Opening Panel, 7:00-8:00 pm
Join us as we kick off our night of learning by hearing from several local congregational rabbis with unique perspectives to offer on Jewish life in Philadelphia. They’ll share some personal details about themselves and then engage in conversation with each other about the issues and ideas they think are currently at the forefront of Jewish life in Center City.
Below is the schedule of teachers and topics for our sessions from 10:00 pm-5:00 am. You are welcome to join us for some or all of the evening! Schedule is subject to change. Click here for FAQ about the event.
SESSION 1, 10:00-11:00 pm
Foundations of the Torah
Rabbi Albert Gabbai, Congregation Mikveh Israel
We will explore the foundations of the Torah as presented by Maimonides with challenging questions and exciting answers.
Sin at Sinai: Whose Fault?
Rabbi Julie Greenberg, Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City
Part of the Shavuot story is the experience of the Golden Calf, considered a low point of the Jewish journey. But are our sins really our fault? How do Jewish traditions help us hold our mistakes?
The Cast of the Book of Ruth: Why did they do what they did?
Rabbi Morton Levine, Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel
A light-hearted approach to the characters in the Book of Ruth. We will create the scenarios that will explain their actions in the context of those around them.
Home Sweet Home: The Right to Redeem Property in the Torah and Philadelphia
Susie Ratner, Esq., Mekor Habracha
In the Torah, every 50 years the Jews observe a Jubilee (yovel), where all property is “redeemed” back to its original owners. Philadelphia law contains a similar right of redemption in property tax foreclosure cases, which saves homes and prevents homelessness. We will examine and compare these concepts.
Put Your Money on the Second Sibling
Louise Simons, Ph.D., Congregation Rodeph Shalom
In the Torah, usually the second sibling prevails over the first. Can we discern a reason for this pattern?
Sci Fi? No, Moses cosmic battle for Torah
Rabbi Avi Winokur, Society Hill Synagogue
The midrashic collection, Pesikta Rabbita, depicts a pitched battle as Moses attempts to seize Torah from the angels. But doesn’t Shavuot commemorate the giving, not the seizing, of Torah? We’ll examine this surprising narrative, considering the stakes for Moses, God, and the angels, and what this story might mean to us today.
Antisemitism in the Trump Era
Rabbi Alissa Wise, Kol Tzedek
An exploration of how antisemitism is operating in the Trump era and as connected to Islamophobia, racism, and broader struggles for justice. Will include discussion of recently released anthology, “On Antisemitism: Solidarity and the Struggle for Justice.”
Jews and Baseball (and maybe a little basketball too)
Matthew I. Whitehorn, Esq., Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel
This will be an interactive discussion of the history of Jews in baseball, including Team Israel’s great performance in the recent World Baseball Classic.
SESSION 2, 11:15 pm-12:15 am
Hillary Blecker and Jessica Levy, Kol Tzedek Synagogue
Building strong community requires us to be aware of our actions, interactions, and biases. Drawing on both techniques of applied theater and the practices of intergroup dialogue, we will use status activities, games, and movement exercises as a way to open up conversation and provide a starting point for exploring connections – and disconnections – related to race, class, gender, and other social identities and barriers that we navigate in our daily lives.
Interpreting Visual Art, Jewishly
Zoe Cohen, Kol Tzedek Synagogue
In this collaborative, discussion-based class, we will visit the Gershman Y Gallery to view and discuss the visual art of Lynne Clibanoff and Amze Emmons. Participants will be encouraged to consider what they bring from their Jewish identity to the viewing and interpreting of art.
Women and Spirituality: What We Bring to the Table
Dr. Saundra Sterling Epstein, Mekor Habracha
There are many wonderful teachings and texts about women and our unique contribution to our communities of faith. Come and learn affirming texts from Torah, Talmud, and so many other sources about the unique and important contribution of women in ALL aspects of Jewish life.
Philadelphia Jewish Social Justice Beit Midrash: Universals & Particulars
Rabbi Annie Lewis, Center City Kehillah
How do our Jewish stories call us to action in the world? How do we make choices about where to channel our resources and actions? Join us as we explore texts that speak to our responsibilities to our inner circles and to the wider world.
Psalm Study in Pairs
Gail ‘Malka’ Meister, PhD, Congregation Rodeph Shalom
Our traditional liturgy identifies a particular psalm for each day of the week. Come choose a partner, a daily psalm, and let’s enhance our learning and enjoyment of these songs together.
Building a stable religious practice on unstable theology, or Am I doing that today?
Naomi Socher-Lerner, Heymish
Many of us, myself included, are unsure when it comes to the nature of God, and even whether God exists at all. Our opinions can change on a daily basis. How can we build a stable religious practice on this unstable theology? Come study what Torah might tell us, what some theologians have to say about it, and discuss how to manage it on the internal, personal, and practical levels in our daily lives.
