Are You Jewish or Jew-ish?

This year the Rabbi Aaron S. Gold Institute of Adult Jewish Studies is presenting a series of workshops on burning issues of Jewish identity. These forums will include background material, the personal stories of community members, and ample opportunity for freewheeling and open discussion.

Are You Jewish?

This series of workshops is ideal for any couples or single who has asked themselves, “Why Be Jewish?”

Each session stands on its own. While it will be helpful to attend all of the sessions, you are also free to attend those of particular interest to you. There is no charge, and friends and visitors are welcome. All workshops are on Thursdays beginning at 7:00 p.m. and will conclude by 9:00 p.m.


1. How are you Jewish? – September 22nd

Historically, connections with the Jewish people were forged with three main pillars: God, Torah, and Israel. Young Jews are frequently and openly rejecting one or more of these basic tenets and it begs the question: what is Jewish identity without them? Why are we members of a community in which many of us do not actively or regularly engage? Why is it so important to many of us to raise our children with “Jewish values” while Jewish practices, rituals, beliefs, and celebrations fall by the wayside?

2. Is There an Atheist in the House? – November 10th

Can one be a Jewish atheist or agnostic? What is the relationship between Judaism and the Jewish atheist or agnostic? How does one formulate a Jewish identity without God, belief, ritual, and religion? Can one accept Torah while rejecting God? Can one be a Cultural Jew?

3. Discrepancies – December 8th

When one partner in a couple has converted to Judaism there is often a gap in the level of commitment and observance between the Jew by choice and the Jewish-born spouse. But this tension is not necessarily limited to intermarried or conversionary couples. The same discrepancies may be found among couples composed of two Jews by birth. Why do some Jews insist their future spouse convert to Judaism if they are not willing to participate in Jewish life? How do couples resolve or not resolve the religious issues that come up?

4. The Changing and Evolving Roles of Women and Men in the Synagogue – January 19th

In Conservative synagogues, women are allowed to lead prayer, read the Torah at services, are counted in a Minyan, wear a tallit, and are encouraged to cover their heads. Yet some women and men are not comfortable seeing women in these roles. Though critical for egalitarianism, these practices stand at odds with history and much of Jewish tradition. We will explore why women and men may feel uncomfortable with women assuming the privileges and obligations of Judaism. We will also explore why more women than men participate in the synagogue and are more committed than their spouses to leading a Jewish life.

5. Intermarriage: Bane or Blessing? – February 23rd in The Braun Library

Intermarriage is becoming more and more common in the Jewish community and attitudes towards intermarried couples and families continue to evolve. How should the Jewish community and synagogue look upon intermarriage? Does intermarriage lead to a weaker Jewish community or provide new opportunities for diversity and growth? Should the non-Jewish spouse be welcomed without restrictions into the synagogue, or are there lines that should not be crossed? How do intermarried couples feel about their inclusion in the community?

6. Conversion – March 8th

What is the history of conversion in Judaism? Should we be encouraging or demanding that non-Jewish spouses convert, or is it none of our business? How do we better open the door to those who might consider conversion? Are there acceptable and unacceptable motivations for converting? How demanding should the conversion process be? Can an atheist or agnostic convert to Judaism? How accepting is the Jewish community of Jews by Choice?

7. Israel – April 19th

Why are so many Jews uncomfortable with Israel and her policies? What is different about the experiences of younger versus older Jews vis-a-vis Israel? How do we feel about the settlements and settlers? Should we be more concerned about the suffering of the Palestinians? How should disagreement with Israeli policies be expressed within the community?

8. Why belong? – May 10th

Should Jews feel obligated to support the Jewish community and its institutions? When we affiliate with synagogues or JCCs, etc., what do we expect to contribute and receive? Should Jews feel more of an obligation to help their fellow Jews than humanity at large? Are Jewish communal institutions worth the investment of time, energy, and money?

Take a moment and see other learning opportunities for adults throughout the year.