Bulletin Board Jewish Life

“Book Smart” opens Jewish literature to a contemporary audience

To study the history of most cultures, you need to learn about wars and empires, warriors and city builders, and great works of art. But the history of Judaism is overwhelmingly a history of books. Books form the core of Judaism’s culture. But even if they’re known as “the People of the Book,” much of Judaism’s classic literature remains closed to contemporary Jews.

In January, two local Charades — in Longmeadow, Mass. and West Hartford, Conn. — will open Jewish literature to a contemporary audience as they explore the history, authors, and content of Judaism’s most important titles in a new course entitled Book Smart.

 “It’s an ambitious undertaking,” Rabbi Yaakov Wolff of the Longmeadow Chabad says, “I’m excited because I think the course will give us a richer understanding of what Judaism meant throughout the centuries and what it can mean for us today.”

When Book Smart’s first 90-minute session kicks off, students will begin their six-week survey of traditional Jewish literature, covering; Torah, Talmud, Midrash, halachah, ethics, and philosophy, as well as kabbalah and Chasidic mysticism. “We’ll meet the authors behind the big ideas of Jewish history over a period of thirty-three centuries,” Rabbi Wolff says.

The history of Jewish literature is a broad subject, but the course will also go deep. “We’re not just going to learn why these works were written. We’re actually going to get a taste of what it’s like to participate in a Talmudic debate, unpack a philosophical conundrum, and decipher a kabbalistic text from the Zohar.”

Book Smart was developed by The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute, headquartered in Brooklyn, New York. Over 400,000 people have participated in JLI’s courses since the organization was founded in 1998.

SPRINFIELD CLASS: Cost to attend is $100 a person. For information, call Rabbi Wolff at (413) 348-4978 or visit www.myJLI.com to register or to access other course-related information. Book Smart will be offered live at LYA, 1148 Converse Street in Longmeadow, as well as on zoom beginning Wednesday, January 25 at 7:30 p.m.

Book Smart will also be offered beginning on Thursday, January 26 at law offices of James Smith, 1331 Main Street, Springfield, MA 01103, Springfield, MA, for six consecutive weeks. 

WEST HARTFORD CLASS: Led by Rabbi Shaya Gopin of Chabad of West Hartford. Cost to attend is $99. The course will run 6 sessions on Mondays beginning Jan. 23 at 7:30 p.m. For information or to register: www.Chabadartford.com/course | 860.232.1116 | RabbiShaya@ChabadHartford.com

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