Office of the Chief Rabbi

Educational Programming Ideas

This year CCE is looking to foster the creation of innovative educational programmes that put Jewish learning centre stage, while consolidating the shul’s role as a social hub and community classroom, to the benefit of affiliated and less affiliated members alike. We have consulted Rabbis and sifted through educational ideas to create a bank of inspirational programmes, which we hope will prove a useful resource.  We will be adding to this list.

Do you have a great educational programme in mind to recommend to other communities? Please tell us about it here.

If you would like to bring one of these programmes to your community, invite the course developer to teach, or access resources and more information, please be in touch with CCE either by emailing talia@chiefrabbi.org or calling 020 8343 6241.

You can also apply for CCE funding for such programmes here.

 

Model Programmes

 

The Big Questions


Rabbi Samuel Landau, Kingston

Length: 4 x 1.5 hour sessions over 4 weeks

Overview:

‘The Big Questions’ was a programme intended to offer people the chance to explore the big questions that they have about Judaism which bar further connection with their faith. It had the format of a four week facilitated group using psychological theory and process to access religious content. Topics discussed included the existence of G-d, the wording of prayers and the unfairness of life.

 

Shiurim for Women: Out and About


Rebbetzen Anna van den Berg

Length: Ongoing

Target audience: Women 55+

Overview

This programme is about thinking outside the box, the confines of the Shul’s four walls and our ‘Jewish bubble’.  Rebbetzen van den Berg interspersed the monthly Women’s Shiur hosted at her home with various Shiurim ‘Out and About’ in Liverpool itself.  It has proved highly successful, with visits to a sensory garden, a Jewish care home and Museum of Slavery to stimulate themed discussions. Shul-based shiruim also had more creative formats, such as the Candle Light Shiur which culminated in a creative writing session.

 

Parallel Thinking: Science and Torah


Rabbi Dr Moshe Freedman

Length: 12 x 1.5 hour (weekly/monthly?) sessions

Target audience: Adults and teenagers

Overview

Each lecture explores philosophical issues in science and Torah by examining both the science and Torah elements separately. There are twelve lectures covering the Age of the Universe, Evolution, Chaos theory and Divine Providence as well as psychological areas such as consciousness, free will and the sense of self, dreams and prophecy and cognitive dissonance. The subject matter often covers wide areas of Jewish thought all condensed into one hour of lecture time with around 30 mins for questions. After a successful run at Northwood, many other shuls, schools and educational organisations including LSJS asked Rabbi Dr Freedman to run the programme for them.

 

A History of Inclusivity in Judaism


Rabbi Yoni Birnbaum

Length: 3 weekly sessions

Target Audience: Entire community

Overview

Rabbi Birnbaum’s eponymous history is divided into three time periods: Medieval, Modern and Contemporary.

 

Jewish Perspectives on Christianity and Islam


Rabbi Yoni Birnbaum

Length: 4 x weekly sessions

Overview

A series designed to impart new insight into Jewish perspectives on other Abrahamic faiths, and promote debate. It covered the views of early Rabbinic Judaism, the meaning behind key primary sources that discuss the relationships between religions and opportunities to debate whether these sources can help us solve critical questions faced by humanity today.

 

Judaism Faces Modernity: The Big Issues


Rabbi Yoni Birnbaum

Length: 11 + weekly sessions

Overview

Meaty topics are tackled head on with the help of halacha and contemporary Jewish thought. Topics discussed included interfaith issues, designer babies, the ‘Big Bang’ and Temple Mount.

 

Link the Chain: Batmitzvah Programme


Rebbetzen Nechama Atlas

Length: 10 x 1.5 hour monthly sessions

Target audience: mothers/ grandmothers & daughters

Overview

Mothers (or Grandmothers) and daughters attend together and learn together.  Half of the session is arts and crafts relating to the topic discussed e.g. role models, heroism, priorities, freedom. A Jewish theme is added to these topics, but it is primarily aimed at providing life skills at this time in the young girls lives, with an opportunity to discuss things openly with their mothers. The programme enabled the Rebbetzen to develop connections with the girls and Moms and to show them that Judaism is relevant in their life. The format is based on Rebbetzen Freda Kaplan’s Batmitzvah programme.

