Jewish Study Center - Washington, DC

Winter 2018 Class Descriptions



Wednesday Nights at Adas Israel Congregation

2850 Quebec St. NW (Metro: Cleveland Park—Red Line)

Co-Sponsored with Adas Israel Congregation

March 7 at 7:00 pm: Living in Israel Today - What’s happening at the Western Wall?


Instructor: Michele Sumka

The Kotel, or Western Wall, once represented common ground for all Jews, or so it seemed. But political disagreements have torn apart that onetime consensus. Many American Jews were outraged when a promised compromise fell apart that would have guaranteed pluralist, mixed-gender prayer at the Wall. Instead, the debate continues—and occasionally erupts. The instructor, a longtime member of Washington Friends of Women of the Wall, discusses recent developments and the outlook for resolution, if any.

Michele Sumka has been a participant in the Rosh Hodesh services at the Kotel a number of times, starting in December 1990. The most memorable incident was in July 2010, when she tried to help Anat Hoffman, the Chair of the Board, hold on to the Women of the Wall Torah, which was being grabbed from her by the police. She joined with other DC women in December 2012 to establish Washington friends of Women of the Wall. JSC, Adas members $15, others $20

All three sessions of Living in Israel Today (see above - Jan. 24, Feb. 14): JSC, Adas members $40, others $55



March 7, 14 at 8:15 pm: Untangling the Psalms


Instructor: Amy Schwartz

The 150 religious poems that make up the Book of Psalms are both strange and familiar, forming the backbone of our liturgy and of Christian liturgy as well. The metaphors are tangled, but the emotional states they express are as immediate now as when they were written. We will read, discuss and savor these texts and compare the versions that have come down through the centuries. Readings in English. Amy Schwartz is opinion editor of Moment Magazine and president of the Jewish Study Center.

JSC, Adas members $25, others $35


March 14 at 7:00 pm: Pollution, Climate Change, and Us: What Is Our Responsibility?


Instructor: Rabbi Aaron Alexander

Scientists tell us that power plant pollution and car exhaust contain toxic chemicals such as mercury, fine particulates, and gases that cause sicknesses to people around the world, including lung cancer, birth defects, and more—not to mention carbon pollution and climate change.

As Jews, how should we respond to these facts? What do the Sages say about responsibility for actions that may cause harm to others? Secular law may permit these activities even if the pollution is toxic and harmful to other people, but should there be an additional understanding of our responsibility as Jews? And what about the other side? Using electricity in our homes and shuls delivers great value, and we drive our cars for important and useful purposes. How does that factor into the equation?

Rabbi Aaron Alexander will lead the class through sources that put these questions in context and help us find our own informed answers. Adas Israel recently created a “climate team” of congregants with relevant expertise who may join the class and provide background.

Rabbi Aaron Alexander is a senior rabbi at Adas Israel.

JSC, Adas members $15, others $20



March 14 at 8:15 pm: Living in Israel Today: Day to Day on the Gaza Border


Instructor: Tzachi Levy, a thirteenth-generation native Israeli and the senior shaliach (Israeli cultural representative) of the Jewish Federation of the Greater Washington Area, has lived on many kibbutzim and helped establish one, Kibbutz Eshbal. He will his personal experience living in a kibbutz on the border with Gaza.
Tzachi Levy has served as shaliach in Pittsburgh, PA and in South Africa. His strong family roots and Zionist youth movement education were and are his motivation for working in the Jewish world.

2 sessions: Adas, JSC members $25, others $35

Single session: JSC, Adas members $15, others $20


March 21 at 7:00 pm: Book Talk: The Blessings in Conflict


Led by Betsy Strauss

Why does the Torah—a path to peace; a tree of life—begin with stories of violence and family conflict? Why does the Talmud preserve the arguments about the law that were rejected as well as those that prevailed? What does Judaism add to resolving or living with our everyday conflicts? The Blessings in Conflict reviews stories from the Torah and Talmud and suggests answers to these questions.
Betsy Strauss is an attorney and mediator. Her interest in resolving conflict has kept her out of the courtroom and led to certification as a professional mediator. This book grew out of the thesis she wrote at Hebrew College as part of her Masters in Jewish Studies degree. Betsy is a mother, grandmother, and active member of Adas Israel Congregation.

JSC, Adas members $15, others $20



March 21, 7-8:15pm - The Passover Story in the African American Community

(co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council)

Instructor:Rev. Timothy B. Warner

“Everyone is commanded to see himself as personally coming out of Egypt.” The narrative of the Exodus from Egypt has had a powerful resonance in the African American community from the earliest days of slavery through the civil rights movement and up to the present day. Please join us to hear the Rev. Timothy B. Warner, senior pastor of Emory Grove United Methodist Church in Gaithersburg and Mill Creek Parish UMC in Rockville, teach the meaning of this narrative for his community. Learn how this foundational story of the Jewish people has profoundly influenced the worldview of others.

JSC, Adas members $15, others $20


March 21 at 8:15 pm: A Taste of Wine and Text, Part II: Passover


Instructor: Norman Shore

As spring arrives, so does the Passover Seder—with its four cups, Elijah and spilling the wine as we recite the plagues. The Haggadah text will lead us to wine’s ritual uses at the Seder and also on Shabbat, holidays, simchas and sacrifices, and its connection with themes of redemption and celebration. (For themes of debauchery, idolatry and politics, see Part I: Purim, February 14.) Norman Shore is a teacher in the Washington-area Jewish community and a former Jewish Study Center president.
Single session: JSC, Adas members $15, others $20
With Part I (see Purim, Feb. 14): JSC, Adas members $25, others $35



Thursday Nights at Temple Rodef Shalom

2100 Westmoreland St., Falls Church, VA

Co-Sponsored by the JSC and the TRS Beit Midrash

Each class meets for three sessions: Jan. 18, 25, Feb. 1 at 7:00 p.m.

