Israel & Texts: Coming Attraction

Image: Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem (Dead Sea Scrolls). Photo by Ricardo Tulio Gandelman via Wikimedia, some rights reserved.

Jews are often called the People of the Book. Truth be told, that Book is very large indeed, more of a library than a book. There’s Torah itself, made of five books. Then the Tanakh, the Jewish Bible, 24 books, although some of them are divided into Parts I and II. Then there is the Midrash, the Mishnah, and the Talmud… on and on. Maybe we are actually the People of the Library!

There is also something called halakhah, the Way, which is sometimes translated as Jewish Law. It is distilled from the books and codified in medieval texts such as the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides and the Shulchan Aruch. As with every body of law, it is a living, growing thing, constantly adapting to accommodate the march of history. That’s why I prefer to translate it Jewish Way, rather than Jewish Law – also, that is what the word halakhah actually means, rooted in the verb “to walk.”

Many (but not all) of the components of our library came into being in the Land of Israel, the history of which is bound up with our understanding of the books. That is the reason that I teach the two together, from Biblical Israel to Modern Israel.

Because of the nature of the class, students must be able to name a local rabbi with whom they can confer. Note that the point of view of this class will be that of its teacher – me – a Reform rabbi. I am qualified to address these matters from a progressive point of view. For an orthodox point of view, you should take a class from an orthodox rabbi.

There are two parallel classes that will begin in January. One is an online class, with registration in the Lehrhaus Judaica website. This class runs for 8 weeks, beginning Sunday, Jan 15, 3:30 – 5pm Pacific Time. Click this link for information on the online class.

If you live in the East Bay portion of the San Francisco Bay area, I also offer an in-person class on Wednesday evenings at Congregation Beth El in Berkeley, CA. That class will begin on Wednesday, January 18, 7:30 – 9pm Pacific Time. Click this link for information and registration in the Berkeley class. Tuition is $90 US for 8 weeks.

This class is the winter segment of the Introduction to the Jewish Experience class; it also functions as a stand-alone class. No prerequisites.

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Basic Judaism Class Online!

Image: Lehrhaus Judaica logo “Jewish Learning Since 1974”

Have you wished that you could take a class to learn basic facts about Judaism, but haven’t been able to find or schedule one locally? I teach such a class through Lehrhaus Judaica in Berkeley, CA.

The class begins this Sunday, October 23, at 3:30pm Pacific Time. If you cannot attend in “real time,” recordings of each class will be available for registered members of the class.

Hardware requirements: You need a computer and high speed Internet access. Some have been able to use tablets, but I can’t vouch for your success with them – a laptop or desktop computer is a safer bet. We use Adobe Connect, a platform that can be accessed via a Mac or Windows computer.

This is not a “conversion class,” although some of the people who take it may be studying towards conversion. People take the class for many reasons: they are in an interfaith relationship and want to learn more about Judaism, they are born Jewish but want an adult Jewish education, or perhaps they have begun working for a Jewish institution and want to understand Jewish life. If you are curious about Judaism, that’s all you need.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are studying with a rabbi for conversion, ASK YOUR RABBI before signing up for any online “Intro” class. They may prefer or require a particular class.

The class has three 8-week parts, which may be taken in any order:

  • Fall: Jewish Lifecycle & Holidays
  • Winter: Israel & Texts
  • Spring: Traditions of Judaism

To sign up for the class or to read more about it, visit the class page in the Lehrhaus Catalog online. There you will find more info about the class, including the schedule and tuition.

Learn about Judaism Online!

I teach about Judaism online. Some of it, like this blog, is free to anyone who accesses it. But if you’d like something a bit more organized, especially if you need a formal “Introduction to Judaism” course for conversion or a wedding, I also offer a class through Lehrhaus Judaica of Berkeley, CA.

This year’s “Online Intro” class will begin on October 23, at 3pm Pacific Time.  We use Adobe Connect, a program that will allow most people to access the class if they have an Internet connection and a computer.

If Sunday afternoons (or evenings) don’t work for you, don’t worry. I will email a link to class recordings to everyone who is registered for the class. I am happy to meet with you via Skype or phone to answer questions, and you can participate in class discussions via the class Facebook page.

The class comes in three parts. You can take one of them, or all three, in any order:

Fall: Lifecycle and Holidays – exactly what it sounds like (begins October 23)

Winter: Israel and Texts – a look at Ancient and Modern Israel via traditional texts (begins January 15, 2017)

Spring: Traditions of Judaism – a look at the vast diversity of the Jewish world: Mizrahi, Sephardic, Ashkenazi, Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, American, and other possibilities. (begins March 26, 2017)

For more information, check out the class website.

