Bulletin Education Series: Opportunities abound for adult Jewish education in Ottawa

Michael Kent leads a JET class, July 7, during Yarchei Kallah, an intensive, week-long series of classes and seminars devoted to adult Jewish learning each summer. (Issue Scarowsky)

Michael Kent leads a JET class, July 7, during Yarchei Kallah, an intensive, week-long series of classes and seminars devoted to adult Jewish learning each summer. (Issue Scarowsky)

For many people, Jewish education remains a lifelong endeavour. Indeed, all of the the organizations offering adult Jewish education opportunities in Ottawa encourage lifelong learning. Louise Rachlis and Hannah Berdowski report.

The students are eager, and enrolment is growing in many of the adult Jewish education programs taking place in Ottawa area. The city boasts many opportunities for adult Jewish studies at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre (SJCC), at universities, various synagogues, and through organizations like JET (Jewish Education through Torah) and the Kollel of Ottawa.

As well, Limmud Ottawa offers an annual one-day festival of Jewish learning – this year Sunday, November 1 at the SJCC – at which a wide variety of topics are addressed. This year’s program has not yet been announced, but details will be available at www.limmudottawa.ca once they have been finalized.

The mission of Jewish education at the SJCC is “to explore Judaism as a civilization,” said Maxine Miska, the centre’s assistant executive director.

The program’s wide-ranging goals are to provide continuing education for adults; to serve inquisitive people seeking substantive educational rather than recreational classes; to offer an academically oriented curriculum taught by university professors and rabbis; to provide an inexpensive means for adults to study Hebrew; and to broaden the Jewish experience through history courses both on Judaism and Israel.

“Sometimes people have not engaged in Jewish education since youth. Their Jewish knowledge lacks an adult perspective,” said Miska. “Our goal is to provide the opportunity to develop Jewish literacy – to present Judaism for adult learners. We do not tell people what to believe or how to practise, but we provide tools and resources to be employed according to their needs.”

In addition to its in-house courses, the SJCC is bringing the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning back to Ottawa after an absence of five years. The Melton School, a project of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, operates in many cities around the world offering a two-year curriculum of courses for adults.

“It’s important that people come back to Jewish education and have an adult view of Judaism and the historical perspective,” said Miska. “It’s not something you learn as a kid. It enriches people’s lives.”

Visit http://tinyurl.com/SJCC-education for more information on adult Jewish education courses at the SJCC or contact Roslyn Wollock at rwollock@jccottawa.com or 613-798-9818, ext. 254.

JET (Jewish Education through Torah) offers a variety of adult education classes – some of them geared specifically to men or women – explained JET founder Rabbi Zischa Shaps.

“We believe that Jewish education does not end after the bar mitzvah or high school,” said Rabbi Shaps, “It’s a lifelong endeavour.”

JET classes are offered at a variety of locations in the city, including the SJCC and several synagogues, on such topics as Talmud, ethics, Torah and general Jewish life at various levels from beginners’ to advanced. JET also sponsors Yarchei Kallah, an intensive, week-long series of classes and seminars devoted to adult Jewish learning each July.

Over the past several years, JET programs for young professionals have been offered through its Glebe Shul program. Rabbi Yoey Shaps – son of JET founders Rabbi Zischa and Lauren Shaps – and his wife, Smin, took over direction of the Glebe Shul this summer and are currently developing the classes to be offered.

Rabbi Yoey Shaps noted that he and Smin will also make themselves available for “one-on-one learning” for anyone “interested in learning more about any Jewish topic.”

Visit www.jetottawa.com or call 613-695-4800 for information about JET classes or visit www.glebeshul.com or call 613-413-4939 for Glebe Shul programs.

Most of Ottawa’s congregations offer adult education programs.

“Education is an important component of Beit Tikvah,” said Rabbi Howard Finkelstein, who teaches weekly classes on Pirkei Avot and “Halachah and the Parsha” each week on Shabbat and on Gemara on Thursday evenings. As well, JET offers several of its courses at Beit Tikvah.

Congregation Beit Tikvah also hosts several Shabbatons over the course of the year with visiting scholars.

Visit www.cbto.org or call 613-723-1800 for information about adult education programs at Congregation Beit Tikvah.

Congregation Machzikei Hadas offers a variety of courses and lectures, said Stacey Goldstein, the congregation’s family and youth director, including weekly Torah and Talmud classes with Rabbi Idan Scher and Rabbi Reuven Bulka, and a Talmud class on weekdays at 6:20 am that studies a page of Talmud each day.

