By Ron Stang
Temple Beth-El’s new rabbi, Lynn Goldstein, is taking something she started in her previous posting in the United States and bringing it to Windsor. It‘s a Jewish Adult Mini University.
People who want to know more about Judaism – in its myriad religious and cultural manifestations – can now enroll in a course that offers a leisurely-paced yet a certain depth look at the faith, with a schedule that might meet many people’s agendas.
“It is certainly an in-depth Jewish process for those of us who are Jewish who want to continue our learning,” Rabbi Goldstein said in an interview.
The course is scheduled so that anyone, even those – Jew or non-Jew – who know little about the religion, can attend and learn from basically the bottom up.
As Goldstein said, “It’s also an educational process for people who don’t know about Judaism.”
The course is free for members of Temple Beth-El (Reform) and there’s a charge for non-members.
The course is broken into sections starting with Judaism 101. Topics include Sacred Beliefs, Sacred Living, Sacred Texts, Sacred Prayer, Sacred Holidays and Sacred History. The class is held Wednesday evenings.
There’s also Torah Study, taking place on Shabbat morning at 9.30.
“Students, teachers, and text engage with each other and the results are powerful,” the course syllabus says. “You never know what new thoughts, ideas, and questions will arise each week.”
In teaching Torah in the past, the rabbi’s students have been fascinated.
“There are very few people who have come in to Torah study and who have left,” she said. “When I start a Torah study program, I usually start with three or four people and it grows and grows and grows.”
There is also a course section called Lunch ‘N Learn Thursdays, where participants gather over lunch.
This past fall, they’ve been studying Jewish medical ethics. What does Judaism have to say about cloning, euthanasia, abortion, stem cell transplants, and other issues which are often front and center in the news?
For movie buffs, the course offers Meal & A Reel, led by Stu Selby, a programmer with the Windsor Jewish Film Festival and professor emeritus of communication studies at the University of Windsor. It takes places monthly. Films with Jewish subjects are featured and one of the first, being shown this month, is The Chosen based on the book by Chaim Potok.
And there’s a Learn to Read Hebrew same day marathon, Dec. 16.
“It’s for people who don’t have any Hebrew,” Goldstein says. “So, they walk in and they say, ‘What’s that letter? I’ve never seen that before,’ she chuckles. “And at the end of the day they’ll be able to walk out reading.”
Future course topics could include looking at similarities and differences between Judaism and Islam, with the aid of an imam; the role of the papacy during the Holocaust; Jewish content in Michelangelo’s paintings in the Sistine Chapel; the meaning of liturgical prayers and how the Torah is arranged. There’s also a field trip planned to the Jewish Ensemble Theatre in West Bloomfield.
Goldstein is also starting to get suggestions from temple members. “So we’re hoping to expand (topics) using some of the wisdom in our congregation.”
In sum, says the rabbi, the course fits into life-long learning.
“I believe very strongly in a lifetime of learning, ongoing learning, learning on a high order, not just doing something simple to say, ‘OK we did something for a holiday,’ but really to engage with the texts of our tradition, with the values and the morals and the philosophy and theology of our tradition.”