Congregation B’nai Israel strives to ensure that Jewish learning is constantly occurring because we know, as Jews, that learning is essential to the maintenance of Jewish values, identity and continuity. Our goal is to create a community where people can share in experiences of Jewish learning and become energized by it.
We provide opportunities for individuals and families to develop a spiritual, educational and social connection to Jewish life and to the Congregation, as well as to integrate Judaism into people’s daily lives. This page begins by listing offerings by category. A monthly listing of the same courses follow. The program is still being developed, so return here once in a while to see what is coming up!
Spector Family Scholar-in-Residence: Dr. Wendy Zierler
Friday, February 21 at 8:15 pm.
(following services and dinner)
Saturday, February 22 at 9:30 a.m.
(following services and breakfast)
Join us on February 21-22 and we welcome our Scholar in Residence, Dr. Wendy Zierler, to Congregation B’nai Israel. Dr. Zierler serves as Sigmund Falk Professor of Feminist Studies and Modern Jewish Literature at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City. Prior to joining HUC-JIR, Dr. Zierler was a Research Fellow in the English Department of Hong Kong University, where she lived for five and a half years while teaching at the University. Dr. Zierler is a deeply engaging scholar and teacher. Both Rabbi Schultz and Rabbi Marion had the opportunity to study with Dr. Zierler in rabbinical school and are so excited to welcome her to our B’nai Israel community.
Congregants will have two opportunities to learn with Dr. Zierler. She’ll be teaching on Friday night after Shabbat services and dinner, and will lead Torah study on Saturday morning. She will also lead a session for local clergy on Friday afternoon as part of the Joseph I and Syliva Spector Clergy Institute lecture. Click here to sign up for dinner.
One Temple, One Book
Antisemitism Here and Now, by Deborah E. Lipstadt
Monday, May 4, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
We encourage you to read this important book over the next 3 months written by one of the preeminent scholars on modern Jewish history and Holocaust Studies, Deborah Lipstadt. Join with our rabbis on May 4 for an important conversation on Antisemitism and what we can do to combat the rising tide of acts of hate and violence towards Jews in our country. We will also be offering sessions in March where we will do a close reading study of parts of the book.
Midrasha is another name for a learning center and usually for adults.
Real Life Parenting: The Blessings of a Skinned Knee
Mondays, February 10 and 17, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. in the Natt Family Library
We all want many of the same things for our children. We want them to be resilient, successful and happy. We want them to develop the skills they need to make their way in the world and to never suffer pain. We can’t always get what we want, but if we are thoughtful and deliberate, we have a good chance of them becoming wonderful adults who will almost always make us proud. Join Ira Wise, father of a 21 and a 27 year old (and therefore not an expert about your kids) for a frank conversation about parenting. Whether your children are older, younger or even just a plan for the future, this is a conversation you will be glad you had!
Book Discussion at B’nai Israel of the Federation For Jewish Philanthropy
Community Read of kaddish.com by Nathan Englander
Sunday, February 23 at 2:00 p.m. in the Natt Family Library
kaddish.com is a sharp, irreverent tale of a son who makes a diabolical compromise that brilliantly captures the tensions between tradition and modernity. Join us for an exploration of kaddish.com, moderated by B’nai Israel congregant and professional book-discussion leader, Kelle Ruden. This community read is part of the Federation’s community-wide program series, Judaism: A 2020 Vision – Ancient Traditions through a Contemporary Lens.
Purim Prep: The Scroll of Esther
Lifelong Learning: Friday, February 28, Noon – 1:30 p.m. in the Natt Family Library
Purim is Near! Join with Rabbi Schultz for a one session course on Megilat Esther, or the Scroll of Esther. This is a good opportunity to learn the text that we read on the evening of Purim without all the noisemakers and chaos! All ages, abilities, and levels are welcome and encouraged to join!
How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick
Monday, March 2, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Join with Rabbi Marion and Bari Dworken, Educator, Chaplain and Spiritual Director (and member of our B’nai Israel community) for a conversation around the complexities of supporting our loved ones through illness. Inspired by the book How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick by Letty Cottin Pogrebin, we will explore what Jewish tradition has to say on this topic, and we will discuss practical ways to best comfort, help, and even simply talk to a friend who is sick.
