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Jewish Learning for Adults

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Course Offerings, Winter 2020

Book Talks with FTJC Authors

Course Offerings in Progress for Spring 2020


Course Offerings, Winter 2020

Courses are open to members and non-members alike, unlike otherwise specified. Courses strive to be accessible to learners at multiple levels of experience, even while some specify that they are geared to learners at a particular level. Come and learn!

The Liturgy of Labor and Birth
with FTJC student clergy intern Eliana Kissner
Two Mondays, January 6 and 13, 2020, 8:00-9:30 PM, home-hosted

amulet papercut for mother and child, David Elias Krieger, ca. 1900, GaliciaThis class explores Jewish liturgy and practices relating to labor and childbirth. We will look at how various communities used poetry and prayer in both Hebrew and vernacular, amulets, incantations, and other religiously oriented practices to ease the birthing process and foster a sense of safety and protection for those experiencing it. We will also look at if and how these prayers and practices can be applied in the present day. This class is open to all who are interested. Pre-Registration requested, please click or tap here.



Fifty Words: Learning Hebrew Prayer
with Rabbi Guy Austrian
Four Tuesdays, January 14, 21, 28, and February 4, 2020, 8:00-9:30 PM, home-hosted

amulet papercut for mother and child, David Elias Krieger, ca. 1900, GaliciaFifty words are at the core of Hebrew prayer. We'll use these words to simultaneously improve our Hebrew reading from the Siddur while delving into key spiritual concepts and approaches to Jewish prayer. Geared toward less experienced learners, who mostly know the letters and vowels, and want to deepen their practice of Jewish Hebrew prayer. Pre-Registration requested, please click or tap here.




Book Talks with FTJC Authors

We're thrilled to feature our talented FTJC members who are publishing new, relevant, and exciting books! 

"God and the Big Bang" in Hebrew Translation
by Daniel Matt, just published in Hebrew translation by Igal Harmelin
Saturday, January 25, 2020, 12:00-12:45 PM, Hebrew Tabernacle Library during Kiddush

book cover for God and the Big Bang, image of gas nebula in outer spaceMany in our day and age have substituted their faith in a Creator for faith in science and technology. Science has, indeed, enhanced the quality of our life materially but has failed to tackle the most important question: life's ultimate meaning. Daniel Matt, one of the world's preeminent Zohar scholars who has authored the Pritzker English edition of the book, also wrote God and the Big Bang (1998) to foster a dialog between the two descriptions of the process of creation: the scientific and the biblical, as seen through the lens of Kabbalah and Chasidism. The Hebrew translation has just appeared in Israel, published by Yediot Aharonot, Israel's largest book publisher. The translator, FTJC member Igal Harmelin, who will share some key passages and his experience translating this fascinating book. Order the Hebrew translation here. Order the original English here.

"High Risk: A Doctor's Notes on Pregnancy, Birth, and the Unexpected" by Dr. Chavi Eve Karkowsky, M.D.
Saturday, March 28, 2020, 12:00-12:45 PM, Hebrew Tabernacle Library during Kiddush

book cover for High Risk, doctor's gloved hands

As a maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) doctor, Chavi Karkowsky imparts the emotional rewards of a profession with no shortage of tough choices, supporting expecting parents through high-risk pregnancies and deliveries. With clarity, humility, and deep compassion, she conveys the large and small indignities for expectant mothers singled out by a worrisome amniocentesis, an abnormal ultrasound, or family history. In an age when women’s health is a rights issue debated in the highest courts, High Risk also addresses chronic problems within America’s healthcare system, in which more and more American women—particularly women of color—are dying from complications that arise during pregnancy or childbirth. Much of that can be traced to a culture, and a medical community, that fails to take women’s reproductive care more seriously. In this book talk, Chavi will share highlights and discuss working with religious and secular patients. Pre-order here.


... And another top secret title we're not yet at liberty to reveal!
Saturday, April 25, 2020, 12:00-12:45 PM, Hebrew Tabernacle Library during Kiddush

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Stay tuned to this space, the surprise will be worth it.





Course Offerings to Come in Spring 2020


antique telephone

Talking to God: The Spiritual Practice of Spontaneous Prayer
Two sessions: Tuesday March 17 and Tuesday March 24, 8:00-9:30 PM, Home hosted TBD

Alongside the fixed liturgy of the Siddur, impromptu prayer -- pouring out one's heart in any time and in any place -- has a long tradition within Judaism. We'll see how the halachah makes room for these prayers and look at examples, both passionate and skeptical, joyful and desperate, from the Bible, Talmud, Zohar, medieval folk religion, and Chasidic practice. We'll assess their structure and patterns to see how they could be models for our own prayers. And we'll try it out ourselves!

Led by Rabbi Ilanit Goldberg-Gradess, a chaplain on the faculty of the Center for Pastoral Education at JTS, and Rabbi Guy Austrian.

Suggested donation: $18 for the series. No one turned away for lack of donation.


cookie monster eating cookie

Reading Halachah: The Pleasures of "Oneg Shabbat"
Three Thursdays: April 30, May 14, May 21, 8:00 PM, location TBD

The mitzvah of "oneg Shabbat," to take pleasure in the Sabbath, is a rare mitzvah that originates in Prophets (not the Torah). It's a feeling, not a behavior, but it can be cultivated by concrete spiritual practices of that weave together indulgence and restraint. It exists in a productive and dynamic tension with "kedushat Shabbat," the holiness or set-apartness of Shabbat. We'll read these halachic texts and discuss how they can shape our own practice and observance. The format will be "beit midrash style," learning in pairs and discussing as a group. The course is geared toward more experienced learners who can read Hebrew; but no previous fluency with halachic texts is assumed, and learners at all levels are welcome.

Led by Rabbi Tali Adler, who serves on the faculty at Yeshivat Hadar; and FTJC's Rabbi Guy Austrian.  Cosponsored by FTJC and the Hadar Institute.Location: Home hosted by participants. Register for location information. 

Suggested donation: $18 for the series, no one turned away for lack of donation.


silhouette of fiddler on roof

Sholom Aleichem's Tevye the Dairyman
Dates, times, and location TBD

Most of us know Tevye only through the movie Fiddler on the Roof, or more recently, from the Off-Boadway Yiddish production of Fiddler on the Roof  but the real Tevye is quite a different story. It is one so compelling and brilliant that several years ago in a listing of the 100 greatest Jewish books compiled by the National Yiddish Book Center it was one of only two works to be chosen by every member of the panel of experts on Jewish Literature (in many languages). In this 4-week class we will do a close reading of the text (total of 120 pages). You will discover, among other things, that there are 7 daughters, not 5, and that Chava and Chvedke do not leave together for Kiev and that none of Tevye’s “On the one hand, on the other” are actually found in the text. 

Led by FTJC member Sheva Zucker, author of the textbooks Yiddish: An Introduction to the Language, Literature & Culture, Vols. I & II, and currently academic director of the Uriel Weinreich Program in Yiddish Language, Literature and Culture, under the auspices of Bard College and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York City.

Suggested donation: $18 for the series, no one turned away for lack of donation.

More Learning Opportunities?
If you have ideas about something you want to learn, and you have a hunch that you could pull together a group of others who want to learn it too,
e-mail Rabbi Guy Austrian and let's talk about it.

Wed, January 22 2020 25 Tevet 5780