For Adults

Download Beth Israel’s 2016-17 Educational Programming Guide here.

Two Jews, three opinions. It’s an old joke, but it captures something essential about the process of Jewish learning. Questions and debate have been central to the process of Jewish study for millennia, most notably recorded in the Talmud. Engaging with a teacher and other students, in chevruta (pairs) or in a group, is also key. When we learn together, the whole of our acquired understanding is always greater than the sum of each individual’s knowledge and contribution to the discussion.

Here at Beth Israel, you’ll find all kinds of adult learning opportunities, whatever your starting point. We’re also open to suggestions, if there’s a subject you’d like to explore. Check our Calendar of Events for details. Below is a sampling of recent and current offerings:

Learn About Judaism and Jewish Values

Exploring Judaism—A yearlong course with Rabbi Fellman and Cantor Robbins. Looking to convert to Judaism? Born Jewish and want to know more? We will cover everything from the Jewish holidays and life-cycle events to Jewish history, theology and Israel. Our course follows guidelines established by the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative Movement. Individuals and couples of all backgrounds who wish to engage and explore our religious and cultural traditions are welcome.

Classes held on Mondays, 6:00-7:30 p.m. in the BI Library; October 19, 2015-April 11, 2016. Free to BI members, $150 for non-members. All participants will need to purchase texts. Contact the BI Office for syllabus and list of required texts.

OY! Kvelling and Kvetching: Parenting with a Jewish Twist—We all try out best, but parenting is one of the hardest jobs to do well. Gain insights through a Jewish lens into developmental milestones and challenges of parenting. This course is facilitated by Rabbi Fellman and Gail Epstein, MSEd, a school consultant based at Jewish Family & Children’s Services in Worcester.

Each hour-long session will include parenting strategies and support grounded in the rich texts and history of Jewish tradition. Open to the community and free of charge, except for November 14 Torathon session. Starts Sunday, November 1, 2015. See Calendar of Events for fall session details.

Co-sponsored by Jewish Family & Children’s Services, Congregation Beth Israel, Worcester JCC, and PJ Library, a program of the Jewish Federation of Central Massachusetts.

Ta Sh’ma—Learn a bissel of Torah with Rabbi Fellman. Recent topics have included what is a mitzvah, what makes one Jewish, Jewish views on disability and inclusion. Meets most Wednesdays, 9:45 a.m. at Eisenberg Assisted Living Residence, and again at 7:45 p.m. at BI.

The Torah Service: Context and Skills—Join Cantor Robins in an exploration of the Torah Service. We’ll cover the history and context of the Torah Service, how to lead the service before and after the Torah reading, service choreography, as well as such skills as how to lift and dress the Torah. Fall 2015 Mondays following Evening Minyan, 7:30-9:00 p.m.; October 19, 26; November 2, 9, 26. Details in Calendar of Events.

WISE (Worcester Institute for Senior Education): Understanding the Jewish Calendar—Rabbi Fellman teaches on Monday mornings in spring 2016. The Jewish holidays have a richness and deep tradition. Learn how the Jewish Calendar and Holidays function as a unit and on their own, and explore how Jews celebrate and mark time and relationships. Contact WISE for details, 508-767-7513;;

Go Deeper with Prayer

Inclusion Shabbat—Join us for this special Shabbat on February 13, 2016, marking Jewish Disability Awareness Month. We’ll explore potential barriers that could prevent full participation for those with either visible or invisible conditions and how we can aspire to be a house of prayer for all people. JTS Rabbinical Student Lauren Tuchman will be our scholar-in-residence.

Shabbat Plus—Text study and discussion on special topics, including Jewish seasons, holidays and current events, following Kiddush lunch. 2015-2016 Schedule: September 19, Prepare Yourself for the New Year; December 5, A Closer Look at Hanukkah; January 13, Tu B’Shvat and Community Food Security; April 9, Passover wine tasting.

Shabbat in Shul—A full day of worship and study, including an alternative mindfulness meditation and Torah study service, as well as special programs in the afternoon, ranging from current events and book discussions to Bibliodrama and Yiddish for Kids. Following Seudah Shlishit, we close Shabbat together with Havdalah. 2015-2016 Schedule: November 21 and February 13 (coincides with Inclusion Shabbat).

Study and Socialize

Brotherhood Breakfast—Meets on Sunday mornings twice each month; guest speakers discuss everything from genetic engineering to latest developments in Israel.

Hearing Men’s Voices—BI Brotherhood members explore the full spectrum of men’s relationships with family, community and Judaism, using texts as a springboard for discussing everyday challenges. All sessions are at 7:30 p.m., held in private homes. 2015-2016 Schedule: October 14, November 18, December 16, January 12, March 16, April 13. Contact the BI Office for location.

Junior Hot Topics/Book Club—For BI members grades 3-7. Join Rabbi Fellman several times a year to discuss current issues from a Jewish perspective and some great books. Books have included Isaac Bashevis Singer short stories and All of a Kind Family. Dates and times TBA.

Secrets of the Yentas—Want to know how to braid a five-strand challah? Knit a kippah? Play Mahjong? Let’s learn together! Take advantage of BI Sisterhood women’s knowledge. If you have a skill you’d like to learn or share, contact Sisterhood President Melissa Cohen, Dates and times TBA.

Sisterhood Book Club—Meets monthly at members’ homes. Recent selections have included The Art Forger, The Kitchen House and Defending Jacob. See Calendar of Events for details.

More Community Learning

92nd Street Y—Monthly broadcasts from NYC of topical conversations with noted Jewish speakers; co-sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Central Massachusetts, JCC and Temple Emanuel Sinai. See Calendar of Events for details.

Torathon—This annual community-wide event presents a wide range of Jewish learning opportunities for one Saturday night in November. Hosted this year by Beth Israel on November 14, 2015, 5:15-10:00 p.m. Coordinated by the Jewish Federation of Central Massachusetts.