Beth Emet is a diverse community of individuals with different viewpoints, backgrounds, and a broad range of Jewish learning experiences.
The Beth Emet Adult Programming offers exciting possibilities for meeting new people, exchanging ideas, and embracing Jewish history, ritual, and culture.
Our classes are taught by experienced clergy, teachers and lay leaders from Beth Emet and the larger Jewish community. Offerings range from one-time events to yearlong classes; some have fees and scholarships are available.
The Fall 5783 term features a wide range of classes and special programs. Stay tuned for more information on the classes. This term will begin with some classes and programs in-person, others only remotely through Zoom, and some in a fusion fashion using Zoom and in-person learning. Course and program descriptions will specify the venues.
Everyone is welcome to listen, learn, contribute, and share new insights with other members of the Beth Emet community.
For yearlong courses, including Hebrew and Tikkun Middot, see below.
Members – Register for all programs Members -Register for adult education courses alone
Non-Members -Register for all programs
Wednesday, November 30 | 7:30 pm | In-Person and Virtual on Zoom
Noah Finkelstein, J Street’s Associate Regional Director for the Midwest, will explain how J Street’s pro-Israel, pro-peace advocacy work, the results of the elections in the United States and Israel, and events in Israel and the West Bank, impact the pursuit of a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
This program is sponsored by the Israel Committee.
Non-Members Register Here
Members Register Here
NOAH FINKELSTEIN is the Midwest Associate Regional Director of J Street. Previously, Noah was the Senior Coalitions Associate on J Street’s Public Engagement team and held roles on the J Street U team. Before joining J Street, he worked at Habonim Dror for two years as the National Programs Director. Noah is a graduate of the University of British Columbia.
Fridays, December 2 and 9 | 11:00 am | In-Person and Virtual on Zoom
It goes without saying that the Bible is filled with stories. Are there also overarching themes and messages emerging from the text that Tanakh is trying to teach us? We will explore two approaces and suggest some unexpected themes. Please bring a Tanakh to class.
Member fee $25, or included in Friday morning package; non-member fee $35
RABBI MICHAEL BALINSKY was the Executive Vice-President of the Chicago Board of Rabbis and was Director of the Louis and Saerree Fiedler Hillel Center at Northwestern University for nineteen years. He greatly enjoys teaching adults and helping them engage with classical Jewish sacred texts in an open, pluralistic setting. He is a graduate of Yeshiva University and the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.
Sunday, December 4 | 10:00 am | In-Person and Virtual on Zoom
What can you learn while researching your own genealogy? Professional genealogist Debbie Kroopkin will share many examples of documents, resources, and methods you can use to explore your family history. With archives and libraries digitizing a wealth of records daily, the internet has opened up new opportunities to discover your family’s journey without leaving home.
DEBBIE KROOPKIN is currently co-president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois. She has explored her family history for over two decades and now conducts research for others. She has discovered her family and client family origins in countries including Ukraine, Poland, Belarus, Lithuania, Moldova, and Romania. She loves the hunt of research and loves connecting with new families, both in person and on paper. She has master’s degree in social work administration.
Tuesday, December 6 | 7:00 pm | In-Person and Virtual on Zoom
This class will explore how Jewish thought considers cases in clinical ethics, drawn from Dr. Zoloth’s latest book, Second Texts and Second Opinions: Essays Towards a Jewish Bioethics. We will learn about the source, methods, and texts that make Jewish clinical ethics distinctive, and consider how and whether arguments that are drawn from particular religions should play a role in public discourse.
Member fee $10; non-member fee $20
LAURIE ZOLOTH is chair of the ethics area at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. Her research in Jewish thought and bioethics has focused on the application of rabbinic arguments and the philosophy of Levinas, Arendt, and Susman to contemporary dilemmas in health care and emerging medical technology. She is the author or editor of nine books and has served on national ethics boards for the American Heart Association; NASA; the NIH; and the CDC. She is the former dean at the Divinity School and the former president of both the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities and the American Academy of Religion.
