Category Archives: Adult Education

Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem – Summer 2019

This summer I had the incredible experience of attending a 3-week summer session at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem. I’ve been to Israel as both a tourist and a student including a 10-day session at Hebrew Union College as part of my Masters program. This was my first experience, however, attending a Hebrew ulpan (immersive Hebrew language instruction) and studying Talmud and Torah using the original texts (i.e., not translated). 

At the CY, I studied Modern Hebrew 5 days a week for 3 hours a day in ulpan. In ulpan, there is no English. Everything we need to say and all of our questions must be in Hebrew! Before ulpan, my Modern Hebrew skills were limited to ordering in restaurants and asking for directions to the bathroom. The college classes I took in Biblical Hebrew were of limited help (it’s analogous to speaking Modern English v. Shakespearean English). Thanks to a wonderful teacher, Nitza, and my motivated classmates, my Hebrew improved greatly.

For three afternoons each week, I studied Talmud with Rabbi Joel Levy, Rosh Yeshiva (Head of the Yeshiva). The portion we studied was a discussion about the Noachide Laws. The Seven Laws of Noah (Hebrew: שבע מצוות בני נח Sheva Mitzvot B’nei Noach) are a set of imperatives which were given by God as a binding set of laws for the “children of Noah” – that is, all of humanity. The Seven Laws include prohibitions against worshipping idols, cursing God, murder, adultery and sexual immorality, theft, eating flesh torn from a living animal, as well as the obligation to establish courts of justice. 

Of course studying Talmud is never straightforward. In 27 hours of class time we only translated and studied two pages of text! We spent many hours in small group discussion about the content of the seven laws and whether there were parallels elsewhere in the Torah and/or the Ten Commandments. We also discussed how these laws were enforced (or not) among the non-Jewish population living after the flood. 

I also participated in a Tanach (Torah) class taught by Vered Hollander-Goldfarb. Our topic was the story of Jacob and Esau which I thought I knew well. But what started out as a story of sibling rivalry and trickery quickly turned into a much broader statement about transfers of power and morality throughout the Bible. Did you know, for example, that Mordechai is a descendant of Jacob and Haman a descendant of Esau? The prophecy given to Rebecca, that there were two nations in her womb, continues to resonate throughout our Jewish narrative. 

The Conservative Yeshiva attracts students from all over the world and from all walks of life. Several students were fellow Jewish educators. Others were academics, clergy, and/or recent converts to Judaism. There were students from the US, Canada, Brazil, Germany, Sweden, the UK, and Hong Kong. The collective experiences of my fellow classmates added to the richness and value of my studies.

When I wasn’t studying, I spent time wandering around Jerusalem. I prayed at the Kotel (Wailing Wall) and put notes in the Wall from our Religious School students. I visited the Israel Museum, Yad VaShem (the Holocaust Museum), the Yishuv Museum, and the Hebrew Music Museum. I traveled to the shuk (market) many times and enjoyed fresh figs, falafel, hummus, bourekas, and other delicious foods.

The CY Summer Program is open to anyone who wants to study in a liberal Jewish environment in Jerusalem. You can drop in for a day if you are visiting Israel. If you are interested in learning at the CY I would be happy to share more of my experiences with you. Thank you to the congregation for supporting my learning and professional development. I look forward to implementing my new knowledge and skills in our Religious School and Adult Education programming. 

Walking Tour of Jewish Washington, DC Recap

On a beautiful sunny day, CEH members and friends enjoyed a walking tour of Jewish Washington, DC. The tour focused on the historic Seventh Street, NW, neighborhood during the years 1850 to 1950. We saw four former synagogue buildings, including two that were the home of Adas Israel and one that was the home of Washington Hebrew Congregation.

We started our tour at the new location of the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum, which just moved for the third (and hopefully last) time. The synagogue, which opened its doors in 1876 as the first home of Adas Israel, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites, and the Historic American Buildings Survey. In 2021, it will open as the Capital Jewish Museum.