Security in Israel – The IDF and Israelis
Lifelong Learning: Fridays, March 13, 20 and 27 at Noon in the Natt Family Library
Here in America, we only see the Israel Defense Force (IDF) as depicted by the media. We only see the part of the story that the presenters want to share. Join our Young Israeli Emissaries, Noya, Ido and Ella for a first-hand exploration. They live in Israel and will all be serving in the IDF next year. They will teach us about the values behind the IDF, help us wrestle with issues that make us uncomfortable and hopefully give us a chance to speak with soldiers currently serving or who have recently completed their service.
Mikvah 101: The Meaning and Majesty of the Jewish Ritual Bath
Sunday, March 15, 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
At Mikvah Israel, 1326 Stratfield Road, Fairfield
*For Women Only*
For thousands of years, Jews have immersed in a ritual bath to acknowledge and embrace life’s ongoing changes and stages. Today, Jewish men and women continue to use the mikvah to celebrate moments of joy, heal after times of sorrow or illness, and commemorate moments of transition. Women from the B’nai Israel community are invited to meet Rabbi Marion at our local mikvah on the morning of March 15. Drop your kids at Kehillah and head on over! We will view the mikvah up close, learn about the customs and origins surrounding this ritual, and explore the ways that ritual immersion has been reimagined and redefined to support our modern values. Due to space limitations at the mikvah, this opportunity is limited to the first 12 participants who RSVP. If interest is high, we will offer an additional session at a later date. Please RSVP to Rabbi Marion at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to attend.
Deborah Lipstadt’s Anti-Semitism – Digging Deeper
Mondays, March 30, April 6 & 13, 7:00 p.m.
We hope you will be reading Deborah Lipstadt’s Antisemitism Here and Now as part of the One Temple One Book event on April 20. Join Ira Wise and Susan Walden for a three session class is designed to dig into to some of the issues raised by the book and have a conversation about things like the language people use, anti-Semitism and racism, Holocaust denial and do people really mean what they say? Ira is our Director of Education and Susan is an anti-Semitism program coordinator for the ADL.
Regular Ongoing Learning
The rabbis told us to make learning a habit.
One way is to be a part of a group of learners that meets regularly!
Adult Round Table
First Thursdays every month at 12:30 p.m.
Ilene Goby facilitates a discussion about current events for anyone who wants to go beyond the headlines. Join us the first Thursday of every month, and bring a sandwich, your opinion and an open mind.
Thursday, January 23, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Join with women from across the B’nai Israel community each month for conversation, laughter and learning as we celebrate the start of each new moon and soak in the wisdom of our female ancestors. Women of all ages are welcome to participate. Our gatherings will be held at Congregation B’nai Israel from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. unless otherwise announced. Questions? Contact Rabbi Sarah Marion at email@example.com. Future meetings will be 2/13, 3/19, 4/16, 5/14 and 6/25.
Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. in the Natt Family Library
Rabbi Ben Bag Bag said “Turn it (the Torah) over and over, for everything is in it. Each week we read from the Torah. Each year at Simchat Torah we start over from the beginning. Each time we revisit a portion, we learn something new. Some of us have been learning together for decades. Some of us joined recently. All of us are teaching and learning from one another! Join us!
Fearless Females in the Bible! Twenty Minutes of Torah
Sunday, February 23 at 9:35 – 9:55 a.m. in the Natt Family Library
Bite-sized Torah! Join Rabbi Schultz or Rabbi Marion for a brief but meaty Jewish conversation! This year we will explore some of the women central to the TaNaKh (Hebrew Bible). Drop in! This month Rabbi Marion will help us learn about Miriam, prophet of Israel and sister of Moses and Aaron! We will also meet 3/8 and 4/5.
Adult Learning in the Community
While we offer many wonderful opportunities for Adult Jewish Learning at B’nai Israel, there are other places to find the class or lecture you were seeking!
The Federation for Jewish Philanthropy is partnering with all of the area congregations in creating Vision 2020, a collection of cultural events and learning opportunities. You can find all of the offerings here.
The Bennet Center
The Bennett Center for Judaic Studies at Fairfield University offers an array of fascinating lectures and performances that are open to the wider community. The full listing and instructions for reserving your place may be found by clicking here.
Torah Study @ 9:30 a.m.
6 Adult Round Table at 12:30 p.m.
10 Parenting: Blessings of a Skinned Knee at 7:00 p.m.
13 Rosh Chodesh at 7:00 p.m.
17 Parenting: Blessings of a Skinned Knee at 7:00 p.m.
21 Spector Lecture: Dr. Wendy Zierler at 8:15 p.m.
20 Torah Study: Dr. Wendy Zierler at 9:30 am
23 Twenty Minutes of Torah – The Daughters of Zelophachad at 9:35 a.m.
Kaddish.com at 2:00 p.m.