Thursday, December 8 | 7:00 pm | In-Person Only
Cooking Magic is all about fast, easy, healthy, and delicious meals. Come for recipes, cooking, and comradery. This program is for everyone from kitchen novices to experienced cooks.
Fridays, January 6 and 13 | 11:00 am | In-Person and Virtual on Zoom
The war of 1948 has shaped the history of the modern Middle East more than any other single event, and it continues to shape both Israeli and Palestinian societies to this day. We will discuss the major events that led to the outbreak of the war, its main stages, and the different, even contrasting, narratives Israelis and Palestinians created about it. We will examine the diverse voices of those who participated in or experienced the war to shed new light on this constitutive and complex event.
Member fee $25 or included in Friday morning package; non-member fee $35.
MAAYAN HILEL is a lecturer at the Crown Family Center for Israel and Jewish Studies at Northwestern University. She is a historian of the modern Middle East, specializing in the cultural and social history of Palestine / Land of Israel during the first half of the twentieth century. Dr. Hilel teachers history courses about Jewish-Arab relations; leisure, and popular culture in the Middle East; the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and more.
Tuesday, January 10 | 7:30 pm | In-Person and Virtual on Zoom
A continuing lecture-discussion class on contemporary public issues of interest to Jews as citizens. Special attention will be given to the policy and political issues facing the Biden administration. Two additional classes will be offered in the Spring term. Participation in prior sessions not required.
No fee for members; non-members fee $10.
Non-Member Register Here
DAVID ZAREFSKY is the Owen L. Coon Professor Emeritus of Communication Studies at Northwestern University, specializing in argumentation and the analysis and criticism of American political discourse. He is a former president of the National Communication Association, the Rhetoric Society of America, and the Central States Communication Association. In 2012 he received the Lifetime Teaching Excellence Award from the National Communication Association. David is a past president of Beth Emet
Wednesday, January 18 | 7:30 pm | In-Person and Virtual on Zoom
The daughter of Polish Holocaust Survivors, the late Israeli author Batya Gur had a special interest in how kibbutznikim who came from the death camps found solace in the rhythms of communal life. Murder on a Kibbutz (1991), the third book in her series featuring the Moroccan-born chief detective of the Jerusalem police Michael Ohayon, explores the tensions within a northern Negev desert kibbutz as the ideals of the founding generation are challenged by the next generation.
This program is sponsored by the Israel Committee
LISA LIEBERMAN is a historian of postwar Europe and the author of a historical mystery series featuring blacklisted Hollywood people on the lam in dangerous international locales.
Fridays, January 20 and 27 | 11:00 am | In-Person and Virtual on Zoom
David Weiss Halivni z’l (1927-2022) was a revolutionary in two separate intellectual arenas- talmudic analysis and Jewish theology. As an academic scholar of talmud, Halivni innovated the notion that much of the Talmud was produced by a group of unnamed editors whom he called Stammaim. As a theologian, he worked to process both his own and the communal experience of the Holocaust in religious terms. We will learn about Halivni’s work and discuss how this Talmud theory and unique theology might inform one another.
Member fee $25 or included in Friday morning package; non-member fee $35
BARRY SCOTT WIMPFHEIMER is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Law at Northwestern University. Wimpfheimer specialized in the study of Jewish Law and the Rabbinic Tradition, particularly in the Babylonian Talmud. His book The Talmud: A Biography was published as part of Princeton University Press’ Lives of Great Religious Books series in Spring 2018.
Fridays, February 3 and 10 | 11:00 am | In-Person and Virtual on Zoom
Pre-modern Jews are often described as “people of the book,” but Jews produced visual art over the centuries as well – images in illuminated Bibles, Mahzorigm, and Haggadot that are complex, often learned, and sometimes deeply subversive. How might our understanding of Torah study shift if we accompany study of Jewish texts with study of Jewish images?
DAVID SHYOVITZ (PhD University of Pennsylvania) is Associate Professor of History at Northwestern University, and Director of NU’s Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies. He is the author of A Remembrance of His Wonders: Nature and the Supernatural in Medieval Ashkenaz (2017), and has lectured widely throughout the United States, Israel, and Europe.
