Scolnic Institute Spring 2019 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 beginning its 41st year, the Institute has received national and international recognition. The Spring program, running for six weeks, comprises 11 six-week courses offered Wednesday evenings beginning February 27, and four six-week courses offered Tuesday mornings, beginning February 26. 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

Innovative Jewish Thinkers: Ahad  Ha’am

Instructor: Rabbi Greg Harris                                                                   Wednesday evening

Ahad Ha’am, born Asher Zvi Hirsch Ginsberg in Ukraine, is the father of ‘cultural Zionism’.  Before Herzl made his contributions to ‘political Zionism,’ Ha’am was struggling with the need for developing a central Jewish/Israeli ethos which would inspire modern Jews around the world.  The prominent scholar, Rabbi  Arthur Hertzburg describes Ha’am’s premise as: “The Jewish people had survived in the Diaspora…. by using religious law as the binding tie of community. Because that force was weakening in the modern era of disbelief, he said, religion no longer was preserving the Jewish people. Jews needed to find some other source of communal energy.”  Ha’am’s concerns and words continue to be relevant today.


Getting the Most out of Every Drop: The Creative Genius Behind Israel’s Water Management Advances

Instructor: Rabbi Emeritus William Rudolph and Guests                         Wednesday evening

We say that necessity is the mother of invention, and Israel is a great proof text. Its advances in technology have their genesis in the need to protect borders. Advances in water management spring from the same ingenuity being applied to the challenges of providing for a growing population with inadequate sources of fresh water and a semi-arid climate. This course will look at various solutions for Israel’s water needs that are not only working for Israel but being copied around the world, including drip irrigation, use of brackish water, desalinization, and reservoir creation. How these remedies were developed is a great story that helps us understand Israel in deeper ways.


Dying for God: Maccabees, Masada, and Martyrdom

Instructor: Rabbi Avis Miller                                       Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening                                       

In this course, we will explore the history of the ways Jews have practiced Kiddush HaShem, Sanctification of God's Name, by behaving ethically and more dramatically by dying as martyrs. As we study traditional texts, in translation, from each era of Jewish history, we will study the development of Jewish beliefs, liturgy, law, and lore about Kiddush HaShem. We will begin with Biblical and post-Biblical texts, and proceed to rabbinic, medieval, and modern times, including readings about the Maccabees, Masada, the Crusades, the Shoah, and modern Israel, with contemporary Islamic texts on jihad for comparison.


Borges and Kabbalah

Instructor: Dr. Saúl Sosnowski                                                                        Wednesday evening

The widely-acclaimed Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) was not a Kabbalist, nor did he subscribe to any belief system.  His fiction, essays, and even his poetry, probed and questioned every level of reality while seeking to grasp its very roots and the role literature (and the mind) play in unravelling its possible meanings. Borges was not Jewish (he spoke of some ancestry on the Acevedo side of the family) but he devoted many pages to Jewish issues, to Israel, and to the Kabbalah.  These are the texts we’ll explore in our course.



The Dreyfus Case: A Preview of 20th Century Politics and Antisemitism

Instructor: Dr. Naomi Daremblum                                                   Wednesday evening

The Dreyfus Affair was a turning point in French and European history when the challenges of modernity, the arrival of nationalism, and the rise of antisemitism hinted at the horrors of the coming 20th century. We will consider the historical and political context of France during the post-1871 era, emphasizing those factors which made her citizens vulnerable to an upsurge of political paranoia and religious bigotry. Against this background, we will analyze the wrongful conviction of officer Alfred Dreyfus for espionage on behalf of Germany in 1894 and how his Jewish identity came to be its central element. We will evaluate in depth the implications of this miscarriage of justice which took place with the knowledge and collusion of important members of the military and political hierarchy. Finally, we will examine how the ensuing division of French society into two rival camps became an enduring political legacy and preview of how nationalism and antisemitism thrived together, not just in France but in the whole of Europe.


