Lifelong Learning

Lifelong Learning 5777: January - June 2017

At Mishkan Shalom, we learn for life.

That means classes and events to stretch your mind, use your body, inspire your creativity
and deepen your engagement with Judaism.

It means that no matter your age or expertise, you can try something new, make friends,
share experiences and join a community of learners.

For many of our offerings, there are no fees and
no registration required.

For classes with fees, registration is open. Register now!

Online: Use links below

By phone: 215-508-0226

By e-mail:

By check to: 4101 Freeland Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19128


Join the Lifelong Learning Committee!

To learn more, or to suggest a course you'd like to take, or teach,

please contact Jennifer Coburn, Committee Chair.


Spiritual Direction: A Monthly Open Circle
Saturdays: Jan. 14, Feb. 11, March 11; April 8, May 13, June 10; 9:00 - 9:55 a.m.

Led by Meredith Barber and Rabbi Shawn Zevit

No charge for this class.

Jewish Spiritual Direction is a process of exploring our connection with what we experience as sacred. Please come promptly at 9:00 a.m. so we may begin together.

Meredith Barber and Rabbi Shawn Zevit are trained Spiritual Directors.

Click here to learn more about Jewish Spiritual Direction and our Monthly Open Circle.


Engaging Judaism: A Mindful and Meaningful Approach to Jewish Living
Sundays, Jan. 8, 22; Feb. 5, 19; March 5, 19: 10:00 a.m. - noon
Led by Rabbi Shawn Zevit, Rabbi Yael Levy & Rabbinic Intern Julie Benioff

$80.00 members / $120.00 non-members

SIGN UP TODAY! DON'T DELAY! Minimum of 10 people needed for class to be offered!

Over six sessions, we will study some of the foundational aspects to living a dynamic and conscious Jewish spiritual life. Combining creative contemporary Reconstructionist perspectives with Jewish tradition, we will study and explore through text, discussion, practice and creative expression: Shabbat, Prayer, Jewish Mysticism and the search for God-connection, kashrut, the Jewish year and lifecycle, text and tradition, and more!

Rabbi Shawn Zevit,, is the lead rabbi of Mishkan Shalom. He is also a consultant, liturgist and recording artist, community organizer, faculty member and associate director of ALEPH Hashpa’ah (Spiritual Direction) Training Program.
Rabbi Yael Levy’s approach to Mindfulness is deeply rooted in Jewish tradition. It grows out of her deep personal commitment to spiritual practice and a passionate belief in its potential to change not only individuals but also the world. Rabbi Yael has been with Mishkan Shalom for 20 years and has developed
A Way In: Jewish Mindfulness Organization over the past seven years.
Julie Benioff is a senior rabbinical student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and in her third year as Mishkan Shalom’s rabbinic intern.

Register online: Engaging Judaism


Finding the Voice Within: Where Creativity and Spirituality Meet
Fridays: Jan. 20, Feb. 17, March 17, April 21, May 19, June 16: 10:30 a.m. - noon

Led by Meredith Barber and Julie Lipson
NOTE: Held at Meredith's home; contact her for address: (610) 405-4903/

$120.00 -$270.00 sliding scale for six months, members and non-members

Thanks to community support, the original group continues; we’re forming this 2nd ongoing group to make space for new participants.

Group spiritual direction is a contemplative practice in which members listen closely to one another. Led by psychologist Dr. Meredith Barber and music therapist Julie Lipson, this monthly group provides a space to quiet our minds and look deeply inside ourselves. The group will focus on hearing each other and using singing and creative sounds to reflect back journeys and themes — by joining our voices together, we heal ourselves and each other.

The group will meet at Meredith Barber’s home in Penn Valley. Interested participants can contact Meredith for information and/or directions.

The new group will run if a minimum of 4 registrants commit to 6 months at a time.

Meredith Barber is combining many of her passions with this course, including group work, spiritual exploration and creativity. A psychologist for 20 years, she leads groups, teaches graduate-level classes in psychotherapy and completed the Lev Shomea program in Jewish spiritual direction.

Julie Lipson, a board-certified music therapist, comes to this group with experience in Jewish song leading and group facilitation. She has worked in Jewish communities for more than ten years, leading services, chanting and drumming, and infusing spiritual practice with creativity.

Register online: Finding the Voice Within


Pause & Refresh Your Soul: An Exploration of Shabbat Unplugging
Saturdays: Feb. 11, March 18, April 15, May 20: 4:30 - 6:00 p.m.
Led by Rabbis Shawn and Simcha Zevit at their home in Mt. Airy

$10.00/session (members); $15.00/session (non-members): We will not collect money on Shabbat; please pay in advance.

Monthly reflection, study and song that blend Shabbat afternoon tradition and reflection with text study, contemplation, prayer and spiritual practice, all connected to this year’s theme of engaging with Jewish living and moving towards greater consciousness in the four worlds of Jewish mystical understanding — physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual.

