Past Courses

Clergy Led Classes

Scouts, Trailblazers, Pathfinders, Explorers: A History of Women in the Rabbinate with Rabbi Mara Nathan

Tuesdays, Oct. 12, 19, 26, 2021 at 7:00 p.m.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the ordination of Sally Priesand, the first woman publicly ordained as a rabbi. Yet, her groundbreaking ordination, which opened the door for subsequent generations of women, was preceded by the impactful lives of other, lesser-known female scholars and community leaders. In our series, we will spotlight a few of the significant women from the 1500’s to the early modern period who held quasi-rabbinic status in their communities; compare and contrast the ordinations of Rabbis Sally Priesand and Regina Jonas (who? come find out!); explore the challenges faced by the first generation of women in the rabbinate; and reflect on how women’s leadership has changed the rabbinate and the Jewish community as a whole.
 
This course has ended, but the recording sessions can be found in each of the topic descriptions below.
 

What is Jewish Music? with Cantor Julie Berlin 

Tuesdays, February 8, 15, 22, 2022 at 7:00 p.m. 

Jewish music has been composed wherever Jews have lived.  Over the millennia, that has encompassed just about every corner of the globe.  “Jewish Music” comes in many styles, genres, and contexts.  Throughout the three sessions we will explore the many answers to What is Jewish music. This will include a look at contemporary styles as well as liturgical.   

Tracing Jewish Roots – A Jewish Genealogy 101 with Rabbi Yergin 

Wednesdays, May 4,11,18, 2022 at 7:00 p.m.

Rabbi Yergin’s side hobby is working on her family tree. Come learn from her first about the history of Jewish migration patterns and how they create a complicated genealogical Jewish map. Then explore your own tree with her help and resources. At the final class, you will be able to share some of what you found on your own tree!  

For an expanded opportunity, join us on May 15th from 1:00-3:00 p.m. at Temple Beth-El’s Palmetto Cemetery, the first Jewish cemetery in San Antonio to have a tour, participate in a scavenger hunt, do some rubbings of headstones, and work on beautifying the space! 

Class 1 can be viewed here

Class 2 can be viewed here

Class 3 can be viewed here
 
Resource Sheet for Creating a Family Tree can be found here
Palmetto Cemetery Resource Packet can be found here

Sunday Scholars Series

Rachel Korazim

Rachel is a freelance Jewish education consultant in curriculum development for Israel and Holocaust education. She engages audiences worldwide through innovative presentations built around the stories, poems and songs of Israel’s best writers.  Her thought-provoking talks open a window onto Israeli society, inviting listeners to engage with the country and its history in new ways.

Israeli Songs That Made an Impact

Our series of three sessions will offer a close reading and listening to three Israeli poems set to music. Each in its turn reflected the spirit of its time and left a lasting impact on Israeli life; way beyond the cultural sphere. 

This course has ended, but the recording sessions can be found in each of the topic descriptions below.

In mid-May of 1967, when the mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek asked Naomi Shemer to write a song about Jerusalem, no one could have guessed what would happen. Three weeks later every Israeli, whether in uniform or civilian clothing, was singing the verses that glorified the city of gold. In our session we will explore the traditional sources Naomi Shemer drew from and consider the political and ideological responses to the song. – There were quite a few. 

Text and Sources can be found here

Recorded Session can be found here

In 1969, Israel was living in a euphoric, messianic cloud. We united Jerusalem and we came back to the land of our forefathers in Judea and Samaria. Israel extended all the way to Sharm el Sheikh and our air force ruled the Middle East. Who were these two artist; a musician and a lyricist who wrote what is still the most antiwar song in the history of the state? How was it received and what was the special two fold connection Yitzhak Rabin had to this song?  

Recording Session can be found here

Written in 1982 – this poem is forever associated in the mind of Israelis with the public reaction to the war in Lebanon and more specifically to the atrocities of Sabra and Shatila. The truth is, however, that Manor wrote this poem as a belated mourning song about the loss of his brother in the War of Attrition (1967-1970). Since its first publication, the song has been associated with many who oppose certain political conduct while remaining deeply committed to the state. In January 2021 Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi read this poem in congress. The session will offer an exploration of the background as well as the impact of the poem. 

Recording Session can be found here

made possible by the Jean and Jesse Wulfe Religious Enhancement Fund

Rabbi Minna Bromberg, PhD

Founder and president of Fat Torah, Rabbi Minna Bromberg, PhD is passionate about bringing her three decades of experience in fat activism to writing, teaching and change-making at the nexus of Judaism and body liberation. Her forthcoming book is Belonging for Every Body: a Fat Torah guide to building inclusive spiritual community. Minna received her doctorate in sociology from Northwestern University, with a dissertation on identity formation in interfaith couples, and was ordained at Hebrew College in 2010. Since then she has led a 250-family Conservative congregation in Reading, PA, released a fifth album of original music, and run the Year-in-Israel program for Hebrew College rabbinical students. In addition to her work with Fat Torah, Minna is a voice teacher who specializes in helping people use their voices in leading prayer. She lives in Jerusalem with her husband, Rabbi Dr. Alan Abrams, and their two children. 

