Class Offerings and Descriptions

Class Offerings and Descriptions

All our classes are currently meeting virtually. Contact Ali Drumm, Director of Informal Education, for more information about adult education and Marcie Eskin, Informal Education Coordinator, for Zoom links and phone numbers. Click here to register for classes.

2020-2021 CLASSES

Classic Jewish Texts

Talmud: Tractate Berakhot with Rabbi Michael Schwab
Tuesdays, 10:00-11:00 am
Rabbi Schwab takes students on a journey through the Jewish oral tradition, its rich history, structure and famous personalities.
Winter Quarter Fee: $60 for Beth El members; $125 for non-members

The Magic and Mystery of Biblical Chant and Song with Hazzan Barbara Barnett
(Sisterhood Torah Fund Class)
Tuesdays, 11:00 am (8 sessions), beginning February 2
How do the melodies and songs of the Bible give life and meaning to the ancient words? Explore with Hazzan Barnett how the cantillation and special melodies in Torah, Haftarah, and the five Megillot structure, dramatize, and comment upon the Biblical texts.
Sisterhood Torah Fund Class: minimum $54 donation to attend one or ALL Torah Fund classes for the whole year. Click here for information to make your donation directly to Torah Fund via credit card or to pay by check.

The Rabbinic Mind: How the Sages Understood the World with Rabbi Vernon Kurtz
Sundays (6 sessions), 10:30 am CST, beginning March 7
We will study together selections of Rabbinic literature – Mishna, Tosefta, Midrash, and both the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmud – to gain a sense of how the Rabbis, the Sages of old, attempted to understand their world. Through the study of the primary texts we will also discuss how their views influence ours as we attempt to comprehend the world in which we live. This class is offered through the Schechter Institutes. Price: $120. Click here to register.

The Heroines of Passover: Shifra, Puah, Bat Paroh, Yocheved, and Miriam with Rabbi Freedman
Sunday, March 21; 1:00 pm
Who are these women who precede Moses and display heroic courage in Egypt, culminating in the Exodus? This text study will highlight the unique contributions of these remarkable characters. This class will make for a great conversation-starter at your Seder. Free

Hebrew Language

Beginning Ivrit: Beginning Conversational Hebrew Class in Partnership with Moriah Congregation
Silvi Freedson

Wednesdays, 3:30 – 5:00 pm (9 sessions), beginning January 13
Through this partnership class with Moriah Congregation in Deerfield, we will begin speaking Hebrew. We look forward to the chance to practice knowledge of letters, pronunciation, and the basics of reading and conversation.
Fee: $125, $60 discounted tuition for NSSBE members and free to Moriah members. Register by contacting Judy Alex at or 847-948-5340.

Café Ivrit: Intermediate Conversational Hebrew with Silvi Freedson
Tuesdays, 6:00 – 7:30 pm, beginning March 2
This Intermediate level course will help you improve your conversational and reading skills.
Spring Quarter Fee: $60 for Beth El members; $125 for non-members

Sicha Ivrit: Advanced Conversational Hebrew with Silvi Freedson
Thursdays, 6:00 – 7:30 pm, beginning March 4
Join this Advanced level course to study Israeli literature and culture in Hebrew! New students are always welcome.
Spring Quarter Fee: $60 for Beth El members; $125 for non-members

Conversational Hebrew with Dr. Alicia Gejman
(Sisterhood Torah Fund)
Thursdays, 10:00 – 11:00 am

Designed for adults who have basic fluency in reading and writing Hebrew.
Sisterhood Torah Fund Class: minimum $54 donation to attend one or ALL Torah Fund classes for the whole year. Click here for information to make your donation directly to Torah Fund via credit card or to pay by check.

Open Conversational Hebrew
Sundays, 9:30 – 10:30 am

Practice Hebrew conversation and reading informally with other participants.
Free. For information, contact Judy Farby at or 847-372-1700.

Jewish Life and Culture

Breaking Jewish News & Views: Jewish News Update with Carl Schrag
Wednesdays, 9:45 – 11:00 am (10 sessions), beginning January 6
This weekly discussion-based class zooms in on local, national, and global news through a distinctly Jewish lens. We’ll talk about Covid-19 and how we’re adapting to our new reality, politics, Israel, anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, rifts in our Jewish community, local and global Jewish affairs, campus life, and the intersection between these topics (and more). Every session will challenge everything you thought you knew or believed on a wide range of subjects. You’ll learn new things, reconsider old ideas, feel joy, surprise, and even a little frustration. The class is led by Carl Schrag, who formerly was the Editor of The Jerusalem Post and brings a journalist’s probing questions to every topic.
Winter Quarter Fee: $60 for Beth El members; $125 for non-members

