New Online Class: Sampling Judaism!

Image: Samples of food. Photo by Jose B. Garcia Fernandez | Pixabay

Sometimes a whole loaf is too much. Sometimes we want a sample. I’ve been thinking for a while about offering something for people who want to learn a little about Judaism, without a huge investment of time and money.

— What do Jews believe about God? How do Jews pray?

— Why are Jews called the People of the Book? Which book? What is Torah? What is in Jewish scripture? What is the Talmud?

— What is the biggest Jewish holiday? How can some Jews insist on their Jewish identity, and at the same time say they are “not religious”?

Starting November 9, HaMaqom |The Place is offering a new class, Sampling Judaism. It will be a three week series of one-hour classes with short presentations by a rabbi (me) with plenty of time for questions.

This class is a short dip into Jewish culture and practice, not intended to be the equivalent of a full “Introduction to Judaism” course. The content will follow a basic structure of Jewish ideas about God, Torah, and the Jewish People, but the details will be driven by students’ questions.

For more information about Sampling Judaism, take a look at its page in the HaMaqom online catalog. Tuition is on a sliding scale, and further financial aid is available to those who need it.

If you are curious about Judaism, or know someone who is curious, please share this information with them. I’ll see you (or them!) in class!

Online Class: Learn About Jewish History and Texts!

Image: A group of people studying together. (Pixabay.com)

Have you ever wished you could take a class to sort out what words like Torah, Tanakh, Gemara, Mishnah, and Talmud really mean? Wondered how “Jewish law” is related to the Torah text? Ever wished you could learn more about the history of Israel and the Jews?  Ever hoped to go to a Torah or other text study class with confidence? Here’s your chance.

Starting on Sunday, October 18, 2020 and running through Dec 13, I will teach a class on the history and texts of Judaism. No Hebrew is required; this class is geared for beginners to Jewish study. Classes will meet from 3:30 – 5pm Pacific Time via Zoom.

Class Sessions:

Oct 18 — Welcome and Shabbat Texts

Oct 25 — What is the history of Ancient Israel?

Nov 1 — What are Torah, Tanakh & Midrash?

Nov 8 — What are Biblical Judaism and Rabbinic Judaism and how are they different?

Nov 15 — What are Mishnah, Gemara, and the Talmud?

Nov 22 — What are Codes, Responsa, and Jewish Law?

Dec 6 — What is Antisemitism?

Dec 13 — History of Zionism & Modern Israel

Besides lecture on the history and concepts, we will also engage in Jewish text study, encountering these texts first-hand.

This class is part of a series, Intro to the Jewish Experience, but students are welcome to take the class as a standalone class.

For more information and to register, check out the class page in the HaMaqom online catalog. Tuition is on a sliding scale, and financial aid is available.

HaMaqom creates inclusive communities through Jewish learning and practice. We have deep roots in the Bay Area. We have been the leading provider of transformative adult Jewish learning experiences since 1974. We offer courses and programs from leading Bay Area Jewish educators and take seriously our responsibility to serve the most diverse Jewish community in the world. We welcome all who wish to learn with us and do not discriminate on the basis of religion, gender, sexual identity, or national or ethnic origin. HaMaqom was previously known as Lehrhaus Judaica.

Tehillim: Psalms from the Heart – New Class Starts 7/9/2020

Image: King David with his harp, mosaic from the Gaza Synagogue, 6th c. CE. (Alexander Siviridov, Shutterstock, all rights reserved.)

The Book of Psalms is a treasury of poetry that expresses the full range of human emotion, from despair to ecstasy. Many traditional translations obscure the richness in the Psalms with flowery or euphemistic language, but the original psalms themselves are muscular, even raw, as they express the deepest truths of the heart.

I would like to study this 2500-year-old collection of human expression with you. Each week we will explore another Psalm in English; I will offer some insights from the Hebrew, and from various commentaries. Students bring their own insights to the mix. No Hebrew is required, although students who read Hebrew are welcome. 

Registrants will receive a Zoom link from me the day before the start of the course.

Tehillim: Psalms from the Heart will meet Thursday, July 9, 2020 thru Thursday, August 20, 2020, from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM Pacific Time. For more information, and to register, please visit the course’s page in the HAMAQOM | The Place online catalog. Sliding scale for tuition, and financial aid is available.

News! Intro to the Jewish Experience starts 7/19/2020

Image: Quilt by Barbara Kadden RJE, z”l, Genesis 12:1: YHVH said to Abram, “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.Photo by Ruth Adar.

Do you identify as Jewish, but feel like an outsider to Jewish community? Have you been assigned to take an “Intro” class? Would you like to explore Judaism as an adult, with adult topics and choices? 

This summer I am teaching Part A of “Introduction to the Jewish Experience,” a class designed to equip students for full participation in Jewish community. No Hebrew is required, although students will acquire some basic Hebrew or Yiddish vocabulary they are likely to encounter in Jewish settings.

