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From Portugal to the Netherlands: Purim and Queen Esther among the Former Forced Converts Portuguese Community of Amsterdam
with Shalom Sabar

Monday, 2/26 at 7:45pm (following Monday Evening Minyan)       

Forced to convert to Christianity in 1497, the once prosperous Jewish community of Portugal started to lead new degrading ways of life as "New Christians" (Cristãos Novos). As it developed in the following centuries, selected components of some Jewish rituals and holidays were secretly preserved at great risk. Among these, an unusual place was given to Purim, a minor holiday, and its heroine, Queen Esther. In the lecture, we will examine how Purim gained such a special status and Esther's role in this development. This situation was intensified by the opportunity given to the Portuguese Jews to immigrate to the Netherlands during its "Golden Age" in the 17th century, where they were permitted to return to their Judaism freely. In the community established in the capital city of Amsterdam, magnificent Purim balls were celebrated elegantly, and the artistic genre of elaborately illustrating the Esther scroll flourished. The illustrations in the scrolls amazingly correspond with the Esther story in Dutch art of the time, including that of Rembrandt; at the same time, they reflect the lives and ideologies of the Portuguese Jewish elite of Amsterdam's Golden Age. 

Register here.

Mikraot Gedolot, the Commentator’s Bible with Rabbi Fern Feldman 

We will explore Mikraot Gedolot, the Commentator’s Bible, which collects the Torah commentaries of some of our greatest medieval sages. We will become familiar with the thinking of three of the most foundational of these—Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and Nachmanides/Ramban— and get little tastes of a few others, looking at each individually, as well as in relation to each other. These commentaries are the basis of much of how we still understand Torah, as well as themselves being shaped by Talmud and midrashic sources. We will find literary analysis, cultural awareness, (and the lack thereof), psychological insights, spiritual depth, and quite a bit of humor. Sitting in conversation with these ancestors ultimately will deepen and enrich our relationship with Torah. Texts will be presented in Hebrew and English. This course will be in-person, in the CBS Beit Midrash. 

Time: Wednesdays, 7-8pm 
Dates:  2/28, 3/6, 3/13 


Sacred Cycles of Time: Hasidic Teachings on Purim, Pesach, and Shavuot with Rabbi Fern Feldman

Reading Hassidic texts, supplemented with background from Tanakh, Midrash, and Kabbalah, we will explore how to ride the waves of sacred time through the major spring holidays, allowing us to interweave our own journeys with the journeys of our people, the earth, and the flow of divine presence. This course will be in-person, in the CBS Beit Midrash. 

Purim: Wednesday, 3/20, 7-8pm 
Pesach: Wednesday, 4/10, 7-8pm 
Shavuot: Wednesday, 6/5, 7-8pm  


Seder Leading Workshop
Wednesday, March 27

Whether you are leading a seder for the first time, are a long-time seder leader looking to mix things up, or anywhere in between, join us for this workshop. CBS members (and superstar seder leaders) Karin and Michael Madwed will be sharing their tips and tricks leading a meaningful and engaging seder for participants of all ages and backgrounds. We hope that you'll leave this session with new and creative ideas, and with the confidence that you're ready to lead a great seder!


Poems for our Days with Rachel Korazim
Monday, April 15
8-9pm on Zoom

The calamity of October 7th and the war that followed, had left Israel and the Jewish world in shock and despair. The unimaginable became our reality. As more details of the horror unfold, as we are facing the painful daily losses in battle and above all the plight of the hostages and their families, we find ourselves less and less able to talk about it. The expression most commonly used is אין מילים ein milim – No Words!

And yet – there are those who struggle and find words to express pain and anger, despair and abandonment.

In our sessions we will read and discuss poetry written these very days. The poems are often raw and painful, while at the same time full of love and even hope. Some are written in forms of prayers such as a new “Kadish”, many reference biblical motifs such as the Akeida or Joseph. Others address the new “correct” language, since one cannot say any more simple things like “I am Okay”, or the two most horrible words in Hebrew nowadays: הותר לפרסום “released for publication” that precede the names of the fallen soldiers on Israeli media. The poems come from different parts of Israeli society and reflect a large variety of voices, new ones are added weekly.

Register here.

2nd Semester Classes

Beyond the Aleph Bet with Gus Feliu

This class focuses on developing proficiency in reading and understanding Biblical Hebrew. Over the 12 weeks of class you’ll have the opportunity to practice sight reading, grow your vocabulary, become familiar with Hebrew grammar and develop your skills as a translator.  We will also spend some time learning to write in and read the cursive Hebrew alphabet.  We'll be using The First Hebrew Primer (Simon, Resnikoff, Motzkin) as our primary text. Prerequisite: Knowledge of the alef-bet is required.  

Format: In-person
Time: Tuesdays, 7:00-7:55pm
Dates: Jan. 23, 2024–Apr. 16, 2024 (12 sessions no class on Feb. 20)


Intermediate Yiddish with Marianne Tatom

This class will help you develop intermediate Yiddish skills, including reading comprehension, conversation, and translation. We will use a variety of textbooks and supplementary materials. Prerequisite: open to students who have completed Intermediate Yiddish at Beth Shalom OR to others with prior instructor approval. The lowered tuition for this class for non-members is possible due to the projected class size.  

Format: Virtual (on Zoom)
Time: Tuesday nights, 7:00-8:30pm
Dates: Jan. 23 – Apr. 2, 2024 (10 1.5-hour sessions, no class on Feb. 20


Exploring Jewish Living

Taught by Gus Feliu. A basic introduction to Judaism, including holidays, texts, and home traditions and a Hebrew class (below).  This is our required course for conversion students. 

Our Exploring Jewish Living has reached capacity and registration is now closed.  If you're interested in conversion and/or want to inquire about class for next year (2024-25), please contact our rabbi's assistant, Ellis Engbar.

Tune In

Honi's Circle
Ḥoni's Circle is a climate chevruta (partner text study), in which Rabbi Paula Rose and Tamar Libicki explore Jewish texts from the Torah, the Talmud, and Commentaries to grapple with climate change. Every two weeks, we will release a new 15-minute episode with its own source sheet, allowing listeners to study along with the discussion. This Podcast is a project of Congregation Beth Shalom and Ahavat V'Avodat HaAdama, our community's environmental group. 

Follow along with the source sheet here.

Our Podcast is Live! Catch the latest episode

Additional Learning Opportunities




EO is a Jewish community-wide social & education program sponsored by Temple De Hirsch Sinai, Congregation Beth Shalom, Congregation Kol Ami, Jewish Family Service, Kline Galland, Temple Beth Am and Temple B’nai Torah.

Please see our Adult Social Groups page for more information.

Mon, February 26 2024 17 Adar I 5784