Shavuot Schedule for 2019


Schedule is subject to change.


The topics and sessions below represent the diversity of our community. Views expressed by teachers are their own and do not reflect positions held by the Center City Kehillah as a whole. 

SHABBAT LEARNING – 8:00-9:00 pm

Who Gets to Learn? Hopes and Realities of Education Justice in Philadelphia
Rel Bogom-Shanon and Addye Susnick, Repair the World: Philadelphia
In this session, we will discuss access to education and barriers thereof by engaging in group discussions and learning more about the current state of education justice in Philadelphia. This session will involve opportunities to reflect on participants’ own educational experiences and will connect contemporary education justice to Jewish commentary on the value of universal education.

Disrupted Tradition: Great Leaders and the Students Who Failed to Learn From Them
Yoella Epstein, Mekor Habracha
Through Tanach and Talmud, we will explore instances where some of our beloved leaders failed to transmit their messages to the next generation. We will discuss lessons the past provides us about Jewish continuity today.

Transgender Identities and Inclusion in Jewish Spaces
Galia Godel, LGBTQ Initiative at Jewish Family and Children’s Service
We’ll begin with a text study on the Jewish values and laws that have to do with welcoming transgender and gender non-conforming community members, and move into a detailed breakdown of gender and sex, and our own relationships with those terms. Participants will learn about common transgender identities, best practices for sharing community spaces with trans folks, and how to change their own congregations and organizations to be more inclusive.

Meet me at the Mountain: An Hour of Soulful Singing
Hazzan Jessi Roemer, Society Hill Synagogue
Join us for a pre-chag sonic soul-soak to open our mouths, minds, and hearts towards a night of wonder at the foot of Mt. Sinai. In the liminal hour between Shabbat and Chag, we will immerse ourselves in song, creating a spontaneous chorus of voices that will rise up and lift us along with it. Those with no musical experience, those with a wealth of musical experience, and everyone in between are equally welcome!

Radical Amazement: We are Creation
Beverly Socher-Lerner, Makom Community
What does Jewish wisdom offer about the place of people in the world? How connected are we to nature? How much are we meant to control nature? What other models might exist for our relationship to nature? How might each of those models change our lives for the better?

Squirrel Hill, Poway, Yom Hashoa, Tisha B’Av–Jewish memory and trauma
Rabbi Avi Winokur, Society Hill Synagogue
Traditionally Jews have agglomerated traumas (Tisha B’Av is only one example) regardless of the dates of the actual traumas. Yom Hashoa, originally declared by the Israeli Rabbinate to attach to the traditional fast of he the 10th of Tevet, now has a stand alone date. How shall we remember contemporary traumas (e.g., 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre, as well)? Is the American experience of 9-11 instructive of how or how not to commemorate trauma as we negotiate our traditional Jewish and modern American ways of remembering?

On Top of Mt. Sinai
Cantor Rebecca Carl, Joan Fanwick – Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel, and Ayelet Seed – Mekor Habracha
Kids ages 4-12 are invited to join us for story, study, and an experiential learning adventure about the journey to the top of Mount Sinai and what we found (and still find!) at the top.

SHAVUOT SESSION 1 – 11:10 pm-12:00 am

Improvising with Pirkei Avot
Andrew Davies, The Bible Players
Come join as we wake up with improv comedy games as a way to explore teachings from Pirkei Avot. You’ll laugh, you’ll move around, and what better time to get out of your comfort zone than late at night!

What We Learn When We’re Asleep: Dreams in Jewish Law and Thought
Rabbanit Dasi Fruchter, South Philadelphia Shtiebel
From the disturbing to the holy to everything in between, this class will explore what role (if any!) dreams should play in our lives. We’ll start in the books of the Torah and move to rabbinic texts to explore this question. Falling asleep welcome; you will just be invited to share whatever dreams you happened to have!

The Ten Commandments – Were you there?
Rabbi Albert Gabbai, Congregation Mikveh Israel
We will explore the different understandings and versions of the giving of the Torah at Sinai. Be prepared to learn, question, challenge, and discuss this Epiphany.

How to Remember Rudolf Kastner
Chesky Kopel, Mekor Habracha
Critics of Rudolf Kastner claim he collaborated with the Nazis and helped seal the fate of Hungarian Jewry, while Kastner’s defenders respond that he saved thousands of Jewish lives despite unimaginable circumstances. We will discuss the contested, politicized legacy of this Labor Zionist figure and consider how it remains relevant today.

Inspiration and Aspiration: From Pesach to Shavuot
Shiri Mund, Mekor Habracha
Inspiration can be so fleeting–we experience brief moments of deep clarity and powerful motivation, but before we know it they tend to disappear. This session will explore why Torah suggests this might be the case and what Passover and Shavuot can teach us about harnessing this inspiration and realizing our potential.

Mental Illness in Jewish Life
Hannah Myers, Mekor Habracha
An overview of the opinions regarding stigma surrounding mental illness in the Jewish community.

The Revelation will be Personified
Rabbi Joel Seltzer, Camp Ramah in the Poconos
In this course we will explore how different Midrashim (rabbinic exegesis) imagined the moments of revelation at Mt. Sinai. What did they hear? To whom to God speak? How was the word of God received? By exploring the plurality of the midrash – perhaps we will discover a new revelation for ourselves.

