Curious about keeping kosher? Want to know more about the compelling relationship between American Jews and sports, or why Chanukah lasts for eight nights? Intrigued by the role of angels in Jewish tradition, prayer or the knotty questions around justice and vengeance? Or perhaps you’re ready to get into the seasonal spirit by looking at the connections between Thanksgiving and Judaism, beyond this year’s “Thanksgivukah?”
The opportunity to pursue these inquiries will be available at the third countywide “Night of Jewish Learning” that will take place Saturday, Nov. 23, starting at 6:45 p.m.
To expand the potential audience, there’s even a class in Kabbalah, taught in Spanish, as well as one in Hebrew about the patriarch, Jacob, as well as a session specifically for Jewish singles.
“Even when something is a good program, we continue to look for ways to tweak it, to make it better,” said Rabbi Steven Kane of Congregation Sons of Israel in Briarcliff Manor, a co-chair of the event, which has drawn 400-500 particpants in the past. “We hope that by offering a couple of specialized sessions, those will perhaps attract a specific group of people.”
Clearly there’s no shortage of Jewish study in the county. Synagogues feature regular Torah text exploration with their rabbis, there are congregational reading groups focusing on Jewish books and issues, as well as classes in Hebrew and understanding the Shabbat service and specific holidays.
So why do this?
“It’s not just learning,” said Rabbi Kane. “It’s a chance for people to interact. Our hope is that people will take classes from other rabbis, and expose people to the rich varieties of teaching and scholarship. There’s a nice feeling when we come together for a night of Jewish learning and celebration, that there’s something in common we can learn from one another.”
Added Dr. Marty Keltz, a physician who is also a co-chair of the event, “The event is to jump-start people’s interest in Torah study. It’s an opportunity to showcase the talented rabbis in our incredibly rich county. It’s a matter of ‘look what we have, and taste it.’ I hope it keeps getting bigger.”
The program is a partnership between the Westchester Board of Rabbis and the Westchester Jewish Council, with support from UJA-Federation of New York/Westchester.
Besides the study sessions, there will be a kosher dairy dessert reception following the classes, with entertainment provided by Pizmon, the a cappella singing group from Columbia, Barnard and the Jewish Theological Seminary. Each class will be about 45 minutes; each rabbi teaches one class. The expectation is that 400-500 people will participate.
One participant, Betsy Bernstein, a member of the Jewish Community Center of Harrison, a Conservative synagogue, attended the first “Night of Jewish Learning” and found that it “exceeded expectations.”
A marketing specialist, “I’m always curious about what’s new and exciting, especially about Jewish topics,” said Bernstein. “Just seeing so many people coming out for a night of learning was very exciting to see, and hearing a rabbi talk that wasn’t just a sermon.” She also appreciated the opportunity to be “exposed to different denominations and have the ability to hear interesting topics from different speakers. I like broadening my mind.”
The event will be held at Beth El Synagogue Center, 1324 North Ave., New Rochelle; $ 25 per person. Online registration — www.wjouncil.org — ends Nov. 20. For more information contact: Donna Bartell at firstname.lastname@example.org, (914) 328-7001, or send checks to the Westchester Jewish Council, 701 Westchester Avenue, Suite 203E, White Plains, NY 10604.Walk-ins are welcome.