CJLL Class Descriptions


All classes are held at the J unless otherwise noted.

African American-Jewish Relations: Race, Religion, Politics and Pop Culture
Dr. Joshua Furman | 10 Sessions
Thursdays, 11:15 AM–12:15 PM | Jan 30–Apr 2, 2020 | Register

This course examines African American-Jewish relations in the United States from colonial times to the present day. How and why do the experiences, achievements and struggles of these two groups overlap and parallel, and how and why do they conflict and diverge? How does each group perceive itself in relation to the other? How do Jews of color experience this divide? We will attempt to answer these and other questions with the aid of primary source documents, films, music, memoirs and works of history and ethnography.

MELTON! Big Jewish Ideas, Parts 1 & 2
Formerly Core Year 1, Purposes

Part 1 | Rabbi Erin Mason | 12 Sessions
Thursdays, 10:00 AM–11:00 AM | Sept 5–Dec 19, 2019 | Register
Part 2 | Rabbi Samantha Safran I 14 Sessions
Thursdays, 10:00 AM–11:00 AM | Jan 30–May 14, 2020 | Register

Why do Jews believe as they do? What are the big questions of life and how do Jewish thinkers answer these questions? We will delve into both ancient and modern responses to many of the major issues of Jewish thought and theology. Topics addressed will include perspectives on God, Miracles, Intermarriage, and Israel, among many others. This course will run the entire year and no topics will be repeated. Participants may register for Part 1, Part 2, or both.

Conquest & Settlement, Heroes & Villains: The Books of Joshua and Judge
Ms. Nancy Pryzant Picus | 10 Sessions
Thursdays, 11:15 AM–12:15 PM | Jan 30–Apr 2, 2020 | Register

While our Jewish foundational stories may be familiar from religious school and weekly Torah portions, the story of the Israelites after their forty years of wandering is less well-known. Using the biblical books of Joshua and Judges, this course will be a brief survey of the fascinating period of Jewish history that begins with entering the Promised Land and ends with the rise of King Saul.

Great Kings of Israel: Adventures, Failures & Romances
Rabbi David Rosen | 8 Sessions
Thursdays, 11:15 AM–12:15 PM | Oct 24-Dec 19, 2019 | Register

Saul, David and Solomon—the great kings of Israel!—are often perceived as bigger than life, and in many ways they were. But they were also human beings whose very human stories still resonate with us 3,000 years later. Using the Books of Samuel and Kings as our textbook, we will read their epic stories and see why these are three kings we still remember and revere.

High Holiday Prayers That Uplift and Inspire Me (And Some That Surprisingly Do Neither!)
Rabbi David Rosen | 4 Sessions
Thursdays, 11:15 AM–12:15 PM | Sept 5–26, 2019 | Register

With so many prayers in the Mahzor (High Holiday prayer book), it’s sometimes hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Let Rabbi Rosen walk you through some of the prayers that he feels have the power to genuinely move us spiritually–as well as some we might do better skipping.

Jewish-American Supreme Court Justices
Dr. Bernice Heilbrunn Potvin | 10 Sessions
Thursdays, 10:00 AM–11:00 AM | Jan 30–Apr 2, 2020 | Register
From Louis Brandeis to Elena Kagan, we have eight Supreme Court justices to talk about! What was their connection to their Judaism? How did it shape their careers and their decisions? This class will explore each justice’s background and time on the court.

MELTON! Jewish Medical Ethics: A 21st Century Discussion
Ms. Nancy Pryzant Picus | 15 Sessions @ Congregation Emanu El
Mondays, 9:30 AM–10:30 AM | Jan 27–May 11, 2020 | Register

While contemporary medical knowledge preserves life, modern advances have raised moral and ethical dilemmas related to the sanctity and dignity of life— issues whose scope was unimaginable a generation ago. Written by Rabbi Elliot Dorff, PhD, this course explores Jewish approaches to a number of 21st century ethical issues, including human cloning, surrogate motherhood, transsexual surgery, assisted suicide and genetic manipulation.