SESSION 2 – 12:30-1:20 am

The Godliness of Jewish History
Matt Adler, Mekor Habracha
Even if you believe Torah literally, it doesn’t cover several thousand years of Jewish history. This class is about how the actual facts of Jewish life throughout the ages, even when contradicting Torah, can illuminate our spirituality.

What is happening to reproductive rights in this country?!
Tamar Fox – Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel, and Molly Wernick – Camp Galil
Jewish law famously recognizes the need for abortion, and in some cases even requires in. As states across the US move to make abortion difficult or impossible to obtain, we’re getting scared, sad, and angry. Come to this session to learn the basics about reproductive rights in Judaism, understand the strategies in place to help support abortion access, vent to others who are also freaking out, and find out what you can actually do to help support reproductive freedom in this country.

Don’t Tell Me How To Feel!: Responses to Biblical Commandments to Feel Feelings
Rabbi Nathan Kamesar, Society Hill Synagogue
Taken on its face, the Torah commands us to feel (or prevent ourselves from feeling) certain feelings: “You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart;” “You shall love the Lord your God;” “You shall not covet;” and others. If we want to give heft and meaning to these words, how do we interpret them?

Parameters of Philanthropy
Manya Ort, Mekor Habracha
How much, to whom, when? Let’s investigate the Torah’s system.

Jews in Sports-Baseball & Basketball and Other Sports Including Israel
Matthew Whitehorn, Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel
An examination of past and current stars focusing on recent accomplishments.

Chariots and Iron Chariots – Placing the Exodus in Ancient Egypt
Jacob Zemon, Mekor Habracha
Discussing the archaeological background of the Isrealites in Ancient Egypt, including clues as to when the Exodus occurred.

SESSION 3 – 1:30-2:20 am

Our Roots from Ruth
Dr. Saundra Sterling Epstein, Mekor Habracha
Using Baba Batra 91a – 91b as our text base and other sources, we will look at the rootedness of the importance of Ruth in terms of what we learn about her own beginnings, actions and eternal lessons. We will consider backgrounds that might be controversial, the importance of kind actions, legacies we leave and so much else, to be celebrated in our observance of Shavuot.

Magic, Witchcraft and Monsters through the Lens of Biblical Narrative
Oren Fishman, Minyan Tikvah
We’ll be exploring biblical perceptions of non-deical magic and the occult through the lens of biblical literary criticism. Texts sourced will be primarily from the Tanach, with additional materials from the Judeo-Apocrypha.

Better Not to be Born?
Rabbi Abe Friedman, Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel
The Talmud famously says the opinions of Hillel and Shammai are both “words of the Living God” – but less well known is the question at the heart of the debate: Would it be better for us never to have been born? We will search for comfort and inspiration in this seemingly bleak question.

Niggun Share
Mattea LeWitt, Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel
Come sing niggunim (wordless melodies)! We’ll share traditional and contemporary tunes.

Let There be Laughter
Jerry Silverman, Congregation Rodeph Shalom
They say Jews have the best sense of humor, so come and prove it. Bring your favorite stories or jokes (even bawdy ones will be acceptable…this is a PG-13 session). If you have nothing funny to share, you can still attend……Jokes will be provided for the humor-impaired!

SESSION 4 – 2:50-3:40 am

The Warmth of Other Suns: What does Judaism Say about Extraterrestrial Life?
Christine Cook-Schwartz, Germantown Jewish Centre
In this text based discussion, we will explore the both the Jewish and scientific possibility of the existence of extraterrestrial life, and the implications such research could have. (Space suits are optional.)

Puns and Moses: Wordplay and Gematria imply Hebrew is an Invented Language
Marc Egeth, Center City Kehillah
Pangrams, anagrams, acrostics, rebuses, geometry, numbers, stars, pyramids, puns, permutations and combinations and self-referential recursion. A series of unusual facts about the Hebrew in the Torah has a single, simple explanation: the language was designed to play word games.

Is it Kosher or Nat? The halachot of Nat bar Nat D’Heteira (Dairy or Meat Equipment)
Rabbi Eliezer Hirsch, Mekor Habracha
We will discuss the rules regarding equipment or utensils that have been used for dairy or meat, and the ramifications for the kitchen, restaurants and packaged food products.

Improvisational Theater and Torah
Rebecca Somach, Mekor Habracha
Do theater and Torah share ideas with one another? Get on your feet, play some improv games and find out!

SESSION 5 – 3:50-4:40 am

Middos. Torah and Character.
Nick Adler, Mekor Habracha
Jewish view of man’s nature and goal to strive towards becoming more G-d-like.

Egyptian Jews and Israel in the 20th Century
Dr. Alon Tam, Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies
In this talk, we will learn about the surprising historical connections between the Jewish community in Egypt and Israel, both before and after its establishment

The Omer: Anticipation as Spiritual Practice
Rabbi Marley Weiner, Hillel at Binghamton
Unlike many mitzvot, which happen at a very discrete time or place, the mitzvah of counting the omer takes forty nine days to complete. Why stretch a mitzvah out for so long? What spiritual benefits can be found within the practice of omer counting?