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Institute of Jewish Studies

The Koffler Bornstein Families Institute of Jewish Studies


בֶּן בַּג בַּג אוֹמֵר: הֲפֹךְ בָּהּ וַהֲפֹךְ בָּהּ דְּכֹלָּא בָהּ

וּבָהּ תֶּחֱזֵי, וְסִיב וּבְלֵה בָהּ, וּמִנַּהּ לֹא תָזוּעַ

Ben Bag-bag says: “Delve in it and continue to delve in it, for everything is within it.

Contemplate it, and grow old and gray in it, and do not stir from it…”

-Pirkei Avot 5:21


Welcome to the Koffler Bornstein Families Institute of Jewish Studies!

As in past years, we offer a diverse range of programs for everyone to explore. As Ben Bag Bag said in the above quote from Pirkei Avot, everything is in the Torah - and we have tried to offer courses on just about everything here at the Institute. We will continue with our Author-Author program, in which local authors will present and discuss their newest books, both fiction and non-fiction. During this year’s educational weekend, “Talmudic Tales of Love and Darkness,” Rabbi Dr. Jeffrey Rubenstein will lead us in literary and historical explorations of Tamudic stories of shame, destruction, and love. Our mini-mesters will cover subjects as diverse as local Jewish history, poetry, d’var Torah writing, interfaith text study, and art; and our semester- and year-long courses include past favorites such as Talmud, Hebrew, Torah reading, and weekly parshah study, as well as new offerings on Jewish music, Hebrew literature, and social justice. Whatever you are interested in, we have something for you!

We hope this year will be one of exploration, discovery and joy. We invite you to explore this year's brochure, and we look forward to learning with you soon!


Professor Alan Verskin, Chair

Rabbi Rachel Zerin, Director

Join us for our Educational Weekend

Click here for more information,

and click here to register!

Please RSVP no later than Wednesday, March 22

Delve Deeper: A Program of Intensive Jewish Study is an exciting new adult education initiative that brings dynamic teachers to teach in-depth, university-level courses to a diverse group of adult learners in Rhode Island. Find out more about Delve Deeper and our first course, "Rabbis, Mystics, Philosophers, and Poets: An Introduction to Medieval Judaism" here!

You can also click here to register.

Please join us for one of our spring semester courses!

To register, please click here

Our spring course offerings include:

 Thursday Classes

Jewish Music: What Is It, and Why Do We Care?
Meets February 16, 23, March 2, 9, 30, April 6 from 7:30-9:00pm
Instructor: Samuel Zerin
What makes music "Jewish"? In this course, we'll listen to a wide range of Yiddish music from the 20th and 21st centuries that sometimes contradicts common assumptions about Jewish identity, including Yiddish atheistic songs, Yiddish Christmas carols, Jewish classical music, Hassidic pop songs, Yiddish nursery rhymes, and more. We'll listen to recordings, learn about key musicians, and discuss how some of these genres developed. Along the way, we'll ask what, if anything, makes this music "Jewish" and why it is (or isn't) important for Jewish music to exist.

Hug Ivri
Meets every other Thursday from 9:00-10:00am
Instructor: Rabbi Alvan Kaunfer
In this group, which is conducted entirely in Hebrew, we will be reading selected Hebrew poetry, prose, and traditional midrashim. The discussions often move into other fascinating topics. If you are an advanced Hebrew speaker, join us!

Tuesday Classes
Meet February 21, 28, March 7, 14, 28, April 4, 25 from 7:30-9:00pm (note slight change from the originally publicized calendar)
New students are welcome to all classes! 

I've Always Wanted to Learn to Read Hebrew but was Afraid to Ask! Part 2
Instructor: Toby Liebowitz
For those folks who have learned the “aleph bet” but haven’t yet mastered the art of reading prayers, this class is for you! We’ll be learning to read basic Sabbath prayers and basic blessings. This is a continuation from the Fall ‘Beginning’ Hebrew Class.

Instructor: Rabbi Wayne Franklin
Jewish law attempts to create justice and peace in society. One of the ways it does this is through laws of liability when one person injures another. How does one compensate another person? What factors must be considered? These are the questions this year’s Talmud class will explore as we study Chapter 8 in Tractate Bava Kamma. No prior Talmud study necessary. Come and Learn!

 Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof: The Pursuit of Justice in Jewish Texts
Instructor: Rabbi Rachel Zerin
Most of us have heard that donating money or goods, performing community service, or engaging in social justice is a mitzvah, but what does that actually mean? How are these acts grounded in our Jewish tradition? What makes these acts Jewish, and how can Jewish text, law, and ritual transform the way we engage in acts of service and the pursuit of justice? Join Rabbi Rachel Zerin as we explore what the Tanakh, Talmud, Midrash, Mishneh Torah, Shulḥan Arukh, and contemporary writers have to say about community service and social justice, and reflect on the ways in which these texts can transform your own engagement in these acts.

Friday Class

Parashat HaShavua
Meets every Friday until June 9, from 7:45-8:35am
Instructor: Rabbi Alvan Kaunfer
In this breakfast-study session, we will study highlights of the upcoming Shabbat Torah reading – the Weekly Portion. The group will have an opportunity to raise questions and share interpretations on the text. Participants are welcome to daven in the Chapel at 7 a.m., before the breakfast and study.

Mon, 24 April 2017 28 Nisan 5777