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Jewish Studies & Hebrew Classes

2014-2015 details to be announced

Below you will find our Sunday morning course offerings for the 2013-2014 academic year.

Hebrew Courses
Beginning Hebrew

Judaic Studies Courses
Exploring Judaism
Lehrhaus Talmud Circle
Jewish Ethics
Clergy Courses

Hebrew Courses

Beginning Hebrew
Designed for those with little or no previous exposure to Hebrew, this introductory course will focus on developing the foundation for reading comprehension and a basic Hebrew vocabulary. We will learn the basics of prayer-book Hebrew, beginning with the alphabet and moving through the basic grammar and vocabulary of the siddur (prayerbook), including the key texts and melodies of some prayers and blessings found in the siddur. Required text: Prayerbook Hebrew the Easy Way (available for purchase the first session). This textbook is not included in the price of the class.

10:10-11:10am in CCJDS., Sept. 29, 2013 - Apr. 27, 2014 (23 sessions)
Instructor: Rachel Valfer
Tuition: $100/members; $250/non-members

Rachel Valfer began learning Hebrew and Tanach at age 5. She lived in Israel for 6 years, where she studied Hebrew and Ladino literature at the graduate level at the Hebrew University. Rachel is a professional musician in classical and folk music of the Middle East.
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Judaic Studies Courses

Exploring Judaism
This course is a year-long exploration of the history, beliefs, traditions, and practices of the Jewish people. “Exploring Judaism” will be interesting and meaningful whether you are becoming an adult Bar/Bat Mitzvah, you are just beginning to explore Jewish studies, you are considering choosing Judaism, you are in an interfaith relationship, or you are simply looking for a deeper and more mature understanding of Jewish history and tradition. Students are encouraged to expand their Jewish literacy by taking this course in conjunction with Beginning Hebrew.

9:00-10:00am Sept. 29, 2013 - Apr. 27, 2014 (23 sessions)
Instructor: Rabbi Ruth Adar
Tuition: $100/members; $250/non-members for the year

If you would like to sign up for 1 or more blocks of Exploring Judaism (instead of registering for the whole year), we welcome you to do so. Tuition is $30 per block for members; $65 per block for non-members.

  • Jewish Calendar / Holidays (i.e. Jewish “public time”): 9/29, 10/6, 10/13, 10/20, 10/27, 11/3, 2013
  • Jewish Lifecycle & Home (i.e. Jewish “private time”): 11/10, 11/17, 11/24, 12/8, 12/15, 2013
  • Jewish Text & History: 1/5, 1/12, 1/26, 2/2, 2/9, 2/23, 2014
  • Jewish Thought, Prayer, and Music: 3/2, 3/9, 3/23, 4/6, 4/13, 4/27, 2014

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Talmud Circle
The Bay Area Community Talmud Circle is a collaboration of Lehrhaus Judaica, The Aleph Society, and Kevah. The goal is to create a community of adult students enabled and empowered to encounter the Talmud with confidence.A student completing the first year of study will be able to describe the basic structure of the Talmud, identify key figures and centers, and locate the Talmudic literature in time and place. Through hevruta (partner) study and seminars with Lehrhaus faculty, students will become familiar with Talmudic narratives and arguments and develop a deeper understanding of this pillar of Judaism.Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz has written, “The Talmud is the central pillar of Jewish knowledge, important for the overall understanding of what is Jewish. But it is a book that Jews cannot understand. This is a dangerous situation, like a collective amnesia. I tried to make pathways through which people will be able to enter the Talmud without encountering impassable barriers.”
9 Sessions: Sundays 9:00-11:00am at CCJDS October 13, November 3, December 8, January 5, February 2, March 9, April 6, May 4, June 1 (2013-2014)
Instructor: Professor Deena Aranoff
Registration and Fees:
register at
$210 by September 16, includes $35 materials fee
$230 after September 16, includes $35 materials fee
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Jewish Ethics with Rabbi Ruth Adar
Fall 2013 (cancelled)
Money & The Mensch: A Jewish Ethics of Personal Finance

The Jewish tradition offers rich resources for making ethical decisions about money.  Judaism does not regard wealth itself as good or bad - the question is, what do we do with it? And how do we deal with the lack of it?  In this class, we will first learn a little about Jewish ethics in general and then proceed to look at texts that can inform our decisions about tzedakah [charity], consumption, savings, and investment.