The full course consists of three terms of eight sessions each. The terms may be taken in any order. This summer we will be offering Jewish Holidays and Life CycleThis term consists of a basic introduction to Jewish theology, the cycle of the Jewish year, and to the Jewish life cycle from cradle to grave.

I shall offer “Part B: Israel and Texts”  in Fall 2020 and “Part C: Jewish Diversity: A Big Jewish World,” in Winter 2020.

The course includes:

  1. Welcome & Shabbat
  2. God, Covenant, Mitzvah
  3. Fall Holiday Cycle: High Holy Days, Sukkot, Simchat Torah
  4. Spring Holiday Cycle: Purim, Passover, Shavuot
  5. National Holidays: Chanukah, Tu B’Shevat, The Yoms, Tisha B’Av
  6. Death and Mourning in Jewish Communities
  7. Birth and Conversion – Welcoming New Jews
  8. Bar/Bat Mitzvah and Jewish Weddings

Classes will meet via Zoom on Sunday afternoons, Sunday, July 19, 2020 thru Sunday, September 6, 2020, 3:30 PM to 5:00 PM Pacific Time. For information about tuition (which is on a sliding scale) and registration, please visit the course page in the HAMAQOM | The Place online catalog.

Growing Jewishly in a Challenging Year: Options for Study Online

Image: A person sits alone with their laptop. (Image by 8212733 from Pixabay)

Are you trying to figure out what to do with yourself as you sit at home hoping to avoid exposure to COVID-19, or after exposure, in isolation? Why not invest some of your time and attention in Jewish growth? Coffee Shop Rabbi is offering some options, some FREE and one, through HAMAQOM | The Place, which has a fee attached.

I use the Zoom platform for teaching, so you can attend via a laptop, tablet or smartphone.

TORAH STUDYEvery Saturday morning at 9 am in a Zoom Room online, I’ll lead a Torah study session on the weekly Torah portion. Invitations to the class will be sent out on Friday before 5pm Pacific Time; registrations that arrive after then will get an invitation for the following week. This class is FREE, but you do have to register. First class meeting will be tomorrow, March 14, but you can join at any point.

TEHILLIM (Psalms)Thursday evenings, at 7pm Pacific Time. In times of trouble, the Jewish people have traditionally turned to the book of Psalms to express the full gamut of human emotion. We are going to explore the Psalms together. Bring whatever copy you have at home, and I will be working from several sources, including the new translation and commentary from Rabbi Richard N. Levy, z”l, and Robert Alter’s translation. This class is also FREE. First class meeting will be March 19.

I will teach in English, and will assume that students do not speak or read Hebrew. Absolute beginners are especially welcome.

To enroll in either free class, send an email to happy dot adar at gmail dot com with:

  • your real name (first and last please)
  • your email address
  • which class you would like to take
  • or “BOTH” if you would like to receive invitations for both.

You will receive an acknowledgement of your enrollment, and will be added to my list for a Zoom invitation.


Introduction to the Jewish Experience, Spring Term. Sunday afternoons, 3:30 – 5 pm, Pacific Time. In this 8 week series, we will explore the things that Jews worldwide have in common, and those things that are different about various Jewish communities: Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Mizrachi, American, Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, etc. While there are other parts to the IJX series, this class stands on its own. To enroll, go to the class page on the HAMAQOM | The Place website. Fees are on a sliding scale and are listed with the class description. The first class will be Sunday, March 22.

What is Daf Yomi? Also – an online class for beginners in Jewish text study

Image: A graphic representation of rabbinic literature. Graphic by Ruth Adar, all rights reserved.

There’s a lot of talk online and elsewhere about “Daf Yomi” right now. It means “Page of Talmud of the Day” – actually TWO pages of Talmud per day, for seven plus years until the whole thing is read. If that’s your cup of tea, mazal tov. But as Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg (@TheRaDR) said very eloquently recently on Twitter, Daf Yomi isn’t for everyone, and that’s OK. There are lots of other ways to swim in the sea of Talmud.

If you’re new or nearly new to Jewish texts, I have an an option for you. This coming Sunday, I start teaching an online class called “Introduction to the Jewish Experience: Israel and Texts.” We learn about Jewish text study by studying texts together on one kind of text after another.

Jan 12 – Welcome — A Shabbat Text: the Kiddush

Jan 19 – Ancient Israel — The Land where the Bible is set and where it may have been written

Jan 26 – Torah, Tanakh, and Midrash — What they are, how we engage with them.

Feb 2 — Rabbinic Judaism – The pressure cooker and its cooks.

Feb 9 — Mishnah, Gemara, Talmud and Codes — Lions and Tigers and Bears, O My!

Feb 16 — What is “Jewish Law” – and What it is Not.

Feb 23 — Antisemitism

Mar 1 — Zionism(s) and History

Does this sound interesting? It is an introduction to the texts along with the history that gives rise to them. It doesn’t last seven years, but it will give you the basic information you need to engage in pretty much any Jewish text study class that intrigues you.

Registration is open NOW on the HaMaqom,org website.

