Shalom Austin Adult Jewish Learning (AJL) will be a series of high-quality Jewish learning opportunities that will provide a cohort experience to individuals of all backgrounds and beliefs. Additionally, AJL will provide more flexibility to students as each person will be able to choose the best learning opportunity for them based on topic, instructor, and time. Starting in November, classes will meet on Monday evenings at Shalom Austin. Each month from November-May there will be a new topic and a new teacher presenting a month-long module around a specific theme.

Students interested in participating in all seven, four-week classes can sign up for the entire program for $360, or students can sign up for individual modules for $72 per module. For questions, please contact alachua.nazarenko@shalomaustin.org.




Module 1 | November 4, 11, 25 (*three-session course)
Propaganda, Alternative Facts & Half-Truths in Traditional Jewish Sources | Cathy Schechter 

In this 3-part facilitated discussion, we will respond to a variety of traditional sources to understand Jewish responses through the ages to people who bend the truth. Discussions will cover:

  • Pharaoh’s Propaganda War. How do leaders persuade their followers to commit genocide?  A deep study of Pharaoh’s actions and subsequent historical Jewish responses offer surprising insights into modern events.
  • Are Half-Truths Ever Okay? Several Jewish heroines from Tanakh would never pass today’s “Truth-o-meter.”  In telling half-truths to, “advance history,” we’ll discuss when (and if) this subtle form of manipulation is ever justified, and if so, when and for what reasons. 
  • Alternative Facts about Rabbi Akiva. Tall tales about the great Rabbi Akiva rival those of Paul Bunyan and George Washington’s chopping of the cherry tree.  However, rival stories in different traditional sources call into question his true character:  Saint? Or bon mot with a wicked sense of humor? You decide.

 Module 2 | December 2, 9, 16, 23
Jewish Music: Songs of the Jewish Experience | Rabbi Neil Blumofe

Join Rabbi Neil Blumofe for a journey into Jewish song.  We will consider the origins of sacred song and how the expression of the soul made its way from the synagogue into society and became the backbone of popular culture across the ages.  We will also concentrate on current musical trends in Israel. 

The Zohar, a Jewish book of mysticism, states that while there is a specific key for each specific door, the key of music opens them all.  Jewish music is based in nusach -- or literally, the way to signify lived experience, in real-time.  How does music express the deepest longings of our heart?  What makes music, Jewish?  In our sessions, we will couple listening to various Jewish musics from across the world (music appreciation), with an opportunity to give voice to our own feelings (singing).  In addition, we will see how music has been a constant in keeping the Jewish people together -- in the Diaspora and in Israel.  This class is open to all backgrounds and no musical experience is necessary. 

Registration for Module 2 will open on November 4.


Module 3 | January 6, 13, 20, 27 
Find Out Why | Rabbi Mendy Levertov

We will examine 4 common experiences in-depth, Friday Night Shabbat Dinner, Kosher eating, the Blessing Addiction, and the Secular/Jewish calendar discrepancy. We will uncover some of the deeply emotional, rational and spiritual meanings that are woven within each detail of each practice. Why 2 challahs? Why is Passover early some years and late others? What’s this blessing business? Is kosher really a healthy diet? And many other questions answered.


 Module 4 | February 3, 10, 17, 24 
Subversive Sisters: Getting To Know the Women of Tanakh | Dana Baruch

50 years ago, almost all teachings about the women found in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) came to us through the lenses of men--rabbis, teachers and scholars. It wasn't until about 50 years ago that this began to shift.  In 1972 the first female rabbi was ordained in the U.S., and around this same time, Jewish academic feminism was beginning to come into its own. Over the past several decades, our remarkable Biblical female characters have begun to speak to us in perhaps new and more rounded ways.  This course utilizes texts from the Tanakh, along with commentary exclusively written by women, in an effort to learn new messages--powerful, remarkable and sometimes subversive ones--from the Women in Tanakh.  Likely "visitors" to our class will be Eve, Lilith, Sarah, Hagar, Dina, the daughters of Tzelophehad, Hannah and Hulda.  Together, we will explore and discover, perhaps for the very first time, who these ancient women were and what they have to teach us in 2020!


 Module 5 | March 2, 16, 23, 30 Rabbi Amy Cohen
Hearing the Prophetic Voice | Rabbi Amy Cohen & Rabbi Alan Freedman

Although the Sages proclaimed the end to Prophesy centuries ago, we still hear the prophetic voice today. We hear it from the Biblical Prophets and from voices that challenge our society today. We will begin by examining the prophetic texts of Isaiah and Micah for messages that continue to resonate. We will then explore how the more modern prophetic voice continues to influence modern society through the messages of Abraham Joshua Heschel and others. Finally, we will examine some contemporary prophetic voices such as Yuval Noah Harari challenging American and Israeli society as well as examining visions of the Jewish future.


 Module 6 | April 6, 13, 20, 27 
This I Believe (About God) | Rabbi Rebecca Reice

God is One. You’ve been saying that statement since you learned the Sh’ma. What else do you believe about God? Come and learn about the variety in Jewish beliefs about God. Critique some and be influenced by others. Come with your ideas and be ready to evaluate what you believe.


Module 7 | May 4, 11, 18, 25 
The Jewish Royals: Kings and Queens of Israel and Judah | Rabbi Dan Millner

How well do you know the history of the Jewish monarchy and the stories of Israel’s kings and queens? While names like David and Solomon may be familiar, other names like Jeroboam and Ataliah may be less well known, but equally important. 

In “The Jewish Royals: Kings and Queens of Israel and Judah,” we will discuss the life and times of some of Israel’s most notorious monarchs in a way which makes these personalities come to life in real-time. Come and learn the history of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Delve into the complicated political and spiritual landscape of ancient Israel. See with your own eyes, how thousand-year-old prophecies, events, and parables speak as profoundly to the modern reader as they did to the ancient. No prior background is required!