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Exploring the World of Judaism Speaker Series

Join us on Sunday mornings - while our kids are in class - for an exciting mix of speakers and topics that span the range of the Jewish experience.  Attend all or "pick and choose."
No fee, no reservations, and plenty of bagels. Stop by for a nosh and knowledge!

Exploring the World of Judaism is a program of Temple Sinai and Jewish LearningWorks (formerly the Bureau of Jewish Education) and is supported in part by the Newton and Rochelle Becker Charitable Trust.  If you would like to receive weekly email reminders and descriptions of each talk, please send your name and email address to and specify TS/EWJ.    

All programs will take place on Sunday Mornings with refreshments at 9:15am, followed by sessions at 9:30 - 11:30am in Temple Sinai's Albers Chapel.

March 23, 2014    

Using the "G-Word": Talking About God  With Your Kids (and Yourself!) 
with Vicky Kelman, Jewish Family Education Consultant

Vichey KelmenHave you ever said, or heard someone say, “O my God” or “For God’s sakes” or “What kind of God would let this happen?”  Have you ever felt your knees knock when someone asked if you believe in God?  Has it been a really long time since you entered into a conversation about God and faith?  Whether or not you answered yes or no to these questions, this session is for you.  Bring your doubts, questions and affirmations, and join us as we bravely tackle one of those topics that most people will do almost anything to avoid, and take a developmental lens to the whole concept of faith development. 

Vicky Kelman, currently an independent consultant focusing on Jewish Family Education, worked for 15 years as the director of the Jewish Family Education Project at the Bureau of Jewish Education, building capacity for engaging families in Jewish life through intensive professional development for educators. She pioneered new initiatives in family education, directed the first Ramah family camp, was a founding member of the Consortium for the Jewish Family and has published in the field of family education. She won the prestigious Covenant Award in 2003.     

April 6, 2014 

Maimonides:  The Rabbi, the Philosopher, the Man 
with Nitzhia Shaked, Professor of Jewish Studies

/uploadedImages/site/Lifelong_Learning/Adult_Education/Nitzhia Shaked.pngMaimonides has influenced the development of Rabbinic Judaism more than any other figure in our history. Join Nitzhia Shaked as she explores the life of this unique person and discusses the story of his life as woven in his significant contribution as Rabbi, codifier and outstanding thinker. 

Nitzhia Shaked received her Juris Doctor from Hebrew University in Jerusalem and her Masters in Law from Harvard Law School and has been a member of both the California and Israeli Bar Associations. She has held teaching positions in Jewish Studies at San Francisco State University, Sonoma State University and at Pardes in Jerusalem.     


April 27, 2013 

Where Did Judaism Come From? Why Do We Ask That Question? Thoughts on a Critical Understanding of the Jewish Past 
with Deena Aranoff, Ph.D, Asst Professor of Medieval Jewish Studies, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley

/uploadedImages/site/Lifelong_Learning/Adult_Education/Deena Aranoff.pngMany of us wonder about the beginnings of Judaism. How did the Torah, the tradition, and the community come into being? Is the Torah divine? How did the Talmud become the defining Jewish text? Join Dr. Aranoff as we discuss these central questions about the Jewish past, present and future.   

Deena Aranoff is the Assistant professor of medieval Jewish Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. Her interests include rabbinic literature, medieval patterns of Jewish thought and the broader question of continuity and change in Jewish history. Dr. Aranoff is also a community educator and teaches Bible, Rabbinics and Jewish Mysticism in a variety of adult education programs throughout the Bay Area.     




February 2, 2014    

Cultivating Gratitude: Jewish Perspectives on the Spiritual Importance of Thankfulness 
witRabbi Andrea Berlin, Congregational Network Director, West. Union for Reform Judaism

Rabbi Andrea BerlinRecent studies have shown that approaching life with gratitude not only greatly increases one's happiness; it has a strong positive effect on one’s health, as well.  As a Jewish culture, with our self-deprecating humor and dark history, are we destined to a life of gloom and tedium?  Quite the opposite!  Our liturgy, philosophy, and stories are ripe with praise, thanksgiving, and appreciation.  Join us as we learn and practice the art of gratitude in order to strengthen our bonds to loved ones, glow in the joy of our own confidence, and celebrate human and natural beauty.    

