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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 learning facilitated by lay leaders at the tish on Saturday mornings, to an interactive torah study each and every Saturday in which we seek understanding and meaning from the week’s torah portion 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:


Jewish and American Law: Comparisons and Contrasts

TUE NOV 12, 19, THU DEC 5, TUE DEC 10, 7PM

Taught by Rabbi Steve Gutow

In this four-part course, we will discuss “myths” about Jewish Law, ask what makes Jewish Law “law,” and examine the concepts, and the structure and methodology underlying the Jewish legal system. Where possible, particular attention will be paid to sources of American legal concepts that may be found in the Jewish legal system, to the analogies between the two systems as they are today with a focus on how the two systems may use different concepts and approaches to specific cases. We will study some specific subjects of Jewish law, still being determined. Familiarity with American Law or Halacha (Jewish law) is helpful. Minimum of six participants to run the class. Contact Steve


Rabbi Steve Gutow is is a lawyer with a law degree from the University of Texas Law School and taught a course in Jewish Law as an adjunct Professor at St. Louis University Law School. He is also a Visiting Scholar at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. He brings a powerful depth and richness of expertise in organizing, advocacy and reaching across the divisions that have undermined the sense of shared obligation and fate in America and beyond.

Lessons from Encounter

Saturday November 23, 1:15PM

This past summer, Rabbi Joy Levitt and Rabbi Michael Strassfeld were invited to participate in the Encounter Intensive Seminar. Encounter brings Jewish lay and professional leaders to spend four days in Bethlehem, Ramallah and East Jerusalem to hear and witness the Palestinian point of view and experience. Rabbi Strassfeld describes it as “a powerful and disturbing experience that most American Jews don’t have.” Join us as Rabbi Strassfeld shares his learnings and thoughts.

To whom are we obligated and where do we give?
A Tzedakah Seminar Designed for SAJ

Wednesdays Jan 8, 15, 22, 7-8:30PM

Taught by Ruth Messinger

We will do a deep dive into the issue of tzedakah and consider its application to our own lives and to the life of the SAJ community.

What is tzedakah and what do our texts and sages have to say about the practices of giving? How do we and how might we make our own decisions about giving? How can we choose among the many needs that present themselves to us in our lives, on our computers, courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service or on the phone? What criteria should we be using? Whose expertise can we trust? What do we want our children to know about tzedakah and how can we build that into our family lives and into our school?

Scholar-in-Residence Program with Joy Ladin


“The Soul of the Stranger: Reading Torah from a Transgender Perspective”

During the shabbat service, this talk will describe Ladin’s childhood experiences of how her transgender identity fostered her relationship with God and the Torah, and the approach to reading Torah which grew out of those experiences, and is presented in her recent book.

1:15pm: Poetry Reading and Discussion on “Poems of Midrash & Shechina.” Joy is a prolific and world-traveling poet. Joy will read and explore poems that penetrate and explore torah themes as well as muse on the “Schechinah,” traditionally seen as the feminine, in-dwelling presence of the Divine.

Co-sponsored with Keshet.

Guest Teacher Rabbi Helen Plotkin


D’var torah and afternoon teaching. Rabbi Helen Plotkin is co-founder of the Beit Midrash at Swarthmore College, where she teaches courses in Biblical Hebrew and classical Hebrew texts. She is founder and director of Mekom Torah, a Philadelphia-area Jewish community learning project serving adults, teens, and families. She is editor and annotator of the recent book, In This Hour: Heschel’s Writings in Nazi Germany and London Exile. Rabbi Plotkin holds a BA from Swarthmore College in Philosophy and Linguistics, an MA from the University of Michigan in Ancient Chinese Language and Thought, and rabbinical ordination from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.

Annual Hugh Barion Memorial Lecture

Thursday April 30 at 7:30 pm

Dr. Benjamin D. Sommer



Share Your Knowledge and Enthusiasm at a Tish Before Shabbat Services.

The tish program has been going for more than 20 years. We meet at 9:00 AM on Shabbat and receive a presentation on a topic that falls into one of the following categories:

  • An aspect of Jewish civilization (history, literature, the arts, customs, etc.)
  • An issue in the Jewish community
  • Any general ethical or social justice issue
  • Yourself (your work, or your passion, something that helps us know you better)

Tish speakers generally offer a 15 to 20 minute presentation followed by discussion. But sometimes, especially for a current controversial issue, a short introduction is followed by a discussion.  Click here to see a list of all tish topics and presenters.

Please reach out to the Tish & Content Committee at  if you would like to be added to the schedule.

Torah Study from a Feminist Lens

Rabbi Lauren leads this monthly daytime study in which we critically examine Torah and midrash from a feminist perspective. After two years of studying torah alongside rabbinic midrash, this year we will delve deeper into the philosophy, worldview, and imagination of the rabbis of the midrashic era.

All are welcome. Each class stands on its own. Class takes place in a member’s home. RSVP for address.

Contact Rabbi Lauren (

6 times a year, check the calendar for details

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

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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