Early Bible Translations and Their Impact on Our Understanding of the Text

Instructor: Gideon Amir                                            Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening

Studying early Biblical translations opens for us a window into the way the text was understood and interpreted in early times. In this course we shall look at the Septuagint, constituting the first translation from Hebrew to Greek and appearing in mid-3rd century BCE, and early translations into Aramaic (the spoken language of the time).  The Samaritan Torah as well as some later translations will also be examined. The review of such varied sources, all of which likely impacted historical understanding of Biblical texts, allows us to gain back important insight into the development of the Hebrew standardized Biblical text.

NOTE: This class will not meet Tuesday morning, February 26; classes will meet on subsequent Tuesdays from 11:10 AM to 12:10 PM. Registrants may attend another class of their choosing on February 26.


Rabbis in the Movies

Instructor: Hazzan Asa Fradkin                                                              Wednesday evening

Have you ever wondered about how Jewish clergy figures are portrayed in cinema? Be they caricature, historical, or comedic, what’s behind the portrayal of the Rabbis - and Cantors - in film. We will look at films like: Frisco Kid, Keeping the Faith, The Jazz Singer, A Serious Man and others, to explore attitudes about Jewish clergy in the film industry.


The Wizardry of (Amos) Oz Z”L: His Life and Literature

Instructor: Adjunct Rabbi Mindy Avra Portnoy    Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening

He was born in 1939 in Jerusalem as Amos Klausner but became known internationally as Amos Oz ("Oz", pronounced with a long "o", means "courage"), a writer from and about the kibbutz. His brilliant use of the Hebrew language brought him accolades, while his works were translated into more than 35 languages. He won almost every literary prize, except for the Nobel Prize in Literature. He was a proud Israeli, but not religious; a man who promoted peace and the 2-state solution, a founder of Peace Now, who engaged in dialogue with individuals of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and nationalities. In an interview in 2016, he told the British Guardian newspaper, "I love Israel, but I don't like it very much." In this course, we will examine Oz's life, with the focus among others on A Tale of Love and Darkness which became a movie in 2015; In the Land of Israel (1983); and The Same Sea, his own favorite book (1999); and if time permits, some excerpts from his other works, including My Michael (1968) and his final work, Dear Zealots (2017).


The State of Judaism in America: Present and Future

Instructors: Adjunct Rabbi Steve Glazer                                         Wednesday evening

Judaism in America currently faces multiple challenges that threaten its very continuity. In this course, we shall begin by reviewing the origins of American Judaism and its development through the 20th century. Then we shall examine the present condition of American Judaism - both its strengths and weaknesses - and conclude by exploring several possible scenarios for the future.


A Serpent in the Garden: Eden in Mythological and Literary Perspective

Instructor: Dr. Richard Lederman                   Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening

We all have come to know the message of the famous story in Genesis 2 and 3: the Fall of Man, his expulsion from an earthly paradise having been lured into sin by a female temptress and a cunning serpent. But this has not universally been the way the story has been interpreted. Indeed, there are some universal mythological and literary themes in this story: the creation of man and woman, the role of the female, earthly paradise, trees and serpents. Viewing the images of the Garden of Eden through this comparative mythological and literary lens, we may be able to discern some new and intriguing messages behind this most famous tale.


Becoming (and Unbecoming) Americans: Jews and Other Minorities in America
Instructor: Dr. Jerome Copulsky                                                                  Wednesday evening

Although the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits the establishment of a national religion and ensures American citizens the free exercise of religion, the process by which Jews, Catholics, and other religious minorities found their place in the American civil and political order was neither swift nor uncomplicated. American Jews faced social and political discrimination and sometimes violent antisemitism. Catholics were long suspected of being loyal to a foreign power (the Pope) bent on undermining the American democratic experiment. Mormons were feared to be establishing a theocracy in their territory. At times, all of these groups have been considered un-American and a danger to democracy and national security; over time, many have made their peace with Americanism, and have become incorporated into the nation’s spiritual landscape. In doing so, these communities moved from being suspicious outsiders to insiders. By the mid-twentieth century, Americans would speak of their "Judeo-Christian" heritage; this broad concept served to unite and motivate the country in its struggles against fascism, “godless Communism,” and now "radical Islamic terrorism.” 

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