2016 Day of Jewish Learning Program

WELCOME to this Third Annual Day of Jewish Learning, sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Ulster County and SUNY Ulster.

We didn't know how the community would respond when we began this event and have been very happy to see how many people have come to learn together with teachers and people of all backgrounds. You should know that all the presenters are offering their teachings because they love their subjects and want to share their knowledge. We hope that you enjoy all the sessions and are moved to continue learning.

I would like to thank the members of the Federation board and the community who formed the committee for this event: Pat Brakman, Barbara Cohen, Brenda Fletcher, Samara Genee, Harriet Miller, Sharon Rosen and Arlene Gould, who coordinated with SUNY Ulster.

Session I, 9:00AM - 10:00AM

Hassidic Tales
Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev, also known as the Berdichever, was a Hasidic leader. He was the rabbi of Pinsk and Berdichiv, for which he is best known. He was one of the main disciples of the Maggid of Mezritch. Reb Levi Yitzchok was known as the "defense attorney" for the Jewish people, because it was believed that he could intercede on their behalf before G-d. Known for his compassion for every Jew, he was therefore one of the most beloved leaders of Eastern European Jewry.

HANOCH HECHT is known as the “Six Minute Rabbi” because of his Torah class designed to provide a clear solution to today’s Jewish learning conundrum; how to bring meaningful learning to busy people. He is Director of Chabad Dutchess and in 2007, co-founded the Rhinebeck Jewish Center with his wife Tzivie. He is known as an innovator and calls himself a free thinking Lubavitcher.

Introduction to Sage-ing
This session is for those who wish to explore the wisdom within us. What are our perceptions of what it means to get older? What are the messages sent by society?  How can our life experience enrich the present moment, help us nurture and repair our relationships with others and transmit our wisdom to future generations?

ELLEN TRIEBWASSER is a graduate of Kol Zimra, the Jewish Chant Leadership program founded by Rabbi Shefa Gold. She completed the Sage-ing Mentorship program of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal and is a spiritual director, trained by Lev Shomea. Ellen is a rabbinical student of ALEPH.

Jewish Family Musical Experience

Emma Rehfeld

Beyond G-d the Mother: Embracing a Feminist Jewish Theology
Liberal Judaism has made great strides in training and hiring women rabbis, developing gender-neutral language, and rediscovering women's voices and stories. But the need also exists for a feminist theology that would challenge some of the deep-seated patriarchal assumptions of Jewish tradition. This session will explore what it would mean to articulate and embrace a feminist theology, and the implications for Jewish prayer, study and practice.

RENA BLUMENTHAL is a free-lance rabbi based in New Paltz, New York.  From 2003-2014 she served as Assistant Director of the Office of Religious & Spiritual Life and Rachlin Advisor to Jewish Students at Vassar College.  Prior to becoming a rabbi, she worked as a  psychologist for fifteen years in New York City and Jerusalem.

Interpreting Biblical Images on Money
Images from the Bible were put on coins as early as 110 BCE. This talk will identify where these images are mentioned in the Bible and when and why these images have appeared on money throughout history.  Bob will discuss and display money issued by the Maccabees, the Jewish defenders of the 2nd Temple, the Romans, Bar Kochba, the British Mandate for Palestine, the Nazis, and the Modern State of Israel.
ROBERT MESSING graduated from Clark University with a BA in Philosophy and has MBAs from NYU and CUNY.  Bob has gone on numerous archeological digs in Israel where he found ancient coins, mosaics and Roman glass.  He also identified and cleaned artifacts that came from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  Bob has spoken about ancient and modern Jewish coins and medals at JLI National Jewish Retreat and Limmud NY conferences as well as synagogues on the East Coast.  He has also written articles on this topic that have appeared in Hadassah Magazine and The Shekel.

Session II, 10:15AM - 11:30AM

"We" and "Me": Identity and Community in Contemporary Judaism
The pronouns we use can make a big difference. In conversations about today's Jewish world, they play a fundamental role. The twin conceptions of "Jewish community" and "Jewish identity" predominate in communal conversations, and they reflect an orientation towards "we" and "me," respectively. When we use these two phrases, what exactly do we mean? How can each one of us build an enriching "Jewish identity"? How can we, as a collective, build thriving Jewish communities together? In this interactive talk, Lex will lead us through an exploration of these important questions. In doing so, he will look back at Jewish institutions of the past, around at forms of Jewish life that are emerging in the digital world, and forward to the Jewish future. 

