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Sunday, December 6, 2020

Take a virtual journey to learn about some of the most interesting and off-the-beaten path Jewish communities in the world. We'll visit five different continents to learn about Jewish life and history in such fascinating places as Shanghai, Ukraine, Thailand, India, Ecuador and Barbados. This highly visual presentation is based on the firsthand experiences of an experienced travel journalist and will explore the survival and resilience of Jewish life in places you might least expect to find it.

Over 8,000 People Have Taken a Jewish Journey with Chai Mitzvah – Join Us!

Chai Mitzvah is a great Chanukah gift for you and your family! 

Visit us at the top of each hour for a 15 minute presentation of the Chai Mitzvah program and receive a free gift of one of our many curricula! Chai Mitzvah staff will be available for the rest of each hour for private consultation.

Who is Adam? Are all humans created in God’s image? 

Probing the sources of racism in Judaism, this seminar takes a critical look at classical Jewish texts that sanction slavery and promote prejudice and intolerance.  Countering with core teachings that affirm the essential humanity of all and nurture an acceptance of difference while boldly renouncing any form of  human subjugation or subordination, we will argue that Jewish tradition calls on us to overcome our prejudices, to “love the stranger” and to aspire to a world of unity and amity among God’s diverse creations.

The session will include sources that establish a Jewish case for reparations as well as a plea for our active involvement in advocating for racial justice and for foundational social and structural change at this moment of national crisis.

Is it fair to isolate the contagiously ill? How do we reconcile personal rights with public welfare? And what happens when R. Yehoshua tries to disarm the Angel of Death? A reading of Ktubot 77b, through Michel Foucault and Susan Sontag, Rav Kook and R. Aryeh Levine, Monty Python and R. Sacks, José Saramago and Kaci Hickox.

Across North America, synagogues are facing declining membership numbers, some are merging and others are closing. This is part of a larger, society-wide trend that is known as the SBNR’s, the “spiritual but not religious”.  A handful of synagogues are bucking the trend and are actually growing. Usually it is because the rabbi, in partnership with lay leaders, understands that there needs to be a radical shift in the way synagogues do their “business” and engage next generation Jews. Rabbi Sid has been an important voice and change agent in the synagogue transformation space for more than 20 years. In this session, he will share some insights into both the challenge and the kinds of responses that have worked. He will be joined by two alumni of the Clergy Leadership Incubator (CLI), a two-year rabbinic fellowship that he directs. They, in turn, will share some success stories that will inspire you.

Rabbi Sid Schwarz is a senior fellow at Hazon and the founding rabbi of Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda, MD where he continues to provide rabbinic leadership. He is the author of several books including, Finding a Spiritual Home: How a New Generation of Jews can Transform the American Synagogue.

Rabbi Lori Shapiro is the founder, spiritual leader and artistic director of Open Temple in Venice, CA. She is a graduate of CLI-Cohort 1 and was selected to be one of seven communities nationwide participating in the Open Dor Project.

Rabbi Michael Rose Knopf is the spiritual leader of Temple Beth-El in Richmond, Virginia. A graduate of CLI-Cohort 2, he was named by The Forward as one of “America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis”.

The mezuzah traditionally faces inward and is seen as a ritual object to safeguard the home. But this wasn't always true. By exploring early discussions of the mezuzah and some modern Hebrew poetry, we can draw moral inspiration for what it means to be connected to the world outside our homes and consider the idea of re-orienting to serve this imperative after months of being in our homes.

Linda Hirshman, the author of the NYT and WaPost best selling book, "Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World," will talk about how those Supreme women have fared in the five years since she published their biography. She will emphasize particularly their impact on the evolution of constitutional law, especially for women, and how their heritage might be honored in a world much altered by recent events.

Memory of the Nazi genocide places it firmly in Europe. Yet in 1942, Jews in Libya were trucked to a concentration camp, and Germany's most famous general, Erwin Rommel, was on the verge of bringing the SS to Cairo and Tel Aviv. Only a last-minute espionage triumph saved the Jews of the Middle East from mass murder. This session will draw on my research for my forthcoming book, War of Shadows, and will include long-secret documents that I uncovered.

The world is rapidly changing and our beliefs are being challenged. Many of us are uncomfortable with the political, religious, and social changes taking place. Irina Nevzlin’s life experience and entrepreneurial background have led her to develop the understanding that our global world has made us all immigrants to some extent. Join Irina for a fresh perspective on how each of us can adapt with more ease to our ever-changing, complex world.

