Learning with Limud
Mishnah Yomit, following Kiddush lunch, 1:00 pm. Will continue throughout the summer. Completion of the full mishnah is scheduled for the end of July, followed by a community siyyum and celebration on Saturday, August 3rd.
Hebrew Ulpan (beginner, intermediate and advanced), with Miri Ben Avi. Evenings. Private tutoring available throughout the summer. Contact Miri at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, June 6
Parashat HaShavua, with Rabbi Sirner, 1:00 pm
Saturday, June 8
Shabbat Discussion, with Jack Gruenberg, 10:30 am
Saturday, June 22
Shabbat Discussion, with Jack Gruenberg, 10:30 am
Adult Learning at Beth El
A Conversation with Rabbi Joshua Dorsch
On July 1st, Rabbi Joshua Dorsch will formally assume responsibilities as Beth El’s director of Congregational Learning. For almost a year prior to this formality, without benefit of title (neither “director” nor “rabbi”), Rabbi Josh has been keenly present at Beth El—meeting congregants, conferring with staff members, program planning with his colleagues, and studying with Rabbi Sirner, who, Rabbi Josh quietly notes, he is honored to call his mentor.
Once fully on board, Rabbi Josh, who received his Jewish Theological Seminary ordination on May 23rd, will assume oversight responsibility for congregational learning across all levels, from Nursery School students to adult learners. Limud Committee member Nina Luban recently spoke with Rabbi Dorsch about his vision for adult learning at Beth El.
Here it is, well before your July 1st start date, but you’ve already been actively involved at Beth El for months—on the bimah, at your desk, in the classroom. Has your involvement included adult education?
Yes! I’ve been teaching a Talmud class on Thursday evenings to an eager group of adult learners. Some are beginners, others are highly knowledgeable, and all are a pleasure to work with. We study together in English from the first of the Talmud’s sixty tractates, Berakhot. It’s from the newly published Steinsaltz edition of the Talmud. I love studying Talmud; it was among my favorite areas of study at the Seminary—Talmud and midrash, two passions.
You know, Talmud study is more than a study of content. It’s also an exercise in logic, process, and thinking skills. Studying Berakhot frequently focuses on logic and process. Next year, I’d like to “reboot” the Talmud class with the study of tractate Shabbat. That tractate will provide more opportunity to lose ourselves in content study. I look forward to studying with both new and returning students. Since I’ll be at Beth El full time, the Talmud class will be able to meet more frequently and with greater regularity than this year.
In between your Seminary work and your work here at the synagogue, have you had any opportunity to ponder the future of adult learning at Beth El? If so, can you share a little of your vision?
Certainly. In fact, I’ve had a terrific time with Hazzan Gloth, “envisioning” some interesting, new programming.
Beth El already has a number of established classes on weekdays and Shabbat, some running successfully for years, and a lively tradition of workshop formats that address holidays, rituals, and other fundamentals of Judaism. Continuing and sharpening all of these tools to facilitate meaning , particularly to foster Judaism in the home, is a high priority.
We are very lucky to be almost a stone’s throw from the Seminary, where I have spent the better part of nine years studying. During my time there, I have studied with Conservative Judaism’s visionaries. Their words are well worth sharing, and that is exactly what I hope to do—bring one or more of the Seminary’s visionary leadership to speak at Beth El.
But we know that not everyone enjoys traditional classroom or lecture learning. For some of those individuals, perhaps a “breakfast club”—studying more informally once a week, say, after minyan—would be more attractive.
And even more informally, Hazzan Gloth and I have been imagining ways to infuse educational opportunities into social settings (and I understand that Beth El has quite an active social life!).
How about: Poker and Parshah? Hoops and Haftarah? Torah on Tap? We kid you not!
This is but an initial foray into adult education planning here at Beth El. I look forward to the input of all who have a stake in the outcome, and that means every adult member of the synagogue.
I know you have papers to write and finals to take, so, with grateful thanks for your time, we will end our discussion here. Do you have any final words about coming to Beth El?
I feel as though I’ve hit the jackpot! I’ve been welcomed into a vibrant, growing Jewish community that appears to have something for everyone. I’ve been learning and prepping for this for a long time. I feel as though I’ve been in Little League and have, finally, been called up to the Big League. I am blessed to be doing what I love to do. Can you imagine—some mornings I start work sitting on a Nursery School classroom floor talking about Shabbat with the children and end the day studying Talmud with my peers. It’s everything I could ever have dreamed of— and more.