Rabbi Andrea Berlin serves the Union for Reform Judaism as the Network Director, West.  She came to the URJ in 2010 from Temple Sinai of Oakland where she was a rabbi since her ordination in 1998 from Hebrew Union College.  She is currently on the Central Conference of American Rabbi’s ethics committee and a member of the executive board of the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis.  She has been President of the East Bay Council of Rabbis, as well as serving on numerous regional and national boards.  An award-winning sermonizer, Rabbi Berlin is also widely recognized for her teaching on a variety of topics. She lectures around the Bay Area on such topics as the history of the Reform movement, Shabbat, Jewish liturgy, and the Jewish response to special needs.     

February 9, 2014

Muslim Women Beyond the Stereotypes 
with Ameena Jandali, 
Speaker, Islamic Networks Group

/uploadedImages/site/Lifelong_Learning/Adult_Education/AmeenaJandali300x400(1).jpgHave you wondered why many Muslim women cover their bodies so fully? Or why Saudi Arabian women drivers recently made headlines by getting behind the wheels of automobiles? One of the most misunderstood aspects of Islam is the experience of being a Muslim woman. Join Ameena Jandali as she provides an opportunity to learn what the religion really teaches and to ask the questions you have wanted to ask.    

Ameena Jandali is a sought after speaker, educator and writer on topics relating to Muslim outreach, family and the environment. She is the Content Director for the Islamic Networks Group (ING), designing training handbooks on outreach for American Muslims, and developing ING's educational presentations and cultural competency seminars.  She holds an M.A in Near Eastern Studies from the University of California, Berkeley and has delivered hundreds of presentations to schools, colleges, universities and other venues on Islam and related subjects. Ms. Jandali has conducted cultural competency trainings for a variety of healthcare providers and police departments throughout the Bay Area and is a sought after speaker on radio and television programs. She currently team teaches a class on Islam at San Francisco City College.     


February 23, 2014    

Life's Vulnerable Moments: How Our Tradition Can Guide us in the Dying and Mourning Process
with Rabbi Chaya Gusfield, 
Chaplain, Kaiser Oakland

Chaya GusfieldJewish tradition offers us numerous spiritual tools to help us during our tender journey as we prepare to die, when we accompany someone who is dying, and when we grieve the death of a loved one, whether sudden or expected. Join Rabbi Gusfield as she shares her passion for the many healing spiritual tools Judaism has to offer such as the viddui (end of life recitation,) shiva, the kaddishyizkor and more.  

Rabbi Chaya Gusfield served as the Assistant Rabbi for Beth Chaim Congregation in Danville for seven years, and currently serves as a chaplain at Kaiser Oakland working with seriously ill patients and their families. She also has a private practice as a Spiritual Director, and facilitates Spiritual Direction groups to help people deepen their relationship with their spirituality.  She is currently leading a Spiritual Directions group for people mourning a loss. Rabbi Gusfield has a long association with Kehilla Community Synagogue and is the Interim Rabbi for Temple Beth Ora in Edmonton, Canada.  She works extensively with grief and mourning in the Jewish tradition as a path to healing and is passionate about engaging in Jewish practices to celebrate the joys of life and to assist us in our day-to-day heartbreak.  

March 2, 2014

U-U-Ufuratzta: Inside the World of Chabad-Lubavitch 
with Ken Blady, Lecturer and Author

Ken BladyJoin Ken Blady as we take a peek into the fascinating world of Chabad-Lubavitch in an effort to understand a different way of living Jewishly. Where did Chasidism begin? What are the revered Rebbe's roles? What is the Army of God? Why do Chasidism proselytize, and how are their campaigns seen? You will understand the significance of the Yiddish word, Ufuratza, spreading forth, in this context, and so much more. 

Ken Blady is currently a lecturer in Jewish history at the American Jewish University Whizin Center as well as several Bay Area institutions.  He is the author of several books including Jewish Communities in Exotic Places and has been featured on The History channel documentary, “Operation Magic Carpet”.