Rabbi Shawn Zevit,, is the lead rabbi of Mishkan Shalom. He is also a consultant, liturgist and recording artist, community organizer, faculty member and associate director of ALEPH Hashpa’ah (Spiritual Direction) Training Program.

Rabbi Simcha Zevit is the rabbi of the Narberth Havurah, the Jewish chaplain at HUPP and a member of Mishkan Shalom.

Register online: Pause & Refresh Your Soul


Walk the Talk: Knowing Nature through a Jewish Lens
Saturdays: Feb. 25th; April 29: 12:30 - 2:00 p.m. (Meet at Mishkan, then carpool to the woods.)
Led by Steve Jones 

$5.00/session (members and non-members). We will not collect money on Shabbat; please pay in advance.

Walk the Talk is a series of guided outdoor experiences in which participants learn about “reading” the natural landscape as a text. Participants walk for about an hour and a half in the nearby Wissahickon forest, learn about ecological relationships among forest creatures, make blessings, and study short Jewish texts.

On the February 25th winter walk, we note that the sap is rising in the seemingly sleeping forest, and we can sense the forest coming back to life through the cold. Our April 29th spring walk is likely to focus on the bird migration from Central and South America to our woods, along with the flowering of many of the plants native to our valley.

All ages are welcome to meet at Mishkan Shalom after services, then carpool to a starting point for the walk in the nearby woods. Participants should wear sturdy shoes and sensible clothes for the outdoors.

Steve Jones teaches English at Community College of Philadelphia and is president of Wissahickon Restoration Volunteers, a community-based ecological restoration program. He teaches English at Community College of Philadelphia and Chairs Mishkan Shalom's Spiritual Life Council. Steve also leads Nature Walks at Mishkan's annual Weekend in the Woods at Camp JRF in the Pocono Mountains.

Register online: Walk the Talk


SoulCollage® with a Jewish Spin: Reaping the Harvest
Sundays, Feb. 12, 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. in the Social Hall
Facilitated by Susan Richards

$40.00 per session; includes all supplies (members and non-members). Maximum 12 participants for this workshop.

SoulCollage is an intuitive, imaginative, creative and fun process. If you can use scissors and glue stick you can do it! Newcomers are welcome as well as previous SoulCollagers. No art experience is necessary — just receptivity, trust in the process, and a spirit of adventure.

The February 12th class will take place just after we celebrated Tu B’Sh’vat, the New Year of the Trees — when sap is rising unseen beneath the frozen ground, preparing for the blossoms that will astound us when they burst forth. Our dreams also dwell below ground, and like the rising sap are vital.

Susan Richards says, “Being a SoulCollage® Facilitator is the perfect integration of my life-long spiritual pursuits, my 30 years as a psychotherapist in private practice in Solana Beach, California and my current life as a full-time artist in the Philadelphia area.” For more information, see

Register online: Soul Collage


One Book Mishkan: Saturday Nite at the Movies: God on Trial
Saturday, March 25, 7:00 p.m.
Dr. Adam Blistein, Facilitator

Refreshments will be served. $5.00 Suggested Donation.

God on Trial, a BBC made-for-TV movie, dramatizes a trial conducted by inmates in an Auschwitz barracks in which God is accused of breaking his covenant with the Jewish people. Although there is no firm evidence that such a trial ever happened, Elie Wiesel claimed to have seen something like it in the camp and based his play, The Trial of God (set in the Ukraine in the 1600’s after a pogrom), on his experience.

We chose this movie to pair with our One Book since it examines a number of traditional Jewish views of God that Kaplan also interrogates.

Join us for popcorn, libations, yummy treats, lively discussion and good company!

Dr. Adam Blistein – classics scholar, film buff and long-time Movie Nite producer – leads our post-film discussion.

Click here for full details on our our One Book Mishkan Series.

Donate online: One Book Mishkan: Saturday Nite at the Movies


Let it Rise: Challah Baking
Thursday, March 30, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Led by Elissa Goldberg and Anndee Hochman

$10.00, members and non-members
PARTICIPATION ESSENTIALS: You must PRE-REGISTER to ensure we have enough ingredients, cooking space and instructional guides. You’ll need to BRING YOUR OWN MIXING BOWL.

Join seasoned challah-makers Elissa Goldberg and Anndee Hochman to learn a generations-old family challah recipe; practice mixing, braiding and baking; and learn a bit of challah history and ritual.

Come to the class with a large mixing bowl; return home with a freshly baked mini-challah and dough ready for an overnight refrigerator slow-rise so you can braid and bake a full-size loaf in time for Shabbat (Mishkan’s Village Shabbat is the 31st!). You’ll also bring home a packet with the basic recipe, some variations (raisin challah! pesto challah!) and printed challah blessings.

