Scolnic Institute Fall 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 42nd year, the Insti-tute has received national and international recognition. The Fall program, running for six weeks, comprises 10 courses offered Wednesday evenings beginning October 30, and four classes offered Tuesday mornings, beginning October 29. 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

The Jewish Wedding

Instructor: Rabbi Fabián Werbin, Wednesday evening

What happens under the Chuppah is more than the “breaking of the glass.” It is a connection to God, our history, and our Jewish diversity. Most of us are moved by its traditions, customs, and halachot that make it a profound, awesome, interesting, and complex ceremony. We will learn about the different steps of the wedding, the legal requirements, the origin of the customs, the similarities with other Jewish rituals and more.


Observing Shabbat at Home

Instructor: Rabbi Avis Miller, Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening

This course will explore the history, development, and contemporary meaning of the home rituals of Shabbat, from candle lighting through Havdalah. Why do we say “who had commanded us to light” the Shabbat candles and where is it found? Why wave hands three times and cover our eyes? May a man light candles? What are we really doing when we “bless” our children? How does this relate to the original purpose of the “priestly blessing”? Why does Birkat Hamazon need to be so much longer than “rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub, Yay God!” We also will discuss the evolution of Shabbat observance, such as use of Shabbat timers/elevators, whether it is OK to use e-readers on Shabbat, and why we sing Eliyahu Ha-navi as part of Havdalah.


Reinterpreting Biblical Stories: Comparing Josephus and The Quran

Instructor: Gideon Amir, Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening

It is fascinating to look at authors who retell the Biblical stories (in particular, the Torah stories) that we are all familiar with. We will look at the way Josephus Flavius, a Jewish historian of the first century, retells the Biblical stories in his book, The Antiquities of the Jews, and compare it with the way the Quran retells these stories 500 years later. At the time of Josephus, the Jewish Midrash had not been developed yet and therefore could not have influenced his writings. By the time Muhammad retells the stories and tailors them to his theology, the impact of Jewish Midrash is substantial. What was Josephus’ motivation? Was he writing to defend Judaism? Was he writing as a polemic with Jewish tradition? What were the sources for Muhammad’s knowledge of the Bible? How is Midrash reflected in Muhammad’s version of the stories?

A New Fascism?

Instructor: Dr. Naomi Daremblum, Wednesday evening

The recent rise and increasing popularity/power of neo-fascist movements in Europe are disturbing. Are these a revival of the fascism of the 1920s and 1930s? Do they represent a coherent new ideology or are they simply a rebranded version of the historical model? What is the relationship between the rise of anti-Semitism and the power of these movements? We will begin with a consideration of basic conceptual issues related to fascism, 21st century sovereignty, modernity, and a comparison to the fascist movements of the twenties and thirties. Next we will explore these groups’ intellectual origins, their reach and the scope as well as their embrace of political violence, anti-Semitism and totalitarian models. We will look at particular cases including France, Austria, Norway, Hungary, and Poland, compare them to note any similarities and differences, and explore what each national experience can illuminate about the rise of these movements.


Perspectives on Aging and Sage-ing

Instructor: Rabbi Evan Krame, Wednesday evening

Getting older can either be scary or an opportunity. Jewish tradition offers deep insights into how we can live our best lives even as we age. As we study texts together and share our thoughts, we transform our ageing into sage-ing. The goal of the class will be to define your legacy of wisdom to share it with the ones you love.


Davening with the Divine

Instructor: Hazzan Asa Fradkin, Wednesday evening

There was a time when the cantors were not only facilitators of prayer, but the vessel through which all the Jewish people sent their most fervent desires. Each had a unique style, a way of approaching their davening, that transcended the text and took people to a different spiritual plane. In this course, we will explore the styles of great Hazzanim including Rosenblatt, Koussevitzky, Oysher and others. Lectures will be illustrated with audio and visual musical examples.

The Two Ayelets: Ayelet Tsabari and Ayelet Gundar-Goshen: Contemporary Female Israeli Writers

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

Books of a new generation of Israeli writers are becoming available in English. We will focus on two Ayelets (connected only by their identical first names). Both writers deal with the feelings and experiences of being both “outsiders” and “insiders” at the same time. First, we will discuss Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, a clinical psychologist and writer (born in 1982), whose works include: One Night, Markovich (2012); Waking Lions (2014); and Liar (2018). Then we will look at Ayelet Tsabari, a journalist and writer (born in 1973), an Israeli of Yemenite background, whose works include: The Best Place on Earth (2013; published in the U.S. in 2016) and The Art of Leaving (2019). No prerequisite reading is required for this course, although the reading of Waking Lions and The Best Place on Earth would enrich one’s experience of the classes.


Our Talmudic Sages Were Real People

Instructor: Adjunct Rabbi David Abramson, Wednesday evening

Many of us have heard of some of the luminaries of the Talmudic period—Hillel and Shammai, Rabbi Akiva, Yehudah Ha-Nasi, and others. What can we learn about these people—their stories, personalities, and values? How many people have heard of Beruriah, the daughter and wife of illustrious rabbis? She was also known for being a brilliant scholar herself. Was Hillel really so patient and tactful? Was Shammai really so harsh and unyielding? What else can we learn about—and from—Hillel and Shammai? Should Beruriah be known primarily for her bright mind and her sharp tongue? What does Beruriah have to teach us today?


#MeToo Stories of King David from the Book of Samuel

Instructor: Dr. Elliot Wilner, Wednesday evening

Notwithstanding the book’s title, the Book of Samuel is first and foremost the story of David – told as an historical novel. Among the many characters who are depicted in this great work of literature are a number of memorable females, all portrayed in an admirable light, but all betrayed by David. We will focus on these women’s stories as we seek to understand both the historical David and the mythological David.


Evolving Zionist Ideologies

Instructor: Dr. Jerome Copulsky, Wednesday evening

What does Zionism mean in the 21st Century? Is Jewish nationalism still rooted in the theories of the 19th and early 20th century? Or have more recent developments changed how Jews in Israel and the Diaspora understand the nature and meaning of the Jewish state? This course will explore the transformations of Zionist ideologies from the 1967 War to the present. We will learn about classical Zionist theorists such as Leo Pinsker, Theodor Herzl, Ahad Ha-Am, Martin Buber, and Rav Kook. We will then turn to consider a number of recent explorations of Zionism by Ari Shavit, Peter Beinart, and Yoram Hazony. We will contrast modern religious Zionism, which regards Jewish settlement of the Land of Israel to be a messianic task, and liberal Zionism, which sees withdrawal from the West Bank and a “two-state solution” as the means to secure Israel’s character as a Jewish and democratic state. We will also look at challenges to classical Zionism as diverse as secular post-Zionism and the Kahanist movement.


The Dynamics and Diversity of Jewish Music
Instructor: Hazzan Emeritus Abraham Lubin, Tuesday morning

Jews have lived in every corner of the world. From Spain to Morocco, from Eastern to Western Europe, Italy, Yemen, and Ethiopia, Jews have developed distinct folk and liturgical musical traditions. These traditions have been influenced by acculturation and local musical traditions. Colorful examples will be illustrated with live and CD performances.

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