Fridays, February 17 and 24 | 11:00 am | In-Person and Virtual on Zoom
Who can ask us for financial help? How do we maintain respect for people who need money from us? Is it religiously admirable, or something else, to allow ourselves to become poor? We’ll consider these and other questions in connection with texts from the Mishnah and Maimonides.
SAMUEL FLEISCHACKER is LAS Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC). His writings include Divine Teaching and the Way of the World (Oxford, 2011), and The Good and the Good Book: Revelation as a Guide to Life (Oxford, 2015), and Being Me Being You: Adam Smith and Empathy (Routledge, 2019). Sam received his PhD from the Philosophy Department at Yale University, and taught at Williams College before coming to UIC.
Wednesday, September 21 | 7:30 pm | In-Person and Virtual on Zoom
Across the United States, Israeli NGOs and government agencies are impacting the lives of marginalized communities. Whether it is through disaster relief, post-trauma support, or everyday necessities unavailable to those communities, Israel is changing lives. We will explore some examples and learn what it is that makes these Israeli organizations leaders in their fields.
This program is co-sponsored by the Israel Committee and the Social Justice Committee.
ASSAF GRUMBERG, StandWithUs Midwest Executive Director, is an Israeli native and IDF officer. In 2010, during the Turkish Flotilla incident, Assaf witnessed a pro-flotilla anti-Israel demonstration on the Tel Aviv University campus. That event inspired him to change course from a career in finance to become a positive advocate for Israel on the global stage, joining StandWishUs in 2013. In 2015, Assaf was chosen as one of Chicago’s top 36 under 36 Jewish young Professionals.
Sunday, October 2 | 10:30 am | Virtual on Zoom
Karen Isaacson recently returned from Israel and the Palestinian Territories as part of a J Street Congressional Delegation. She will be sharing her observations, learnings, and some photos with the Beth Emet community. All are welcome.
Wednesdays, October 12 through Wednesday, November 2
Continuing Beth Emet’s tradition of learning and interest in social justice, this four-session class will explore – both broadly and through the lens of Jewish history and teachings – the timely issue of reparations for African-Americans. The name “Stolen Beam” refers to a Talmudic debate about the right thing to do when we discover that the house in which we live was built with stolen materials, i.e., a “stolen beam” – do we tear the house down and return the beam or do we acknowledge the crime and offer compensation to the beam’s owner? We use this metaphor, the Stolen Beam, in recognition of the fact that much of our country was built on stolen land with stolen lives and stolen labor.
Our discussion will explore the legacy and aftermath of African enslavement, what was stolen, what may be owed, examples of reparations, and what Judaism and Jewish history may teach us about the topic. We will also discuss Evanston’s widely acclaimed reparations efforts and the history that precipitated them.
The class, which will be conducted in a participatory discussion format rather than a lecture, and will be facilitated by congregants from the Beth Emet Social Action Committee’s Reparations Group. The weekly assignments, which will include written materials, videos, audio recordings, and study questions, are both stimulating and provocative, and all participants will be expected to read and/or view them before each session and come prepared for a lively discussion.
The first class will meet on Wednesday, October 12 at 7:15 pm in-person at Beth Emet’s Sukkah. The next three classes will meet from 7:00 to 8:30 PM by Zoom on the following three Wednesdays, October 19, October 26, and November 2.
Wednesday, October 19 | 7:30 pm | In-Person and Virtual on Zoom
The Middle East is a global climate hotspot- a Middle East summer is expected to heat up an astounding 40% more than the annual world average. At this rate, without intervention, agriculture will become impossible, and the region could become uninhabitable by the end of the century. Regional cooperation has a critical role in confronting the climate crisis. This programs also shares how the Arava Institute – comprised of Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians- not only has the technology to address energy poverty and water scarcity, but also has the peacebuilding tools to bring solutions to the region’s most vulnerable.
This event is co-sponsored by the Israel Committee and the Dayenu Circle.
