A Scotch Plains congregation will offer a night of Jewish learning with a pre-Hanukka flavor.
Congregation Beth Israel will present “A Little Lite Learning for Hanukka” on Saturday evening, Dec. 3. The event, the first of its kind offered by the Conservative congregation, grew out of the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey’s Leil Iyun, the successful series that ran until two years ago.
The three-hour program will begin at 7 p.m. and will include classes and lectures on a range of topics. A keynote address will be followed by two 45-minute sessions, each featuring the same six speakers. The evening will end with a social hour and a chance to digest all that’s been discussed over wine, cheese, and desserts.
“We had attended the Leil Iyun program almost every year that it was offered and always enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to learn something new from the respected and knowledgeable teachers of the community,” said Sharon Goldner of Scotch Plains, who is cochairing the event with her husband, Gary. “We also enjoyed socializing with members of our Jewish community.”
They also sought to offer a similar range of topics from speakers across the denominational spectrum.
“Our goal for adult education in general, and this program in particular, is to get more people involved in Jewish learning in any way, on different levels,” she said.
The topics offered by the speakers range from the academic to the cultural to parenting:
• Women and Hanukka — Rabbi George Nudell, the leader of CBI, will speak on “Hanukka — The Book of Judith and You.”
“Our rabbinic commentaries teach us that women are obligated to light Hanukka candles,” said Nudell, “because women helped bring about the miracles of Hanukka. How so? The answer is connected to the mysterious Book of Judith.”
• Taste of Kabala — Rabbi Mendy Herson’s topic is Kabala. Herson, the director of Chabad of Greater Somerset County in Basking Ridge, said, “The Kabala is a fundamental dimension of Torah wisdom that has been shrouded in mystery for millennia and distorted by glitz in recent times. This class will provide a taste of what it’s all about.”
• Music of the holiday — Cantor Matthew Axelrod will talk about the music of Hanukka from hundreds of years ago until the present. Axelrod, the cantor at CBI for the past 21 years, wrote of his talk: “We’ll take a musical trip through history and look at some of the traditional and not so traditional songs that have been written for Hanukka. In the process, we will examine how the various communities viewed this day and the themes that they felt were most important.”
• Dancing shoes — Elyse Litt won’t just talk about rikudei am, Israeli folk dancing; she’ll get people to form a circle and do it. Litt is a dance instructor who leads classes she calls “Exercise With Ruach!” at local venues. She urged those planning to join her class Dec. 3 to bring comfortable shoes. Communal Israeli dancing, she said, connects participants to each other and to Israel. “It strengthens both our physical and spiritual hearts. It makes us happy,” she said.
• College choices — Rabbi Esther Reed, senior associate director of Rutgers Hillel, has chosen the topic “Best and worst of colleges and universities from a Jewish standpoint.” Reed asked, “How do students identify and prioritize the important factors to be considered as they think about colleges? And how will their choices affect future Jewish attitudes and patterns of behavior?” She said her talk will help parents clarify their and their children’s priorities.
• Feel-good children — Meryl Nadell, a licensed clinical social worker with a private practice in Scotch Plains, will talk about “raising your children to feel good about being Jewish.” Nadell, a 32-year member of CBI and former director of Family Life Education with Jewish Family Service of MetroWest, will discuss different perspectives on raising children as Jews. She said she intends to show parents “how you can instill and cultivate a positive Jewish identity in children of all ages, from toddlers to teens.”