28 Lifelong Learning: The Scroll of Esther at Noon
2 How to be a Friend to a Friend Who is Sick at 7:00 p.m.
5 Adult Round Table at 12:30 p.m.
Nathan Englander on kaddish.com at 7:30 p.m., Bennet Center at Fairfield University
8 Twenty Minutes of Torah – Esther/Vashti
13 Lifelong Learning: Security in Israel – The IDF and Israelis at noon
15 Mikvah 101: The Meaning and Majesty of the Jewish Ritual Bath
19 Rosh Chodesh at 7:00 p.m.
American Jewish Entrepreneurship… at 7:30 p.m., Bennet Center at Fairfield University
20 Lifelong Learning: Security in Israel – The IDF and Israelis at noon
26 Dueling Loyalties: at 7:30 p.m., Bennet Center Fairfield University
27 Lifelong Learning: Security in Israel – The IDF and Israelis at noon
30 Deborah Lipstadt’s Anti-Semitism – Digging Deeper at 7:00 p.m.
1 Philosemitism and Judaizing… at 7:30 p.m., Bennet Center at Fairfield University
2 Adult Round Table at 12:30 p.m.
5 Twenty Minutes of Torah – Shifra and Puah
6 Deborah Lipstadt’s Anti-Semitism – Digging Deeper at 7:00 p.m.
13 Deborah Lipstadt’s Anti-Semitism – Digging Deeper at 7:00 p.m.
16 Rosh Chodesh at 7:00 p.m.
20 David Axelrod at 7:30 p.m., Bennet Center at Fairfield University
The rabbis also told us to never stop learning. Whether you are retired or your work allows you to be free on Fridays at noon, this collection of courses may fit your needs!
How We Prepare for the High Holy Days
Fridays, September 6, 13, 20 at Noon in the Natt Family Library
Get an inside look at how each of us personally prepare for the upcoming New Year!
Rabbi Schultz – September 6
Rabbi Marion – September 13
Ira Wise – September 20
The Insecurity of Freedom
Fridays, October 11, 18 and 25 at noon in the Natt Family Library
We live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. That is a big part of way many of our ancestors (or we ourselves) came here from somewhere else. We celebrate that freedom in many ways – by voting, running for office, speaking out for ideals we believe in and against things we find abhorrent. In 1954 Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote an essay in which he cautioned the Jewish people about freedom. He suggested it was a blade that cuts in more than one direction and that we would have to work hard to maintain our unique identity and connection to our heritage and to God. Join Ira Wise in examining where we are with that. What are the challenges to being Jewish today and what should we do to ensure that we thrive in the future?
A Perspective on the Jewish Voice
Fridays, Noon – 1:00 p.m., November 1, 8, 15 and 22
in the Natt Family Library
Join with Rabbi Schultz for a fascinating look into the Rabbinic perspective on the Jewish voice. What is the implication of making a vow or an oath? When is it OK to gossip about another person? When are we supposed to speak up and when should we stay quiet? Why do Jews love kibbitzing so much? (Not sure we’ll answer that one…) All ages and learning backgrounds encouraged to join!
Midrasha is another name for a learning center and usually for adults. Watch this space for additional offerings.
The Poetry of Yehudah Amichai
Mondays, November 4, 11, 18 and 25 at 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Widely beloved as Israel’s greatest contemporary poet, Yehuda Amichai touches the soul through his evocative yet universally resonant musings that drift from the sacred to the mundane and everywhere in between. From war to love, from his parents to his children, from loving the Jews and despairing for the Jews, from shopping for groceries in Jerusalem to the politics of Jerusalem, from sex to God and then back again – Amichai’s poetry will take you on a journey that is as distant as it is personal. Join with Rabbi Marion for this four part series as we take a deep dive into the English translations of a selection of Amichai’s greatest writings – discovering, as we go, own stories and our own journeys carefully positioned between the lines.
Some of these offerings are series, others are one-time events. All can be fascinating.
