Class Offerings and Descriptions

Class Offerings and Descriptions

Our Continuing Education classes are being offered in a variety of ways — virtually, in person, or both (see individual descriptions). Payment for one multiple session quarter fee course includes any additional Continuing Education quarter fee classes during the same quarter with no additional charge. For Sisterhood Torah Fund classes, there is a minimum $54 donation to attend one or ALL Torah Fund classes for the whole year. There is a separate fee for Melton and Schechter Institute courses.

Contact Rachel Kamin, Director of Lifelong Learning, for more information about adult education and Marcie Eskin, Education Coordinator, for registration and other class-related information such as Zoom links. Click here to register for classes.

Hebrew Language

Café Ivrit: Intermediate Conversational Hebrew with Silvi Freedson
Tuesdays, 6:00 – 7:30 pm, October 12–December 14 (9 sessions; no class November 23)
This Intermediate level course will help you improve your conversational and reading skills. Class will be held over Zoom.
Fall 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, October 14–December 16 (9 sessions; no class November 25)
Join this Advanced level course to study Israeli literature and culture in Hebrew! New students are always welcome. Class will be held over Zoom.
Fall Quarter Fee: $60 for Beth El members; $125 for non-members

Intermediate Hebrew with Silvi Freedson (In Partnership with Moriah Congregation in Deerfield)
Mondays, 7:30-9:00 pm, October 4–December 13 (11 sessions)
In this class we will be reading stories, plays, and articles and discussing them in Hebrew. Class will be held over Zoom.
Fall Quarter Fee: $60 for Beth El members; $125 for non-members

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.

Classic Jewish Texts

Talmud: Tractate B’rachot with Rabbi Michael Schwab
Tuesdays, 8:30–9:30am, October 12–December 14 (9 sessions; no class November 23)
Rabbi Schwab takes students on a journey through the mainstay of the Jewish oral tradition, its rich history, structure, and famous personalities. Class will be held over Zoom.
Fall Quarter Fee: $60 for Beth El members; $125 for non-members

Lunch & Learn with Rabbi Michael Schwab
Thursdays, 12:00–1:00pm, October 21, November 18 and December 9 (3 sessions)
Grab your lunch and join Rabbi Schwab from the comfort of your own home or office for study sessions centered on the ethical issues of our lives. Relying on source material from biblical and rabbinic texts, we will discuss the ethical principles and interpretations of Jewish law over the centuries and how to apply these ideas to everyday challenges. Class will be held over Zoom. FREE

Finding Meaning in Prayer with Hazzan Barbara Barnett
(Sisterhood Torah Fund Class)
Wednesdays, 8:00–9:00pm, October 13–December 15 (9 sessions; no class November 24)
Take a deeper, spiritual dive into the text, subtext and music of the prayers contained in our siddur. Maybe you learned them by rote as a kid; perhaps they are as foreign to you as if they came from the moon. Maybe Jewish prayer seems inaccessible. Unapproachable. And who needs it, anyway? Take a leisurely, sometimes twisty, journey together through the siddur and discover the hidden meanings and mysteries contained in our tefillot. Class will be held over Zoom.

Adult Cantillation Class with Hazzan Barbara Barnett
Wednesdays, 12:00–1:00pm, October 6–November 17 (7 sessions)
Unlock the secret of chanting Torah, decode the melody patterns, and learn the “how” as well as the “why” of Torah cantillation. This is the perfect opportunity for parents who would like to learn to chant Torah for their child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah or anyone who wants to become a Torah reader. Comfort with reading Hebrew text is required. Class will meet in person or on Zoom. FREE

Jewish Life and Culture

God During Times of Crisis: A Shalom Hartman Institute Course with Rabbi Michael Schwab
(Sisterhood Torah Fund Class)
Tuesdays, 8:00–9:00pm, October 19–November 16 (5 sessions)
Do we see God’s involvement in world affairs? How much responsibility is left to human intervention? Join Rabbi Schwab to explore questions of faith and tragedy, argument and submission, and distance and intimacy with the divine. Class will be held over Zoom.

Conservative Judaism Today and Tomorrow with Rabbi Alex Freedman
(Sisterhood Torah Fund Class)
Tuesdays, 11:00am–12:00pm, October 12–December 14 (9 sessions; no class November 23)
Using Arnold M. Eisen’s collection of short essays, Conservative Judaism Today and Tomorrow, as a resource, this class will explore essential questions of Jewish belief, practice, community, and identity from a Conservative perspective. Professor Eisen, the former chancellor of The Jewish Theological Seminary, is one of the world’s foremost authorities on American Judaism. Each student will receive a copy of the book. Class will be held over Zoom.

Kol Isha: Women You Should Know: An Exploration of Modern Jewish Thinkers with Lori Stark
(Sisterhood Torah Fund Class)
Mondays, 10:00–11:30am (in person) or 7:45–9:00pm (on Zoom), October 11–December 13 (9 sessions; no class November 22)
Broaden your horizons as we learn about the flourishing of diverse approaches to text through the eyes of some brilliant, groundbreaking, and  provocative Jewish women thinkers such as Rachel Adler, Tikva Frymer-Kensky, Jill Hammer, Judith Hauptman and more.

