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Adult Education

Click for the winter/spring 2019 Adult Education brochure in PDF format.

We are excited to present our distinguished Adult Learning program at Shir Hadash for winter/spring 2019, slated to include:

A Cantor’s Concert of the Works of Leonard Bernstein, in Honor of the Centennial of His Birth
Saturday, January 26, 7:00 pm
Leonard Bernstein said, “Life without music is unthinkable. Life without music is academic. That is why my contact with music is a total embrace.” Cantors embrace music of all styles, both Jewish and secular. Join us for a special havdalah program with Cantor Felder-Levy and colleagues to honor and celebrate the works of Leonard Bernstein.
Book Group: What Language Do I Dream In? A Memoir, by Elena Lappin
Sunday, February 10, 10:45 am
A stunning memoir about how language runs throughout memory and family history to form identity.

Mizrachim in Israel, with guest speaker Rivka Amado
Sunday, February 24, 9:30 am

Jews from the Middle East had a significant presence in Israel during the Ottoman Empire and before the beginnings of Modern Zionism. They also represented the vast majority of Israel’s new citizens in the 1950s and 1960s. From where did they come and why? Prejudice and discrimination existed in the early days of the state—to what extent do they continue today? Learn about the majority of today’s Israelis who are not Ashkenazi Jews. 

Russia's Impact on Current World Events & the Implications for the Middle East, with Professor Norman Naimark
Sunday, March 10, 9:30 am

Professor Naimark will discuss Russia’s strategic thinking and ambitions, its interest in destabilizing democracies around the world, the relationship between Putin and Netanyahu, and Israel’s relationships with Syria and Iran. Professor Naimark has written extensively on Soviet policies and actions in Europe after World War II, and on genocide and ethnic cleansing in the twentieth century. In his latest book, Genocide: A World History, he presents the history of genocide in a comprehensive but concise way. He earned his Ph.D. in History from Stanford University in 1972, and, before returning to join the faculty in 1988, he was a professor of history at Boston University and a fellow of the Russian Research Center at Harvard.
Book Group: The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth
Sunday, March 17, 10:45 am
A stirring work of alternative history that imagines the victory of Charles Lindbergh over Franklin Roosevelt.

Journalism & Social Media, Through the Lens of the Jewish Commitment to Truth

with CNN’s Dana Bash
Sunday, April 28, 9:30 am

Dana Bash Shir Hadash Questions from Kyle Chesser - Hands On Studio on Vimeo.

Has technology and social media enhanced or diminished the role of journalism? A free press has played a large role in American democracy: what is the future of that role today? Based in Washington, D.C., Dana Bash is CNN’s chief political correspondent. She was the primary reporter covering the Republican field of presidential candidates and serves regularly as a moderator for CNN’s political town hall pecials. She played a key role in CNN’s presidential primary debates and as part of her coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign, she conducted a sit-down interview with Donald Trump. 


Prospects for Democracy in Iran, & the Impact for Israel’s Future,
with Professor Abbas Milani
Sunday, May 5, 9:30 am

Click here for a summary report on Professor Milani's talk.
Abbas Milani is an expert in U.S.-Iran relations as well as Iranian cultural, political, and security issues. He will speak about the current geopolitical situation of Iran and its influence on world events. Professor Milani is the Hamid and Christina Moghadam Director of Iranian Studies, and Adjunct Professor at the Center on Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law at the Freeman Spogli Institute at Stanford University.
Book Group: All the Rivers, by Dorit Rabinyan
Sunday, May 12, 10:45 am
A bold portrayal of the strains—and delights—of a forbidden relationship.
Shir Hadash Retreat 2019
Connecting in community to create internal bridges between body, mind, and spirit

Do you notice a need to balance the life of the mind with attention to body and spirit?

Do you wonder why so many Jews are drawn to Buddhist practices?
Would you like to experience awe and wonder at the beauty of our world in a natural setting? 