 

Shtisel: Watch and Learn Programme


Rebbetzen Nechama Atlas

Length: 12 x 1.5 hour weekly sessions

Target audience: entire community

Overview

12 film classes to discuss and learn from “Shtisel” – an Israeli hit television drama (with English subtitles). Shtisel’s strength lies in its very human portrayals of its characters as they deal with life issues such as finding a spouse, marital issues, child vs parent issues and work ethics. A 30 minute discussion would follow each viewing, taking an issue in the episode as a point of departure for conversation on e.g. Laws of Yichud, prayers, Jewish wills, adoption, Hitbodedout.  There was a lot of learning of new concepts in Judaism plus it was a good opportunity to practice Hebrew. Participants are all looking forward to returning for a second season.

 

Yeshmud


Rebbetzen Nechama Atlas, Rabbi Chanan Atlas, community members

Length: 4/8 weekly learning sessions

Target Audience: Entire community

Overview

A Winter Learning series covering a broad range of subjects including Parenting, Women’s Issues, Reading the Tanach as Literature, The Siddur from Cover to Cover, Ceramics course over 8 weeks etc.  When a programme is limited in time, ie not every week, people are more inclined to commit and enjoy the choice of subjects on offer. There was a lovely atmosphere in Shul each week, refreshments were served and it brought people together who may not normally meet.

 

West Midlands Jewish Medical Ethics Forum


Rabbi Yehuda Pink of Solihull

Target Audience: Healthcare professionals and students (as ongoing forum). Could work for general shul audience for one-off seminar or short series.

Length: Monthly session for two hours (one hour presentation and one hour discussion)

Overview

A very successful programme that attracted people who would never normally attend a shiur or event of Jewish interest, this Forum garnered high praise from medical professionals. It was also attractive because it was accredited by the Royal College of Physicians and participants earned 2 CPD credits per session, so could be recertified through a year’s attendance. Dr Tony Hockley, who encouraged Rabbi Pink to establish the Forum and was Emeritus neurosurgeon for Birmingham Children’s and Queen Elizabeth Hospitals, said: “I support these excellent seminars in Jewish Medical Ethics developed by Rabbi Pink. They are of great value both clinically and academically.” Rabbi Pink was well-placed to deliver comprehensive explorations of the topics having previously undertaken a Masters in Health Care Ethics & Law and written a textbook on Jewish Medical Ethics.

 

The Yarzheit Initiative


Target Audience: Anyone marking a Yarzheit

Overview:

The idea behind the initiative is that one person is often missed in any type of Yartzheit commemoration – the Niftar! This initiative brings him/her back to life as well as encourages people to attend the evening services and make normal davening meaningful. The programme includes saying Kaddish, or having it said on your behalf in shul services, a D’var Torah delivered by the Rabbi in memory of the deceased, the opportunity to share memories of a loved one and refreshments if wanted.

Rabbinic Roadshow


Rabbi Marc Levene

Length: Takes place annually around a different festive period

Target Audience: Entire community

Overview:

3 or 4 homes in the community were chosen, and each house visited by a different member of the Rabbinic Team for about 15 mins each, so they would all stay there socialising, eating and drinking, and would get 3 or 4  visits. We have used 2 rabbis, Freda and Chazzan Avromi, Some planning and coordination is required so that the team don’t chose similar subjects for discussion, timings need to be worked out, and the houses need to be picked for size, social crowds and location. Some hosts brought in their friends, some people just turned up at houses because it was convenient. For Rabbis in smaller shuls there is no reason you can’t borrow a rabbi or 2 (or rebbetzen) to join your roadshow…