There are also several courses on various subjects offered on a seasonal basis throughout the year, including a course on the High Holidays that begins September 10 for four weekly sessions. As well, there are several ongoing classes for women, and special lectures throughout the year.

Visit www.cmhottawa.com or call 613-521-9700 for information about adult education programs at Congregation Machzikei Hadas.

Agudath Israel Congregation offers weekly courses with Rabbi Barry Schlesinger and special events with guest lecturers throughout the year, according to Hal Grossner, chair of the adult education committee.

Grossner noted that Agudath Israel will again collaborate with Congregation Machzikei Hadas on a four-part lecture series – this year on the theme of Jewish activism.

Visit www.agudath-israel.net or call 613-728-3501 for information about Agudath Israel’s adult education programs.

Cantor Daniel Benlolo of Congregation Beth Shalom said the congregation – at present operating on the Jewish Community Campus – currently offers a weekly Pirkei Avot class and will be offering a number of other adult education programs this coming year.

Cantor Benlolo added that, as the amalgamation with Agudath Israel Congregation set for next summer gets closer, he expects the two congregations will offer a number of joint adult education programs.

Call Congregation Beth Shalom at 613-789-3501 for information about adult education programs offered by Beth Shalom.

Among the adult education offerings at Temple Israel are Shabbat morning study sessions at 9 am before services with Rabbi Rob Morais, which focus on the Torah portion of the week, and a weekly Talmud study session with Rabbi Steven Garten on Wednesday afternoons.

Rabbi Morais will also be offering an adult bar and bat mitzvah program.

“It’s an opportunity for those who never had their bar or bat mitzvah or would like to celebrate theirs again,” said Rabbi Morais. It is a two-year program leading to the celebration of participants’ bar or bat mitzvahs.

Rabbi Morais said he is also planning a class for later in the year that will explore the prayer book by combining “the theological message the prayer book gives us with prayer choreography and skills.”

Visit www.templeisraelottawa.ca or call 613-224-1802 for more information about adult education programs at Temple Israel.

The Ottawa Torah Centre Chabad (OTC) offers a wide range of classes and study groups “and we are always open to hear of something of interest to somebody and [to] be there to offer the learning experience,” said Rabbi Menachem Blum, OTC director. Among the courses at OTC are Talmud study, Hebrew reading and holiday preparation.

In addition to its own courses, OTC also offers several courses each year under the auspices of the Jewish Learning Institute, a Chabad education initiative that offers the same courses at Chabad centres around the world taught by local Chabad rabbis. There are no prerequisites for these courses, which are open to adult learners of all levels, said Rabbi Blum.

Visit www.theotc.org or call 613-843-7770 for information about OTC adult education programs.

Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton said Or Haneshamah will be offering adult education courses this fall on the Reconstructionist approach to exploring Judaism and on Jewish meditation. Visit www.orh.ca or call 613-239-4988 for information on adult education programs at Or Haneshamah.

Young Israel of Ottawa’s adult education program currently centres on a Sunday morning breakfast and lecture series with Rabbi Ari Galandauer. Visit www.youngisrael.ottawa.on.ca or call 613-722-8394 for more information.

The Kollel of Ottawa offers several classes for men including a daily Talmud class that studies one page per day. Rabbi Yonah Burr said the Kollel also offers courses on halachah and one-on-one sessions. For more information, contact Rabbi Burr at rabbiyburr@gmail.com.

Earlier this year, Shaindel Simes launched the Women’s Centre for Advanced Torah Studies offering classes for women at the Simes home. For more information, contact Simes at 613-224-8791 or shaindelsimes@gmail.com.

Both Carleton University and the University of Ottawa have Jewish Studies programs that welcome participation of community members.

Adult learners who want to audit Jewish Studies courses at Carleton are welcome, explained Professor Deidre Butler, director of Carleton’s Max and Tessie Zelikovitz Centre for Jewish Studies.

Butler also noted that the Zelikovitz Centre does community outreach by presenting public lectures and workshops both on campus and at community events like Limmud.

Visit https://carleton.ca/jewishstudies/ for information on the Zelikovitz Centre for Jewish Studies and its programs and courses.

Courses offered in the Vered Jewish Canadian Studies program at the University of Ottawa are also open to community members, either for university credit, or to audit, said Professor Seymour Mayne, the program’s co-ordinator.

Visit http://arts.uottawa.ca/en/programs/vered-jewish-canadian-studies for information on the Vered Jewish Canadian Studies program and its courses.


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