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Intro to Judaism Classes

November 1st, 2020:  Overview of Jewish History:   From Hebrews to Jews (video of the class)-  The Transformation of Shepherd Hebrew Religion into the Formation of a New Israelite Country into a Portable Rabbinic Judaism into Diaspora, Modernity & Anti-Semitism. 

November 22, 2020: The Bible and Its Interpretation:  Midrash (video of the class)
2nd Temple Period.  Midrash handout.  Delving into the first two chapters of Genesis.

December 6, 2020:  How to Read the Torah with Examples (video of the class)

December 20, 2020:  The Rabbinic Period and Christianity.  (Read Christian New Testament Romans chapter 7.)   Sin, Human Nature & The Debate with the early Church (video of the class)

January 10, 2021:  The Shared Doc "Contract" With Me.   Starting your Jewish practice:  Mezuzah, Tallit, Tefillin, Candlelighting,  Kippah, Jewish Star.   "Taking on a Mitzvah" or "Taking a Step" vs In or Out.  The Dietary Laws (plus:  “Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform”) part 1 - Getting Started, Treyfe, and Social Dimension.

January 24, 2021:  Kosher Dietary Laws Part 2:  Reasons for Laws, Dishes, Kosher slaughter, and Eating Out.   Assignment:  Donin chapters on Kashrut and on Treatment of Animals

February 7, 2021:   Prayer.  Assignment: Read either Steinsaltz book or Donin's To Pray as a Jew

February 21, 2021:  Purim and Shabbat.  Assignment:  Donin chapters on Shabbat plus as much of Heschel's The Sabbath as makes sense to you.

March 7, 2021:   Shabbat and Pesach 

March 21, 2021:   Jewish Life Cycle part 1

April 11, 2021:   Jewish Life Cycle:  Birth, Babies, Bar/t Mitzvah, Burial, Bereavement  (Read Donin chapters on Life cycle)

April 25:  The role of Kaddish, followed by Theology:  Kabbalah, Torah, and the Universe.  Background lecture: Kabbalah (video lecture) 

May 2, 2021:  Discussion and Kabbalah #2.  The texts are here.

May 16, 2021:  1pm Class on Israel.  (Please watch the 50 Years War, Elusive Peace, and The Oslo Diaries, or as much as possible.  Open this document.)   Then 7:30pm Shavuot Tikkun Study Sessions.

June 6, 2021:  The Holidays and the Jewish Paradigm of Journey

Additional class (originally June 27th) POSTPONED UNTIL WEDNESDAY JUNE 30 AT 5:00 PM

Estimated Beit Din date:  early July

Past readings (that should be understood):

Underlying Principles of Judaism: Donin, To Be a Jew, pp. 7-69.

Judaism and Your Relationship to God

Religious Practice in Daily Life

Shabbat: Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath. Donin, pp. 70-103.

Holidays: Donin, Part Three.  Read: The Jewish Way.

The Synagogue, Prayer, and Jewish Symbols
Donin, Chapters 8 & 9.  Plus selections from the Siddur (prayerbook) and from A Guide to Jewish Prayer.

Jewish Life Cycle:  Donin, part 4.

Bible and the Development of Judaism:  Assigned chapters in the Hebrew Bible.

Holocaust:  Wiesel, Levi, and Discussion.

Israel:  The 50 Years War (dvd or youtube).


Books and Materials

Main Textbook:  To Be a Jew by Rabbi H. Donin

Online Learning:  Anything in  To learn prayers (when you're ready), try    Also anything on the Youtube channels Unpacked and BimBam

Required Videos to stream:  50 Years War (Youtube); Israel and the Arabs Elusive Peace (Youtube); The Oslo Diaries (Hulu/HBO); two Holocaust movies of your choice (e.g. Auschwitz: The Nazis and the Final Solution (2005), Schindler's List, survivor testimony at Yad Vashem, and other options here.)

Recommended Books:
The Jewish Way by Rabbi I. Greenberg [I have extra copies]
The Sabbath by Rabbi A.J. Heschel
Etz Hayim:  Torah and Commentary 
The Drowned and the Saved by Primo Levi
Night by Elie Wiesel
God in Search of Man by Abraham Joshua Heschel
A Guide to Jewish Prayer by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
Here All Along by Sarah Hurwitz
The Gifts of the Jews by Thomas Cahill
Prayers and Blessings cd from Rabbi Caine

Learning Hebrew to be able to Phonetically Read:

Reading Hebrew for meaning is like learning Chinese:  it's not easy.  The vast majority of Jews for two thousand years learn enough Hebrew to phonetically read Hebrew, and some take on learning some of the words' meanings.  But how can you understand the prayers?  One studies the prayers to learn the meanings of the prayer, not the translations of each word.  You need to figure out a way to learn to read Hebrew phonetically.  One can use a book, get a tutor, use on-line resources, not to speak Modern Hebrew, but to be able to pronounce the Hebrew words.  Teach Yourself to Read Hebrew by Simon & Anderson is a good do-it-yourself system, but any way of doing it is good.

Conversion Requirements

  • Listen to “What Every Teacher Should Know About Judaism” on the “Judaism for the Thinking Person” podcast at  (You'll learn a lot about practical Torah by listening to other podcasts here.)
  • Attend a minimum of two Friday night and two Saturday morning services per month at Beth Israel Congregation, in addition to holidays
  • Attend Rabbi Caine's classes.
  • Learn to read Hebrew phonetically (with a mastery of all letters and vowels)
  • Kasher one's kitchen for Passover (so as to show understanding of the dietary laws) and commit to a chosen level of kashrut in consultation with Rabbi Caine
  • Keep one traditional Shabbat, including services and observing appropriate restrictions
  • Prepare to answer questions on the material covered in To Be A Jew.
  • Grasp the difference between joining a people and joining a religion.
  • Gain a familiarity with the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
  • Practice Torah commentary study.
  • Write a 1 to 3 page essay for the Beit Din on your journey and the parts of Judaism you most connect with.
  • To complete the process, appearance before a Beit Din of three rabbis, answering questions about yourself and Judaism, and immersion in a mikvah.  For me, circumcision or a pinprick (which we'll discuss).

Conversion Agreement

Candidates will make a Google-doc to share with the rabbi using this text:

As a conversion candidate, I agree to the following code of conduct.

    I agree to attend at least 12 Friday evening Shabbat services and at least 18 Saturday morning Shabbat services, as well as the holiday morning services of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and the evening services of Simchat Torah, Purim, Shavuot, and Tisha B’Av.  I will keep a record on this page with each service attended for the rabbi to review.

    I agree to attend all of the Intro to Judaism classes.  I will miss no more than three classes, and in those cases I will review the audio-or-video recordings from those topics in their entirety.  I will keep a record on this page of my class attendance.

    In addition to the Intro to Judaism classes, I agree to attend other classes offered by the rabbi when I am available, and I will keep a record of this attendance as well.

    I will also make sure that as a prospective member of Beth Israel Congregation, I will maintain a Beth Israel account (with login and password and my correct contact information), and I will join when the process is complete.  (First year membership is free for new converts.)  I will read the Beth Israel emails and attend programming that interests me.

    I understand that by not meeting the above expectations, I expect the rabbi to assume I’m no longer interested in the conversion process. 


Sun, November 28 2021 24 Kislev 5782