DR. TAREQ ABU HAMED of East Jerusalem is the Executive Director of the Institute. Dr. Abu Hamed holds a Bachelor and a Master of Science in Chemical Engineering, a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering, and he has completed two terms of postdoctoral research and holds a Master’s in Public Policy from Hebrew University. In 2013, Dr. Abu Hamed served as the Israeli Ministry of Science’s Deputy Chief Scientist, and later the Acting Chief Scientist, the highest ranking Palestinian in the Israeli government at the time.
Thursday, October 20 (continuing the third Thursday of the month through May) | 7:15 pm | Virtual on Zoom
Not sure how to connect to the Mystery or the Divine in the world? Perhaps you are seeking an honest conversation about making meaning in life and what really matters. Maybe you know what you do not believe but are still hungry or wanting something more spiritual. We will use the prayerbook, poetry, prose, and ourselves as our texts, aiming to deepen our connections and discern meaningful paths in our daily lives. Our tools will include mindfulness practices, journaling, questioning, and conversation.
Fridays, October 21 - June 9 | 9:30 am | In-Person and Virtual on Zoom
There are many ways to interpret Torah and its nuances of meaning that are often overlooked. We will continue our learning from last year, reading and interpreting the text of the Book of Deuteronomy line by line. New learners are always welcome.
No Fee for members; non-member fee is $120.
Fridays, October 21 and 28 | 11:00 am | In-Person and Virtual on Zoom
Does Judaism require a system or series of beliefs? If so, what are they? If not, then is Judaism a religion, or is it something else? We’ll explore this topic through biblical, rabbinic, and medieval text, and through contemporary scholarship. While we may not agree on conclusions, we can develop a deeper understanding of the way Judaism grapples with belief as a way of seeing and being in the world.
Member fee $25, or included in Friday morning package; non-member fee $35.
DAVID GOTTLIEB is the Director of Jewish Studies at Spertus Institute of Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago. He received his PhD in the History of Judaism from the University of Chicago Divinity School in 2018. He has written for several publications, including Tablet magazine, the Journal of Religion, and the Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception. He is the author of Second Slayings: The Binding of Isaac and the Formation of Jewish Memory (Gorgias Press, 2019)
Thursday, October 27 | 7:30 pm | In-Person and Virtual on Zoom
While Reform Judaism does so much right, it leaves some aspects of our heritage out of the regular rotation of worship and observances. The Tanakh and rabbinic texts contain a wealth of information and stories about things that go bump in the night, including terrifying descriptions of angels. This class will expose you to traditional texts, stories, and descriptions of demons and monsters, and how they inspire the Lovecraftian Cosmic Horror genre of the 20th century.
Sunday, October 30 | 9:20 am | In-Person Only
Our congregant and teacher Lindy Rubin has been discovering great Jewish Art for many years. The collection of stained glass in Chicago is extraordinary! We will explore the Loop Synagogue window by renowned artist Abraham Rattner, who worked on this with Chagall in Paris. We will see 64 windows at Temple Sholom by various renowned artists as well as a secret corridor of hidden art work in Anshe Emet.
Bring a snack or lunch. Fee $20 for bus.
Thursday, November 3 | 7:30 pm | Virtual on Zoom Only
Since its 1964 Broadway debut, Fiddler on the Roof has captivated audiences with its engaging story, instant classic tunes, and identifiable characters. Dr. Stein will examine this timeless musical’s well-known songs, addressing how particularly Jewish themes and melodies have had such a universal appeal for both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. Her presentation will look at the legacy of Tevye through the performances of Zero Mostel on the stage and Topol in the 1971 film, and she will share some of songwriting duo Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock’s development of the music through draft lyrics and cut songs. You don’t need to have attended the Lyric Opera’s recent production to enjoy this class!