Jews of Germany
Dr. Bernice Heilbrunn Potvin | 8 Sessions
Tuesdays, 10:15 AM–11:15 AM | Oct 29–Dec 17, 2019 | Register
Wednesdays, 7:00 PM–8:00 PM Oct 23–Dec 18, 2019 | Register

This course focuses on personalities who made a difference to us as American Jews. We will study the history and stories of not-so-famous but critically important women and men who, as activists, scholars, and innovators, made waves during their lifetimes and left a legacy for us. We will get to know change-makers like Gerson von Bleichroder, who financed Bismark's empire; Bertha Pappenheim, who founded Germany's NCJW and fought to end the white slave trade; and Rabbi Abraham Geiger, father of Reform Judaism. These figures and more will surprise us with how readily we might identify with them.

A Journey Through Midrash
Mr. David Scott | 4 Sessions
Thursdays, 10:00 AM–11:00 AM | Apr 23–May 14, 2020 | Register

This class will focus on various Midrashic texts and how they apply to the themes of slavery and redemption. We will explore and discuss the deeper understandings of biblical exegesis and how the texts came to be. We will also delve into their deeper and mystical understandings to uncover the secrets related to Passover and Shavuot. No prior Midrash experience needed.

Laugh & Lament: Humor in Modern Jewish Literature
Rabbi David Segal | 10 Sessions @ Congregation Emanu El
Mondays, 9:30 AM–10:30 AM | Sept 9–Dec 16, 2019 | Register

In the 2013 Pew survey of Jewish Americans, 42% of Jews said that “having a good sense of humor” is essential to their Jewish identity. Through recent scholarship as well as a selection of short stories by modern Israeli and American Jewish authors, we will explore and challenge this idea. What is the function of Jewish laughter, if not simply to entertain? What darkness does Jewish humor highlight or hide? And, finally, how have the dynamics of Jewish humor evolved over time?

The Men and Women of the Talmud
Rabbi Annie Belford | 8 Sessions @ Temple Sinai
Wednesdays, 9:30 AM–10:30 AM | Jan 22–March 11, 2020 | Register

The Talmud is known for being a groundbreaking collection of laws and stories from ancient times. It is also filled with the voices and opinions of hundreds of different rabbis, as well as some notable women. But who were these characters? What were their lives actually like, and what can we learn not only about them, but also from them? This course will provide a brief introduction to the Talmud before delving into its stories and legends. Perfect for beginners, fun for all!

More Modern Jewish Authors
Ms. Nada Chandler | 8 Sessions
Thursdays, 11:15 AM-12:15 PM | Oct 24–Dec 19, 2019 | Register

There are so many Jewish authors to explore, and just in time for the J’s Ann and Stephen Kaufman Jewish Book & Arts Festival! We are not the “people of the books” for nothing, and this class provides an opportunity to keep abreast of the latest works of Jewish fiction. For those who have taken the course before, authors will not be repeated.

The New Israeli Tribes
Ms. Hadas Levy | 8 Sessions
Thursdays, 10:00 AM–11:00 AM | Oct 24–Dec 19, 2019 | Register

Who are the contemporary tribes of Israel? Come and learn with Houston Jewish Federation’s community shlicha (emissary) Hadas Levy! Using the work of artist Galit Goldman as a springboard, we will get to know the rich diversity of Israeli society and its "new" tribes: Orthodox, Israeli Arabs, Ashkenazim, Mizrachim, settlers, American Jews, Ethiopians, Russians, LGBTQs, young people, veterans and refugees.

The Noble Life
Rabbi Barry Gelman | 4 Sessions
Thursdays, 10:00 AM–11:00 AM | Sept 5–26, 2019 | Register

As we prepare ourselves for the High Holidays, come and learn about four traits to make tomorrow better than today: modesty, loving-kindness, contentedness, and love. We will define these characteristics, study how to acquire them and consider how to apply them in our lives.