In the past, it was well-established that Jewish families would donate most of their philanthropic assets to Jewish causes. Today, a rising percentage of young people are disconnecting from their Jewish identity and Israel, and Jewish institutions are struggling to attract the next generation of donors. Holtz, Silberman and Leven created the Jewish Future Pledge to inspire individuals and families to pledge 50% or more of the charitable giving in their estate plan to Jewish and Israel-related causes. With an estimated $68 trillion passing to the next generation in the next 25 years, and an estimated $6.3 trillion going to charities, this could be our greatest opportunity–or missed opportunity–to secure our Jewish future.

When the subject of religion comes up, people often get very shy and are worried about offending. Now, if there was only a book that covered all the nooks and crannies of a religion, written in an easily digestible way...

Well, now there is! Written by Rabbi Avram Mlotek, Why Jews Do That is a terrific look into the Jewish religion, answering all the tough questions you've been afraid to ask. But this isn't just for the Jews among us. Just because you're Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or the like, doesn't mean you cannot enjoy an inside look to find out if Jews believe in Jesus, what kosher really is, and how we keep our yarmulkes secured to our heads. So have no fear, as Jews are here to help!

In this session we will read and discuss two versions of a medieval Midrash, 'Midrash on the Tale of Chanukah'. Both versions provide a unique description of the causes of the Maccabean rebellion. In both, a brave and provocative act of female resistance sparks rebellion. We will explore the meanings of bodily gestures and gender in these midrashim as well as draw parallels to contemporary equivalents.

My book with the same title as my proposed session was published in 2019 (Hamiton Books). It deals with what I term the spiritual DNA of the Jewish people, namely the capacity of the Jewish people to cope with varying degrees of trauma and to gradually and incrementally climb towards recovery and hope by our drawing on the quality of resilience. I would relate the book's theme to our current efforts to cope with the corona pandemic. I treat the theme of moving from catastrophe to hope through an analysis of the Five Scrolls: Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Song of Songs, and Ruth.

Over 8,000 People Have Taken a Jewish Journey with Chai Mitzvah – Join Us!

Chai Mitzvah is a great Chanukah gift for you and your family! 

Visit us at the top of each hour for a 15 minute presentation of the Chai Mitzvah program and receive a free gift of one of our many curricula! Chai Mitzvah staff will be available for the rest of each hour for private consultation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected Jewish life everywhere. But in Israel, where issues of State and religion are intertwined, it has presented particularly interesting issues. Weddings, conversions, mikveh use, funerals, and more have been complicated by the State, which, on the one hand, issues public health protocols, and, on the other, administers matters of Jewish life to ultra-Orthodox standards. Itim, which works to create a moderate, inclusive State religious infrastructure, is at the forefront of this issue. Since the COVID outbreak, we have helped thousands of Israelis navigate State religious bureaucracies so they could safely engage in Jewish life, and we have led public policy initiatives and taken legal action to require the Rabbinate and other State agencies headed by ultra-Orthodox politicians to improve enforcement of public health regulations at mikvehs, in burials, and more.

Since the era of Organ Transplantation began in 1954, there has been a commonly-held belief among Jews from all denominations (as well as those of other faiths) that donating or receiving an organ is "against our religion". In fact, there are reasons to suggest that this procedure may violate Jewish traditions and precepts. At the same time, there are a variety of Jewish sources that suggest the opposite — that transplantation is not only acceptable for both donor and recipient, but might even be praiseworthy. We will review classical ancient Jewish texts as well as Responsa from Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform sources that shed light on this important issue, hopefully providing some clarity to one's own decision-making.

During this workshop, participants will get an introduction into talking about mental health through a Jewish lens. They will use middot (Jewish values) and the mi sheberach prayer to connect Judaism to mental health as well as to critically consider how to bring new-found skills and knowledge back to their communities to begin creating welcoming and inclusive programs.

In 1977, Natan Sharansky, a leading activist in the democratic dissident movement in the Soviet Union and the movement for free Jewish emigration, was arrested by the KGB. He spent nine years as a political prisoner, convicted of treason against the state. Every day, Sharansky fought for individual freedom in the face of overt tyranny, a struggle that would come to define the rest of his life. Never Alone reveals how Sharansky's years in prison, many spent in harsh solitary confinement, prepared him for a very public life after his release. As an Israeli politician and the head of the Jewish Agency, Sharansky brought extraordinary moral clarity and uncompromising, often uncomfortable, honesty. Join Natan Sharansky and Gil Troy for a frank discussion of the book and his passionate efforts to unite the Jewish People.

