Soulful Jewish Living 5781

October 19 2020 - May 10 2021

Mondays 6:00 - 7:15pm

25 week course during which participants experience deep learning and develop meaningful relationships.

(Contact Alison Olig for questions about payment options. No one will be turned away for financial reasons)

How does living a Jewish life support us in bringing goodness into the world? How does participating in Jewish community help us support one another and hold each other accountable to our highest potential? 

What are the foundational teachings of Judaism, from the biblical era through the present? What are the key texts? Rituals? Community norms? How can I participate meaningfully in the unfolding of this tradition today? 

This course has been designed to help participants create a relationship with Jewish tradition and feel ownership of both the “how” and the “why” of Jewish practice. Additionally, this group, through learning together and sharing one another’s stories, will develop its own community.  As Jewish knowledge and engagement grows, participants can expect to feel more a part of the Jewish community at-large.

Is this for me? This survey course brings together people interested in simply learning, those interested in an adult bar or bat mitzvah, and those interested in converting to Judaism. We ask that participants commit to read suggested materials between sessions, so that everyone is on a level playing field for the discussions. Each participant brings their own life experience and questions, each of which enriches the group experience.


  • Together, participants will:
  • Study ancient and modern sources
  • Learn about Jewish rituals and how to make them meaningful
  • Learn the historical development and context of Jewish tradition
  • Discuss the above in relation to personal experience
  • Experientially celebrate Shabbat dinner, rituals, and holidays


Rabbi Debra Rappaport will be the primary faculty. Rabbi Latz, Rabbi Lekach-Rosenberg, and other community rabbis will guest teach approximately one session per month. 

We will begin the course on Zoom, with one link for all the sessions, which will be provided upon registration. If and when our safety guidelines for group gatherings shift, we will move to an in-person class.

Before the course begins, please acquire the books listed below. We highly recommend these for your personal Jewish library. There are some copies on reserve at the Shir Tikvah library, for those who want to borrow, please contact Sara to arrange for borrowing. Also, please get a journal for this class, and bring it to every session! It will help you integrate what you’re learning, refine your voice as a Jew, and provide a record of this journey.


There will be assigned reading for most sessions. The discussion will take the conversation to a deeper level, so out of respect for the group please make every effort to do the reading in advance!

We’re excited about the momentum and community that can form with an entire academic year of learning together. We also recognize that people come to Shir Tikvah ready to learn at various times during the year. If you are someone who would like to join this class in the middle of the year, please schedule a meeting with Rabbi Rappaport by contacting Nikolina before joining the class in process.


Schedule / Syllabus (You are invited to join Shir Tikvah’s Introductory High Holy Days learning at no charge)


1.  10/19   Introductions, Starting our Journey, Jewish Calendar

2.  10/26   Shabbat: We keep Shabbat and it keeps us Jews

3.  11/2 Jewish Prayer I: Exploring our relationship with the Divine

4.  11/9 Jewish Prayer II: Where and when do Jews pray?

5.  11/16   Prayer III: How do Jews pray?

6.  11/23   Jewish Texts I: The Hebrew Bible; What is Torah?

7.  11/30   Jewish Texts II: How do Jews read Torah? Rabbis & Sages, Talmud & Midrash

8.  12/7 Chanukkah– The Story and the Real Story; “December Dilemma”

9.  12/14   (light candles) Jewish Texts III: Medieval Jewish Mysticism & Philosophy

12/21, 12/28 [no class, winter break]

10.  1/4/21  Life Cycle I: Birth, Brit Milah, Covenant, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Conversion

11.  1/11 Life Cycle II: Marriage/Commitment Ceremonies, Divorce

1/18 [MLK Day, No class]

12.1/25 Tu B’Shvat – Birthday of the Trees

13.  2/1 Life Cycle III – Rituals around Death & Mourning

14.  2/8   Purim: Turning the world upside down

2/15 [Presidents’ Day, No Class]

15.  2/22 Purim: Mitzvot of the holiday

16.  3/1   Jewish Ethics Part I: Tikkun Olam,Tzedakah, Gemilut Hasidim     

17.  3/8   Jewish Ethics Part II: Ethics of Speech

18.  3/15 Pesach (Passover) I: From Slavery to Freedom – What and why?

19.  3/22 Pesach II: How do Jews observe Passover? + Counting the Omer

3/29 [Passover break, No Class]

20.4/5   Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance) and the Rise of Racial Antisemitism

21.  4/12 Yom HaZikaron & Yom Ha’Atzma’ut – Israel as Homeland, Mythic & Real (with Rabbi Latz)

22.  4/19 The Rise of the Movements in Modernity

23.  4/26 Halakhah –Jewish Law, Kashrut (Dietary Laws) and Eco-Kashrut

24.  5/3   Shavuot: Climbing the Mountain Toward Revelation

25.  5/10 Siyyum / Concluding celebration


Materials for Course and to start your Jewish Library:

  1. Essential Judaism: A Complete Guide to Beliefs, Customs & Rituals by George Robinson (Paperback - Aug 28, 2001)
  2. JPS Hebrew-English TANAKH, Student Edition (Imitation leather.) (Recommendation: don’t get the pocket one – it is too tiny even for good eyes.) Jewish Publication Society, 2000.
  3. The Jewish Holidays: A Guide and Commentary, Michael Strassfeld, Harper & Row, paperback,1993.
  4. Living a Jewish Life, Anita Diamant and Howard Cooper, Harper Perennial, 1991. Updated and Revised, 2007.
  5. Over time, we hope you will invest in your own copies of the prayer books we use at Shir Tikvah, Mishkan T’filah: Shabbat, Weekdays and Festivals, as well as and the High Holy Days Machzorim Available for purchase at

      Online Resources:

      General: – First go-to for any question about Judaism. Has several commentaries for each Torah portion. Comprehensive compilation of Jewish texts and commentaries. – Judaism 101 “online encyclopedia of Judaism” “Shamash: The Jewish Network, strives to be the highest quality central point of Jewish information and discussion on the Internet. Our mission is to provide a broad array of state-of-the-art education and community building resources to Jewish organizations and individuals for the benefit of the Jewish community.” provides background on Jewish rituals and innovative contemporary rituals


      Websites from various movements: is the Reform Movement’s site. Their books and music are is the Reconstructionist Movement’s site. is for the Conservative Movement.

      Both and have a wealth of resources from an Orthodox perspective.

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