 

Cheder for Grown-Ups Course 1: Learning the basics together


Rabbi Samuel Landau, Kingston

Length: 10 x 2 hour weekly sessions

Target Audience: Adults

Overview

From talking with parents of cheder students, Rabbi Landau found that they felt unable to support their children in their studies having missed out or forgotten their own cheder studies. He felt that their lack of knowledge was demotivating, disempowering and demoralising for leading a meaningful Jewish life. Aiming to make people feel more comfortable with worship and to build their Jewish general knowledge, Rabbi Landau developed a programme whereby each session comprised of Hebrew reading in pairs, a refreshment break to socialise and a Jewish knowledge session taught by the Rabbi on such subjects as Shabbat, Jewish History and Life Cycles.

 

Torah Dash


Rabbi Pinchas Hackenbroch, Woodside Park

Length: 1 year, monthly

Target audience: Entire community

Overview

A cross section of members give a creative D’var Torah at Seuda Shlishit, once a month, on Shabbat Mevorchim. In this way they cover the whole Torah over the course of a year. Each person has strictly 3 minutes on the clock, timed with an egg timer, during which they can share an insight or over-view of the Parasha in any way they like, be it acting, performing a song or poem, rap, talk etc. Five or six people present each week. It is imperative that the right balance of presenters is achieved by involving a large cross-section of the community.  Some people come forward and some will be handpicked. At the programme’s end, a book of all the Divrei Torah is compiled and presented to the participants. Going forward, Woodside Park is using the same format to invigorate educational activities for the Chagim.

 

JLI Courses e.g. Journey of the Soul: An Exploration of Life, Death and What Lies Beyond


Rabbi Michoel Rose (ran programme created by Rohr Jewish Learning Institute)

Length: 6 weekly evening sessions

Target Audience: Entire Community

Overview

Jewish rituals surrounding death and mourning are filled with mystery, from shivah house protocal to the tearing of garments, and from lightening yahrtzeit candles, to reciting kaddish and yizkor. Journey of the Soul provides insight into the little known theological, practical and emotional aspects of this most trying time, showing its depth and a rich sense of meaning. It also follows the spiritual dimension of life and death from the soul’s perspective, exploring our purpose in this world, and what happens in to our souls when we move onto the next. Example session titles include: ‘An elucidation of the Jewish understanding of the mechanism of reward and punishment’; ‘An extensive exploration of the topics of grief, mourning, and chronic grief (r”l)’; ‘Shiva house rules and etiquette’

  • Rabbi Rose has also just run a JLI course on how to be successful in life, and is about to start running a Talmud course that examines issues in contemporary life through a Halachic lense
  • Rabbi Rose says the JLI courses “are the best thing educationally we could do with the community and really immerse people in high level study who had never participated previously”
  • Existing programmes for women, the weekly parasha and teens
  • Quite high costs

NJOP Hebrew Reading Crash Course


National Jewish Outreach Programme

Length: 5 x 1-1.5 hour weekly sessions

Target Audience: People with no background in Hebrew

Overview

NJOP’s innovative introductory Hebrew program teaches participants to learn to read Hebrew in only five 1-1/2 hour weekly sessions. Designed for Jews with little or no background in Hebrew, the free Hebrew Reading Crash Course concentrates on teaching the Hebrew alphabet, and reading skills. 77% of participants in this course go on to the Level II Hebrew course, or the Crash Course in Basic Judaism. NJOP provides every teacher with a teacher’s handbook that guides them, step-by-step, through the Hebrew Reading Crash Course (includes wall chart and flash cards).

 

Contemporary Jewish Women: A Halachic Perspective


Rabbi Chaim Kanterovitz of BES

Length: 4 sessions over 4 months

Target Audience: Men and Women

Overview:

The Rabbi delves into challenging issues surrounding women in Judaism, alighting on such topics as leadership, minyanim, kaddish and Hakafot.