Fat Torah is here to smash the idolatry of weight stigma and lead us all from Narrowness to Freedom. We bring together the inner work of tikkun halev (healing the heart) with the social justice of tikkun olam (repairing the world). We provide education, awareness-building, and mentoring for confronting weight stigma and growing communities where every body belongs. We believe that Jewish tradition both calls us to this work and can be deployed for the liberation of all bodies. 

This course has ended, but the recording sessions can be found in each of the topic descriptions below.

In this session we will take a first look at what weight stigma is, who it impacts, and why it’s an issue that matters in our Jewish communities. We will learn about the history of fat liberation as well as Fat Torah’s approach to using the great Jewish tradition of social justice to address weight stigma. 

The recorded Session can be found here.

What does it really mean to imagine that every one of us is created in the image of the Divine? This session will explore this central Jewish idea in the light of what it can teach us about bodies that don’t always fit our cultural norms. 

The recorded session can be found here.

Jewish tradition teaches that the words we speak have the power to create or destroy entire worlds. Just as God creates the world through speech, so does our own speech—as God’s partners in the work of Creation—hold tremendous power. How can we harness the power of how we speak about our bodies to make our communities more welcoming to all? 

The recorded session can be found here

made possible by the Jean and Jesse Wulfe Religious Enhancement Fund

Rachel Stern

Rachel Stern has been a key presenter for our Sunday Series for many years. Rachel holds master’s degrees in both Jewish Education and Jewish Non-Profit Management and has been in Jewish education for over 20 years. Rachel currently serves as the Chief Learning and Engagement Officer for Shalom Austin. 

The Multifaced Work of Renewal 

After more than a year of COVID how do we construct our new Jewish Persona?  

To affiliate or not to affiliate? That is the question! How do our formal Jewish institutions stay relevant in the 21st Century? 

What is REAL Judaism? Who gets to decide? Part I With internet ordination and a proliferation of new and not so new ‘sects’, how do we navigate the ever-growing landscape of Jewish choices? How do we decide what organizations, movements and institutions are valid and which are not? 

What is REAL Judaism? Who gets to decide? Part II – Jewish traditions, rites and rituals have been in a constant state of evolution from the beginning of time. How do we decide what new rituals make sense and which traditional ones we might want to reconsider?

 

made possible by the Gilbert and Ruth Lang Human Endowment Fund

Past Visiting Scholars

Poetry in the Wake of October 7 with Rachel Korazim

The calamity of October 7th and the war that followed, had left Israel and the Jewish world in shock and despair. The unimaginable became reality. As more details of the horror unfold, as we are facing the painful daily losses in battle and above all the plight of the hostages and their families, we find ourselves less and less able to talk about it. The expression most commonly used is אין מילים ein milim – No Words!

And yet – there are those who struggle and find words to express pain and anger, despair and abandonment.

In this session, we will read and discuss poetry written these very days. The poems are often raw and painful, while at the same time full of love and even hope. Some are written in forms of prayers such as a new “Kadish”, many reference biblical motifs such as the Akeida or Joseph. Others address the new “correct” language, since one cannot say any more simple things like “I am Okay”, or the two most horrible words in Hebrew nowadays: הותר לפרסום “released for publication” that precede the names of the fallen soldiers on Israeli media. The poems come from different parts of Israeli society and reflect a large variety of voices, new ones are added weekly.

The recorded session can be found here.

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Musician in Residence: Cantor Ellen Dreskin
January 26-28, 2024

Cantor Ellen Dreskin (ellendreskin.com) is a communal prayer leader, educator, spiritual director, and mentor in the areas of liturgy, worship, and spiritual practice. She educates toward a deeper understanding of prayers (both traditional and contemporary), and the act of prayer itself as a doorway into spiritual practice and transforming oneself in order to transform the world.

Ellen has served as a scholar-in-residence at dozens of congregations across the country, and as an educator and prayer/ritual leader at numerous Institutes, Camps, and Conferences, including the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, HUC-JIR, SongLeader Boot Camp, Hava Nashira, URJ Biennials, and the JCCA’s Sheva Center for Early Childhood Education. She teaches online and is a regular co-host of Eliana Light’s “LightLab Podcast,” taking deep dives into individual prayers and prayer-related topics.

