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Archive of Past Adult Education Events


February 20, 2022 - Dr. Anat Balint: Netanyahu and the Israeli Media During Turbulent Times | Where did it start and how is it going to unfold?

View the video recording of this presentation! Turbulent times of the last few years presented threats to democracy in a number of countries around the world, one of which is Israel. Dr. Anat Balint shares with us how Israelis are coping successfully with the threats to their democracy. We look at the cases of Netanyahu and the media tycoons. Where do things stand and what can we take from it about media and politics in other places?

Nov 7, 2021 - Rabbi Mark Sameth discusses his book "The Name", which was the subject of a much-discussed Op-Ed article in The New York Times, "Is God Transgender?"

The Hebrew name of God, written in the Torah as YHWH, has not been uttered in public for over two thousand years. The God of ancient Israel - universally referred to in the masculine today - was understood by its earliest worshippers to be a dual-gendered, male-female deity. So argues Rabbi Semeth in The Name. Needless to say, this is no small claim. Rabbi Sameth traces the name to the late Bronze Age and argues that it was expressed Hu-Hi -Hebrew for "He-She." Among Jewish mystics, we learn, this has long been an open secret. 

November 1, 2021 - Thinking About Good & Evil with Rabbi PJ

View the video recording of this presentation! The problem of evil and seemingly inexplicable suffering not only poses a major challenge to the belief in a moral God but also to religion in general. What do changes in our understanding of the problem of evil reveal about changes in our understanding of ourselves, of our place in the world, and human agency? We will examine some of the most salient Jewish ideas about why innocent people seem to suffer, why evil individuals seem to prosper, and God's role in such matters of (in)justice, from antiquity to the present. 

October 19, 2021 - RBG First Memorial   

View the video recording of this presentation! A conversation on social justice, feminism, Jewish identity, and friendship with RBG’s longtime friend and colleague Justice Dorit Beinisch, former President of the Supreme Court of Israel, and activist Alison Brunner, CEO at Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, whose work is dedicated to promoting social justice. Hosted by Dr. Anat Balint - Program of Jewish Studies San Jose State University. Sponsored by Congregation Shir Hadash, Congregation Beth David, and Congregation Sinai, The Jewish Studies Program at San Jose State University, and Jewish Silicon Valley. 

October 13, 2021 - Stages of Faith: Development in Formation with Rabbi PJ

View the video recording of this presentation!  Rabbi Schwartz takes us on an exploration into the ways that people experience faith and the development of their faith and examines ways that individuals develop a faith system. A consideration of developmental theories of Piaget, Erikson and Kohlberg serve as a foundation for an examination of James Fowler's six stages of faith development. 

September 26, 2021 - Professor Louis Herman - Sukkot and Our Relationship to the Earth

View the video recording of this presentation! Professor Louis Herman, author of "Future Primal", guides us in an exploration of the stories and wisdom that can be gained from the wilderness as we encounter uncertainty, impermanence and environmental crises. 

August 8, 2021: Betsy Stone - Preparing for the Next Normal

View the video recording of this presentation! The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed all aspects of our lives. While some of us are eager to "return" to our previous lives, many of us are frightened. As COVID vaccinations increase and the CDC issues new guidelines, we may be excited about social interactions or travel, but we are also afraid. Afraid of our diminished social skills, afraid of a world missing so many loved ones, afraid of strangers. We have changed, so much has changed. We grieve this change.

Dr. Betsy Stone received her Doctorate in Psychology from Yale University. She is a retired psychologist who serves as an adjunct lecturer at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Her classes include Human Development for Educators, Adolescent Development, and Teens In and Out of Crisis. She teaches and consults with Jewish professionals across the country.

May 2, 2021: Discussion with Nathaniel Deutsch on The Worlds of Contemporary Judaism from Ultra-Orthodox to Jewish Renewal

View the video recording of this presentation!  Judaism in the United States is currently experiencing several seismic shifts. These include the dramatic growth of the Haredi population and the emergence of a new American Judaism that is no longer rooted in the traditional Jewish culture of Eastern Europe, where a vast majority of America's Jews originated. For centuries, Jewish identity has defied easy characterization, combining elements of religion, ethnicity, and culture. Given these changes, will that continue to be the case in the twenty-first century?