To register, and for class fees, go to our Lehrhaus online catalog page.

 

News & The Book of Ruth

News: I got a new desktop computer and spent the last 24 hours setting it up so it would be ready for class Sunday afternoon. I missed posting my usual Friday message with online links, but I will get back into that routine this week, for sure.

The new computer is very exciting – faster, nicer camera, speakers, audio, etc. I just have to get used to it.

The Book of Ruth is a one-meeting class I’m offering both live and online this coming Thursday, May 19 from 7:30 – 9pm Pacific Time. My focus will be the following question: What insights does Ruth have to offer us today about Jewish community, conversion, and interfaith marriages?

Sorry, the class has been cancelled for lack of enrollment.

Shavua tov!

 

Traditions of Judaism Starts Sunday!

Image: Israeli President Ezer Weizman greeting Ethiopian Jews celebrating the Sigd Festival at Jerusalem’s Haas Promenade. Photo: SAAR YAACOV, GPO. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

A new online Intro to the Jewish Experience class starts Sunday at 3:30pm Pacific Time. As always, I’m excited.

The Spring segment of the class is “Traditions of Judaism.” We look at all the different communities and traditions within Judaism today, and how we came to have those various communities. We’ll look at Ashkenazi, Sephardic, and Mizrahi traditions, the Movements (Conservative, Reform, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Renewal, etc), American Judaism and why it is unique, the Prayer Book [Siddur] and the service, and finish up with Jewish food customs. Given that this is an election year, we may talk a little about American Jews and politics, too.

The class is also available by via recordings if you have a schedule that makes that time impossible. To sign up for the online class, go to its page in the Lehrhaus Judaica catalog. If you are interested in the offline, Wednesday night class, it has a different page in the Lehrhaus catalog.

This class (either on- or off-line) is the Spring portion of a three part series that can be taken in any order. Every class also works as a stand-alone entity, for those who already have some knowledge of Judaism but want to enrich their learning on a particular area. (Fall: Lifecycle & Holidays, Winter: Israel & Texts, Spring: Traditions of Judaism.)

I love teaching “Intro” – it’s my passion. If the subject above interests you, I hope you’ll join us!

Bible Circle: The Text in its World

There’s a Lehrhaus online class about to begin that may interest some readers of this blog. Here’s the description from the online catalog:

Bible Circle: The Text in its World with Jehon Grist, PhD – Tuesdays, Feb 23 – Mar 15, 7-8:30pm ($35)  Since childhood, we’ve all visited some of the great Bible stories, but we’ve also sometimes scratched our heads, not really understanding everything they have to say.

To fully explore the story, you need to go full circle and discover the Biblical world from which it came. That’s what this course will do. We’ll study selected texts, covering everything from the basic story line, to the meaning of obscure words and phrases (all in English translation), to the fascinating differences found in other ancient versions of the Bible.

But we’ll also visit the places and cultures that thrived when these stories were composed, from Biblical villages and the Jerusalem temple to Egyptian palaces and more. Richly illustrated with hundreds of images and numerous video clips, we will time-travel through four selected Bible texts, bringing them and their world to life.

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Dr. Grist is the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Educator of Lehrhaus Judaica. He received his doctorate in Near East Studies and a California State Teaching Credential from the University of California, Berkeley with Doctoral research time at Hebrew University, Jerusalem. A veteran of excavations and field research in both Israel and Egypt, Jehon has published articles and presented papers on a variety of topics, from research identifying an obscure Egyptian queen, to the conflict between Egypt, Israel and the Philistines at the beginning of Biblical history.

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A personal note: Dr. Grist was my Hebrew teacher for several years before I went to rabbinical school and continues to be a friend and mentor. He is one of the most entertaining lecturers I know.  I have enrolled (and will attend online and via recording) because I know that it will enrich my own study and teaching.

 

 

 

Intro Class, 5th Night of Chanukah

Image: Ten menorahs on a table, each with 6 candles lit. 10 people sit behind the table in the dark. 

The final meeting of the Fall session of Intro fell on the 5th night of Chanukah, so I invited the class to bring their own chanukiot to class. (Thank you, Lisa Hanauer, for the great suggestion.)

We sang the blessings, then paused for a quick class photo with the glowing candles, before we turned the lights back on to learn.

I was still glowing on the drive home – what a lovely, lovely memory of a wonderful group of students!