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Open Circle Jewish Learning:

Open Circle discussion groups designed around a wide variety of Jewish texts or themes

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More classes will be added through September!

Thomas Mann's Joseph and His Brothers
Rabbi Reuven Cohn

The Boston Synagogue, Boston
Thursdays, 7:00-8:30 p.m.
September 7, 14, 28; October 19, 26; November 2, 16, 30; December 7, 14
Fee: $200

The Biblical story of Joseph and his brothers is one of the most gripping in the Tanakh, and Thomas Mann’s masterwork novel, Joseph and His Brothers, offers a vibrant and powerful interpretation of the tale.  As the author’s personal protest against Nazism, Joseph and His Brothers unites Mann’s excellent eye for the nuances of the Biblical text, his sense of humor and wonder, and most remarkably, his use of a German-language anthology of midrash. The result is a powerful modern living midrash that attests to the commonality of all humanity.

In this course, we will read closely the Biblical text of the Joseph story with the benefit of three perspectives: the modern critical reading, Rashi’s midrashic reading, and the lens provided to us by Mann himself. 

Rediscovering Judaism (FILLED)
Layah Lipsker
Private home
September 17; October 1; November 5; December 3; January 7; February 4;
March 25 (Make-up session)
Fee: $120

North Shore Kabbalah Study (FILLED)
Layah Lipsker
Private home, Marblehead
September 19, 28; October 2, 8; November 2, 9, 2017
Fee: $120
Torah Babes (FILLED)
Sharon Cohen Anisfeld
Hebrew College, Newton
Mondays, 9:30-11:00 a.m.
September 25; October 16, 30; November 13, 27; December 11
Fee: $138

Miriam Fund Text Study: Relationships, Transitions, and Faith in Kabbalah (FILLED)

Layah Lipsker
Hebrew College, Newton
Mondays, 12-1:30 p.m.
September 25, October 2, November 6, December 4, 2017; January 8, February 5, 2018
Fee: $120

Nashim of the North Shore (FILLED)
Layah Lipsker

7:30 - 9:00 p.m.
September 27; October 2; November 8; December 6; January 10; February 7th  
Fee: $120

Rashi Parenting Group (FILLED)

Judy Elkin
Rashi School, Dedham 
Wednesdays, 8:15-9:45 a.m.
September 27; October 11, 25; November 8, 29; December 13; January 10, 24; February 7, 28; March 14, 28; April 11, 25; May 9, 23, 30.
Fee: $320

Women's Philanthropy Past Leaders Study Group (FILLED)
David Ariel and Layah Lipsker
Private Homes
Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10:00 a.m. -12:00 p.m.
Wednesday, September 27; Tuesdays, October 24; November 14; December 12; Wednesdays, January 17; February 14; March 28; April 11; May 16; June 13
Fee: $200

Young Couples Group (FILLED)
Rabbi Todd Markley
Private homes, Needham
Thursday evenings
October 12; November 30; December 21; January 18; February 15; March 22; April 26; May 24.
Fee: $80

What Do Jews Believe?
David Ariel
Hebrew College, Newton
Mondays, 4-5:30 p.m.
October 16, 23, 30; November 6, 13, 20, 27; December 4, 11, and 18, 2017
Fee: $200
The course explores in depth the many different concepts and beliefs in Judaism about God, human character, human destiny, the Jewish people, Torah, ritual, prayer, and the Messiah. The course will examine each concept through reading and discussion of biblical, rabbinic, philosophic, kabbalistic, and modern Jewish sources as well as the views of contemporary Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Reform Judaism. This course is based on David Ariel’s What Do Jews Believe? The Spiritual Foundations of Judaism.

Israel: Current Events and Contemporary Debates (FILLED)
Chen Arad
Mondays, 1:00-3:00 p.m.
October 16; November 13, 27; December 4, 18; January 8; January 15 (snow date)
Fee: $120

Mission Sisters Group (FILLED)
Rachel Fish
Private homes
Mondays, 7:30-9:00 p.m.
October 16, 2017; November 6, 2017; November 27, 2017; December 11, 2017; January 8, 2018; February 12, 2018
Fee: $120

The Relationship Between Judaism and Islam 
Dr. David Ariel
The Vilna Shul, Boston
Tuesdays, 7:30-9:30 p.m.
October 17, 24, 31; November 7, 14, 28 (Snow date Dec. 5)
Fee: 120

This series will explore the intertwined histories of Judaism and Islam, including the concept of the Jews and Arabs as cousins, the Jewish background to the Islamic religion, and the Muslim-Jewish symbiosis during the Medieval Period. Topics will include the influence ofJewish teaching on Muhammad (570-632), the founder of Islam; the relationship between the Five Pillars of Islam and Judaism; the Qur'an's attitudes towards Jews and Judaism; the status ofJews as dhimmi ("protected minority") under Islam; the secular culture of medieval Islamic civilization; the Golden Age ofJewish Life in Muslim Spain; and the current state of Islamic civilization.