April 25, 2021: EWJ Speaker Series - Muslim and Jewish Migrations to Palestine and Other Parts of the Ottoman Empire.

View the video recording of this presentation!  Jacob Daniels, a historian who is engaged in doctoral research and teaching at Stanford, introduces us to migrations of Muslims and Jews from the 19th century onwards. We learn about population displacements and how differences were negotiated within and between these communities. Jacob shares fascinating sources on human interactions of this period.

SHALOM HARTMAN INSTITUTE SERIES: Together & Apart - The Future of Jewish Peoplehood in Israel & America 

March 7, 2021: Part 1: From No Home to Two HomesView the video recording of this presentation! 

March 21, 2021: Part 2: The Moral Implications of Jewish NationalismView the recording of this presentation! 

April 11, 2021: Part 3: The Accusation and Dilemma of Dual Loyalties - View the recording of this presentation!

Within a very few generations the Jewish people have been transformed from being stateless to having two vibrant but different homes, in the United States, and Israel. Together and Apart is a three part series of video lectures and discussion that explores the complex and shifting relationship between American and Israeli Jews. In recent years the atmosphere of devotion and unity between our two Jewish centers has been challenged by divisions arising from nationalism, dual loyalties, antisemitism, and anti-Zionism. The sessions will explore these difficult issues and discuss ways to renew and reinforce the bonds between the Jews of Israel and America.

Sunday, March 14, 2021: Levine Lecture with David Oshinsky - Challenges to Democracy

View the video recording of this presentation! David M. Oshinsky (born 1944) is an American historian. He is the director of the Division of Medical Humanities at NYU School of Medicine and a professor in the Department of History at New York University. 

Oshinsky graduated from Cornell in 1965 and obtained his PhD from Brandeis University in 1971. He won the annual Pulitzer Prize in History for his 2005 book, Polio: An American Story. Oshinsky's most recent book, Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America's Most Storied Hospital, was published in 2016. His other books include the D.B. Hardeman Prize-winning A Consipiracy So Immense: The World of Joe McCarthy, and the Robert Kennedy Prize-wining Worse than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice. His articles and review appear reguarly in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Chronicles of Higher Education. He previously held the Jack S. Blanton chair in history at the University of Texas at Austin. 

February 20, 2021: Havdalah Program with Rabbi Postrel

View the video recording of this presentation!  The 2018 CCAR Press bookA Life of Meaning, is a deeply moving and informative work about who we are as Reform Jews. 

Please join Rabbi Oren Postrel for an evening of Havdalah, learning and reflection through the rich images and concepts of A Life of Meaning. Part ritual, part reflective, very collaborative and participatory.

January 31, 2021: Discussion with Gabriella Safran on Dybbuks, Golems, S. An-sky and Jewish Legends in Time of Fear 

View the video recording of this presentation! S. An-sky’s play The Dybbuk, a story of possession set in a shtetl (think The Exorcist meets Fiddler on the Roof), is the foundation of modern Jewish drama. Stanford scholar Gabriella Safran will explore The Dybbuk’s roots: in Jewish folklore, the scandalous blood libel trial in Kiev in 1913, and the political passions of Russian-Jewish revolutionaries.

In composing the play, An-sky was torn between two Jewish myths, each still modern: the tragic ambivalence of the dybbuk, a lost, wandering soul, and the technological triumphalism of the golem, a robot set in motion by practical kabbalah and capable of defending the Jews from every harm.

October 11, 2020: The 2020 Elections and the Jewish Vote with Professor Windmueller

View the video recording of this presentation!  This nonpartisan Zoom analysis of this November’s election is designed to inform audiences about the diverse and significant roles Jews are and have played in American politics.