LEX ROFES is a Jewish Educator and organizer who works as the Strategic Initiatives Coordinator of the Institute for the Next Jewish Future, co-hosting its podcast, entitled Judaism Unbound.  He is also studying towards rabbinic ordination through ALEPH: The Alliance for Jewish Renewal. A 2013 graduate of Brown University with a degree in Judaic Studies, he worked previously as an Education Fellow for the Institute of Southern Jewish Life, based in Jackson, Mississippi. Essays of his have been published in JTA, MyJewishLearning.com, Sh'ma Journal, JewSchool, NewVoices, and in the 2014 book Anti-Semitism: Opposing Viewpoints. A proud product of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (go Packers!), Lex now lives in Providence, Rhode Island with his beautiful fiancee, Valerie.

11:45-12:30 PM - KOSHER LUNCH Cafeteria

AFTER LUNCH— 12:30-1:45

Tzedakah Box Making for Children

SAMARA D. GENEE is the Religious School Director at Congregation Emanuel of Kingston. She has a Master’s in Adolescent Education and has worked with students in grades K-college.

Session III, 12:45PM - 1:45PM

The Who, What, Where, When & Why of Tahara;
The cleansing, ritual washing, and dressing of the deceased's body
We are all created Betzelem Elohim- in the image of the Divine. Keeping this in the forefront of our minds, when someone dies, the body is lovingly prepared for burial. What is the process, how is it performed and by whom? All these questions and more will be addressed.

ZOE B. ZAK is honored to serve as rabbi of Temple Israel of Catskill, Catskill, NY (templeisraelofcatskill.org) and as Outreach Chaplain for Jewish Federation of Northeastern NY. (jewishfedny.org). Rabbi Zoe is a founding member of Peace Ensemble which features Christian and Jewish clergy whose aim is to bridge the religious divide through music. As performer, composer and producer, she has over 30 CDs to her credit. She aims to blur the line between praying and playing. www.zoebzak.com.

Bruria: Fiery First Feminist or Perfectly Placed Protagonist?
In this session we will read and explore the multi-faceted texts of Bruria, an outspoken and learned woman found in Talmud and Midrash. Initially she was thought of as a no-nonsense and no holds barred feminist; readers are now discussing whether the animated character of Bruria actually was placed by the Rabbis to present an archetype of what women should not be within Jewish society. In the past few decades people have begun to explore the texts of Bruria much more deeply in order to determine whether Bruria represents a fiery first feminist or a perfectly placed protagonist. Come join me to learn about Bruria and add our voices to this animated debate! No prior knowledge of Talmud or Midrash needed.

KAMI KNAPP is a senior at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College; she will be graduating in June 2017! While at RRC she has gained work experience through exciting internships such as: education director, chaplain, teacher, Temple University Rabbinic Intern, Ritualwell Rabbinic Intern and summer day camp teacher. This year she is the student rabbi for Woodstock Jewish Congregation, Jewish student adviser at Arcadia University while also continuing her work as rabbinic intern at Ritualwell. (www.ritualwell.org)

“Like Everyone Else, Only More So”
Chaim Weizmann, the first president of Israel, supposedly once remarked that “Jews are like everyone else, only more so.” This session will be an exploration and discussion of the universalist impulse in Jewish life and history, from the Reform movement’s embrace of the Prophetic (“light unto the nations”) tradition, to Marxism, to Ludwig Zamenhof’s invention of Esperanto, the universal language. What is it about Judaism and Jewish culture and experience that has fostered such an orientation? How does it jibe with the Zionist dream of “normalization” of the Jewish people? Has universalism compromised Jewish identity?

LAWRENCE BUSH has been a creative force in the Jewish community as a writer, visual artist and magazine editor for more than three decades. He edits “Jewish Currents,” a 71-year old magazine, and conducts a daily blog about the date in Jewish history, JEWDAYO. Bush was a speechwriter for a dozen years for Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler, the late leader of Reform Judaism in America, and also served for 13 years as the founding editor of the magazine of the Reconstructionist movement, “Reconstructionism Today.” His books include “Waiting for G-d: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist;” “BESSIE: A Novel of Love and Revolution;” and “American Torah Toons: 54 Illustrated Commentaries,” as well as several Jewish fictions for children. Bush’s essays, fiction and artwork have appeared in the New York Times, Village Voice, MAD magazine, Tikkun, Reform Judaism, and other publications.

