Scolnic Institute Fall 2018 Registration

About the Scolnic Institute
The Rabbi Samuel Scolnic Adult Institute, founded in 1977 in memory of Saul Bendit, is one of the leading synagogue-based adult education programs in the Washington, DC area. Now in its 41st year, the Institute has received national and international recognition. The Fall program, running for six weeks, comprises 11 courses offered Wednesday evenings beginning October 10, and four classes offered Tuesday mornings, beginning October 9. We are confident that you will find the courses interesting and informative.

Class Schedule
Wednesday evening, session 1: 7:30-8:20 pm
Wednesday evening, session 2: 8:40-9:30 pm (after evening minyan)
Tuesday morning, session 1: 10:00-10:50 am
Tuesday morning, session 2: 11:10 am-noon
Class Descriptions

Mezuzah, Tefilin, and Sefer Torah

Instructor: Rabbi Fabián Werbin                                                   Wednesday evening

We will be learning about these central objects of the Jewish traditions. How did they develop? How are they kosher? Few of us are aware of the foundations, evolution, traditions, and care of these sacred items, extending from the Dead Sea Scrolls to the present.  Following an introduction and discussion of the historical background, including using sample objects, we will consider these and other questions:  Why it is so important that no letters are missing? Why are there different fonts, sizes and marks in a Torah scroll? Can we make a parchment of the mezuzah part of the Torah or vice versa? What is inside a tefilin? What are the letters in the back of the mezuzah parchment? These intriguing questions that rabbis are often asked will be answered in this class. We will also dive into the world of the Dead Sea scrolls to explain the differences between the contemporary tefilin and the ancient ones found in the Scrolls.



The Yiddish Theatre :  Alive and Well

Instructor: Hazzan Emeritus Abraham Lubin         Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening

This course offers an exploration and illustration of the world of the Yiddish Theatre. With the use of rare film footage, DVDs, CDs and a live performance, this genre of Jewish culture will come alive.  Archival material from the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, and a live performance by a guest cantorial colleague who appeared in the Warsaw Yiddish Theatre and the New York Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, will truly bring this course to life. This course continues Hazzan Lubin’s exploration of the world of American Jewish cultural history.


Evolution and Cultural Influences upon Jewish Prayer:

Liturgical Midrash

Instructor: Rabbi David Abramson                                 Wednesday evening                                       

Join Rabbi Abramson for an intriguing exploration of the process by which biblical passages have been altered in Jewish prayer, and by which our traditional prayers themselves have evolved. Why did the Rabbis chop in half a verse in Exodus, describing God’s attributes of mercy?  Why was Jeremiah’s “heal me, Adonai, and I shall be healed” altered when it was inserted into the Amidah? Why did the American Conservative Movement opt to replace the traditional b’rakhah, recited by Jewish men, thanking God “who has not made me a woman?”  Should we feel uncomfortable with the gratitude expressed by Aleinu—thanking God, “who did not make us like the other nations of the lands, and did not place us like the families of the earth?”


History of Israel: 1979 to the Present

Instructor: Eric Gartman                                                                      Wednesday evening

Want to learn more about present-day Israel? In this class we will examine the last few decades of Israel's turbulent history, from the aftermath of the Camp David accords to the present day, using a slideshow presentation to augment the lecture and discussion. Topics will include Israel's various wars, the peace process, and the first and second Intifadas. This course will be based on Eric Gartman's book Return To Zion: The History of Modern Israel.


Prophecy and the End of Days: Book of Daniel

Instructor: Gideon Amir                                            Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening

The Book of Daniel is a prophecy of history and a study of the “end of days.” Influenced by latter Biblical stories including the story of Joseph, it contains a message specific to its time.  This course begins with an introduction with historical background for the Book.  We will examine the first six chapters, telling the story of Daniel, and then review the last six chapters which describe Daniel’s amazing visions for the Messianic Era.


Latin American Jewish Literature

Instructor: Dr. Saúl Sosnowski                                                                      Wednesday evening

By now there is a very substantial corpus of novels, short stories and poetry that fit this category.  Most, given demographics, come from Argentina, but significant contributions also have been made by authors from Uruguay, México, Perú, and Brazil. The course will begin with the text that serves as background for this literature: Alberto Gerchunoff's The Jewish Gauchos of the Pampas (1910). These gauchos were Jewish immigrants who settled and worked in Argentine agricultural colonies. Then we will move to more contemporary texts that address issues of identity, tradition, acculturation, and insertion into history and politics.


Innovative Jewish Thinkers: Eliezer ben Yehuda

Instructor: Rabbi Greg Harris                                                                      Wednesday evening

Eliezer ben Yehuda is considered the father of modern Hebrew.  Born in the mid 19th century within the Russian Empire, he was a Zionist leader determined to shape the character of the Jewish people through language.  While others focused on sovereignty and the politics of land, ben Yehuda was focused on reviving a language (rather than Yiddish and separate dialects) which would unify the Jewish people.  His vision looked beyond nationalism and saw peoplehood.


Jewish Comedians from the 1940s On

Instructor: Hazzan Asa Fradkin                                                                    Wednesday evening

Jews have long had a special relationship with comedy. They have dominated the comedy landscape, including vaudeville, stand-up, television, and the borscht belt. Is this special relationship because of our painful history? Is it cultural or just a genetic gift? We will examine Jewish comedians era by era. Come find out the hidden stories of some of our greatest comedians including, for example, Milton Berle, Groucho Marx, Mel Brooks, Jack Benny, Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Gilda Radner, Lenny Bruce, Carl Reiner, Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart, Amy Schumer, and many more.


Jewish Lyricists and the “Golden Age of American Popular Song”

Instructors: Henry Kahn and Andrew Zatman                                           Wednesday evening

Jewish composers and lyricists wrote most of the iconic songs of the “Golden Age of American Popular Song,” which was roughly 1910 to 1960.  These songs, written by immigrants or children of immigrants for Tin Pan Alley, Broadway and Hollywood, became a distinctly American art form, this musical genre eventually referred to as The Great American Songbook. We will examine songwriting from the perspective of the lyricist, focusing on how different lyricists approached writing songs and collaborating with composers, the Jewish backgrounds of most of the lyricists, and the Jewish content in a number of songs. Lyricists to be considered include Irving Berlin, Lorenz Hart, Ira Gershwin, Dorothy Fields, Cole Porter, and Oscar Hammerstein. Musical examples in live performance will be featured.


Portnoy on “Portnoy”: Discussing Philip Roth z”l

Instructor: Rabbi Mindy Avra Portnoy       Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening

"Portnoy" is the Russian word for "tailor", but the late writer Philip Roth changed its meaning forever when he published the best-selling book Portnoy's Complaint in 1969. This class will focus on the life and works of Roth. Our study will highlight the different stages of his life and writings beginning with Goodbye Columbus (1959) and continuing until Nemesis (2010). Themes will include: Jews in America, families, mortality, sex and love, politics, as well as his views of women, his love of baseball, and his attachment to Newark. We will also discuss some of the reactions to his award-winning work, especially in the Jewish community.  The reading of Goodbye Columbus or Portnoy's Complaint before the first session is recommended, but not required. 


Who Wrote the Bible?

Instructor: Dr. Richard Lederman                           Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening

While the traditional approach insists that the Bible is the revealed word of God, modern scholarship has demonstrated that the Bible is the product of the inspired poets, priests, prophets, and scribes of ancient Israel. It is a multivocal text, reflecting the myriad social, political and religious circles within ancient Israelite society. Finally, tracing the evolution of the Biblical text reveals the evolution of ancient Israelite history, society, and theology.

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