Rosh Chodesh Open Circle (FILLED)
Elisha Gechter
Private homes, Boston/Cambridge
(Friday, October 20); Sunday, November 19; Wednesday, January 17th; Thursday, February 15; (Saturday March 17th); Sunday, April 15; Tuesday, May 15; Wednesday, June 13
(Dates in parenthases are self-facilitated)
Fee: $120

Jewish Rituals Regarding Death and Grief
Rabbi Jim Morgan
Kehillath Israel, Brookline
Mondays, 7:00-8:30 p.m.
October 23, November 6, November 13, November 27, December 4, December 18
Fee: $120

Death leaves loved one's searching for meaning and stability in a time that can feel consumed by emotional choas. This course, offered in association with Hebrew College Open Circle Learning, will focus on Jewish ritual practices for death and grief, focusing on topics such as: End of Life/Viddui, Eulogizing, Shiva, Shloshim, Mourner’s Kaddish, Yizkor/Yahrzheit. Through text study and discussion, we will explore what wisdom our traditions offer us in coping with times of loss.

Leadership Development Open Circle: Jewish Contemporary Life and Living (FILLED)
Rabbi Lila Kagedan
Private Homes
Wednesdays, 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
October 25; November 15, 2017; January 10; February 7; March 7; April 25, 2018
Fee: $120

This class will explore different themes of Jewish life and living in the dynamic settings of our world and the many places we call work and home. We will think about the role of women in different areas of professional and personal life and think about Jewish meaning making and balance in our hectic ever evolving  world where we hold many roles, titles, and responsibilities.

Lunch & Learn: Jewish Ethics in a Modern World 
Layah Lipsker 
The Vilna Shul, Boston
November 7, December 5, February 6, March 6, May 8, June 5 
Fee: $120

This series will look at Jewish law and tradition in the area of personal ethics, including end-of-life issues, fertility, homosexuality, abortion, and business ethics. Bring your lunch, and the Vilna will provide drinks and dessert. 


Torah Study at Gann Academy (FILLED)
Rabbi Marc Baker

Gann Academy, Waltham
9:30-11:30 a.m.
Tuesday, November 7; Wednesday, December 20; Monday, January 8; Monday, February 5; Tuesday March 6; Tuesday, April 17; Monday, May 14; Wednesday,June 6
Fee: $160


Mayyim Hayyim Niddah Salon
Rabbi Miriam-Simma Walfish
Mayyim-Hayyim, Newton 
Thursdays, 7:00-9:00 pm
January 11, February 8, March 8, April 12, May 10, June 14
Fee: $120

Join us for a monthly Niddah Salon at Mayyim Hayyim. Niddah is the practice of abstaining from sexual intimacy around the time of the menstrual cycle. The Niddah Salon will help participants think through the way niddah impacts issues of femininity, sexuality, and our connection to Jewish tradition. Using Jewish texts and shared experiences as our primary sources, each month we will delve into a different facet of this mitzvah together. Open to female-identified people of any sexual orientation and relationship status.

Shabbat: an In-Depth Exploration

Dr. David Bernat
The Boston Synagogue, Boston
Thursdays, 7:30-9:00 p.m.
February 1, 8, 15; March 8, 15, 22; April12, 19, 26; May 3
Fee: $200

Shabbat is, without question, the uniquely significant Jewish contribution to the world.  In addition, Shabbat can provide multiple and diverse points of contact and resonance to Jews and non-Jews, whatever their educational background, denominational identity, or spiritual and religious orientation.  The course will entail an in-depth study of, and immersive engagement with, Shabbat, its values and practices, from their Biblical origins to their contemporary iterations.


Please contact Betsy More if you have questions.




Betsy More
Associate Director
Open Circles Jewish Learning
Hebrew College