SESSION 3, 12:45-1:45 am
Halacha, Zionism, Liberalism: Three Judaisms in Conflict
Isaac Binkovitz, Esq., Mekor Habracha
Contemporary Jews largely identify their Jewishness with one (or sometimes two) of three things: halacha, Zionism, or liberalism. We have largely retreated to separate poles that rarely relate to each other positively. Is this healthy or is it a sign that something is wrong? How can we overcome these divisions?
A Second Look at the Ten Commandments
Yonatan Cohen, Mekor Habracha
Based on a lesson taught by R. Yoel Bin-Nun at Yesivat Har Etzion this class is a look at the text of the ten commandments and the structure of this text. The lesson has been adapted to a more general audience and is in English with references to verses in Hebrew that are translated. The class gleans new understandings of both the commandments and the significance of the event of their giving.
Is God Queer?
Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari, Kol Tzedek Synagogue
Deconstruction, transformation, transgression, transition, revelation. What can we learn about ourselves from God? What can we learn about God from our own lived experiences? Come explore transgender and queer theology. All are welcome!
Heaven on Earth
Rabbi Hirshi Sputz, Chabad of Center City
An inspirational lecture about a gift we all possess. The Midrash says that G-d created the world for he had a desire to have a dwelling in the lower realms (this world). What does it mean to make a home for G‑d in our world? Isn’t He here already? And how is this home made? The answer is in the Shavuot story, so let’s analyze the mount Sinai experience, and what it means to us today.
The Jewish History of Small-Town America
Dr. Lee Shai Weissbach, Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel
This session will introduce participants to the Jewish history of small-town America, based on my book, “Jewish Life in Small-Town America” (Yale UP, 2005), with an emphasis on how the small-town experience differed from that in larger cities. Included will be some attention to the sources used in the study of this topic.
SESSION 4, 2:00-2:50 am
How well do you know the songs you know by heart?
Tamar Fox, Minyan Tikvah
What is Adon Olam really about? What about Tzur Mishelo? In this session we will take a closer look at some oft-sung Jewish texts, to understand the context and message behind them. We will conclude by singing the songs to fully appreciate our new understanding of them.
Sweat the Small Stuff
Manya Ort, Mekor Habracha
A discussion of the Torah perspective on the power of small actions.
Coping with Alternative Facts: Ways of Knowing
Aviva Perlo, Germantown Jewish Centre
How do we know what is true? How do we know what is false? Explore thought with certainty & a dose of humor.
Take a break to stretch in the early morning hours.
SESSION 5, 3:00-3:50 am
The Ultimate Thesis: The 4 Step Solution to Every Life Challenge
Rabbi Eliezer Hirsch, Mekor Habracha
The Torah’s diverse sections have a underlying pattern; learn to apply this pattern and improve every area of your life.
V’Ahavta: How Can Loving Lead to Justice
Gaby Marantz, Makom Community
In this session, we’ll examine what it means to love God, ourselves, and our neighbors, and how all of that loving helps us to create a more just world. We’ll unpack the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself, v’ahavta l’reyacha kamocha, and the first verse of the Shema, v’ahavta et adonai eloheicha, to help us build a connection between ahavah (love) and tzedek (justice).
Jewish Female Leadership and Emotional Labor
Marley Weiner, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
This class will examine traditional rabbinic sources on women’s roles as providers of emotional labor, and compare this to modern day women as a source of emotional labor. Participants will have time to analyze the ways in which they are providers of emotional labor in their own lives, families, and leadership roles.
SESSION 6, 4:00-4:50 am
Shavuot-prov: a brief introduction to improv and self-expression
Sam Ackerman, Mekor Habracha, and Cantor Rebecca Carl, Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel
Improv is the act of improvising, acting or speaking without previous preparation. Improv exercises are not only fun and often funny, but they help us to develop and grow skills in personal expression and the ability to think on our feet. During this session, we will join together in some fun and basic introductory group improvisational exercises and discover together how improv could relate to Shavuot. No prior experience is required, just a willingness to participate and possibly step outside of one’s comfort zone.
Two Tablets – For One Covenant?
Rabbi Abe Friedman, Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel
Have you ever stopped to wonder why, at Sinai, God gave Moses two tablets, even though God and Israel were establishing a single eternal covenant? We’ll find answers in the writings of Rabbi Yitzhak Hutner, one of the twentieth century’s most creative and original thinkers.
Jewish Medical Ethics
Hannah Myers, Mekor Habracha
Jewish perspectives on common ethical issues in medical decision-making.