 

Midreshet Borehamwood


Delivered by a range of women speakers, facilitated by Rebbetzen Bianca Kanterovitz, Borehamwood & Elstree

Length: 5 sessions

Target Audience: Women and Girls

Overview:

Women will have the opportunity to learn from established female scholars across a programme that covers topics as diverse as ‘Vashti’ from the Purim story, perspectives on Hallel and stimulating spirituality.

 

Programmes from Rabbi Daniel Fine


  1. Stanmore’s 220Challenge (borrowed from Whitefield) – Before ShabbatUK we got 7 guest speakers to speak about aspects of Shabbat at the same time at seven different locations in the community. The incentives? to learn about Shabbat and that if we got 220 people, Hatzalah would receive a donation from an anonymous donor
  2. The H Series. A 4-week series (Sun nights) on basic questions of Jewish Philosophy with top speakers: Rabbi Dovid Roberts on Torah vs morality, Rabbi Silkin on the 7 Wonders of Jewish History, Rabbi Daniel Rowe on Why to Good People Suffer, and Rabbi Tatz on Science versus Torah. Was very popular and well-received.
  3. The Health Series – a 3-week series (Tue nights) on health issues: Rabbi Jonathan Dove about stress, Steve Mermish on the drugs threat and Carl Irwin (chiropractor) on How to Live to 100. It tended to attract women more than men, but was a nice mix of social
  4. Pre-Pesach series – a 3-week series involving a mix of Jewish teaching and hands-on Pesach things: Denise Phillips cooking demo, Lauren Levin on Pesach, Yossi Fachler on Seder Night stories
  5. The best programme we ran was a learning evening with Edgware Kolel: 1on1 learning between Stanmore members and kolel members, followed by a shiur. It was tremendously well received.
  6. Also we are making a communal Hagadah – members are contributing divrei torah etc. It has been very popular and members are willing to sponsor parts.

 

Programmes developed by The Academy

Visionaries of Modern Judaism Part 1 or Part 2


Length: Each Part is 5 x 2 hour weekly sessions

Overview

Explore the writings and lives of the Visionaries of Modern Zionism. Dive into the passion, rationale, rhetoric, despair and hope of Hess, Pinsker, Herzl, Nordau, Zangwill, Jabotinsky, Gordon and Rabbi Kook – each appealing to a different part of the Jewish world, each a visionary whose sight telescoped beyond the ordinary and reached so far into our own future.

 

Ethics of Eden


Length: 6 weekly sessions

Overview

Utilising the guidance of Rabbi Soloveitchik, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Maimonides and modern scholars this six-part series explores how we are to relate to nature’s incomprehensible beauty, animal welfare, nature conservation and our metaphysical roots as beings who emerged from the earth.

Understand humankind’s relationship to nature, the Earth and G-d. Ilana Stein, environmental conservationist and master Torah teacher, will explore the Jewish attitude to our natural environment.

 

Programmes recommended by United Synagogue Living & Learning

Torah Min Hashamyim


Written by Rabbi Johnny Solomons

Length: 5 sessions

Overview

Looks at questions such as: What must a Jew believe? Did Moshe write the whole Torah? Has the Torah changed? Has been taught in Mill Hill.

 

A History of Jewish Costume


Written and taught by Rebbetzen Ilana Epstein

Length: 3-4 part series

Overview

Series documenting the history of Jewish costume from the time of the Tanach until the Emancipation. We will look at the costumes that were forced on the Jews and the ones that were forced on themselves. We will explore the idea of instilling clothing with religious significance, all while learning about this important element of Jewish History.

 

Biblical Temptations


Written by Rabbi Michael Laitner

Length: 3 or 4 courses

Overview

Looks at challenging passages in Tanach such as David and Batsheva, Shaul and Agag.

 

Revealing Revelation


Written by Tanya White

Length: 4 sessions

Overview

A course that considers the notion of revelation of G-d to human beings and its relevance to us today. It looks at revelation in the Tanach and also how modern rabbis and thinkers have addressed this topic. It also looks at our relationship with G-d.

