History Classes

Texts of Jewish History
A study of the prominent texts of the Jewish Tradition (The Bible, Talmud, Codes of Jewish Law). Each text will be placed in its historical context with special emphasis on its applicability to modern Jewish life.

Teacher:Rabbi Schecter
Time: Every other Wednesday from 9:45-11:15am
First Class: Wednesday September 14
Place: Library

Modernizing Judaism: Movements and Thinkers
Judaism is arguably the oldest "organized religion" in history. In its more than three thousand years it has repeatedly encountered challenges on every possible level, adapting yet maintaining continuity. In modern times each traditional aspect of Judaism has been questioned by some movement or thinker. The result has been a plethora of approaches to what can be dropped as obsolete, what must be preserved, what should be revised: concepts of God, the makeup of Jewish community, the synagogue, meaningful practices and rituals — even the nature of Jewish people-hood. What is Jewish identity now — in the face of modern science, modern conceptions of citizenship — and modern antiSemitism? In this year's series we will discuss selected philosophies, ideologies, and theologies of Jewish thinkers from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present. At each session our smart and opinionated participants discuss an essay or a chapter of a book — and enjoy themselves learning and thinking. Our group consists of interested, interesting members of Temple Beth Shalom who love to read about different aspects of Jewish history and discuss what they meant in the past and how they relate to our time. We have been doing this for twenty years — and new members are warmly welcomed.

Teacher: Rabbi Robert Seltzer
Time: First and third Wednesday of each month. 7:30-9:00 pm
First Meeting: October 19, by schedule, generally twice a month
Place: Red Room

The History of the Jews in Eastern Europe
The ancestors of a great many American Jews arrived in the U.S. from Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Ukraine, and Romania – from the world immortalized by writers such as Sholem Aleichem, resurrected in “Fiddler on the Roof”, in the paintings of Marc Chagall, and much more. The culture of East European Jews was rooted in the Yiddish language, heder schooling, Talmud study in yeshivot, Hasidic, Zionist, and Jewish socialist movements and intense religious and/or secular Jewishness. The social and economic situation of East European Jews in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was just as distinctive: cities with a burgeoning Jewish working-class such as Vilna, Odessa, Lodz, Warsaw, Bialystok, Minsk, in numerous market towns (shtetls) and villages, extreme poverty at one end of a varied spectrum, great energy throughout.

This series of meetings from October 2016 to May 2017 will trace the history of East European Jewry back to in the Middle Ages and down to the Russian Revolution and the creation and collapse of the USSR. We intend especially to look into the home towns and regions of the members of our group.

This class will be taught in two parts: September through January—Torah Cantillation System for Shabbat February through May—Torah Cantillation System for the High Holy Days Required: A beginner’s knowledge of reading Hebrew. OPEN TO ADULTS (and soon-to-be adults), AGES 12 AND OLDER.
Teacher: Cantor Robin Joseph
Dates: Monday evenings 7:00-8:00 pm, starts September 28
Place: Red Room

Shabbat Morning Torah Study
A Torah Study Group meets on Shabbat mornings from 9:00-10:00 am. This class will study the new Etz Chayim Pentateuch of the Conservative Movement, the Plaut Pentateuch, and other commentaries to enhance discussion of the Torah. The group will develop its own program of Torah Study, with shared responsibility for leading discussions.

Coordinators: Rabbi Schecter and Cantor Joseph
Time: Saturday mornings 9:00-10:00 am
Starts: September 5

Teacher: Rabbi Ben Newman (see bio below)
Dates: Wednesday evenings, 7:30 - 9:00 pm,
February 8; March 8, 22, and 29; April 26 and May 10

The Ancient Wisdom of the Kabbalah: An Introductory Lecture Series
The ancient Hebrew mystical tradition of Kabbalah has been providing spiritual seekers a unique technology to access our inherent ability to transform ourselves and our world for generations. Though recently Kabbalah has been popularized by The Kabbalah Centre it has a rich history with a wide corpus of literature. In this series, Rabbi Ben Newman will provide a basic introduction to some of the history, ideas, texts, and practices of this ancient wisdom, followed by a discussion. Each session of the series will focus on a different topic.

Session 1: General Intro to Thought and History
Session 2: Introduction to The Zohar
Session 3: Jewish Meditation and Mystical Practices
Session 4: Jewish Magic and Folklore (Harry Potter for Hebrews)
Session 5: Mysticism and Ethics
Session 6: Contemporary Jewish Mysticism

For background information, Rabbi Newman recommends the following:

  1. Film: Decoding the Past: Secrets of Kabbalah (History Channel) (2006) The video is available online here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilDiBNYlKj4
  2.  http://www.amazon.com/Kabbalah-A-Very-Short-Introduction/dp/0195327055/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1350589825&sr=8-1&keywords=intro+to+kabbalah
  3. The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism  by Daniel C. Matt
  4. http://www.kabbalah.info (many writings available for free)

Rabbi Ben Newman is the founder and spiritual leader of Shtiebel, a startup shul in Dobbs Ferry, NY. He served for 7 years as the rabbi of Congregation Har Shalom in Fort Collins, CO, along with his wife Rabbi Shoshana Leis. Rabbi Ben received a B.A. from Skidmore College in Religion and Culture, an M.A. in Jewish Studies from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and rabbinical ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion in New York. He previously served as the Associate Rabbi for JRF Congregation M'vakshe Derekh in Scarsdale, New York. Rabbi Ben is the author of a series of childrens' books called The Enchanted Sukkah about a time travelling sukkah. In addition to being a writer and a rabbi, Ben is a  singer-songwriter who delights in chanting, playing guitar, and using an Indian instrument called a sruti box. He also enjoys reading Jewish literature of all types, as well as science fiction (his favorite author is Philip K Dick), philosophy and beat poetry. Rabbi Ben lives by the shores of the Hudson River in Dobbs Ferry, NY and his greatest joy is being father to his daughter and his son.

Place: Red Room

Please RSVP ASAP if you want to register for this class.