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Adult Learning

Talmud torah (torah study) is an integral part of the SAJ, an opportunity to learn not only facts and information but for self-discovery and spiritual growth. Adult Learning regularly takes many forms at SAJ, from an interactive torah study each and every Saturday in which we seek understanding and meaning from the week’s torah portion to the weekly tish to Pathways to Prayer to Parenting Conversations and Makom Shabbaton Parent and Family Group Learning. In addition to these regularly scheduled opportunities, we also offer classes, lectures, and workshops including the following:

Talmud torah (torah study) is an integral part of the SAJ, an opportunity to learn not only facts and information but for self-discovery and spiritual growth. Adult Learning regularly takes many forms at SAJ, from an interactive torah study each and every Saturday in which we seek understanding and meaning from the week’s torah portion to the weekly tish to Pathways to Prayer to Parenting Conversations and Makom Shabbaton Parent and Family Group Learning. In addition to these regularly scheduled opportunities, we also offer classes, lectures, and workshops including the following:

SPRING 2019 EVENTS

Facing Death, Embracing Life: A Four Part Series at SAJ

March 2019

It has been said that the more we face the reality of death, the more we are able to embrace life in its fullness. In this death-denying culture, we offer an opportunity to have important conversations, to explore Jewish rituals/traditions, to consider what we want for ourselves, our family and friends in that moment of transition. Join us for one, two, three or ideally, all four programs!

Join us in a kick-off conversation, in which attempt to have honest and important conversations about death in a social setting. We are taking away the stigma about talking about death, one dinner at a time. https://deathoverdinner.org/#about to learn more. Co-sponsored with DOROT. Dairy/Fish meal served. $20-36 per person, no one turned away. Registration required by 2/27.

If you’re like many and have wondered how to begin exploring issues related to end-of-life matters, either yours or someone you know and care about, join author and family therapist Anne F. Ziff on Wednesday, March 6, from 7 – 9 pm for a conversation that will make you think, help calm your nerves and provide tools to help you make a plan.  With just the right combination of insight, expertise and humor, Anne will present stories, exercises and basic how-to’s from her new book Your End of Life Matters: How to Talk with Family and Friends. Co-Sponsored with DOROT.

In this session, we will explore Jewish traditional and modern perspectives and consider our personal values regarding end of life decision making, including a focus on the rituals of the body after death (i.e. ritual washing, cremation, burial, green alternatives). Held at SAJ.

In this program, we will explore spiritual and practical pre-planning that will ease loved ones in the event of our deaths. Rabbi Lauren will be one of the speakers. Held at Plaza, 630 Amsterdam Avenue

Community Exploration and Conversation on Israel/Palestine

Saturdays March 23, April 6 & April 13 at 1:15pm

Led by Rabbinic Intern Sarah Brammer-Shlay

The issue of Israel and Palestine is one filled with deep emotion in the Jewish community. As a community, we at times struggle to know how to address it in a way that both honors what it brings up for us and also with an honest look at what is really happening there. In this 3 session class we will spend time getting grounded in what each of us as members of the SAJ community feel regarding this issue, learn more about the lived reality of those in Israel and Palestine, and explore ways that people are taking action on this issue. No matter what knowledge or approach you have on this issue, you are welcome. We just ask you come with a desire to learn and listen to all.

Taught by SAJ Rabbinic Intern Sarah Brammer-Shlay. Sarah has been invested in the issue of Israel/Palestine since she was young and has devoted much of her recent years to this crucial issue. In 2014, Sarah helped found the group IfNotNow. She is on the National Actions and Campaigns Support Team, where she supports the long-term strategy of the organization. She also is a leader in the Center for Jewish Nonviolence.

Annual Hugh Barion Memorial Lecture

Thursday, April 4 at 7:30 pm

Genealogical Bewilderment: Genetics and the Search for the Origin of the Jews. Presented by Dr. Steven Weitzman, Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pennsylvania, and Director of its Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies.

Dr. Weitzman specializes in the Hebrew Bible and the origins of Jewish culture, so many of his publications are studies of ancient texts, but not all. His most recent book, The Origin of the Jews, received a National Jewish Book Award in 2017 for its exploration of what we know and don’t know from fields like history, archaeology and genetics about the origin and ancestry of the Jews. He will be speaking about the latest and most controversial quest, the one through genetics.

Free and open to the public. RSVP here.

Scholar-in-Residence Program

This year, we are blessed with the presence of Rabbi Menachem Creditor who serves as our Scholar in Residence. Rabbi Creditor is the Pearl and Ira Mayer Scholar in Residence at UJA-Federation New York, where his role is amplifying Jewish learning, leadership and values within UJA-Federation supporters, staff and partners. Before, he served as Rabbi of Netivot Shalom in San Francisco and the founder of Rabbis Against Gun Violence. He is author of 15 books of poetry, prayer, and collections of essays (of which Rabbi Lauren has a piece in two of them). In 2013, Newsweek named him one of the fifty most influential rabbis in America.

Rabbi Creditor will be with us on December 1, 2018. During Services, Rabbi Creditor will speak on “Judaism on the Ethics of Power.” Countless moments of Jewish history have pivoted upon questions of power and powerlessness. This dynamic, between the vulnerability of living under unfriendly authorities to the sudden weight and privilege of having our own State, has prompted deep Jewish thinking about the ethical use of power.

At 1:15pm, Rabbi Creditor will speak in conversation Rabbi Lauren on “Transformation and Tradition.” We are in a time of radical change in the American Jewish landscape. The modern American spiritual experience seems to be taking place, more and more, outside of religious institutions. This is a challenge Judaism has faced before. How will we face it today?

RECURRING EVENTS

Women in Torah and Rabbinic Literature

Rabbi Lauren continues her popular series exploring complex and intriguing women characters in the torah and in Rabbinic Literature. In addition to looking at particular characters, we will explore how gender is constructed and explored in our most sacred texts.

6 times a year, check the calendar for details

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SAJ Book Club

Please join us as we discuss scintillating fiction and memoir over wine, cheese, and fruit. All are welcome to attend one session or all. Our moderator, Nancy Ludmerer has published prize-winning fiction and memoir and has an M.A. in English literature. With Nancy’s talent and critical eye, the group always digs deep and gains an understanding and appreciation of the author’s work.

Monthly Sundays – check the calendar for details

The History, Meaning and Possibility of Shabbat Practice

How do we as progressive Jews, informed by tradition but not bound by halacha (Jewish law), establish a rooted and meaningful Shabbat practice? Can we find a way to not only celebrate Shabbat but also to guard it by refraining from certain types of practices? In this class, we will dig deep into the origins of the concept and practice of Shabbat and reconstruct it for today. These classes are intended to guide us as we begin a congregational process of discernment around Shabbat practice at SAJ which will lead us towards a values statement and communal practice guideline.

3 Part Series in the Fall – check the calendar for details

Partnership with the Kaplan Center

SAJ seeks to keep the conversations about big Jewish ideas, started by our founder Mordecai Kaplan, going into the 21st century. Each year, we partner with the Mordecai M. Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood to explore an issue in Reconstructionist Judaism in depth and to examine how thinking has or should evolve for the next generation. In 2018, we will explore Reconstructionism and Israel in memory of Rabbi Jack Cohen, who served the SAJ from 1954-1961.

Please check the calendar for details

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