Jewish Study Center - Washington, DC

Spring 2018 Class Descriptions



Wednesday Nights at Adas Israel Congregation

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

Co-Sponsored with Adas Israel Congregation


April 18 at 7 p.m. - Telling Our Stories: American Jewish Museums


Instructor: Avi Decter

Everyone loves a visit to a Jewish museum, but how did those museums come to exist? This class will explore the history, missions, and practice of Jewish museums in America over the past 125 years and try to forecast their future. We will pay special attention to Jewish museums as reflective of broad social, cultural, intellectual, and institutional trends in American and American Jewish life.

Avi Decter was the first professional director of the Museum of American Jewish History (now the National Museum of American Jewish History) and in 1977 was a founder of the Council of American Jewish Museums (CAJM). He served as interpretive planner for core exhibitions at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and The Jewish Museum in New York. Under his direction, the Jewish Museum of Maryland won four Awards of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History. Among his many books are Interpreting American Jewish History at Museums and Historic Sites (2016) and his current project, Exploring American Jewish History through 50 American Treasures, to be published in 2020.


JSC, Adas members $15, others $20 (S-1)



April 18 at 8:15 p.m. - Jews in D.C.: The Numbers and What They Mean:Discussing the Brandeis Study


Instructor: Calvin Goldscheider

A new demographic study from Brandeis University recently offered evidence that the Washington, D.C. area is home to the third-largest Jewish community in the country, that more Jews live in Northern Virginia than in the Maryland suburbs and that a large proportion of these Jews do not affiliate with traditional structures. What do these findings—some surprising, some familiar—mean for the future of Jews and Jewish institutions in Washington, from the mightiest congregations down to the tiny Jewish Study Center? The instructor, a noted demographer of the Jewish community, will lead a freewheeling discussion of possible policy implications and communal changes.

Calvin Goldscheider is Ungerleider Professor of Judaic Studies, professor of sociology, and a faculty fellow at the Population Studies and Training Center at Brown University. He is the author of many books focusing on family and demographic issues within the Jewish community, including Israel’s Changing Society: Population, Ethnicity, and Development; The Arab Israeli Conflict; and Jewish Continuity and Change.


JSC, Adas members $15, others $20 (S-2)


April 25 at 7 p.m. - The Psalms in Words and Music Psalm 100: Exploring of the Relationship of Sacred Music and Text


Instructor: Cantor Arianne Brown

How do various musical settings of Psalm 100 highlight various aspects of the text? We will study the psalm and listen to different compositions spanning genres to include Hazzanut (cantorial singing), art song, church music, and folk songs. As a group, we will discuss the various ways these works influence our understanding and internalization of this powerful psalm.

Arianne (Ari) Brown is the cantor at Adas Israel Congregation. Fluent in Hebrew and Yiddish, Cantor Brown is an expert Torah and Megillah reader, pianist, composer and arranger, and theatre director. A renowned specialist in Yiddish music, Cantor Brown has performed in off-Broadway productions of the Folksbiene Yiddish Theater and in many concert venues.

JSC, Adas members $15, others $20 (S-3a)


April 25 at 8:15 p.m. - Does Israel Have Its Own Cuisine?


Instructor: Itsik Sayag
There is the Jewish kitchen, and there is Mediterranean cuisine, but many food researchers claim that there is no such thing as Israeli cuisine. Can it be true that a 70-year-old country is still unable to create its identity through food? If the Italian pizza, the German burger and French fries became the American food flag, what are the most prominent foods and values in Israeli cuisine, and how have they become so loved by Israelis?

Itsik Sayag is the shaliach (Israeli cultural ambassador) to Beth El Congregation and the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School. Born and raised in Tel Aviv, he is the youngest of five brothers and sisters whose parents came to Israel from Syria.

