New course of­fers in­sight into Jewish prac­tices

Greenwich Time - - NEWS - By Erin Kay­ata erin.kay­ata@stam­for­dad­vo­; 203-964-2265; @er­in_kay­ata

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

Michael Cummo / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

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.

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