 

Shabbat Essentials


Developed by Rabbi Michael Laitner and Rabbi Yisroel Binstock

Length: 3 or 4 sessions

Overview

This course covers philosophy behind and practicalities of Shabbat with an emphasis on enhancing the spirituality of Shabbat for us each week. It is suitable for both seasoned Shomerei Shabbat and those less familiar with Shabbat. Slated as follow-up for Shabbat UK 2015.

 

The Greatest Leaders in the Bible


Written by Tanya White

Length: 4 sessions

Overview

This course will journey through the Tanach and its history from the perspective of four great leaders. Each leader will be studied through the narrative of the Tanach and its commentators both ancient and modern, enriching our understanding of the personalities and their impact on the nation. We will use literary, analytical and thematic tools to present a novel and sometimes revolutionary understanding of each character. The characters we will look at are: 1. Avraham Avinu, 2. Moshe Rabenu, 3. Devorah Haneviah, 4. David Hamelech.

 

Sages who speak through the Ages


Written by Rabbis Ephraim Levine, Shlomo Odze and Michael Laitner

Length: 4 sessions

Overview

This course looks at four individual or groups of rabbis, assessing their impact on selected areas of life which remain critically relevant to Jews today: the Anshei Kenesset Hagedolah, Hillel and Shammai, Rabbi Akiva, the Geonim.

 

The History and Ideology of Prayer


Written by Rabbi Michael Laitner

Length: 4 sessions

Overview

This course covers central prayers in the Siddur, such as the Shema, and also considers a general philosophy of prayer as well as how prayer has developed at critical times in Jewish history.

 

Tehillim: Linking body and soul


Written by Rabbi Michael Laitner

Length: 3 sessions

Overview

This short course covers three well-known Tehillim from the Siddur – 29, 30 and 121. It concentrates on teaching their meanings as well as their role in the siddur and the religious messages which emerge from them. It links with The History and Ideology of Prayer course.

 

Siddurnav


Written by Rabbi David Lister

Length: 3 sessions

Overview

This course helps participants to feel at home with the Shabbat morning service, to understand and follow it better.

 

Medical Ethics – Philosophy and Practice


Produced by Rabbi Nissan Wilson

Length: Up to 5 sessions

Overview

This course looks at the applicability of Jewish Medical Ethics in a non-Jewish world. It will consider the tensions between Halacha and contemporary secular bioethics, looking at the underlying philosophies and the practical applications of some of the most challenging current issues. Topics include: euthanasia and assisted dying; organ donation and presumed consent; stem cell research and the status of an embryo; surrogacy and triple-parent IVF.

 

Esoteric Jewish thought in connection to language and the mystical


Written by Rabbi Jonny Hughes

A series of shiurim with topics including: The Jewish Roots of Xmas; Deja Jew: Do We Believe in Reincarnation? Secrets of a Divine Language; The World of Dreams; Astrology, Fate and Free Will.

 

One-off educational events

Secrets of the Pesach Seder from the Cairo Genizah


Rabbi Yoni Birnbaum

Length: Rabbi Birnbaum delivered this session 4 times at 4 different shuls

Overview

Rabbi Birnbaum reveals the meaning behind the historic Haggadah manuscripts that were recovered from the legendary treasure trove of documents in the Old Cairo Genizah.

 

Kosher Supermarket Sweep


Rabbi Baruch Levin

Overview

Looking to the game show Supermarket Sweep as inspiration, the Brondesbury Park Kehilla took over their local Sainsbury’s after hours, served drinks and canapes and then ran the programme which involved contestants racing around the shop using the KLBD guide to identify kosher products on the shelves and then filling their baskets. It worked very well both in terms of the educational and social content and in essence served as a Kashrut awareness drive albeit presented in a fun and accessible manner.