and new discoveries over the course of this 6-session class, facilitated by Rabbi Elizabeth Bonney-Cohen. In conjunction with BASEHillel Boston, you’ll discuss topics ranging from tattoos to interfaith relationships to life’s big questions in EBC’s very own living room. Explore the Best of Eser while you’re BASEd in Boston! Facilitator: Elizabeth Bonney-Cohen

Does Judaism have value in 2018? Is God real? Does Hell exist for Jews? What should Israel mean for me? This fall, Yisod and Eser are partnering to offer a rare discussion-based learning opportunity with our very own Rav Hazzan Aliza Berger. Facilitator: Rav-Hazzan Aliza Berger

 

Food has long been an expression of Jewish culture and identity. Through this workshop, led by Eser’s Sara Gardner, an avid cook and food historian, you’ll explore how Jewish culinary heritage connects to the identity of Jews throughout the Diaspora, and you’ll learn a few new recipes along the way.

Eser Maker Mishkan is an opportunity to explore new activities, develop your Jewish identity, and build new connections through hand-on crafts like cooking, woodworking and embroidery

From mezuzot to dreidels to gorgeous wooden synagogues, woodworking has long been a means to express Jewish identity. In this workshop, led by woodworker extraordinaire Eugene Zeleny and almost-rabbi Sam Blumberg, you’ll woodwork your own Judaica and explore your Jewish identity’s artistic expression.

Eser Maker Mishkan is an opportunity to explore new activities, develop your Jewish identity, and build new connections through hand-on crafts like cooking, woodworking and embroidery

Many Jewish sacred objects are embroidered, from Torah covers to Kippot to Tallit and Tzitzit. In this workshop, led by local artist Kit Collins and a rabbinic facilitator, you’ll work on embroidering your own Jewish practice.

Eser Maker Mishkan is an opportunity to explore new activities, develop your Jewish identity, and build new connections through hand-on crafts like cooking, woodworking and embroidery

Six sessions of learning and discussion in advance of specific holidays.

Using the writings of 20th century theologians and philosophers, these groups focused on developing mindfulness practices based on individuals’ experiences and goals.

 


Past Spring Eser “Top Ten” Themes

What would Maimonides say if he lived now? How would our reading of the Torah change if it were on an iPad rather than a scroll? We update our phones, we update our operating systems, why not update our Judaism? We’ll explore traditional perspectives while giving voice to what Jews in their 20s and 30s seek now.

Does God exist? Does Israel connect Jewish people? What’s the meaning of life? This year, Eser is taking on the big questions you’re already thinking about from the Jewish perspective in 10 Not-So-Small Questions.

This spring, talk about bigger issues and sticky situations that challenge our assumptions. You’ll explore Jewish and contemporary ideas dealing with money, family, community and dating in Ten Ethical Dilemmas: What Would You Do?

From climate change and immigration to gun control and race relations, social issues have come to the fore in today’s discourse. What does Judaism have to contribute to the conversation? Join Eser, a vibrant community of young adults in their 20s and 30s, to discuss Jewish perspectives on 10 different controversial issues.

This year’s Eser theme is “Ten Best Kept Secrets,” an intriguing focus that promises engaging conversation on a number of little-known and fascinating topics. More than an opportunity to poke around in curious corners of Jewish life, each topic functions as a gateway to a specific set of important and deep issues, generating the kind of exciting and thought-provoking conversations that make Eser unique.

I cannot recommend Eser highly enough. It is an invitation to a surprising new relationship with your Jewish self.

Meredith Reiches, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, the University of Massachusetts Boston

Want to learn more?

If you need additional information, want to get involved, or wish to create your own discussion group, please contact Joel Stanley, Associate Director of Young Adult Programs, Open Circle Jewish Learning, at jstanley@hebrewcollege.edu.

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