Beth El launches adult education programming

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — This month, Congregation Beth El will launch three learning series for adults and teens, to which the public is invited.

• From Jan. 22 through April 23, participate in the “Beth El Beit Midrash: Paired Study Course.” Paired, or chevruta, learning has been a part of the Jewish rabbinic tradition for centuries. Judaism teaches that one should not learn independently, but rather, one needs a “sparring partner.” In partnership with Mechon Hadar, a national learning organization, Beth El will offer a Beit Midrash, or house of study, for local residents in a 10-session program, beginning Jan. 22. Participants may join the program at any time during the course.

In this program, learners may choose a study partner or ask to be matched with a study partner with similar interests. The program is for learners of all skill levels, and no previous background or knowledge of Hebrew is required. There is no set time for each pair to study. Meet when and where it is convenient for you at any time during the 12 weeks. Those who cannot complete the full session are welcome to participate for as much of the course as they can.

Participants can choose from more than 15 wide-ranging and diverse topics, including art, philosophy, social justice and rabbinic literature. Study sheets, materials, guiding questions and videos will be emailed to each pair weekly to guide that week’s discussion. For the full list of available courses,  visit

The Beth El Beit Midrash will kick off with a breakfast and learning session, Jan. 22, at 9:30 a.m. Rabbi Jason Rubinstein of Project Zug/Mechon Hadar will introduce the program and guide participants through the process of chevruta learning.

There will be two Sunday opportunities in February and March for partners to check in and refine their learning process. The Beth El Beit Midrash will conclude on April 23, when each pair will teach a little bit of what they learned. 

For more information, and to register, visit Sign up by Jan. 15. The program is open to the entire community.

• “You Are What You Eat,” a three-part series about Jewish food ethics, will meet Tuesdays, Jan. 24 and 31, and Feb. 7, all at 7:30 p.m. What does Judaism have to say about what we put into our bodies? It turns out, a lot.

Using Jewish texts from the Bible through today, rabbinic intern Paula Rose will lead the series, which delves into the values we express by the act of eating.

Spend the first session looking at the complicated relationship between ethics and keeping kosher, the second session exploring the ways that our attitude toward the environment affects our food choices, and the third session thinking about how we use food to build community.  Learners of any and all dietary practices welcome.

The series will be held at Beth El, 222 Irvington Ave. in South Orange, and is free and open to the entire community.

• “Living with Intention,” a digital lunch and learn with Rabbi Jesse Olitzky, will take place Feb. 14, 21 and 28. Take a midday break and join the rabbi and fellow members for an hour-long informal study session from your desk or home — or come to Beth El and study in person if you wish. All you will need to participate remotely is a phone and/or internet connection. More information about the topic and how to connect will be shared shortly.