Kol Ami — The Northern Virginia Reconstructionist Community

Encountering Judaism

Encountering Judaism

A year-long class for people interested in knowing more about Jewish culture, beliefs, history, and practices, starting October 17, 2021 and running through May 2022.   Meetings are held on Sundays at 11 am twice a month, mostly on Zoom.

We anticipate this class will be of interest to several different kinds of people:

  • Those raised Jewish who have been seeking more substantial Jewish education – and Jewish education more welcoming of questions and diverse opinions – than what they received growing up.
  • Non-Jewish family members and friends of Kol Ami members who want to know more about Judaism, so they can craft more knowledgeable and creative interfaith lives.
  • People who feel called to Judaism and are considering conversion.  (Kol Ami is pleased to sponsor members through the conversion process and welcome them into the Jewish people.)

Topics covered include Jewish holidays, Jewish cultural history and practices both from ancient times and in the US, Jewish values and beliefs, Jewish prayer and religious practices, and controversies and debates in Jewish life today.  We’ll be using a combination of presentations, large and small group discussions, and experiential learning.  As a Reconstructionist Jewish community, Kol Ami is anti-racist, supports full religious rights and participation of girls and women, and is LGBT-affirmative.  In this class, all points of view, and – especially – all questions are always welcome.

The class is free for Kol Ami members (including those in the “friend” category).  Others will be asked to consider making a donation of $180 for the year.  No one who would like to participate will be turned away for financial reasons.

To Register, please click HERE.

The syllabus for the course is as follows:


Oct. 16 – Opening Session

Oct. 31 — Theology I:  God

We’ll look at notions of God in Jewish tradition, ways in which we do or don’t find God in our lives, and Reconstructionist Jewish ideas about God.

Nov. 14 — Jewish Values I:  Compassion, Love, and Tzedakah

We’ll be exploring Jewish principles of hesed or lovingkindness, loving one’s neighbor and the stranger, and tzedakah, acting with righteousness.

Nov. 21 — Jewish Values II:  Gratitude, Justice, Peace

Right before Thanksgiving, we’ll examine Jewish views on expressing gratitude, achieving justice, and seeking peace.

Dec. 12 — Jewish Values III:  Speech Ethics

Judaism has an ethical framework for how we speak to one another. We’ll take a look at the what and the why.

Dec. 19 — Theology II:  The Messiah in Judaism and Christianity

What does Judaism teach about the coming of the messiah?  How did those teachings become modified as Christianity diverged from Judaism in the 1st century?  Do Jews still believe in a messiah or messianic age?

Jan. 9  — Overview of Jewish History and Texts

Four thousand years of Jewish history in one hour!  We’ll hit the highlights of four different eras, examine the demographics of Jewish migration, and place key Jewish texts in historical context.

Jan. 23 —  Bible Overview + Creation Accounts

How does the Hebrew Bible differ from the Old Testament?  And why do Genesis 1 and 2 have such different accounts of creation?

Feb. 6 – A Few Tastes of Talmud

Did you know there are two Talmuds?  We’ll cover the basics of these massive works of rabbinic literature, and offer a few tastes of the real thing.

Feb. 27 – Jewish Laws, Customs, Folkways

What is the Jewish fascination with law all about?  A speedy walk through 2500 years of Mosaic law, Talmudic arguing, medieval law codes, rabbinic responsa, regional customs, and Reconstructionist “folkways.”

March 6  — Holidays + Purim

The cycles of holidays in the Jewish luni-solar calendar year.  How do the holidays reenact the central myths of Judaism?  And a closer look at Purim, coming up on March 16.

March 20 – Shabbat

The crown jewel of a Jewish way of life, we’ll look at the spiritual and practical aspects of this “cathedral in time,” including key prayers.

April 3 — Exodus and Passover

What makes the Exodus the central story of Judaism?  How is it incorporated into Jewish life throughout the year as well as on Passover?

April 10 – Passover Seder and Customs

A closer look at the Passover Seder and how it reflects the themes and theology of redemption.

May 1 — Synagogues and Prayer

Let’s Zoom in synagogue gems around the world, discuss the different architecture in Sephardic and Ashkenazi synagogues, understand the sacred objects, and examine Jewish worship practices.

May 15 – Shavuot and Revelation

As we approach the holiday of Shavuot, we’ll explore the nature of revelation in the Torah and Jewish mysticism, and in our own time.

May 22 — Last Class … hopefully to be held at Attmans Jewish deli in Potomac!

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