Adult Learning

Judaism and Violence

The relationship between religion and violence is a difficult subject, but exploring it leads to insights about what religion is and how it has changed over time. Ancient Israel engaged in a great deal of violence against its neighbors. By the Middle Ages though, Jews were exploring the meaning of martyrdom. We will discuss whether martyrdom is also a form of violence. The course concludes by discussing whether some of modern Israel’s actions constitute Jewish violence. When does Judaism, or any other religion, condone violence?

This class will be taught by Robert Morrison, a Bet Ha’am member since 2010, and George Lincoln Skolfield Jr. Professor of Religion at Bowdoin College. A specialist in Islam, Robert also teaches courses on Judaism and on theoretical approaches to religion. His current project is a study of Jewish scholarly intermediaries between the Ottoman Empire and the Vèneto during the Renaissance.

Six sessions, 7:00-8:00 pm: January 6 to February 10, 2020. (Snow date is February 17.) Registration required: click here or call the Bet Ha’am office.

Holy Words for Anxious Times: A Study of Psalms

This fall, Rabbi Alice Goldfinger taught an over-enrolled class on psalms.

For millennia, Jews have recited Tehillim (Psalms) in response to joy, stress, ennui—and every other feeling that reflects human experience and emotion. In this class, we will look closely at three Psalms and read comparative literature on three themes: fear, alienation, and hope. We will explore how the Psalms may give us—as they have given others—inspiration, courage, and a sense of God’s presence in our daily lives.

Rabbi Alice Goldfinger was the spiritual leader of Congregation Bet Ha’am from 2000 to 2010. Before coming to Maine, she served as the associate director of the URJ Pacific Southwest Council in Los Angeles and was the associate rabbi at Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco. Rabbi Goldfinger was ordained by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in 1992. She holds a BA in French literature from Boston University and an MA in Hebrew literature from HUC-JIR. She resides in Falmouth, Maine.

Shabbat Book Talk

On Friday, November 22, 2019, Susan Kaplan Carlton, author of In the Neighborhood of True, joined us for Shabbat worship and a book talk. Carlton’s novel is inspired by the bombing of Atlanta’s most prominent reform synagogue in 1958. It centers on sixteen-year-old Ruth Robb, who hides her Jewish identity so that she can fit into her school’s social scene. Jodi Picoult, NYT bestselling author, says, “The story may be set in the past, but it couldn’t be a more timely reminder that courage comes not from fitting in but from purposefully standing out.”

Torah Study

Join us each Saturday morning at 9:00 AM in the Adult Learning classroom to study the weekly Torah portion. Led by Rabbi Saks, this lively group engages in conversation guided by both classical and contemporary texts that help us understand the relevance of the ancient words and stories in our 21st century lives. No experience is necessary; everyone is welcome.

Ten Minutes of Torah

Bet Ha’am is proud to bring you the Union of Reform Judaism’s Ten Minutes of Torah. On the sign-up form, just let the URJ know you are a member of Congregation Bet Ha’am. If you already receive Ten Minutes of Torah, update your information by clicking on the “Manage Subscriptions and Update Profile” link in the footer of each email. There are a series of drop-down menus in the Subscription Center that will allow you to choose your state/province, then city, and then the name of our congregation.

Shalom Maine

Shalom Maine is an adult education collaboration between Portland-area Jewish organizations designed to bring together learners from our entire community.  Classes are open to everyone and we use a pay-what-you-can tuition system, allowing people of all means to attend.

Please visit the Shalom Maine website to read the latest course descriptions and to register for any that interest you.

Shalom Maine was founded by Congregation Bet Ha’am, Temple Beth El, and the Jewish Community Alliance. Thank you to our community partners, Etz Chaim Synagogue of Portland, Congregation Shaarey Tphiloh,  Beth Israel Congregation of Bath, and Congregation Etz Chaim of Biddeford.

Scholar-In-Residence Program

Bet Ha’am is fortunate to enjoy an annual weekend of study with a visiting scholar, made possible through the generosity of the Rosalyne S. and Sumner T. Bernstein Memorial Scholar-In-Residence Fund.

This year, we are pleased to welcome Marc Dollinger, PhD, Richard and Rhoda Goldman Chair of Social Responsibility at San Francisco State University and author of Black Power, Jewish Politics: Reinventing the Alliance in the 1960s. Over the weekend of April 3-5, 2020, he will explore social and racial justice with us. Please see the Events section of our website for details.

Past scholars have included: Dr. Nehemia Polen, Dr. Mark Washofsky, Rachael Freed, Rabbi Wayne Dosick, Dr. Meesh Hammer-Kossoy, Rabbi Robert M. Seltzer, Rabbi William Cutler, Rabbi Wendy I. Zierler, Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, Rabbi Arthur Green, and Rabbi Abi Taylor-Abt.

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