Register online: Let it Rise: Challah Baking


Navigating the Prayerbook
Sunday, April 23, 10:30 a.m. - noon
Led by Dr. Elsie Stern

$10.00 members, $15.00 non-members

While each service has its own flavor, all Jewish prayer services share a similar "plot." In this workshop, Mishkan member Elsie Stern will introduce the story line of Jewish prayer services and explore how the individual prayers fit into the common structure of every service. If you've ever wondered what the Shema has to do with the Kaddish or what exactly those prayers are, this workshop is for you!

Dr. Elsie Stern is the Vice President for Academic Affairs at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College where she teaches Bible and Rabbinic Judaism.

Register online: Navigating the Prayerbook


Leadership for Living
Wednesdays, April 26; May 3, 17, 31: 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Taught by Rabbi Shawn Zevit and Dr. Barry Dornfeld

$36.00 members/$72.00 non-members

SIGN UP TODAY! DON'T DELAY! Minimum of 10 people needed for class to be offered!

Leaders aren’t just born; they’re created through reflection, learning and practice. This course will explore ideas and values on leadership from Jewish and other faith traditions. It aspires to help participants develop leadership skills, take up new roles in faith-based and other institutions and build stronger communities in all aspects of their lives. The coursework will include readings, teachings and discussions (face-to-face and virtual), application to real-world experiences and reflection.

Open to Mishkan members, especially those interested in synagogue leadership and governance, and non-members, including those from other faith-based and community organizations.

Rabbi Shawn Zevit,, is the lead rabbi of Mishkan Shalom. He is also a consultant, liturgist and recording artist, community organizer, faculty member and associate director of ALEPH Hashpa’ah (Spiritual Direction) Training Program.

Dr. Barry Dornfeld is the Vice President of Mishkan's Board of Directors, with previous board service in Strategic Planning and Leadership Development. He is a principal at CFAR Consulting — just named in Forbes’ 2016 listing of America’s Best Management Consulting Firms — and a documentary filmmaker.

Register online: Leadership for Living


One Book Mishkan: Book Discussion
The Radical American Judaism of Mordecai M. Kaplan, by Mel Scult
Sunday, May 7, 3:00 - 5:00 p.m.
Dr. Lillian Sigal, Facilitator

No fee for this gathering. Refreshments will be served.

Join us as we conclude our series with a lively discussion of this powerful work on the founder of the Jewish Reconstructionist movement. Kaplan’s concern with the spiritual fulfillment of the individual grew from a Judaism of disconnection he saw around him. How shall we adapt Kaplan’s ideas to new questions of Jewish identity, balancing particularism and universalism, rationalism and mysticism?

Dr. Scult comments: “This work goes far beyond the concept of ‘Judaism as a Civilization.’ Kaplan, the prophet of Jewish peoplehood, was also the prophet of Jewish personhood. He sought to democratize, Americanize and individualize the Jewish tradition and through these efforts to strengthen the Jewish people.”

Dr. Lillian Sigal, founding chairperson of our Library Committee, has taught Bible and Religion at colleges and universities. She has a particular interest in interfaith relations, shared with her husband, Rabbi and New Testament scholar Phillip Sigal. She served as editor of his work “Judaism: The Evolution of a Faith.”

Click here for full details on our One Book Mishkan Series.


Lifelong Learning: Do You Feel Heard? An Evening on Listening Skills
Wednesday, May 10: 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Facilitated by Claudia Apfelbaum, LCSW.

$18.00 members/36.00 non-members

When people feel heard, understanding arises, tension is reduced and feelings of love and harmony emerge. Would you like such an atmosphere with your loved ones? This participatory evening workshop will give participants important approaches for listening and being heard.

Claudia Apfelbaum, LCSW, has a private practice and has lead a range of workshops for many years. As a family member and a therapist, she experiences the beauty and benefits of active listening all the time.

For more information, contact Claudia.

$18.00 members/$36.00 non-members

Register online: Do You Feel Heard?


Torah Study

Shabbat (Saturday) mornings, 9:00 - 10:00 a.m. in the Library

Each Shabbat morning we gather to read, discuss, question and explore that week’s Torah portion in sessions led by Mishkan rabbis, members and friends of the community. Together, we become both teachers and students. Open to adults and teens. If you’d like to lead a session or have questions about Torah study, Eugene Fleischman Sotirescu, Torah Study Coordinator, welcomes your questions.

Click here to learn more about our weekly Torah Study.


How to Register for Classes: You can register and pay online for classes with fees by following the links after each class. If you prefer to pay by check, please call the synagogue at (215) 508-0226 or e-mail and provide your name, contact information and the class you wish to take.

Download the "Lifelong Learning Winter/Spring 5777/2017 Brochure" by clicking here.


Mishkan Shalom is a Reconstructionist congregation in which a diverse community of progressive Jews finds a home. Mishkan’s Statement of Principles commits the community to integrate Prayer, Study and Acts of Caring — and to work with other people of faith to repair the world in justice and peace.

4101 Freeland Ave. Philadelphia, PA 19128 - ph: (215) 508-0226 / Site map