The historic 1876 Adas Israel synagogue may be the oldest synagogue structure in Washington, but Adas Israel is not the oldest congregation. Formed in 1852, Washington Hebrew Congregation was the city’s first Jewish congregation. In 1869, 38 members of the 17-year-old Washington Hebrew Congregation resigned in order to return to more traditional, orthodox Jewish rituals. That group formed Adas Israel congregation.

Our second tour stop was the Chinese Community Church at 500 I St., N.W. Founded in 1852 by U.S. Capitol architect Thomas Ustick Walter as a Presbyterian church, the building served as a Jewish temple and Baptist church before being purchased by the Chinese Community Church in 2006. The stained glass windows still have partial depictions of the Star of David.

Our third tour stop was 6th & I Synagogue, also a former home of Adas Israel. The 6th & I Synagogue was dedicated on January 8, 1908, near what was then the main commercial district in town and the center of the Jewish community in Washington. After going through several transformations (including one as an A.M.E. Church), the synagogue was purchased by a Jewish philanthropist, and rededicated as a space for Jewish and cultural life in 2004.

The tour’s final stop was the former home of Washington Hebrew Congregation at 816 8th St., N.W. (now the home of Greater New Hope Baptist Church). WHC worshipped at this location for 56 years before moving. In 1952, President Harry S. Truman laid the cornerstone of the congregation’s current home on Macomb Street NW, which was dedicated on May 6, 1955, by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Our thanks to the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington for an engaging and informative afternoon.

All-Shul Learning: Shabbat Recap

On Sunday, February 3, 2019, all ages learned together at our All-Shul Learning: Shabbat event. We started the day with a minyan service and then discussed the 39 Melachot, or categories of work that are prohibited on Shabbat. Rabbi Bass explained that these categories relate to the building of the Mishkan, the portable, temporary version of the Holy Temple that the Jews carried throughout their forty years in the desert. For example, we cannot sew on Shabbat because our ancestors sewed curtains for the Mishkan.

Next, we broke into groups and travelled through four stations. At one station, Will Rivlin and Abby Cohen led the group in a spirited Shabbat song session. At another station, Lital Burr and Jeannie Sklar helped the group make wooden plaques to display the words of the Hamotzi prayer. At our third station, Maddy Naide and Jeana Kimelheim showed the group how to create fabric hallah covers to use on Shabbat. At our fourth station, Rabbi Bass, Leah Edgar and Jennifer Bachus taught the group how to braid and decorate party hallah.

At the hallah station, Rabbi Bass explained the mitzvah of “taking hallah.” This phrase refers to separating a portion of the dough before braiding. In the days of the Temple, this portion of dough was set aside as a tithe for the priests, or kohanim. In modern times, we separate a small piece of dough — about the size of an olive — and either burn it or dispose of it respectfully, rendering inedible the portion that God commanded be set aside.

As the day drew to a close, we held a Kahoot (online) quiz in the sanctuary to test participants’ knowledge of the Saturday morning service. Questions such as “What is a Gabbai” (someone who assists with the Torah reading and the service) and “What is the Hagbaha” (lifting the Torah after the reading) did not stump the crowd. We know our Shabbat stuff!

We hope that congregants will join us on March 10, 2019, for our next All-Shul Learning event, which will cover the aspects of kashrut.

Thank you to everyone who helped prepare for the event and run the stations: Rabbi Bass, Lital Burr, Will Rivlin, Jeannie Sklar, Jennifer Bachus, Leah Edgar, Jeana Kimelheim, Abby Cohen & Maddy Naide.

The Importance of Adult Education

Adult Education is an important piece of our learning program at CEH. Indeed, learning is a cornerstone of the Jewish religion. But among the many fine efforts to ensure a sense of continuity of the Jewish experience – Hebrew schools, summer camps, and engagement of young professionals – there is a route of engagement that has perhaps received the least amount of attention, the least amount of funding, and the least prioritization in the greater consciousness of Jewish pedagogy. According to Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, that route is Adult Education. Read his article, linked below, to learn why Adult Education is essential.

ejewishphilanthropy.com-Adult Learning is the Number One Priority for the Jewish Future