August 16, 2020: Rosh Hashanah Customs from Sephardic and Mizrachi Traditions

Rosh HaShanah Seder FoodsView the video recording of this presentation! Download the presentation slidedeck (PDF), which includes the Rosh HaShanah seder recipes. Sephardic Jews who are Jews from Spain & Portugal, North Africa and the Middle-East welcome the New Year with the Rosh HaShanah seder. Additional links related to the presentation include this Selichot video as well as some additional food for thought on the Simanim. Thank you to our member Stephane Morali, whose family is originally from Algeria (North Africa), for sharing details with us about this very old tradition filled with special foods and blessings.

August 2, 2020: Israel Soundtrack with Sasha Domingues 

View the video recording of this presentation! Contemporary Israeli music defines and is defined by a complex conversation about the people and culture of Israel. The songs transcend language barriers, fostering a connection to the people and places. But what can we learn from this music about modern Israel? In this musical experience, we’ll explore the language, the themes, and the voices that reflect Israel today.

July 12, 2020: A Panel Discussion on Medical Ethics: Rationing of Limited Resources During COVID-19 Pandemic

View the panel discussion video recording:  COVID-19 virus has posed special dilemmas of medical ethics, relating to issues that have been much explored in the field of Jewish medical ethics. Three physicians in our congregation, Drs. George Kent, Steve Jackson and Jeff Young, share their perspectives based on their respective work in their fields and the special challenges they have encountered.

May 17, 2020: Israel's Political System in the Age of Coronavirus with Ambassador Ido Aharoni

View the video recording of this event! Israel’s parliamentary democracy is facing an unprecedented dual-challenge today: an historically complex and prolonged political deadlock which ended with a rotational unity government, coupled with the need to manage a first-of-its-kind health crisis. We will look at possible solutions and how can Israel’s uniquely vibrant democracy cope with both. We will explore the unique characteristics of Israel’s system, pointing to both, its advantages and disadvantages, trying to answer the question of what will happen in the foreseeable future.

April 26, 2020: American Jews & Israel: What a Difference 40 Years Makes

View the video recording of this event! In 1980, before Lebanon, before Sabra and Shatila, before the Intifadas, before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the immigration of the Jews of the FSU, before Oslo and the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin, before Start-Up Nation and Birthright Israel, the relationship between American Jews and Israel was quite different and seemingly more straightforward. With three outstanding American Zionist leaders, we will explore contemporary developments in the relationship between American Jews and Israel.

April 19, 2020: A Portrait of Bay Area Jewry: An Historian Analyzes the 2018 Demographic Survey

Download the Demographic Survey PDF and then view the video recording of this event! Has Jewish life here in the bay area been fundementally altered and seriously threatened by the rapid social and technological change in the past generation? Or does today's Jewish identity, practice, and activism reflect patterns that haver persisted from the Gold Rush? 

March 22, 2020: What a Difference 40 Years Makes: The New Antisemitism with David Sandmel

Download this event's Antisemitism presentation PDF or watch the video recording! Topic: “The New Antisemitism” - What is "new" and what is "old" about today's antisemitism, compared to previous generations and what tactics can be used to combat it?

May 5, 2019: The 33rd Annual Levine Lecture: Prospects for Democracy in Iran and the Impact for Israel's Future with Professor Abbas Milani. 

Summary of Professor Milani’s Lecture - By Alan J Weissberger

Introduction & Historical Background:

Professor Abbas Milani, Director of Iranian Studies at Stanford, presented a tour de force of inside information on Iran, the Middle East and a potentially very dangerous geopolitical time ahead.  The latter is primarily due to the rise of the Wahhabism doctrine (Saudi Arabia) and Radical Shia Islam (Iran).  Abbas characterized the Islamic Middle East as highly dysfunctional with Saudi Arabia battling Iran for dominance there.  He also discussed the new influence of Russia (mostly in Syria, but also in Yemen) and China (e.g. Belt and Road Initiative + other investments).  Iran faces a very bleak future indeed, for many reasons.