JSC, Adas members $15, others $20 (S-4)



May 2 at 7 p.m. - Jews, India and Bollywood: A Discussion

(See the Film Festival’s related movies, May 7 or 12)

Instructors: Kenneth X. Robbins and Thomas Timberg

Jews have a long and complex history in India, with disproportionate influence in spheres ranging from the military to Bollywood (as a related offering in the Washington Jewish Film Fest examines in fascinating detail). The instructors will lead a wide-ranging discussion of the influence of Jewish culture on Indian culture and vice versa.

Members of this class will receive an extra discount for the Washington Jewish Film Festival’s related movie Shalom Bollywood: The Untold Story of Indian Cinema (May 7 and 12) and/or Shree 420 (May 12) and may choose to attend and discuss it as a group. Tickets at

Dr. Kenneth X. Robbins is a collector of South Asian art and the author of Western Jews in India: From the Fifteenth Century to the Present (2013) and the editor, with Marvin Tokayer, of Jews and the Indian National Art Project (2015).

Dr. Thomas Timberg is the editor of a 1985 volume on Jews of India and of several articles on the so-called Baghdadi Jewish community of India, most recently a review of the diaries of Sir E.V. Sassoon, Bt (1881-1961), a prominent Mumbai businessman.

JSC, Adas members $15, others $20 (S-5)


May 2 at 8:15 p.m. - How World War I Changed the Jewish World


Instructor: Marsha L. Rozenblit

World War I had a dramatic impact on the Jews of Europe, the Middle East, and America. This class will explore how Jews used the war to demonstrate their patriotism and loyalty, to combat anti-Semitic myths about Jewish cowardice, and to advance particular Jewish agendas. The strengthening of nationalism during the war and the redrawing of the maps of Europe and the Middle East in its aftermath had profound effects on Jewish life, fostering more modern and secular currents while strengthening international Jewish solidarity and Jewish nationalism—both Zionist and non-Zionist—in ways that still resonate today.


Marsha L. Rozenblit is the Harvey M. Meyerhoff Professor of Jewish History at the University of Maryland, College Park and is the author of Reconstructing a National Identity: The Jews of Habsburg Austria During World War I (2001) and Jews and World War I: Conflict and Transformation in Europe, the Middle East and America, edited with Jonathan Karp (2017).

JSC, Adas members $15, others $20 (S-6)


May 9 at 7:00 p.m. - Beyond the Headlines: The Global Refugee Crisis through a Jewish Lens

(Co-sponsored with HIAS)


Instructor: Rabbi Rachel Grant Meyer

Over the past year, the number of refugees and displaced people across the world has grown to more than 65 million—more than at any other time in history. Because of our history and our values, the Jewish people have a unique connection to these most vulnerable people. In this session, we’ll explore the current crisis and its connections to Jewish history, as well as examining and discussing Jewish texts connected to the value of welcoming the stranger.

Rabbi Rachel Grant Meyer serves as Director of Education for Community Engagement for HIAS, which works to help refugees and to connect the plight of contemporary refugees to Jewish values and history. J

SC, Adas members $15, others $20 (S-7) Class members will receive discounts on films about refugees at the Washington Jewish Film Festival (



May 16 at 7:00 p.m - What Is a Jewish Book? A Discussion


Instructor: Marilyn Cooper

What makes a book Jewish? Must a Jewish book be written by a Jewish author? Join cultural editor

Marilyn Cooper for a lively class about Jewish identity and books. What are the books that most influenced your Jewish identity?


Marilyn Cooper, a Washington-based writer and poet, is the culture editor for Moment Magazine. She formerly worked at NASA as a public historian and has also been a consultant for a variety of nonprofits in the D.C. area.

JSC, Adas members $15, others $20 (S-8)



May 16 at 8:15 p.m. - Chaim Grade: Intellectual Life in Vilna Between the Wars

Instructor: Thomas Timberg

Chaim Grade, arguably the greatest Yiddish writer of the 20th century, documented the intellectual life of all the major cultural streams that existed in Vilna, the great cultural capital of European Jewry, between World Wars I and II. Since the crosscurrents at play there are still all with us, turning to his works enables us to understand where many of the main elements of modern Jewish thought come from, particularly in Orthodox/Haredi culture. We’ll use archival material to look specifically at three areas: religious Zionism versus its religious opponents, American versus Eastern European yeshivas, and relationships between Yiddish and Polish modernism.