Breaking Jewish News & Views: Jewish News Update with Carl Schrag
Wednesdays, 9:45–11:00am, October 13–December 15 (9 sessions; no class November 24)
This weekly discussion-based class zooms in on local, national, and global news through a distinctly Jewish lens. We’ll talk about 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. Carl Schrag, who was the Editor of The Jerusalem Post, brings a journalist’s probing questions to every topic. Class will be held over Zoom. Fall Quarter Fee: $60 for Beth El members; $125 for non-members

Sisterhood Torah Fund Book Club with Rachel Kamin
(Sisterhood Torah Fund Class)
Thursday, October 14 (7:45pm on Zoom) and Saturday, October 16 (12:30pm in-person discussion after Shabbat Kiddush)
With a record number of over 100 participants in 2020-2021, the Sisterhood Torah Fund Book Club had a wonderful year filled with stimulating conversation and interesting author talks on Zoom, plus a lovely outdoor discussion in June. We hope to be able to safely return to our in-person Shabbat discussions in the coming year, however, we will continue to offer options on Zoom to allow everyone to participate. Rachel Kamin is looking forward to kicking off our 13th year with a discussion of House on Endless Waters by Emuna Elon on Thursday, October 14 at 7:45pm on Zoom and Saturday, October 16 at 12:30pm, in-person after Shabbat Kiddush. Copies of the book are available in our Abbell Library and from public libraries, as well as from local and online booksellers in paperback, eBook, and audio. E-mail Rachel if you would like to be on our reserve list or if you would like to be added to the Book Club mailing list. Click here for the calendar and book selections through January. Our 6th annual Family Book Club will be on Sunday, February 13 and details for our discussions in March, May & June 2022 will be coming later in the year.

Writer’s Beit Midrash
Wednesdays, 9:30–11:00am, September 1, October 6 and 20, November 3, and December 1 and 15
All fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, and essay writers (published or not yet published) are welcome for discussions, exercises, camaraderie, and critique every other Wednesday morning. Contact Rachel for more information and to be added to the mailing list.
Class will meet in person. FREE

Special Writer’s Beit Midrash Workshop: How to Write Compelling Stories from Family History with Annette Gendler
Wednesday, November 17, 10:00am–12:00pm
Do you have a box of family letters, documents, photos, mementos you would love to “do something with?” Discover where to start to convert your heirlooms and oral anecdotes into engaging prose that will bring your ancestry to life. FREE

Florence Melton School of Jewish Learning
Beth El is pleased to be partnering with Moriah Congregation in Deerfield in offering Melton courses this year.

Love, Loss and Wisdom with Rabbi Ben Kramer
Tuesdays, 8:30–10:00am, November 9–December 14 (6 sessions)
Cost: $179 for the class, includes the book; $100 rebate available to NSS Beth El members after full registration and payment to Melton; scholarships available upon request. Register at
Discover the Jewish responses and rituals that take us through mourning and arrive at a place of healing. When death inevitably enters our lives, Jewish wisdom and ritual can help us cope with heartbreak and loss, the anguish of why suffering exists. We will also seek to understand the big questions of what Judaism says about life after death and its understanding of messianic times. With a wider lens, we gain a context with which to better understand l our moments of anguish as individuals and as a community. Class will be held over Zoom.

Social Justice: The Heart of Judaism in Theory and Practice with Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Avraham
Thursdays, 9:30–11:00am, October 7–December 16 (10 sessions; no class November 25)
Cost: $295 for the class, includes the book; $200 rebate available to NSS Beth El members after full registration and payment to Melton; scholarships available upon request. Register at
Social Justice work goes beyond addressing short-term needs; it requires us to take a closer look at the underlying causes of injustice with an eye toward bringing about change. This course explores historical and contemporary examples of Jewish commitment to social justice through the lens of Jewish wisdom manifest in our texts. Topics of study include poverty, immigration, environmental degradation and more that will inspire participants to take a stand and make a difference. Class will be held over Zoom.

Schechter Institute Online Courses taught by Rabbi Vernon Kurtz

How to Live an Ethical Jewish Life
Sundays, 10:30–11:45 am, October 17-November 21 (6 sessions)
Most of us are familiar with Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers. Fewer of us are knowledgeable about its companion volume: The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan. We will study the teachings of the latter book as we examine it both from a scholarly and literary point of view as well as discuss the relevance of its teachings in helping us to live a personal ethical life and establish an ethical society. Its ancient wisdom is as relevant today as it was
then. $120; 10% discount for registering for two series.

Rabbinic Teachings on the Destruction of the Temple and its Relevance for Contemporary Society
Tuesdays, 8:30–10:00am, October 19-December 28 (10 sessions, no class November 30)
The fall of the Second Temple and the exile from Jerusalem were cataclysmic events in the life of the Jewish people. We will examine the reactions to this event through the study of historical and literary accounts of that period. While our emphasis will be on Talmudic and Midrashic stories, we also examine reactions of other societies to the event. As this was a seminal moment in the life of Rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity, we will have the opportunity to delve into the formative texts of both traditions. We will then discuss what lessons we can learn from that period which can assist us in building a better Jewish and general society. $218; 10% discount for registrations before October 3 or for registering for two series.

To register for these online courses, go to


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! Quarter Fee

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

Soul Sisters: Biblical Women through Midrash and Art
Ali Drumm
Women in the Bible express ambiguity, questioning and even rebellion against accepted norms. Their stories are some of the juiciest stories of seduction, betrayal and hard choices and are complex, nuanced, and adult. Using the modern definition of midrash as a living art form which includes visual art, music, and other interpretations of Torah, we seek to find the place where these stories about power, human sexuality, and resourceful responses to difficult situations resonate in our lives.

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!

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.