New course offers insight into Jewish practices
Rabbi Akiva — one of Judaism’s great scholars — didn’t begin studying until he was 40.
However, Jewish texts are always available for learning and studying them is one of the most important facets of the religion. This is one of the lessons brought into the classroom of the Rhythms and Purposes of Jewish Living course that started this week at the Jewish Community Center in Stamford.
“Jewish learning is at the center of what it means to be Jewish,” course instructor Jonathan Fass said. “It’s central to what makes Jewish life vibrant.”
The interest and ability to pursue knowledge at any age was evident Tuesday night in the JCC preschool classroom, decorated with paper pumpkins on the wall and hand-drawn artwork. In juxtaposition, three men, all retirees, sat looking to explore their faith now that they have more free time.
“I feel like something is missing,” said Steve Simon, who retired two years ago and makes an effort once a year to read a book with Jewish themes. “This is an important part of my life...but what does it mean?”
“It’s important to know something about your ethnicity, about your faith, about your background,” he added. “This’ll give me a lot of background from when I was young that I forgot.”
The 20-week class is co-sponsored by the United Jewish Federation of Greater Stamford, New Canaan and Darien and the UJA-JCC Greenwich. According to Pam Ehrenkranz, the course has been offered for 10 years in Greenwich and was previously held in Stamford.
The partnership between the organizations is now uniting the two communities for the sake of Jewish learning.
“The Jewish population in Stamford is much bigger than it would be in Greenwich,” Ehrenkranz said. “We’re trying to break down those geographical barriers.”
According to data from the Jewish Federation of Western Connecticut, there are about 12,000 Jewish people living in Stamford, Darien and New Canaan. In total, about 117,850 people across the state identify as Jewish.
The course curriculum comes from the Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning, a popular pluralistic adult Jewish education network. It’s taught in two parts by Bob Abrams and Jonathan Fass, seasoned Jewish educators. The first hour of the class with Abrams focuses on Jewish practice while the second hour with Fass thinks about big questions, like the relationship of Jewish people with God, others and themselves.
“It’s not a how-to,” Ehrenkranz said. ”It’s a why. The only thing that’d be really awful in this class is if you held back a why.”
The Rhythms and Purposes of Jewish Living will be held Tuesday nights from 7 to 9 p.m. for 20 weeks at the UJF/JCC of Stamford at 1035 Newfield Ave. For more information, call 203321-1373 or visit ujajcc.org.
Instructor Bob Abrams teaches a class at the Jewish Community Center in Stamford about Jewish living and how to live Juadism in every day life.