Exploring the World of Judaism

A partnership between Jewish LearningWorks and Congregation Shir Hadash

We’re excited to invite you to the third year of Exploring the World of Judaism, adult learning specially designed by and for religious school parents.

The sessions meet on Sunday mornings while your kids are in Religious School, and they feature a wide range of topics all taught at an adult level by leading experts in the field. Each session is self contained, requires no advance reservations and is free to congregants. Babysitting will be provided for all programs. One of the great things about this series is that whether you’re a rabbi or someone who has never attended a day of religious school, you are certain to find these speakers engaging and interesting.

Exploring the World of Judaism, offered in partnership with Jewish LearningWorks, is an easy and convenient way for your to broaden your Jewish horizons, enrich your Jewish experience and show your kids that Jewish education is important. This semester our discussion topics include genetic testing, the Jews of Iran, the spiritual imagination of children, Iran and its Jews, environment and social justice, teen sexuality and the Israeli settlements.

We hope to see you there!

Sessions meet on Sunday mornings from 9:40am to 11:40am in the Oneg Room. Reservations are not taken; seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. The program is free to Shir Hadash congregants; a small donation suggested for non-congregants. Refreshments will be served. Babysitting available by reservation. Exploring the World of Judaism is a program of Congregation Shir Hadash and Jewish LearningWorks and is supported in part by the Newton and Rochelle Becker Charitable Trust.

If you would like to receive weekly email reminders and descriptions of each talk, please send your name and email address to ExploringWJ@jewishlearningworks.org and specify CSH/EWJ.

Winter 2014 Programs and Speakers

» Download the Winter 2014 flyer (PDF)

January 26, 2014

“The Goats Know the Way” and Other Stories of Judaic Wit and Wisdom
An Entertaining Morning of Jewish Stories from Around the World for Adults

Erica Lann-Clark, Jewish storyteller and performer

Explore the world of Jewish storytelling, with mystical roots in midrash, in the Hebrew Alphabet, and in folklore. Learn about the deep connections between folkloric stories, rabbinic lessons and the unique Jewish view of “Truth.” Join Erica for an enjoyable morning of stories from Chelm, from Yemen, from the Sephardic tradition and from works of the great Yiddish storytellers: Peretz, Singer, Aleichem.

Born on the eve of the Holocaust, nationally known Jewish storyteller and solo performer Erica Lann-Clark escaped with her Viennese Jewish parents and landed in Brooklyn. She grew up hearing their vivid stories of a vanished world. These kitchen table tales inspired Erica’s passion for the healing power of story. Her newest storytelling show, BELIEVE IT OR NOT, a mind-opening, taboo-busting collaboration with nationally known Latina storyteller Olga Loya, was a major hit at the Cabrillo College Spring Theater Festival and will be at the San Francisco Fringe Festival in September.

February 9, 2014

The Bar Mitzvah and the Beast: A Family’s Cross-Country Ride of Passage by Bike

Matt Biers-Ariel, author and teacher

Vicariously experience an X-Games style family vacation as Matt gives an uproarious talk/slide show about his son’s alternative Bar Mitzvah documented in The Bar Mitzvah and the Beast. Instead of chanting Torah and dancing with his Gramma at a party, Yonah Biers-Ariel chose to ride a bicycle from San Francisco to Washington DC and deliver a petition on global warming to Congress. Following Matt’s talk/slide show, he will lead an interactive text study on issues related to his family’s journey.

Matt Biers-Ariel, author of three books of fiction, as well as Davis CA high school English teacher and bicycle activist, recently rode across the country by bike with his bar mitzvah age son and their family. This trip is chronicled in his latest book, The Bar Mitzvah and the Beast: A Family’s Cross-Country Ride of Passage by Bike.

February 23, 2014

The World of Our Great Grandparents
A History of the Jews of Eastern Europe

Ken Blady, Jewish history lecturer and author

Jews never lived in Russia?! Join Ken Blady as he takes us on a journey through the history of Eastern European Jewry from the arrival of the German Ashkenazim in the eleventh century to the assassination of Czar Alexander II and the mass stampede to the New Worlds.

Ken Blady is currently a lecturer in Jewish history at the American Jewish University Whizin Center as well as at several Bay Area institutions. The author of several books, including Jewish Communities in Exotic Places, Ken has been featured on The History Channel documentary Operation Magic Carpet.

March 9, 2014

A Taste of Jerusalem: Beyond Hummus and Pita
A talk/demonstration/taste

Beth Lee and Sarene Wallace, food writers, editors and cooks

Israeli cuisine is so much more than hummus. It’s a multifaceted, exciting and healthful cuisine that reflects the cultures, diversity and ethnic backgrounds of its residents. Join Beth and Sarene as they introduce us to the wonderfully flavorful ingredients and dishes that make Israeli cuisine so captivating and delicious.

Beth Lee is a seasoned marketing professional and the food writer behind the popular blog OMG! Yummy. Sarene Wallace is a marketing professional and editor of Edible Ojai & Ventura County, a quarterly magazine celebrating the food, drink and agriculture of Ventura County. Together they lead “Tasting Jerusalem,” a virtual cooking community that explores Middle Eastern cuisine through the lens of the award-winning Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

March 23, 2014

Israeli PR: Myths and Realities

Dr. Andy David, Israel Consul General to the Pacific Northwest

To gain strong, widespread support for Israel’s cause seems to many a “mission impossible.” Is this a fact or a myth? The Consul General’s talk will suggest new ways to look at Israel’s PR efforts and will examine some of the research that was used to assess challenges, opportunities and effective strategies.

Israel’s Consul General to the Pacific Northwest since August 2012, Dr. Andy David previously served as policy advisor to the Foreign Minister. Appointed to serve in Azerbaijan, Hong Kong and Chicago, lecturer at Israeli and American universities, Dr. David recently pioneered an Israeli-American Homeland Security cooperation initiative. Born in Romania, he immigrated to Israel at age two, graduating from Hebrew University magna cum laude, having earned multiple degrees, including Doctor of Dental Medicine. Veteran of the Isreal Air Fore and RAFAEL, the Ministry of Defenses’s Armament Development Authority, he is a graduate of the Washington DC Executive Combating Terrorism program. Consul General David Believes that the California coastline is second only to Israel as the perfect place for windsurfing, of which he has been an avid fan since the age of 13.

April 27, 2014

Intermarriage and American Jewish Culture

David Biale, Ph.D., Emanuel Ringelblum Distinguished Professor of Jewish History, University of California, Davis

Intermarriage has been part of the Jewish experience since the Bible. At times viewed positively and at other times negatively, it has been a preoccupation of American Jewish Culutre at least since Al Jolson’s “The Jazz Singer,” the first “talkie” movie, and has been a major theme in writers like Philip Roth, TV shows like “Seinfeld” and many other American movies. Join Dr. Biale for a lively discussion examining how American Jewish culture has portrayed intermarriage and what this portrayal tells us about how American Jews see their relationship to America generally. We will also discuss the recent Pew study of American Jews which has shown the rate of intermarriage at about 60%, and ask what this study may tell us about the Jewish future.

David Biale is Emanuel Ringelblum Distinguished Professor of Jewish History, Chair of the Department of History at the University of California, Davis, and the author of five books. His books have won the National Jewish Book Award three times and he has been awarded fellowships by the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Lady Davis Foundation. Most recently, he won the UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement. He is currently the Project Director of an international team writing a History of Hasidism.