Leader:  Moshe Ulmer

Description: The titles of the two books for the class reveal a great deal about the content of this class. Judaism History, Belief and Practice by Dan Cohn-Sherbok, published in 2003, is the first book and the participants will be requested to read the entire 581-page book during the six weeks of class. Each week we will discuss and analyze approximately 100 pages of this book. Judaism has evolved over approximately 4,000 years and the book traces some of this evolutionary process, as well as its history. The second book is one by Joseph Telushkin, and is entitled Jewish Literacy Revised Edition, The Most Important Things to Know About the Jewish Religion, Its People and Its History, published in 2008. For each class session some brief chapters will be assigned to supplement the other text. As the book title suggests, in order to have even a preliminary glimpse of Judaism, one must familiarize oneself with some basic information, as well as many basic concepts and values.

To paraphrase Elie Wiesel, more than being the people of the book, Jews have been the people of the question. To illustrate this point, I wish to share an anecdote about the Jewish physicist Isidor Isaac Rabi who won the Nobel Prize in physics. At his first press conference after being notified of the prestigious award, Dr. Rabi was asked to explain how he had achieved so much in such a difficult discipline. He replied that as he grew up in Brooklyn when he came home from school his mother never asked him: "What did you learn in school today?" Instead, she asked him "Did you ask a good question?" All of his life he struggled to ask good questions, which in turn opened up vast new worlds of discovery.

Asking questions will be an essential component of this class. For each session, including the first session, every student will be requested to submit at the beginning of  the class at least one written question. The questions should relate to the assigned readings or to an issue raised in class discussion. In addition to discussing the assigned readings, Rabbi Ulmer will respond to as many questions as possible during each class. The reason the word "respond" was written in the last sentence is because not all questions have an answer and some questions have a multiplicity of plausible answers. However, questions can elicit provocative discussions and insight.

Biography: Moshe Ulmer is a retired Conservative Rabbi who has served many congregations and thousands of congregants.

Materials for course:  Students may obtain new or used copies of the two books mentioned in the course description above. Both are available on line on the internet.

Number of participants:        

Minimum: 4
Maximum: 20

Location: Spring Run Conference Room

Meeting Time: Wednesdays, February 26 through April 2, 2014, 1 - 3:00 p.m.

(Note: Each class is two hours long.)

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