Come for a special weekend with Shir Hadash to explore these questions, learn and discuss other topics at the Land of the Medicine Buddha Retreat Center.  Join us to pray and learn with Rabbi Postrel, Rabbi Aron, and teacher Venerable Drimay in the Redwoods. Enjoy drumming with Dror Sinai. Listen to stories told by Erica Lann-Clark. Enjoy meditation, yoga, folk dance, hikes, and gentle movements. Discuss contrasts between Judaism and Buddhism and share expressions of Jewish art, music, nature poetry and humorous perspectives. Take advantage of this serene setting to relax in nature, hike in the redwoods, dip in the pool, or have a massage (available by appointment and for an extra fee). Nurture your inner self while also building and renewing friendships. Enjoy a unique Shabbat experience and vegetarian meals with our Shir Hadash family. 

For more program details and to register, please click here for the program brochure.

For more information, please contact the Adult Ed Retreat Committee at,

Watch this space for more details and additional programs as they become available, and for full program descriptions check the calendar listing for each program. Unless otherwise indicated, events are free and open to everyone.

Retrospective on Adult Education Programs from the First Half of 2018-19

Adult Hebrew: You Can Read Hebrew by Chanukah—in just 8 Sessions!

Sept 16–Nov 18
Join Rabbi Aron and experienced teacher Rena Alisa for a basic Hebrew reading class.
The kick-off will be a Taste of Instant Hebrew from 10:30 to 11:30 am on Sunday, September 16th, followed by Sunday morning classes from 9:30 am to noon. This is a great way to prepare for your Adult B’nai MItzvah in the spring of 2021, to become proficient enough in Hebrew to help your child with their Hebrew homework, or merely to be more comfortable at services. Whatever your motivation, this class is a first step.
Book Group: Ilana Kurshan: If All the Seas Were Ink
Sept 23, 10:45  a.m.
Kurshan takes us on a deeply accessible and personal guided tour of the Talmud, shedding new light on its stories and offering insights into its arguments—both for those already familiar with the text and for those who have never encountered it. At the age of 27, alone in Jerusalem in the wake of a painful divorce, Ilana Kurshan joined the world’s largest book club, learning daf yomi, Hebrew for “daily page" of the Talmud, a book of rabbinic teachings spanning about 600 years and the basis for all codes of Jewish law. This memoir is a tale of heartache and humor, of love and loss, of marriage and motherhood, and of learning to put one foot in front of the other by turning page after page. For people of the book—both Jewish and non-Jewish—If All the Seas Were Ink is a celebration of learning—through literature—how to fall in love once again.
Torah Study – Chronicles: Boring Repetition — or Insight into Second Temple Times?
Weekly, beginning October 6
Come study the Book of Chronicles with Rabbi Aron and Rabbi Postrel on Saturday mornings from 9:30 to 10:20 am. We meet almost every Shabbat morning beginning October 6. Join us regularly or just drop in. You are welcome to bring your own Tanach or we will have copies in the library where we meet each Shabbat morning with coffee, tea and a little snack. Chronicles, the last book in the Jewish Bible, is often ignored. It is not read at any public worship service, Shabbat or holidays,  and is known mainly for its long genealogies. But Chronicles can be a fascinating read if one examines it with an eye towards the differences in its story of the Exodus and other events in Israelite history and for its introduction of the concept of Torah.
Lecture (With South Bay Institute): Last Things: A Graphic Memoir of ALS, with Marissa Moss
October 14, 2018
For years, Berkeley children’s author and illustrator Marissa Moss has delighted young audiences and critics alike with her upbeat stories and creative drawing style. Best known for the “Amelia’s Notebook” series,  Moss has written over 50 children’s books and has been awarded the California Book Award gold metal. Moss’s latest project, Last Things: A Graphic Memoir of Loss and Love, takes a dramatically darker turn, Last Things tells the heartbreaking story of her husband, Harvey, a gentle medieval art historian and professor, and his deterioration and death from ALS. Moss chronicles the impact of the illness on her husband, their three children, and herself in a profound tale of a family’s struggle to survive.
Introduction to Judaism
Weekly beginning October 16
Join our local rabbis on Tuesdays, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm, for a year-long overview of the Jewish life-cycle, holidays, rituals, belief, history, calendar, and instruction in Hebrew reading. You will gain exposure to important Jewish books including the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud. Each session includes thirty minutes of Hebrew instruction. Sessions will rotate among local synagogues and the APJCC based on which rabbi is teaching.
Instructors include Rabbi Berkenwald of Congregation Sinai, Rabbi Aron of Congregation Shir Hadash, Rabbi Alpert of Congregation Beth David, Rabbi Magat of Temple Emanu-El, and Rabbi Seid-Valencia of the APJCC.
Classes begin October 16, 2018 and conclude April 9, 2019.  No class on 11/20, 12/25, 1/1, and 2/19.
To join this class, please contact Maya Jacobson at to register and receive the syllabus and class materials. Fee is $180 per person and includes a basic Jewish library. Loaner books are available to help defray costs if needed.
Women’s Study: Contemporary American Jewish Women’s Short Stories
Monthly, beginning October 18
This year, we explore short stories by contemporary American Jewish women writers, using the book Scribblers on the Roof: Contemporary American Jewish Fiction, edited by Melvin Jules Bukiet and David G. Roskies. Rabbi Aron’s Women’s Study class in a longtime tradition at Shir Hadash, bringing together women of all ages for study and sharing of personal insights.
Class begins on Thursday October 18, and usually meets on the third Thursday of the month from 10:30 to 11:45 am.
Havdalah Program — Hollywood and the Jews: 1930–1960
November 3, 7:30 pm
We will explore themes such as The Disappearing Jew, The G.I. Hollywood, and In the Shadow of the Cold War, relating to Hollywood and the Jews between 1930 and 1960. We will delve into how Jewish characters and issues disappeared from the silver screen making American Jewry almost invisible while anti-Semitism rose in the US, how Hollywood moguls were at first hesitant to “screen up” about The Third Reich, while behind the scenes, there were Jews who secretly investigated Nazi agents in Los Angeles. Despite the increasing knowledge about the Holocaust, few films were made in the immediately post-WWII period. The HUAC investigations shook Hollywood leadership, destroyed many careers and impacted what was seen on the Big Screen. Program leader: Riva Gambert, former Director of the 2016 East Bay International Jewish Film Festival
Does Privacy Matter?