Musicologist AMANDA RUPPENTHAL STEIN, Ph.D. is a lecturer in music at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin and at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is a 2021 graduate of the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University, where she was also the Crown Graduate Fellow for the Crown Center for Jewish and Israel Studies. Amanda’s dissertation, Sounding Judentum: Assimilation, Art Music, and Being Jewish Musically in 19th Century German-Speaking Europe focused on how art musicians approached Jewish identity, assimilation, and acculturation through sonic expression, relationships, and writing. Additional teaching and research interests include Jewish voice in the music of Leonard Bernstein, the comedy albums of Allan Sherman, and cross-cultural conversations on religious and racial identities.
Fridays, November 4 and 11 | 11:00 am | In-Person and Virtual on Zoom
We will study the last several chapters in the Book of Numbers, marking the end of our people’s trek through the desert. We will meet a red cow, a healing snake, a talking donkey, five very wise women, and encounter a classic case of individual rights versus community needs.
RABBI DR. JOSEPH S. OZAROWSKI is Rabbinic Counselor and Chaplain for JCFS Chicago. He taught at Spertus Institute and Academy for Jewish Religion (LA). He was president of the Chicago Board of Rabbis and is now president of Neshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains (NAJC). Ozarowski has served congregations in Pennsylvania, California, Minnesota, and Long Island. A Board-Certified Chaplain, he served on the JUF Board and on NorthShore HealthCare System’s Ethics Committee. Rabbi Ozarowski’s first book, To Walk in God’s Ways, is considered a standard in Judaism and Pastoral Care.
Wednesday, November 9 | 7:30 pm | In-Person and Virtual on Zoom
Thursday, November 10 | 7:00 pm | In-Person and Virtual on Zoom
In recent years, there has been growing interest in documenting Jewish life outside of the large coastal urban centers in the United States. In 2021 the University of Illinois, with the support of Mrs. Sybil Mervis of Danville, opened a new archive dedicated to the documentation of Jewish life in smaller towns of Central Illinois. In this lecture and open discussion, we will explore the documents, life stories, interviews, and findings collected so far and plans for the near future.
DR. LIAT ALON earned her Phd in Near and Middle Eastern Studies from Ben Gurion University. After moving from Israel to the US in 2018, Liat Alon was a Lecturer at HUC-JIR in Cincinnati and is now an Israel Institute Fellow in the History Department and Program in Jewish Culture and Society at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. In Israel she focused on the disappearing communities of Egyptian Jews. She teaches many courses at U of I, and guiding students who are working on the Central Illinois Jewish Communities Archives/Mervis Archives at the University of Illinois
Sunday, November 13 | 10:00 am | In-Person Only
This 32-poster exhibit was developed to foster curiosity discussion, and reflection about the complexity of Jewish identity in today’s world. They address questions such as: Is Jewishness a race? What does antisemitism look like today? What is the relationship between Jewish identity, the origins of the comic book industry, and modern society? Our time together will include the opportunity to meet the creators, learn the origin story of the exhibit, and engage in guided discussion with fellow congregants. The exhibit will be available beginning on November 4. We encourage you to view it before the workshop.
BRETT RUBIN, MARISSA RUBIN, JUDY (WEISS) SCHACHTER have over 50 years of combined experience teaching high school literature and language. Colleagues at New Trier High School, they are excited to share with you their contribution to the conversation about identity at New Trier. Judy is a Beth Emet congregant, and Marissa belongs to Temple Beth El in Northbrook.
Wednesday, November 16 | 7:30 pm | In-Person and Virtual on Zoom
This program offers an overview of women’s status in Israel, indicating the challenges and triumphs the feminist movement has achieved in different fields. Professor Bitton will present her own perspectives on these dynamics, based on her experience as one of the leading socio-legal feminists in Israel today.
PROFESSOR YIFAT BITON, a legal academic and social activist for equality, was shortlisted twice for Israel’s Supreme Court, making history as the youngest woman and the first woman of Mizrahi descent ever to appear on the list. She is the founder of Tmura – the Israeli Anti-discrimination Center, which advocates for the rights of women who have suffered abuse – and president of Achva Academic College. She holds a Ph.D. from the Hebrew University and a LLM from Yale University Law School. Professor Bitton is a visiting Adjunct Professor at the University of Chicago this fall.