Meet the Beatles…and the 10 Greatest Ideas of Judaism with Dr. Stephen Arnoff, CEO of the Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center
Wednesdays, Noon-1:00 pm (10 sessions), beginning January 6
All you need is love. I believe in yesterday. Let it be. These lines may represent some of the universal wisdom of the Beatles, but they are also signature ideas of Judaism. Each week we will explore one of the core teachings of Jewish tradition intertwined with the music and imagination of the world’s greatest band, the Beatles. L’Chaim (To Life!), Tzelem Elohim (Creation in God’s Image), and Talmud Torah (Teach Them to Your Children) are just some of the core principles of Judaism that careful listening to the Beatles both affirms as profound Jewish ways of living, but also the power and purpose of Jewish wisdom as it is embedded in the world. This class is jointly sponsored by North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Congregation Beth Shalom, and Temple Etz Chaim.
Winter Quarter Fee: $60 for Beth El members; $125 for non-members. Click here for special registration link.

EduConcerts: Sing, Learn and Enjoy! with Hazzan Ben Tisser
Thursdays, 8:00 pm (6 sessions); January 28, February 11, March 4, March 11, April 22, and May 6
We will learn songs of a variety of genres, and learn about the people who wrote them and how they influenced the Jewish music we enjoy today! No background necessary for this class. Winter Quarter Fee: $60 for Beth El members; $125 for non-members

The Heart of Judaism in Theory and Practice with Ali Drumm
Wednesdays, 8:00 pm (10 sessions), beginning February 3
This 10-lesson course from the Florence Melton School of Jewish Learning explores historical and contemporary examples of Jewish commitment to social justice through the lens of Jewish wisdom manifest in our texts. The goal is to inspire participants to take a stand and make a difference. Topics of study include poverty, immigration, environmental degradation and more. Special Registration Information: Register at; The pricing is $295, with a discounted Chicagoland non-member fee of $125 and a discounted NSSBE price of $60 as part of our Winter Quarter Fee. Contact Marcie Eskin for discount codes before registering with Melton.

Back to the Polls with Carl Schrag
Tuesdays, 8:00 pm (3 sessions); March 9, 16, & 23
On March 23, Israelis will vote for the fourth time in two years, choosing from dozens of political parties as they shake up the Knesset. Will Netanyahu remain Prime Minister? What will the new government stand for? Why can’t a government serve its full term? Join former editor of The Jerusalem Post Carl Schrag on Tuesday evenings in March as we explain Israel’s unique form of parliamentary democracy and break down the policies and intrigue around key parties’ platforms. The course will include a special post-election event, on Tuesday evening, March 23 – just hours after the polls close – as we parse the exit polls and early returns to assess likely outcomes and conduct a grand experiment in coalition building.
Winter Quarter Fee: $60 for Beth El members; $125 for non-members

Religious Pluralism In the Talmud and Israel Today with Rabbi Freedman
Tuesdays, (4 sessions); April 20, 27 and May 4, May 11; 11:00 am
How did/do Jews reconcile their religious differences with each other in the past and present? Our first two classes will explore classic texts that illustrate this. Our second two classes will be led by Israelis speaking about contemporary life: the Women of the Wall (vice-chair Tammy Gottlieb) and Jerusalem (tour guide Ramah Israel Institute director Betsalel Steinhart). Sisterhood Torah Fund Class: minimum $54 donation to attend one or ALL Torah Fund classes for the whole year. Click here for information to make your donation directly to Torah Fund via credit card or to pay by check.

Artists Beit Midrash with Judith Joseph and Dr. Jane Shapiro
Art @ the Heart of Social Justice
Thursdays, 9:30 am (6 sessions), beginning April 29
We will examine texts and contemporary art to explore the issues of social and racial justice and inspire art that comes from a place of greater insight, enlightenment and justice. The art we create can be a catalyst for change – in ourselves and in the world.
Spring Quarter Fee: $60 for Beth El members; $125 for non-members

ScholarStream: An initiative of the RA, USCJ, JTS, and Ziegler
North Suburban Synagogue Beth El is proud to be a sponsor of ScholarStream, a four-part series which will give communities the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s leading scholars and engage deeply with our texts and traditions. The next two series will be at the following dates and times:

Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) – Jews and Power: From Biblical to Modern Times
Wednesdays from 7-8 PM CT
An exploration of the implementation of Jewish power, in the past and in the present. How have Jews rebelled against, accommodated to, and made use of structures of power in varying historical contexts?