Sunday, November 11, 9:30 am
What is privacy? Is it the right to be let alone? The right to control the distribution of information about yourself? And is it possible to have privacy in a society that has ubiquitous public and private collection of information? What would such privacy mean? Join us for a talk by Susan Landau, Bridge Professor of Cyber Security and Policy at Tufts University, followed by a panel discussion and Q&A with some of our congregants from the tech industry.
Book Group: Ayelet Gundar-Goshen: One Night, Markovitch
Dec 2, 10:45 am
“One Night Markovitch” (2012) is a biting and often comical account based on a true historical episode, in which Jewish men traveled from British Mandate Palestine to Europe to rescue Jewish women by marrying them and bringing them back, thereby getting around limits on immigration. These were sham marriages from which the women were released upon arrival. However, in the novel, one of these men is unwilling to let go of his bride, and he lives in hope that his desire for her will be requited.
Lecture: Varieties of Orthodox Judaism: From Blu Greenberg to the Satmar Rebbe, with Rabbi Joey Felsen
Sunday, December 9, 9:30 am
We often speak about Orthodox Judaism as if it were a single entity, but actually some of the variations within Orthodoxy are quite broad. From participation minyans to charedi activists, the Orthodox world includes both Sephardim and Ashkenazim, Chassidim and Mitnagdim. Our speaker will be Rabbi Joey Felsen, founder and executive director of the Jewish Study network, who teaches regularly at our Jewish Community Center. Rabbi Felson is a recipient of the prestigious Grinspoon-Steinhardt National Award for Excellence in Jewish Education.
Hamsa Workshop with Claire Sherman
Sunday, January 13, 9:30 am
A hamsa is a stylized hand for protection against the “evil eye,” frequently worn as jewelry. Made by both Jews and Muslims, it is found all over the Middle East, but is older than either religion. Come learn about the folklore of hamsas and Jewish amulets, as we make them out of paper or fabric. No artistic talent is required to make stunning hamsa designs. The finished papercut hamsa can be framed, to hang on the wall, and a fabric hamsa can become a wall hanging or a challah cover. Claire Sherman is a quilt maker and ceramic sculptor. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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