The Passover Haggadah
Ms. Mindeleah Pollak | 10 Sessions
Tuesdays, 9:00 AM–10:00 AM | Jan 28–Apr 7, 2020 | Register
Wednesdays, 7:00 PM–8:00 PM Jan 29–Apr 1, 2020 | Register

The longest storytelling of our Jewish history (besides the Bible) is the Haggadah. What fascinates people each year with large family gatherings, weeks of preparation and a regal table for the Passover holiday? Let us travel through time, as the Seder is a long, arduous journey through our ancestors’ history and our rite of passage as Jews.

From Prosaic to Prophetic: Gleanings from High Holiday Biblical Readings
Ms. Nancy Pryzant Picus | 4 Sessions
Thursdays, 11:15 AM–12:15 PM | Sept 5–26, 2019 | Register

In this class, we will use High Holiday Torah and Haftarah readings to explore how these carefully chosen texts illuminate holiday rituals, emphasize holiday themes, and deepen our connections to the awe and splendor of the Ten Days of Repentance.

Rebecca: A Rose Among the Thorns
Ms. Mindeleah Pollak | 8 Sessions
Tuesdays, 9:00 AM–10:00 AM | Oct 29–Dec 17, 2019 | Register

This course will explore Rebecca’s life and legacy as conveyed in the Book of Genesis and commentaries. Who was this second matriarch? A girl from "the other side of the tracks" who was chosen to be the bride of Isaac, the Golden Boy, son of elderly parents, the famous Abraham and Sarah. Let us follow her footsteps as she forges her own path in Jewish history. She is the only woman in the Tanach who went "to inquire of God" and received a prophecy that she never shared with anyone else. The end result leads to the creation and emergence of two distinct, different nations that continue to live on and thrive throughout world history until this very day.

Rewriting Our Past: Sin, Repentance & Forgiveness
Rabbi David Segal | 4 Sessions
Thursdays, 10:00 AM–11:00 AM | Sept 5–26, 2019 | Register

The prayers of the High Holidays invite us to imagine God as the Divine Author, inscribing us in the Book of Life–or omitting us–for the coming year. How can we turn this image on ourselves, to become better "authors" of our own lives, rewriting our past in order to write a better future? Biblical, rabbinic and modern texts will guide us.

Synagogues Worldwide
Dr. Bernice Heilbrunn Potvin I 10 Sessions
Tuesdays, 10:15 AM–11:15 AM Jan 28–Apr 7, 2020 | Register

This course will explore the architecture, faith and history of selected Jewish communities worldwide. A visual feast together with interesting accounts of Jewish life in China, Tunisia, New Zealand and Mexico, among others.

Treasures from Congregation Beth Yeshurun's Kaplan Museum of Judaica
Dr. Daniel Musher/Ms. Carol Emery | 4 Sessions
Thursdays, 11:15 AM–12:15 PM | Apr 23–May 14, 2020 | Register

The Mollie and Louis Kaplan Museum of Judaica takes us into the homes and synagogues of places far away and people long since deceased, and includes the works of artisans worldwide. Each week in this course will focus on a different collection of ritual items from the museum and its cultural and historical significance: Hanukkah menorahs, Ketubahs, Seder plates, and Kiddush cups.

MELTON! Vayikra, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Leviticus
Rabbi Erin Mason | 10 Sessions
Thursdays, 10:00 AM-11:00 AM | Jan 30–Apr 2, 2020 | Register

Uncovering the depth and wisdom of Leviticus, the third book of the Torah, we will be inspired by its enduring messages that touch our lives to this very day. Using the biblical text as well as ancient and modern commentaries, we will examine themes such as the role of ritual, responses to tragedy, seeking forgiveness, balancing the priorities of the individual and the community, bringing sanctity into one’s daily life and much more.

You’ve Got Mail! A Study of Great Jewish Letters
Rabbi Barry Gelman | 8 Sessions
Thursdays, 10:00 AM–11:00 AM | Oct 24–Dec 1, 2019 | Register

This class will delve into important Jewish ideas through a study of letters sent by Jewish leaders. How did Maimonides comfort a convert to Judaism? Why did Rabbi Soleveitchik not move to Israel? Our learning will combine Jewish law, history, theology and Mussar.