Middot are character traits expressed in our behavior that can impact our relationships. Participants in Beth Emet’s Tikkun Middot groups follow the innovative national program developed by the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, built on the Jewish tradition of Mussar, to cultivate moral traits such as patience, compassion, trust, and mindful speech.
Monthly on Sunday afternoons, October- June
Are you thinking of retiring? Is your nest emptying? Are you facing age-related challenges or moving from one phase of life to another? Are you sandwiched between generations? Do you have fewer stairs to climb professionally and are more interested in making your next chapter meaningful? We will address these and other situations through a wide range of Tikkun Middot practices to focus on our personal characteristics, traits, or virtues, and employ curiosity and openness to investigate our internal and external reactions to situations. Through this lens, we will look at issues of aging and consider how choice points can help us create openings for personal and spiritual growth and turn away from reactive behaviors. Together, we will consider how to reframe life’s peaks and valleys into opportunities for growth and change, meeting monthly to examine how we wish to navigate this new landscape. Limited to 14 participants.
Interested? Contact Marci Dickman
Monthly, November- June; Specific days and times to be determiined by the participants
The Va’ad focuses on a particular character trait each month, and each session includes meditation, mindfulness practice, study of Jewish and secular texts, and self-reflection. Between sessions, participants work with a chevruta (partner) on specific exercises to explore the internal and external obstacles and opportunities present in each moment in order to access wiser, more wholesome choices. In the words of a congregant participating in Tikkun Middot practice for their fifth year: “It is a blessing in my life and has gently pushed me to review and develop how I connect and interact with others, self, and with God… Learning and practicing Tikkun Middot has been a lifesaver for me. It was the place I turned to when I was confused about how to live in this unusual time.” The group is open to congregants of all ages and interests.
Hebrew is the language of the Torah and the prayer book, and the universal language of the Jewish people. For many, Hebrew is a
gateway to Jewish community and study, empowering us spirituality, intellectually, and socially, and connecting us with people in Israel,
around the world, and fellow learners here at Beth Emet. Now is a good time to learn to read Hebrew or improve the Hebrew skills you
already have. Hebrew classes meet weekly during the school year in a supportive and stimulating environment.
(Scholarships are available.) Classes do not meet during Thanksgiving, Winter or Passover breaks.
Sundays, October 9 through Mid-May | 10:45 am – 12:00 pm
For learners with no or limited Hebrew language background. This class focuses on mastery of the hebrew alphabet in order to read and understand Hebrew words and phrases in the prayer book and modern usage. Hebrew 1 also connects Hebrew vocabulary with Jewish life, ritual, tradition, and Israel. Member fee $220; non-member fee $270 (five-student minimum for this class)
October through Mid-May | Class day and time tbd based on participants
Hebrew 2 is for learners seeking more meaningful participation at services. This class provides opportunities to improve your Hebrew reading fluency while exploring the structure, themes, and key Hebrew vocabulary of the Shabbat morning worship service and its individual prayers. Hebrew 2 also includes basic elements of Hebrew grammar. Member fee $220; non-member fee $270 (five-student minimum for this class)
Sundays, October 9 through mid-May| 11:30 am – 12:30 pm (Class time may change when in-person)
Hebrew 3 is for learners able to sound out and print Hebrew words. This class will explore the grammar and vocabulary of modern Hebrew through a variety of reading, writing, and speaking activities. Member fee $220; non-member fee $270 (five-student minimum for this class)
Beth Emet Adult Programming is supported in part by a generous grant from the David D. Polk and Marian Polk Fried Adult Jewish Studies Fund of the Beth Emet Foundation. This grant allows us to offer Beth Emet members all of the Friday morning 11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. classes during the Fall / Winter 5782 term as a package for the reduced fee of $125.
Beth Emet Adult Programming is also supported in part by a generous the Jewish Education: Lifelong Learning Opportunities (JELLO) Fund of the Beth Emet Foundation.
Reach out to Marci Dickman, Director of Lifelong Learning.