The fees are on a sliding scale. Classes meet on Sunday afternoons from 3:30-5 Pacific Time, but many people take the class by following the video recordings of the live classes.

See you there?

IMPORTANT NOTE: Registration goes through the HaMaqom office, which is open M-F. If you sign up for the class on a Saturday or Sunday, I won’t get the information until Monday. However, the class you missed will be available via a recording and I will send you the link as soon as I become aware of you as a student.

Online Class: Meet the Tanach and Other Jewish Texts!

Image: A scroll, a pen, and ink. (Image by zofiaEliyahu from Pixabay)

I teach three online classes on basic Judaism for an organization called HaMaqom | The Place. Registration for two of them just opened up, and I welcome any of you who are interested to join us.

These two classes are accessible for beginners, but they are not what people usually think of as “Intro to Judaism” topics. The first:

Texts, History & Israel

This class offers an introduction to the classical texts of Judaism, from the Jewish Bible itself to the commentaries, the Talmud, the law codes, and the topic of Jewish Law, or halakhah. I use history as the framework for approaching the texts, and we explore the relationship of those texts to the Land of Israel. By the course’s end, students will have gotten a taste of Torah study, Talmud study, and the process known as Jewish Law.

Class meets online on Sunday afternoons, Pacific Time, from 3:30 – 5pm using the Zoom learning environment. You can follow on a computer, a tablet, or a smartphone.

Tuition is on a sliding scale. Financial assistance is available for those who need a little more slide on the scale – please do not hesitate to request it.

Registration & More information

יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן פְּרַחְיָה וְנִתַּאי הָאַרְבֵּלִי קִבְּלוּ מֵהֶם. יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן פְּרַחְיָה אוֹמֵר, עֲשֵׂה לְךָ רַב, וּקְנֵה לְךָ חָבֵר, וֶהֱוֵי דָן אֶת כָּל הָאָדָם לְכַף זְכוּת:

Joshua ben Perahiah used to say: appoint for yourself a teacher, and acquire for yourself a friend and give every person the benefit of the doubt.

Ethics of the Fathers, 1:6

Interested in Learning Talmud?

Image: Logo from Ten Minutes of Talmud. (Blog)

A number of people have asked me about resources for learning Talmud. While the classical way to study is with a teacher and a chevruta [learning partner] there is an online resource I can heartily recommend.

Ten Minutes of Talmud is a weekly offering from Rabbi Amy Scheinerman, a scholar-rabbi who is both an expert with the texts and a superb teacher. Her posts introduce readers to a juicy bit of text, then guide them through the process of learning the text themselves.

Selections are short and simply written. If the reader brings a long experience to the study, that will enrich the learning, but it is also accessible to and worthwhile for a beginner.

Rabbi Scheinerman is the author of The Talmud of Relationships, a recent two-volume offering from the Jewish Publication Society. The book is a 2019 National Jewish Book Award Finalist.

Blog Link

Teaching the High Holy Days

Today I taught an online class on the Fall Holiday Cycle, aka the High Holy Days. I did a demonstration of shofar blowing and gathered a crowd here in the house. The dogs are fascinated by the shofar but a bit shy of its sound.

If you have ritual objects in your home, keep in mind that shofarot smell like fabulous chew toys, as do scrolls and the klaf in your mezuzah. Keep the shofar, etc. out of reach of pets.

Photo by Linda Burnett, all rights reserved.

Jewish Holidays and Lifecycle: An Online Class!

Image: Passover at the Kepler/Snyder house. Photo by Linda Burnett.

This eight-week online course will introduce you to:

  • The major and minor Jewish holidays
  • Jewish lifecycle rituals, from birth to death

Date & Time: September 15 – November 10, 2019. Classes meet on Sunday afternoons, 3:30-5:00 Pacific Time. I record the classes so that if students cannot attend “live” they can still access the class via recordings.

Tuition: Sliding scale of $240 – $144. Scholarships available.

Platform: I teach the class using Zoom meeting software. You will be able to access your class meeting using a link in the email invitation you receive after registration.

To Register: Go to the HaMaqom website (formerly Lehrhaus Judaica), and look at the class page.

Texts: Settings of Silver, by Stephen Wylen. The book is available both new and used. I use this text because it contains a history and an excellent index; when you’ve finished the class it makes a nice reference book if you choose to keep it.

This class is one part of the Introduction to the Jewish Experience series, a three part series of eight classes each. The classes may be taken in any order, and each also works as a stand-alone class. Part 2, “History & Texts” will be offered in Winter 2020, and Part 3, “Diversity of Judaism” will be offered in Spring 2020.

Your instructor will be Rabbi Ruth Adar, a Reform rabbi, graduate of the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, as well as the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. I’ve been a teacher since I graduated from college in 1976; I’ve been teaching this particular class (Intro to the Jewish Experience) since 2009. This blog began as a resource for that class.

I welcome questions via the Comments section here (also, to any previous students, I welcome any comments/reviews/notes you have to offer.)