The fledgling Hasidic community in Tiberias endured a raging plague in the year 1786. A letter penned soon after the experience reveals how the community faced the challenges. Reading this letter with modern eyes is an opportunity to explore how our predecessors dealt with pandemics. What strategies did they employ? What were the aftershocks of the disease? This historic episode provides moments for reflecting on our current plight, and may allow us to draw strength from our past.

The Akedah Project explores the story of the Binding of Isaac (“akedah” means “binding” in Hebrew) – one of the most confounding narratives in the Bible – through a highly-accessible media-driven hub. Through a collection of short videos, scholars, rabbis, artists, teachers, poets, and readers give us a range of lenses through which to read and explore the Biblical narrative. These presentations offer a wide-range of questions, ideas, and perspectives to an age-old story, which empowers readers of Tanakh (the Jewish Bible) to approach the traditional story from the starting point of their own interests, to see a model of multivocality, and to invite learners to participate in the age-old practice of making the Torah our own. The Akedah Project is the result of a unique partnership of four organizations: jewishLIVE/Judaism Unbound, 929 English, the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto, and Israel’s BINA: The Jewish Movement for Social Change.

In this session, we will both explore the many different dimensions of this foundational text that are offered through The Akedah Project, and we will also demonstrate how The Akedah Project is a result of this very special collaboration between four unique organizations. We will discuss the vision that powers this organizational partnership and its ability to showcase a wide range of Jewish thinkers and ideas.

This session will be taught by Dan Libenson (Judaism Unbound), Shira Hecht-Koller (929 English) and Zoe Fertik (Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto/BINA)

The biblical story of Noah and his generation tells of a great catastrophe that human beings bring upon themselves, and enables a glimpse into responses to cataclysmic crises - from early warnings to after-the-fact recovery. Noah and his neighbors' widely disparate perceptions of reality, the sheer hard work of survival within the ark, the difficulty of taking first steps down the ramp after the flood – all seem strangely familiar in these days of the COVID-19 crisis. These sessions will explore the flood story and its interpretations – traditional, visual and poetic.

Elan Roth
Lishmah Learning, Co-Founder and Head of Outreach

Starting with our contrasting backgrounds of early Jewish education, we will walk through how we both ended up starting the Daf Yomi cycle in January 2020. From there, we'll speak about the barriers of Jewish education, especially in a daily manner, and how we sought out to combat them. That brings us to the creation of Lishmah, a free, engaging, and pluralistic daily Jewish learning platform. Lishmah doesn't allow money, time, or background knowledge to prevent any Jewish person from engaging with their heritage.

In this session, the topic of gender as represented in Talmudic sources and onward will be presented. Using rabbinic sources to outline the emergence of a binary hierarchy in which men count more yet women are given agency both in ritual obligation and legal representation, the question of why the gender binary continues to play a significant role in traditional Orthodox community and practice will be analyzed.


Over 8,000 People Have Taken a Jewish Journey with Chai Mitzvah – Join Us!

Chai Mitzvah is a great Chanukah gift for you and your family! 

Visit us at the top of each hour for a 15 minute presentation of the Chai Mitzvah program and receive a free gift of one of our many curricula! Chai Mitzvah staff will be available for the rest of each hour for private consultation.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Alex Goldstein created the FacesofCOVID memorial project as a means of lifting up the stories behind the statistics of those lost to COVID and affirming their dignity, and holding our government leaders accountable for our failures to adequately respond to the pandemic. His work Hear Alex's story as we, together, remember the lives we've lost to this virus.

Alan Zweibel started his comedy career selling jokes for seven dollars apiece to the last of the Borscht Belt stand-ups. Then one night, despite bombing on stage, he caught the attention of Lorne Michaels and became one of the first writers at Saturday Night Live, where he penned classic material for Gilda Radner, John Belushi, and all of the original Not Ready for Prime Time Players. From SNL, he went on to have a hand in numerous landmark series, from It’s Garry Shandling’s Show to Curb Your Enthusiasm. Hear from Alan about the story of his work helping funny people be funnier, and have a laugh or two yourself!