Becoming a Soulful Jewish Parent – Zoom Class
A Weeknight TBD after bedtime Advance sign-up required, see below
Join with Rabbi Schultz and Rabbi Marion for this six-part course designed to give parents an opportunity to pause and reflect on the busyness of family life through a Jewish lens. The course will be taught online over Zoom, so you can put your kids to bed and take the class on your couch (no babysitter required). The class is limited to 8 sets of parents with kids living in the house (For two-parent households the course is designed for you to both participate) and we ask you commit as best you can to all six sessions. We will determine a schedule once everyone signs up. To sign up, please email Rabbi Schultz, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Slichot 5779 With Special Guest Adam Greenberg
Saturday, September 21, 2019 at 8:00 p.m.
At Congregation Rodeph Sholom, Bridgeport
The combined communal beginning to the High Holy Day season kicks off with Havdalah, followed by Guest Speaker Adam Greenberg. Adam was an outfielder for the Chicago Cubs of Major League Baseball in 2005 and was best known for being hit in the head in his major league debut on the first pitch of his first plate appearance. He has since become a powerful speaker on perseverance and new beginnings. Followed by refreshments and Slichot Services.
Yom Kippur Study Session: May God Bless You and Keep You
Wednesday, October 9 at 1:00 p.m. in the Natt Family Library
Each Yom Kippur we gather to pray, repent and check in with one another. Some of us prefer to spend an hour learning together during the Children’s service rather than leaving the temple. This year we will explore some ideas about God and about ourselves. There is no need to specifically believe in God to join our conversation. Believing in yourself is a very good beginning though. Join Ira Wise as we learn together.
Adult Sukkot Program
Sunday, October 13 at 7:15 p.m. in the Natt Family Library
Join with the Executive Director of Operation Hope, Carla Miklos, to learn about the four decades of their work. Carla will discuss how their work has shifted through the decades and how they are responding to the new challenges of supporting the homeless and the hungry in our area.
Scholars/Musicians in Residence: Or and Feliza Zohar
Wednesday, November 13 Noon and 7:00 p.m.
Many of you enjoyed the visit last year from Rabbi Or and Feliza Zohar. They are returning from Israel to Bridgeport November 13-14 as our scholars and musicians in residence. On Wednesday they will run two adult programs:
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Current Israeli Issues from the Perspective of an Israeli Reform Rabbi
(With Rabbi Or Zohar)
Library concert with Or and Feliza Zohar (Natt Family Library)
December 11-15 in Chicago, IL
Join with Rabbi Schultz, Rabbi Marion, and thousands of Reform Jews from across the country for four days in the heart of Chicago! Biennial is a wonderful opportunity to learn, pray, connect, and experience some of the best aspects of our Movement. To learn more, check
We also like to come together as a community to worship, share a Shabbat dinner and learn together.
Save the Date!
Installation of Evan Schultz
as Senior Rabbi of Congregation B’nai Israel.
Friday, November 15
6:00 p.m. service with dinner and lecture to follow. Special guest speaker, Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman. Details to follow here, in the November bulletin and Hashavua.
The American Jewish Paradox
Monday, January 13, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. in the Natt Family Library
What does it mean to be Jewish in 21st century America? Join with Rabbi Schultz for a discussion on the many complexities of American Jewish identity. Who is Jewish? Do you have to believe anything to be Jewish? How do we think about complicated questions such as intermarriage and our relationship to Israel as liberal Jews? We hope you’ll join for this important and complex discussion!
Pirkei Avot: The Wisdom of the Sages
Fridays, February 7 and 14, noon – 1:00 p.m. in the Natt Family Library
Join with Rabbi Schultz for a two session course on Pirkei Avot, an important collection of rabbinic insights written in the period after the destruction of the ancient Temple in 70 CE. Many of these teachings and maxims focus on morals and ethics. All ages, abilities, and levels are welcome and encouraged to join!
3 Adult Round Table at 12:30 p.m.
9 Yom Kippur Study Session: May God Bless You and Keep You, 1:00 p.m.
11 The Insecurity of Freedom at noon, also October 18 and 25
13 Twenty Minutes of Torah – Eve/Lilith
Adult Sukkot Program – Carla Miklos
24 Rosh Chodesh at 7:00 p.m.
1 A Perspective on the Jewish Voice at noon, also November 8, 15 and 22
4 The Poetry of Yehudah Amichai at 7:00 p.m., also November 11, 18 and 25
7 Adult Round Table at 12:30 p.m.
13 Scholars/Musicians in Residence: Or and Feliza Zohar
14 Rosh Chodesh at 7:00 p.m.
15 Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman at the Installation of Rabbi Evan Schultz
24 Twenty Minutes of Torah – Sarah
Becoming a Soulful Jewish Parent – Zoom Class