Gather at 6:30 p.m. for soup and sandwiches (yummy), classes are from 7:00 -8:30 p.m.

Cost for each three-session course is only $36 for members and $54 for non-members (additional support is provided by our Adult Education Fund)


Sign up now at


The Six-Day War: Narratives of Change - Israel at 70

What has been the impact of the Six-Day War both historically and on the modern State of Israel? Hear four different TRS member perspectives:

Gershon Feder will reflect on his experience as an Israeli Air Force Sergeant.

Ori Nir will speak about the impact of the war from his 24-year experience as a journalist focusing on Mideast policy, and spokesman for Americans for Peace Now.

Tammar Stein, author of the children’s book The Six-Day Hero, will reflect on her research and motivation for her book.
Hadar Golan, TRS Shlicha, will speak about the impact of the war on later generations.


Talmud Unwrapped - Clergy-Led

Rabbi Amy Schwartzman What makes the Talmud a timeless piece of wisdom and guidance? Explore the history, constructs and teachers of the Talmud as well as texts that speak to us. Each class will examine a technical aspect of Talmud and an engaging text.


From Klezmer to Tin Pan Alley - Cultural

Instructor: Seth Kibel

Klezmer, literally “tool of song,” is the secular folk music of the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe. In the first decades of the 1900s, this music flourished not only in the Old World but also in the immigrant community of New York City. There, the sounds of the European “fiddler on the roof” mixed with the sounds of early jazz and Tin Pan Alley. The result was a quintessentially American sound. This course will trace the history and evolution of this music, from the Old World to the New, up until the present day and the modern klezmer revival. Audio recordings and live performances from the instructor will make this class as exciting as the music itself.

Seth Kibel is one of the Mid-Atlantic’s premier woodwind specialists, wowing audiences on saxophone, clarinet, and flute. He is the featured performer with The Alexandria Kleztet, Bay Jazz Project, Music PilgrimTrio, The Natty Beaux, and more. He has won many awards, and the song “New Waltz” from his latest album “No Words” was the Grand Prize winner of 2016 Mid-Atlantic Song Contest (MASC), sponsored by the Songwriters’ Association of Washington (SAW).




Weather-Related Cancellations:
Classes may be canceled for the following reasons:

• The building is closed due to inclement weather.

• The teacher cannot make it to the class due to inclement weather.

• The teacher cannot make it to the class due to illness.

The easiest way to see if a class is canceled to inclement weather is to call the building where your class will be held:
Adas Israel Synagogue, (202) 362-4433

Temple Rodef Shalom, (703) 532-2217

Illness related Cancellations
If a class is canceled due to teacher illness we will notify you as soon as possible. Class sessions canceled due to weather will be rescheduled as soon as possible and when possible at the same place, time and day of the week as the original session.

Enrollment-Related Cancellations We request that you pre-register and pre-pay for the classes so we can inform you of any potential changes to the class. If there are no pre-registrations 24 hours before a class, that class may be canceled. If fewer than five students show up for a class’s first session, the instructor has the option of canceling the class after waiting 15 minutes. (However, many instructors choose to proceed.)
If your class is canceled due to under-enrollment prior to the first session, we will make every effort to inform you if you have signed up. Cancellations will also be posted on our web site. All advance cancellations will be posted by 12:00 p.m. the day of a scheduled program. We suggest you check our web site after 12:00 p.m. the day of your program to confirm your course status.


For information about rescheduled class sessions, refunds or other matters, please call (202) 332-1221) or message the Study Center at



Do you have an idea for a class? Contact the Study Center to make class suggestions.

Hebrew Classes:
For other levels of biblical and prayerbook Hebrew, contact Adas Israel Congregation for community classes.


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.....I REALLY enjoyed last Thursday's class. The challah had doubled in size by the time I arrived home!  I couldn't believe my eyes. I now understand why bread is used as a symbol of fellowship and life in both the Jewish and Christian traditions.  It truly is a miracle of life.  And the satisfaction I felt when I took the baked loaves out of the oven that night, it was indescribable. The only thing better was breaking that bread with friends on Shabbat and being told that it was delicious.  Maraming, maraming salamat (thank you very much) for this wonderful gift!
Warmest thanks, 
Tanya Lat (from the Philippines)


On behalf of Hill Havurah, we thank the Jewish Study Center for sending us Master Storyteller Bob Rovinsky, who enthralled our eight participants with his Tales from the Heart.  Bob was a terrific workshop leader who kept everyone's attention, even the two children who attended.  We all agreed that the Hill Center is, indeed, a lovely venue, and the room they gave us was perfect! Thanks again.  And we're looking forward to continuing collaboration.

Laurie Solnik for Hill Havurah


Thanks to the JSC, I became "Zahara"! I first took Judaism 101 at the JSC with Barbara White, because I wanted to learn more about my own heritage -- I was serving on the board of a Jewish organization and knew very little about Judaism due to my secular, interfaith upbringing. After that class, I was hooked. I went on to learn basic Hebrew so I could start to say the blessings. Then when I learned Barbara was hosting a Bat Mitvah class at Fabrangen, I signed up. At the ceremony two years later, I was called up to the bimah, using my new Hebrew name, Zahara Aviva. Later I even taught a JSC class on Jewish Poetry. I am grateful that the JSC has been there to guide me on my journey of learning and transformation.