Due to space limitations, this article will focus on issues related to Judaism and Israel based on past history and the changes that have been taking place in Iran.

In his opening remarks, Abbas initially stated something most Jews are aware of-- that there is now a dangerous tide of anti-Semitism in the world and in the U.S. (“what used to be the most reliable democracy in the world”).  Next the Professor touched on Iran helping Jews escape the Nazi’s in WWII which is described in the paragraph below.

Prof. Milani praised the just concluded Sardari conference at Georgetown University.  Abdol Hossein Sardari was an Iranian diplomat who is credited with saving thousands of Jews in Europe during WW II and given the title "Schindler of Iran."   He then mentioned the “Tehran Children” --a group of Polish Jewish children, mainly orphans, who escaped the Nazi German occupation of Poland. This group of children was later evacuated with several hundred adults to Tehran, Iran, before finally reaching Palestine in 1943.

Iran was the second Islamic country to recognize the state of Israel in 1948 after Turkey.  From 1948 until the Iranian Revolution and the fall of the (Shah) Pahlavi dynasty in 1979, Israel and Iran maintained close ties.

Jews in Iran flourished under the Shah’s rule.  It was the “golden age of Judaism” in Iran.  Over 125 thousand Jews lived in Iran during those years vs. only 20 thousand now.  That current number of Jews in Iran is greater than the number of Jews living in any other Islamic country.

Abbas noted that one Israeli President - Moshe Katsav -was of Iranian descent.  He was Israel’s leader for eight years- from 2000 to 2007.  The Professor said he met Israel’s #1 pop female singer Rita Jahanforuz who speaks perfect Persian and is trying to bridge a huge cultural gap between Israel and Iran.  Other notable Israeli’s of Iranian descent are listed here.

Iran as an Existentialist Threat to Israel:

Many in the Israeli leadership believe that (especially Bibi Netanyahu), but others disagree by citing Israel’s military strength and nuclear capability as deterrents.

Iran’s leaders have repeatedly said that “Israel should be wiped off the map,” which implies the “Zionist entity” should be eliminated.  Iran has gone out of its way to make Israel feel uncomfortable. 

For example, Hezbollah (Shia) is Iran’s most successful export.  The terrorist and political group was trained and financed by the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – which the U.S. recently classified as a terrorist organization –see below).  Note that the IRGC controls almost every Iranian company and all aspects of life in Iran. 

Hezbollah fighters have kept Assad in power in Syria and control a good portion of Lebanon as a political organization.  They are also fighting with the Houthi rebels in Yemen against the U.S. and allies (especially Saudi Arabia) that have backed the “official” government there.  Iran has given Hezbollah over 100 thousand high grade missiles, most of which were and are being used in Syria’s civil war to prop up the Assad regime.

Iran has also provided missiles to Hamas (Sunni) to use in the Gaza war with Israel, which has flared up yet again recently.  Iran also helped Hamas financially, but they grew a bit estranged when Hamas sided against the Assad regime in Syria. 

àThis clearly shows that wreaking havoc and potentially eliminating Israel is more important to Iran’s leaders than is the huge Shia-Sunni split within Islam.

The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend:

  • Israel is now an ally of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Oman (all Islamic Arab states) due to their mutual desire to contain and then weaken Iran. 
  • Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Israel were the only countries that supported the U.S. labeling of the IRGC as a foreign terrorist group.
  • Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan, and Israel want to push Iran out of Iraq and Syria.  So does the U.S. which feels that Iranian and Hezbollah fighters there are destabilizing the region. 
  • On May 5th it was reported that the U.S. had sent an aircraft carrier strike group and Air Force bombers to the Middle East because of “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” related to Iran.

The (yet to be revealed) U.S. Peace Plan for the Middle East (Israel-Palestinians):

In response to an audience member’s question on what the Professor thought of Jared Kushner’s Middle East peace plan, Abbas first said that no one knows since that plan has yet to be revealed.  More Importantly, Prof. Milani said that Kushner would have no influence on the Middle East peace process. 