We all know that Tzfat was the center of Kabbalah, but did you ever wonder what everyday life might have been like living among Isaac Luria, Moshe Cordovero, and Yosef Karo? Learn about the religious practices and daily lives of men and women in this Kabbalistic hothouse, including the stories of female Kabbalists. We examine the texts that detail their attitudes toward (and behaviors around) business, worship, charity, and even sex. Finally, we also will answer the most pressing question of all: who did the shopping?

We will contrast the theology of the Apostle Paul in the New Testament with that of the modern Jewish theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel, focusing on their very different understandings of the purpose and nature of halakhic observance. Along the way, we will examine Heschel’s notions of legal obligation, religious intention, and the affect of Jewish ritual on God, comparing Heschel’s thought to core ideas found in Jewish mysticism. We will focus especially on the idea of imperfect observance of the law in Paul, Heschel, and in the thought of the Mishnah’s Rabbi Tarfon.

The nature of our work affects the nature of our rest, and the nature of Shabbat has therefore long been susceptible to economic shifts. With the pandemic forcing many of us to work from home, Shabbat has again had to adapt. What does the historical development of Shabbat tell us about the meaning of the day in this exceptional year?

In this session, Rabbi Jeremy Markiz will explain the concepts, principles, and implementation strategies that have led to the massive growth of his Jewish adult programming department, called Derekh, at Congregation Beth Shalom. The entire model is grounded in the idea of user-driven programming creating a department that is more like a platform than the product. This work has reignited engagement in his community, with new leaders, hundreds of programs, and thousands of encounters. At the end of the session, you will have something practical to do to grow your community.

Why do we feel scared to open our doors to those in need? What is behind our fears? What holds us back from truly opening our homes? Together we will read three short lesser-known stories from the Talmud about what may happen when we open the door, what happens when we don't and what our behavior can teach us about ourselves.

The idea of Zionism = Racism was voted as a United Nations resolution in 1975, spinning Zionism into a negative and derogatory term. Discover the origins of this decision during the historic vote and how it has affected the discourse of Zionism, anti-Zionism, anti-Semitism and the State of Israel today.

In this time of introspection, how do we best go about the process of cheshbon hanefesh (taking stock)? Join us as we explore teshuvah through the use of meditation, mussar, and psychology.

What tools do the Talmud and the Tosafot employ to protect, or at least exonerate, women who have suffered sexual violence? Some of the devices that they use are deeply offensive to contemporary moral sensibilities. We will read and discuss such texts with an eye toward the ways that they lead to desired legal ends, and the potential impact of such narratives on Jewish religious thought. Please be advised that we will discuss matters that will be triggering and emotionally trying for many people, regardless of gender.

California is the first state to develop an Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum. The first draft was widely condemned for fueling hatred and discrimination, having anti-Semitic bias, demonizing Israel, and including historic inaccuracies. The curriculum is now on an unprecedented third draft, which remains alarming for the Jewish community and others. We'll discuss what's at stake, the far-reaching consequences across the US, why this is not a left or right issue, and what are the possible solutions.

Over 8,000 People Have Taken a Jewish Journey with Chai Mitzvah – Join Us!

Chai Mitzvah is a great Chanukah gift for you and your family! 

Visit us at the top of each hour for a 15 minute presentation of the Chai Mitzvah program and receive a free gift of one of our many curricula! Chai Mitzvah staff will be available for the rest of each hour for private consultation.

We often consider Avraham's thoughts and actions (or inactions) at the Akedah. But what of Isaac? Join us for a taped online interview with Isaac who, at his grandchildren's insistence, recalls the event plus other events in Genesis that led up to it. This 25 minute "documentary" will be followed by live discussion among the online participants of this session.

Jewish naming traditions are a great help to genealogists – they provide insight into possible family groups generations ago. What happens though, when the names aren't what we think they should be? How do we figure out the names of our ancestors? During this discussion, some examples of differences in names will be reviewed and tips for resolving these challenges will be suggested.

Come and meet your colleagues from Greater Seattle to share cultural events that we care about, Limmud opportunities and planning for our MLK eFest 2021.

Please join this zoom session to discuss the goals and strategies of Limmud Atlanta & Southeast and our annual Labor Day Weekend LimmudFest.    We will share strengths and challenges both of the event and those facing the Southern US Jewish communities.   Feel free to share the unique (or not so unique) situations in your southern town or city.    We will conclude with some textual learning focusing on the South.