Jewish Chanting
Imagine feeling whole, feeling joy, feeling strength, feeling home, and being present with the Divine. Rabbi Yael who is trained as a Spiritual Director, will guide the group through a session of Jewish chanting cultivating a sacred experience for exploring chanting as authentic Jewish expression.

YAEL ROMER is serving her 16th year as rabbi and spiritual leader of Congregation Emanuel of the Hudson Valley in Kingston. Rabbi Yael was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in 1988. She has a MA in Hebrew Literature from HUC-JIR and NYU and received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity last year. Prior to coming to the Hudson Valley, she served communities in NJ, Ontario, NH and Israel. She was the third female congregational rabbi in Israel. Rabbi Yael was trained as a spiritual director in the Bekhol Levavkha Spiritual Direction Program at HUC-JIR and in addition to her work with the Congregation, has established a private practice for Spiritual Direction and Pastoral Counseling in Rhinebeck NY. 

Session IV, 2:00PM - 3:00PM

Yiddish Songs from Eastern Europe & in America
We will sing together Yiddish songs that illustrate our lives in the Shtetl, in the cities, during horrible times and during times of rejoicing in Europe.  And then we will trace the songs’ journey to America, and the songs of the  Yiddish Theater and a recent CD of  Yiddish songs in Canada - -by Magillah.  We will translate words as we go along and see the influence of Yiddish folk and popular songs on the American Songbook.  Folks are welcome to bring songs they know from childhood and grew up with.

BOB COHEN is the Cantor at Congregation Emanuel of the Hudson Valley.  He is also chair of the Ulster County Religious Council, an interfaith outreach group of clergy and lay leaders of many faiths.  Cantor Bob has made a CD, “Singing Prayers,” of a number of contemporary settings of traditional Hebrew prayers – and has composed some himself.

A Jewish History of Kingston
Within two years of the founding of Kingston in 1652, Spanish and Portuguese Jews began arriving in the colony of New Amsterdam. While the Old Dutch records show that several of these early settlers passed through Kingston as traders and land speculators, it was not until the 1840s that a permanent Jewish community was established in Rondout and Uptown Kingston with the immigration of Jews primarily from Germany. This presentation provides an overview of Kingston’s Jewish community from the early 19th century through the present. It traces the contributions of Jews to Kingston’s economic, social and cultural development, and describes changes in the local Jewish community in response to different waves of immigration and changing economic conditions.

GEOFFREY MILLER is a retired 2nd and 6th grade teacher. Currently he serves as the UC Historian and a member of the Board of the Jewish Federation of Ulster County. During the 1980s he spent close to ten years researching the early history of music in the Hudson Valley while studying at NYU. In 2002, he helped create a Jewish History of Kingston exhibit for the Jewish Federation to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the founding of Kingston. Currently he is overseeing the restoration of the Reher Bakery, a historic structure in the Rondout-West Strand Historic District in Kingston, NY, to house a new venue for local history and diversity education, the Reher Center for Immigrant Culture and History.

Meditations on the Name YHVH
G-d's signature is everywhere in Creation and everywhere  invites meditation on the Presence permeating all that exists. This is hinted at in various ways in our everyday lives, and even in the very shape of our bodies: head, trunk, limbs... From the way we walk to the way we breathe, in the shape of trees and in the giving of tzedakah, we find the Holy Name inviting deeper connection through meditation on the immanent Mystery.

MICHA'EL ESFORMES is a chazzan ordained by Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi in the lineage of Jewish Renewal.  He has long been a practitioner of meditation. and a devotee of multi-cultural studies of the interior life. 

What Judaism Can Teach Us About the Value of Civil Discourse & Constructive Debate
A healthy society depends on the vibrant exchange of ideas in an atmosphere of mutual respect and civility. The recently completed U.S. Presidential campaign was sorely and tragically lacking in these qualities. We cannot let the culture of rudeness and bluster overtake us. Judaism has profound teachings on how to disagree and still respect one’s opponent. We will study these teachings and be reinvigorated by our wise tradition.

JONATHAN KLIGLER has been the spiritual leader of Kehillat Lev Shalem - The Woodstock Jewish Congregation since 1988. He is a highly regarded teacher and author, as well as a singer and musician with several recordings to his credit.. 

Showing of film “Israel Inside” - Student Lounge

3:15-4:00 PM EVALUATIONS & Wrap Up - Cafeteria