Torah perspectives in contemporary issues will be the focus of the fall Kollel series at Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick.
Scholars and experts will discuss issues ranging from immigration and the environment to helping Jewish girls develop a strong sense of self-esteem.
The biannual series, which is free and open to the public, will be held on successive Mondays at 7:30 p.m. from Oct. 25 to Nov. 29.
“We are hoping people will come away fortified in knowing that the Jewish community supports and encourages understanding of crucial issues and provides hope and opportunity to see the world through Jewish eyes and understanding based on our tradition,” said assistant Rabbi Rebecca Solielle Epstein, who oversees the Kollel, a Hebrew word for a scholarly gathering. “This also gives us an opportunity to gather as a community to discuss not only how these issues affect our private lives but also to share these experiences.”
The first program will feature Bruce Birnberg, the executive director of the Martin and Edith Stein Hospice on the Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living in Somerset. He will speak on “The Jewish Afterlife and Getting There Gently.” Birnberg said he will show short video clips of death rituals from India, Madagascar, and Mexico, comparing and contrasting them with Jewish rituals, while emphasizing the values of each culture and its beliefs in the nature of the soul and afterlife.
“Most of us prefer not to think about our own mortality,” said Birnberg in an e-mail interview with NJJN. “We do, however, like to laugh about it, listen to music about it, and watch movies that do it for us. There is no issue that stirs up as much emotion as death and dying. Though every birth comes with a limited warranty, we often avoid such discourse until we are confronted with the inevitable.”
Other Kollel series sessions:
Nov. 1: A discussion of environmental cancer is being organized by Greenfaith, an interfaith organization promoting environmental awareness in the religious community. A panel discussion will include experts from Rutgers University and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. During a dinner program, Jewish scholars will correlate the information with Jewish text.
Nov. 8: The Rev. John DeVelder, director of pastoral care services at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, will speak about spiritual care in a hospital setting.
Nov. 15: The Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale of the Reformed Church of Highland Park will talk about “Immigration and Housing Ministries Born from Communal Prayer.” His church is now developing 11 affordable housing units for struggling veterans in a closed Episcopal church in Highland Park.
Nov. 22: Rabbi Erin Glazer of Temple Emanu-El in Westfield will discuss the challenges of raising strong Jewish girls.
Nov. 29: Sara Levine, executive director of the Jewish Family and Vocational Service of Middlesex County, will discuss the “sandwich generation” caught between taking care of aging parents and children.
For more information, call the synagogue at 732-545-6484 or visit aemt.net.