Winter-Spring 2014 - 10:10-11:10am, Sundays Jan 5 - Apr 27, 2014 (except 1/19, 2/16, 3/16, 3/30, 4/20) - 12 sessions
Pirkei Avot: Wisdom from the Early Sages

Sometime before the year 200 of the common era, the rabbis assembled a collection of sayings about living the good life and included it in the Mishnah. Those sayings have come down to us in the text “Pirkei Avot,” which may be translated, “Verses of the Fathers” or simply “Fundamentals.” This semester we’ll read from this collection of proverbs and short tales and ponder together what it means to be a mensch.

$50/members; $125/non-members
Instructor: Rabbi Ruth Adar
Required textbook (available for purchase the first day of class, or you can purchase on your own): Pirkei Avot: A Modern Commentary on Jewish Ethics by Leonard Kravitz and Kerry M. Olitzky
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Clergy Courses

Clergy Course with Rabbi Judy Shanks
11:15am - 12:15pm
Sundays October 20, 27 and November 3, 2013 (3 sessions) in the Sanctuary
Free of charge to participate. Book fee $18.
Instructor: Rabbi Judy Shanks
Topic: Mussar & Meditation:  First Steps on a Life-Long Path
Mussar is the Jewish path to character development – the Mensch curriculum – that Rabbi Shanks described in her Rosh Hashana sermon.  Mussar teaches us to take the measure of our soul traits like compassion, greed, courage, humility, anger, and generosity and then determine in which direction to turn in our actions, so as to live up to our own high ethical standards.  This is an introductory class with the anticipation that students will create Mussar groups or partnerships with fellow learners to continue on the Mussar path, with follow-up sessions with Rabbi Shanks throughout the years to come.  Please pre-register on the link below or by calling Nathan Bellet at (925) 284-9191 so that enough books will be ordered.  The class text will be Everyday Holiness:  The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar by Alan Moranis.  If you already have the book, please let Nathan know. 
Mussar & Meditation Class Materials:

Clergy Course with Cantor Leigh Korn
11:15am - 12:15pm
Sundays November 17, 24, 2013 (2 sessions) in the CCJDS Makom
Free of charge
Instructor: Cantor Leigh Korn
Topic: “The Vocation of the Cantor”
In 1957, Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of the leading Jewish theologians and philosophers of the 20th century, presented a paper entitled “The Vocation of the Cantor”.  In it he outlined, what it took to take on the position of the cantor—the leader of worship—in the synagogue.  Since his article, the role of the cantor, and the vocation, have changed drastically.  The cantor’s role is expanding and continues to evolve into more than just the sh’liach tzibur - the spritiual emissary of the worshipping community.  Using Heschel’s article as a jumping off point, we will look at what it means to be a cantor, historically and philosophically, and how the education and professionalizing of the cantorate has impacted synagogue life in America in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Class Materials:

Clergy Course with Rabbi Nicki Greninger
11:15am - 12:15pm
Sunday, December 15, 2013 (1 session) in the Sanctuary
Free of charge
Instructor: Rabbi Nicki Greninger
Topic: “Why Pray?”
Jewish prayer has been around since biblical times.  With the destruction of the second Temple in 70 CE, prayer became a more formal way for Jews to offer “avodah” (worship/sacrifice) to God as a community.  That being said, many Jews find the experience of prayer today to be alienating, frustrating, challenging, boring, or all of the above.  In this class, we will address the philosophy and theology behind Jewish prayer and wrestle with our own personal ways to answer the questions “Why pray (in general)?” and “Why pray as a community with fixed liturgy at fixed times?”

Clergy Course with Rabbi Roberto D. Graetz
11:15am - 12:15pm in the CCJDS Makom
Sundays, January 5, 12, 26, 2014 (3 sessions)
Free of charge
Instructor: Rabbi Roberto D. Graetz
Topic: “How The Torah Came To Be Written.”
The Masoretic text is the authoritative version of the Hebrew Bible and the one that teaches Jews how the Torah is to be read. Who were the Masoretes? How does our text compare to the Greek and Latin translations produced centuries before our text came to be? What was the battle all about?
Come and learn with Rabbi Graetz on Sundays, January 5, 12 and 26 at 11:15am in the Sanctuary, a new way to look at our Sacred Texts.
Course Materials:

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