Ellen was ordained by HUC-JIR in 1986, and has a Master’s Degree in Jewish Communal Service from Brandeis University. She is also trained as a spiritual director. She is married to Rabbi Billy Dreskin, and is extremely proud of their joint projects: Katie, Jonah (z”l), and Aiden.

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Amy and Gadi Ben-Dov
Wednesdays at 12:00 p.m. on ZOOM
The State of Israel from the Rise of Zionism through 2023:
The first 75 years, How did we get here and what will happen next?

The world changed on Simchat Torah - October 7,2023. All of us in the Jewish community experienced a collective tragedy unlike anything most of us have seen in our lifetime. We are all trying to process and understand what brought us to this point and where to go from here. That includes many people who have deep relationships with Israel and have been there many times, and others who have never been before. So many questions have arisen: How could this happen? How did this happen? What actually DID happen? While there are no simple answers to these questions, our response is to return to our own history to best understand the foundations of Israel and creating a basis of knowledge to help contextualize today’s events.

Within the heart of the Jewish people lies the State of Israel. The words that come to mind to describe this ancient land include: dynamic, historic, energetic, demanding, difficult, layered, nuanced and complicated. To best understand our current events, we will embark on a series that will begin in the early days of Zionism laying the foundations that will get us through the British mandate period and the turn of the century. From there we will share in the experience of the new State's formation in 1948 and through the ensuing decades until today. We will discuss the people, places and events that have shaped our history.

As we conclude and look to the future, we will have had an opportunity to strengthen what we already know about Israel, add information that wasn’t previously there, and regardless of our opinions about Israel, be able to ask ourselves (and maybe even answer), how does all this relate to us? By the end of our seminar, we will strengthen a foundation of knowledge about the Jewish State, we will be able to zoom out and zoom in, contextualize and look forward.

JCRC ILF Social 2023 (1)

A weekend of Mussar Exploration with Dr. Alan Morinis
April 28-30, 2023

It has become normal for people to treat each other with disrespect, as our world moves ever-farther from how Jewish tradition teaches us people should treat one another. Through the Jewish lens, no matter how much you disagree with someone, or dislike their ideas or actions, the fact is that they are due respect by virtue of being human beings, embodiment of the divine image. You do not have to accept their ideas, but even if you disagree and oppose, you are expected to do that without debasing the other person (and yourself in the process).

Join us in this exploration of Jewish ideas about how the respect or disrespect we show others impacts our relationships, our families, our communities, and our own souls.

About Dr. Alan Morinis

Dr. Alan Morinis, Founder of The Mussar Institute, is a leading figure in the contemporary revival of the Mussar movement, a 1,100-year-old authentic Jewish personal and communal spiritual tradition that was nearly lost following the Holocaust. A filmmaker, Rhodes Scholar, and anthropologist whose focus had been Hindu religious pilgrimages, he reached a personal turning point in his life in 1997 that led to his exploration of Mussar.

Alan sought out Rabbi Yechiel Perr, an accomplished master who stood in an unbroken line of transmission of the Mussar tradition. Following years of study he reinterpreted the ancient Mussar learnings and practices for modern audiences in Climbing Jacob’s Ladder and Everyday Holiness. To address the growing public interest in Mussar, he founded The Mussar Institute in 2004. He went on to author two more books, Every Day, Holy Day, and With Heart in Mind.

Alan continues to explore and interpret original Mussar sources in Hebrew and is making these valuable teachings available to the contemporary world.

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Rabbi Josh Warshawsky
February 3-5, 2023

Rabbi Josh Warshawsky is a nationally touring Jewish musician, teacher, and composer. Josh seeks to build intentional praying communities, and travels to synagogues, camps, and schools across the country sharing his music and teachings on prayer. He is originally from Chicago, and has released five albums of Jewish music, most recently in March 2022. Josh composes melodies to open up new possibilities for understanding the deep meaning of the words of our tradition. Josh was ordained by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles. For more information check out www.joshwarshawsky.com

Funded by the Jean and Jesse Wulfe Religious Enhancement Fund

Rev. Dr. Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatkoski

Christian Approaches to Zionism

The Rev. Dr. Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatkoski will explore the different ways that mainline Protestants have approached Zionism over the past 75 years. Taking the Episcopal Church as a case study, he will outline the perspectives that lead to divergent takes on Zionism and possible future trajectories.

The Rev. Dr. Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatkoski is the Kraft Family Professor and Director of the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College. He is a scholar of Jewish-Christian relations and comparative theology and the author of The More Torah, The More Life: A Christian Commentary on Mishnah Avot and Christian Memories of the Maccabean Martyrs. He is also a priest ordained in the Episcopal Church.

The lecture can be found here.

Past Speakers