Thomas Timberg
is an economist and historian.
JSC, Adas members $15, others $20 (S-9)



May 23, 30, at 8:15 p.m. - Untangling the Psalms


Instructor: Amy Schwartz
The metaphors in the Book of Psalms are tangled, but the emotional states they express are as immediate now as when they were written. These 150 religious poems form the backbone of the liturgy. 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. (S-3b,c) All three Psalms sessions: $40/$55 (S-3a,b,c)



May 23, 30, June 6 - Synagogue Skills


An Introduction to Leyning, 7:00 p.m. (S-11a)
A Taste of Zmirot, 8:15 p.m. (S-11b)
These classes are for anyone who wants to learn to read Torah or to freshen up his or her Shabbat table with tunes. By special arrangement, the leyning class may be extended past the end of the semester.
Adas, JSC members $15/session, others $20. Both sessions: $25/$35 (S-11a,b)




June 6 at 8:15 p.m. - The Balance of Buddhism: What Everyone Should Know (Part II)


Instructor: Matthew Regan

Buddhism is a complex spiritual tradition with more than two and a half millennia of history. Its influence reaches millions of Buddhists and countless more nonBuddhists in the modern world and has deeply shaped the cultures of Asia. In this session, we will continue to explore the outline of Buddhist history, philosophy, and practice to better understand this complex and diverse tradition. ***Note: This class is rescheduled from the winter semester.

Matt Regan is the secretary of the International Buddhist Committee of Washington, DC, an umbrella group for local Buddhist organizations dedicated to inter-Buddhist and interfaith cooperation. Matt served on the organizing committee for the Dalai Lama’s 2011 visit to Washington and completed seminary training in the Taego Order of Korean Zen.


JSC, Adas members $15, others $20 (S-10)


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 6:15 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


Choose one of the following 3-session courses:

Jerusalem: Celebrating 50 Years Since Reunification

Featuring Yahal Porat – Assistant Director of Israel Fellows Program, Avi West – Master Educator DC Federation, and a guest professor. “Of the 10 measures of beauty that God bestowed upon the world, nine of these fall to the lot of Jerusalem.” (Talmud) Explore Jerusalem from three unique perspectives: its history, its cultures, and through ancient and modern poetry.


The Jewish Presence in Early Jazz

Rob Bamberger - creator, producer, and host of WAMU’s vintage jazz show, Hot Jazz Saturday Night, which began airing in 1980. Jazz became America’s “popular” music in the 1920s and 1930s. What role did Jews play in the emergence of “hot” jazz and swing? Did self-identification as a Jew play a discernible role? What affinities were there between Jewish and black jazz musicians? Presentations will explore these and other themes through biographical sketches, recordings, and repertoire of, among others, jazz musicians Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Slim Gaillard, Ted Lewis, Willie the Lion Smith, and entertainers such as Al Jolson.


Jews in Blues: Judaism and Law Enforcement

Cantor Michael Shochet- If you thought that law enforcement is no place for a Jew, think again! Our own Cantor Shochet, former police officer and current police chaplain, will examine the historical and Biblical role of Jews in law enforcement. Each class will also feature a guest Jewish local or federal law enforcement officer speaking to ways in which Judaism informs their work, and ways in which being Jewish has helped and/or hindered doing their job.


Judaism at the Core

Cantor Allen Leider - What ideas really lie at the heart of Judaism? Explore or re-explore the core of Jewish tradition from a contemporary perspective. All are welcome - Jewish or not. This course covers the topics of God and spirituality, Torah and values, and Israel and community. We’ll apply Jewish ideas to our personal, family, and professional lives through discussion and the use of texts.





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.


Archived list of 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.