Shavuot Schedule


SHABBAT LEARNING – 7:45-8:45 pm

Interplanetary Shabbat
Christine Cook, Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel
As we progress in our exploration of space and the ability of humans to live beyond Earth, how would the laws governing Shabbat practice translate to life on other planets?

Sparring Partners: Arguments with God and Lessons Learned
Dr. Saundra Sterling Epstein, Mekor Habracha
In our lives, we have often forgotten how to differ respectfully. Our Jewish sources show we are not always so in sync with God, and there are many profound arguments. We will learn some of these together and lessons about how we speak with those with whom we differ, and that it’s okay to not agree with God!

Introduction to Shavuot
Rabbi Eli Freedman and Ellen Poster, Congregation Rodeph Shalom
A session geared to those new to Judaism and new to Shavuot covering the basics of the holiday.

Opening to Revelation: Preparing for Shavuot in Song
Rabbi Yosef Goldman, Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel, Rabbi Annie Lewis, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Cantor Jessi Roemer, Society Hill Synagogue
Transition from Shabbat to Shavuot in a communal song experience.

Wise Up: How can we be good ancestors?
Rina Rosenberg, Germantown Jewish Centre
We shall explore Jewish sources and ways that aging can bring out the best in us. How can we be more authentic, creative, and fulfilled and live our legacy as a gift to the next generations?

Can We Still Hear Heschel’s Prophetic Call?
Rabbi Avi Winokur, Society Hill Synagogue
We’ll look at a few texts on Heschel’s critique of modern Judaism and his understanding of the prophetic demands of our tradition. We will then discuss the status of our community with respect to the pursuit of social justice. Activists will try to refrain from taking pot shots at the less active, and the less active will try not to make excuses. We will try to understand where we are.

SHAVUOT SESSION 1 – 11:00 pm-12:00 am

Pop-up Choir
Shlomo Cohen, Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel
We will learn one Shavuot song in two part harmony and at least one Shavuot round sung in 3 voices. Songsheets with Hebrew words, with transliteration and translation will be available; musical notation will not be available. Learn by hearing a phrase that is sung and repeating the phrase. Continue this until all phrases of the song are learned. No musical training is needed. If you can carry a tune, you’re in.

Why is my Mother so Intrusive?!: Understanding Family Dynamics in American Jewish Families
Sarah Epstein, Mekor Habracha
With a marriage and family therapist, we’ll take a look at how Jewish families navigate family roles, boundaries, and conflicts. You will begin to understand how Jewish families differ from other types of families and start to see your own family in a new way.

Free to Lead: Law and Opportunity
Yoella Epstein, Mekor Habracha
Through a review of Jewish texts, we will trace the development of Jews’ relationship to the state and its rule of law, from biblical times through exile. We will explore how a robust legal system of our own making is the bedrock of Jewish sovereignty and critical to redemption.

Teshuva: Jewish Guilt or Jewish Salvation?
Rabbi Albert Gabbai, Congregation Mikveh Israel
Guilt is to the soul what pain is to the body. Let us explore Maimonides’ approach to Teshuva, repentance. What are the steps, when, and how. Is Teshuva important in religion? Be part of this exciting discussion.

When they call you a Terrorist: The Shaming of Black and Brown Bodies
Jared Jackson, Jews in All Hues, and Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari, Kol Tzedek
We will be reading selections from the new memoir of Patrisse Khan-Cullors, When They Call You a Terrorist, and pairing it with Jewish texts on death and shame. Folks are highly encouraged to read the memoir as part of their Shavuot learning.

Jewish Food Justice: What ancient practices teach us about contemporary food justice issues.
Nati Passow, Jewish Farm School
The Jewish agricultural traditions compel us to create a just, equitable, and sustainable food system. By looking at some of the ancient Jewish agricultural practices, we will distill out the core underlying values and learn how they can inform contemporary food justice efforts in Philadelphia and beyond.

On Being a Proud Diasporic Jew
Rabbi Alissa Wise & (Erev Rav) Jessica Rosenberg, Kol Tzedek
Using texts from throughout Jewish history, we will reflect on our own relationship to land as Jews in diaspora and the power and potential of a proud diasporic Jewish identity.


In Defiance of Judenfrei
Jonah Adams, Moishe House Philadelphia
The nation of Estonia was declared Judenfrei, 100% free of Jews during the Holocaust, and yet a small community there is now thriving. Come take a look at how this forgotten corner of Europe has fostered an oasis of Jewish life.

Mindfulness Isn’t Just Sitting: Exploring Mindfulness from a Jewish Perspective
David Fask, Ph.D., Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel
Licensed clinical psychologist David Fask, Ph.D., will share Judaism’s take on mindfulness and research establishing the benefits of a mindfulness practice. He will also guide participants through mindfulness exercises (specially designed not to put participants to sleep!).

The Weirdest Gemara You’ll Ever Learn
Joseph Heller, Spruce Street Minyan
Study of Avodah Zarah 17a – The curious story of Rabbi Elazar ben Dordia.