“He won’t succeed.  He knows nothing about the Middle East and has not published any writings on that subject,” Abbas added.

Reference and Acknowledgement:

Prof. Milani’s website lists his published articles, books, speeches and other pertinent information about him.  This author met the Professor ten years ago, when he first came to Stanford.  Abbas invited me to a lecture there where a Rabbi from Iran talked about the state of Jewry in that country.  It was terrific! I have learned a lot from EACH of Abbas’ lectures I’ve been fortunate to attend over the last decade.  His summary of what is really happening in the Middle East is highly informative, enlightening and refreshing.


2019: Russia's Impact on Current World Events and Implications for the Middle East

  • Professor Naimark discussed 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.


Scientists in Synagogues Past Events

July 2019: A Visit to the Lick Observatory

If you look to the east you will see the Lick Observatory way up on top of the summit of Mt. Hamilton. Inspired by our Scientists in Synagogues Series, a group of forty Shir Hadash members braved the winding road up Mount Hamilton for an extraordinary evening together. 

The tour of the facility was amazing. We visited and learned about the Shane 3-m telescope. Seeing the astrophysicists at work and video conferencing with the UCLA research team was a treat and they readily answered our questions about black holes.

The evening included an outside picnic dinner followed by a fascinating lecture from Professor Clare Max, the Director of the University of California Observatories at the University of California at Santa Cruz who spoke about the likelihood of discovering life on another planet and what it may mean for Judaism. The lecture was followed by a lively question and answer session and a discussion about discovering other intelligence life in the universe and the impact upon our view of God.   

We also learned about the historic Lick 36” Reflector.  Watching the roof open and the telescope move into place was fascinating. We were treated to a magnificent view of Jupiter, a globules cluster and a spectacular nebula with a green light ring around it. 

One of the most beautiful parts of the evening was watching the sunset over the Santa Clara Valley and celebrating Havdalah together at an elevation of 4,200 feet. If you have not seen the sunset from the summit of Mt. Hamilton it is well worth the trip for this moment of beauty. 

Thank you to Jim Katzman for making this memorable evening possible, to Professor Clare Max for her fascinating lecture, to the wonderful Lick Observatory volunteers and staff who hosted us so nicely, to Rabbi Geoff Mitelman, the Founding Director of Sinai and Synopses who sponsor our Scientists in Synagogues program, to Jack Siegel who worked diligently to secure our Scientists in Synagogues grant, to the Shir Hadash Scientists in Synagogues committee members and to all who were able to participate. 


2019: Dana Bash on Journalism and Social MediaThe Dana Bash event was a huge success for our Scientists in Synagogues program and drew a large crowd of about 220 people. Dana spoke about how journalism has been influenced by social media and how it has been shaping politics in our country and around the world.

  • She spoke about how easy it was these days for organizations as well as for individuals to publish fake news that shapes public opinion and the harm it can cause.
  • Dana spoke about how extensively social media has been utilized by President Trump and his administration to reach out to and shape public opinion. People had greater responsibility today to check the sources of the news they hear so they can form opinion based on facts and not fake news.  
  • Social media has made it easy for Journalism to get the story out to many people very fast. In the present environment, as technology and social media are taking center stage, Dana Bash pointed out that journalism can and should maintain its historic commitment to truth and ethical values. She noted that now, more than ever before, the need for journalism to get to the truth, to highlight and spotlight the truth, was most important. She said that "Ironically, the world we are living in now is good for traditional journalists like me because it's even more important for our journalism [to get to the truth]."
  • Dana spoke about how Judaism influenced her career in journalism. She said that her Jewish identity, values and heritage shaped the kind of journalist she was and how she approached journalism. 
  • Dana Bash was an excellent speaker, personable, interesting, and approachable.  The audience loved her and listened to her attentively. The Q & A session following her talk was interesting and people raised good questions.  Bash was very kind to talk with a number of people who had follow up questions. 
Mon, July 22 2024 16 Tammuz 5784