  • February 24: Dr. Jack Wertheimer with new research on the nexus of money and power in Jewish philanthropy today.
  • March 3: Rabbi Gordon Tucker on allegations of dual loyalty against Jews in power throughout Jewish history.
  • March 10: Dr. Amy Kalmanofsky on rebellions in the Bible, both lauded and decried.
  • March 17: Dr. Marjorie Lehman on what we can learn from the power wielded by an ancient Jewish queen.
    Register for Jews and Power here. Free for Beth El members with coupon code. Email Marcie Eskin to receive the code.

Conservative Yeshiva (CY) – Reimagining Exodus Through Stories, Songs, and Sightseeing
First three sessions on Thursdays from 12-1 PM CT; fourth session on Tuesday from 12-1 PM CT

  • March 4: Ilana Kurshan, “Sorcery and Secret Arts: Magic and Demonology in the Lore of Passover, Then and Now”
  • March 11: Dr. Stephen Arnoff, “These Songs of Freedom: Discovering the Rock and Roll Canon for Passover”
  • March 18: Jonty Blackman, “Journeying to and Through the Promised Land: Part I of an In-Depth Tour of Some of Israel’s Most Notable Sites”
  • Tuesday, March 23: Jonty Blackman, “Journeying to and Through the Promised Land: Part II of an In-Depth Tour of Some of Israel’s Most Notable Sites”
    Register for Reimagining Exodus here. Free for Beth El members with coupon code. Email Marcie Eskin to receive the code.

If these times do not work for you, these sessions will be recorded.

Writer’s Beit Midrash
Wednesdays, 9:30 – 11:00 am (every other week); March 3, 17 & 31, April 14 & 28, and May 12 & 26
The NSS Beth El Writer’s Beit Midrash meets every other Wednesday on Zoom until the synagogue building reopens. All fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, and essay writers (published or not yet published) are welcome for discussions, exercises, camaraderie, and critique. Contact Rachel Kamin at or 847-926-7902 for information.

Family Book Club facilitated by Rachel Kamin
(Sisterhood Torah Fund Class)
Sunday, March 7 – 1:00 pm

The Sisterhood Torah Fund Book Club, the Cohen Religious School, and the Beth El Youth Community will host a special discussion of Turtle Boy, winner of the 2021 Sydney Taylor Book Award, with author Evan Wolkenstein. All 4th-7th graders, and adult readers of all ages, are encouraged to attend!  New participants are always welcome! RSVP to Marcie Eskin to receive the Zoom link. Click here for the complete Book Club calendar.
Sisterhood Torah Fund Class: minimum $54 donation to attend one or ALL Torah Fund classes for the whole year.  Click here for information to make your donation directly to Torah Fund via credit card or to pay by check.



When are these classes?! You choose! Get a minimum of 5 fellow students together and pick the time and place. The teachers will travel or you can meet in the synagogue. This can be your personal havurah or book club or just a group of friends who want to get together and learn! Trimester Fee

Short Stories from The New Diaspora: The Changing Landscape of American Jewish Fiction
Rachel Kamin
Rachel will help to explore a selection of short stories by a fresh crop of Jewish writers who are sharing about the Jewish experience in America.

An “Unorthodox” Class
Rachel Kamin
Each session we’ll listen to segments of Tablet Magazine’s podcast Unorthodox, the world’s leading Jewish podcast. We’ll discuss the news of the Jews and learn more about the interesting guests, books, films, and projects featured on each episode. Fermenting food at Copenhagen’s Michelin-starred restaurant Noma, Jews in prison, etrog farmers in California, the best and worst apologies for Yom Kippur, a Franciscan nun’s first Shabbat dinner, ancient Israeli wine, and more have all been covered on this smart, fresh, fun take on Jewish news and culture. Join us to listen and learn!

Girls in Trouble
Ali Drumm
“Girls in Trouble” is a series exploring women in the Bible through ancient texts, Rabbinic interpretations, visual art, and original songs. New, just-released sessions include Hannah, Sarah, Vashti, the Sotah, and the Daughters of Tzelofchad.

Tough Questions Jews Ask
Rabbi Alex Freedman
Have you ever asked or wondered the following: Why does G-d let awful things happen? Why does Judaism have so many rules? Are the Bible stories true? What happens after we die? This class will explore one big topic after another. We will share our own experiences along with reading texts from the Torah and Rabbinic Literature. Participants are encouraged to ask their toughest questions – and share their experiences and honest opinions – with the rabbi and each other.

Contact Marcie Eskin to begin to set up your On Demand learning sessions.