God and the Big Bang
Sophie Lee and Saul Kohn, Kol Tzedek
What happens when we apply science to our understanding of theology? We will dive into parallels between the theory of relativity and the teachings of the Torah.

Wade in the Water – The Meaning of Mikvah
Dr. Hannah Myers, Molly Sinderbrand, Mekor Habracha
Mikvaot are popping up all over the suburbs of Philadelphia! We will discuss the biblical sources for mikvah, as well as the history of mikvaot in Philadelphia itself.

The Importance of Community
Brenna Stein, Mekor Habracha
This a text study/discussion from Pirket Avot, known as Ethics of our Fathers in English. This lesson is in memory of my father, Richard H. Stein z”l, who was very helpful in his communities.

What’s Jewish About Domestic Abuse?
Shana Weiner, Esq., Dinah
Engage in some text study exploring the Jewish origins of violence against women, and discuss what domestic abuse and intimate partner violence look like today within the Jewish community.

Kohelet and Hevel: The meaning of Ecclesiastes
Jacob Zemon, Mekor Habracha
Discussing the use of the word “hevel” in Kohelet and how it illuminates the context and meaning of the book of Kohelet.

SESSION 3 – 1:15-2:15 am

Why Me?
Rabbi Abe Friedman, Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel
We all have moments in life that we just can’t understand. In his book, Mei HaShiloah, the Hasidic Rebbe of Izhbitz explores the different grievances a person might have against God – and he suggests how we might begin to deal with life’s most essential challenges.

Kosher Slaughter and Animal Welfare
Yadidya Greenberg, The Jewish Initiative for Animals
Is shechita the most humane form of slaughter, or a cruel outdated practice that should be abolished? Join certified shochet and animal welfare specialist Yadidya Greenberg to learn all about the laws of kosher slaughter and the modern day welfare implications of this ancient practice.

Shavuos, Tehillim, and Us
Manya Ort, Mekor Habracha
We will explore Jewish texts to find an underlying connection between King David’s Psalms and our holiday of Shavuot.

And the Moral is, No matter what happens in life, there will always be room for whiskey
Erik Schneiman, Mekor Habracha
Our lives are like glass vases filled with many things; large stones are the meaningful things in life, smaller stones the lesser things, pebbles and sand part of the routine. When we fill the vase with large stones, that is what really matters; the smaller items just fill the space between the important. This is a philosophy class. Consumption of whiskey is optional.

The Kabbalah to Navigate your Inner World
Rabbi Hirshi Sputz, Chabad
Perhaps you have struggled before with the elusive search for meaning and wished you had a personal mentor to guide your growth. What if you had the chance to meet one of the greatest Jewish masters of Kabbalah and learn ancient proven strategies for self-realization and contentment? In this class you’ll have that chance. We will investigate the Tanya, the fundamental text of Chassidic, thought and learn some of the inspirational themes taught by the author of the Tanya, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi.

SESSION 4 – 2:40-3:40 am

Shavuot-prov: Laugh, Play and Loosen up!
Cantor Rebecca Carl and Sarah Fleischman
How often in your day to day life do you find yourself doing something unexpected,  something you were unprepared for? Improv is the art or act of improvising, or of composing, uttering, executing, or arranging anything 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, laugh, play, and possibly step outside of your comfort zone.

When the Prophecy Sucks: Biblical Reactions to Bad News
Tamar Fox, Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel
What if God spoke to you and told you something really terrible was going to happen? What would you do? In this class we will examine how different Biblical prophets—Moses, Jonah, and Jeremiah—reacted to a bad news prophecy. And we will ask big questions about how we want to react when we have a bad feeling about something that hasn’t happened yet.

Joshua, Israel and the Shavuot connection
Rabbi Eliezer Hirsch, Mekor Habracha
The amazing link between the story of the Jews entering the land of Israel for the first time and the holiday of Shavuot and its implications.

Discussion on John Lennon and the Jews, by Dr. Ze’ev Magen
Bat El Trabelsi, Shlicha, Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia
If you don’t know why you’re doing something, how will you make it successful, not to mention everlasting? The WHY is the question that will determine the fate of Israel and the Jewish people above all other questions, and John Lennon has something to tell you about it. Let’s read and talk!

SESSION 5 – 3:50-4:50 am

Shavuot : The Night of the Forbidden Texts
Rabbi Joshua Frankel
On Shavuot there are traditions to learn texts that are otherwise kept on the reserved shelf. We’ll take a peek at what these texts are, why we lock them up, and why we open them up tonight.

A Case for Shabbetai Tsevi
Chesky Kopel, Mekor Habracha
Why we should still care about a seventeenth-century failed messiah.

Building Inclusive Jewish Communities: From Welcoming the Stranger to Welcoming One Another
Mattea LeWitt, Heymish Minyan
Through text study and discussion, we’ll learn about historical perspectives on social interactions and relationships. We’ll also talk about ways to be welcoming to other people in our contemporary Jewish communities.