Lifelong Learning

Lifelong Learning 5779: January - June 2019

At Mishkan Shalom, we learn for life.

That means classes, workshops and experiences 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.

We are creating our programming for 5780/2019-20 right now but take a look at our past offerings!


Spiritual Direction: A Monthly Open Circle
Saturdays, 9:00 - 9:55 a.m.:
Jan. 12, Feb. 9, Mar. 9, Apr. 13, May 11, June 8: Chapel (3rd floor)

Led by Dr. Meredith Barber

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. The Spiritual Direction Circle meets on the 2nd Shabbat of each month.

Meredith Barber is a trained Spiritual Director; she has been a leader of Mishkan Shalom's monthly Spiritual Direction Circle for many years. This work combines a number of her passions, including group work, spiritual exploration and creativity. A psychologist for over 20 years, she leads groups and teaches graduate-level classes in psychotherapy. Meredith completed the Lev Shomea program in Jewish Spiritual Direction.

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

No fee.

Navigating the Siddur
Sundays, 10:00 - 11:30 a.m.: Mar 10, Library (3rd floor); Apr 28, Rabbi Yael’s office (1st floor); May 5, Library
Led by Dr. Elsie Stern

$54.00 members/$81.00 non-members
Advanced registration is required.

Continuing for its THIRD iteration, Dr. Elsie Stern, Ph.D., a professor of Bible at the Reconstructionist seminary, is continuing her popular class. If you have not attended any of her prior courses, it isn’t too late to join. During these Sunday morning sessions, the classes have been learning the matbeah, or order, of a Shabbat morning prayer service. For the remaining three classes, the students will learn the inside story behind the creation of the final three sections of a traditional Shabbat service. You will also explore the kavannot, or intentions, behind the words. Specifically, the classes will cover:

March 10: Central prayers: Amidah
April 28: Torah service
May 5: Concluding prayers: Aleynu/Kaddish

Dr. Elsie Stern is Vice President for Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Bible at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. She sets the tone of academic life at RRC while playing a pivotal role in shaping the direction of the entire Reconstructionist movement, as well as impacting the larger North American Jewish community as a key public spokesperson for Reconstructing Judaism.

A vibrant biblical scholar whose teaching often focuses on social justice issues, Stern has taught widely in the U.S. and abroad. Her current research explores the transmission and reception of biblical texts in early Jewish settings, with particular interest in how the Torah transmitted by rabbis and teachers, and received by Jewish audiences, is (and always has been) far more expansive and variegated than the written texts themselves. She is the author of From Rebuke to Consolation: Bible, Exegesis and Ritual in the Literature of the Tisha b’Av Season (2004) and has contributed to the Jewish Study Bible and the Women’s Torah Commentary (2008).

Register online: Navigating the Siddur

End-of-Life Planning: When, How, Why
Thursdays, 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.:  Jan. 10, Feb. 7, March 14, April 11: Chapel (3rd floor)
Led by Kate Judge and Patricia Quigley

$72.00 members/$108.00 non-members

As Groucho Marx once quipped: “Getting older is no problem. You just have to live long enough!”

Just how one lives at the end of life – whether it’s a long life or a short one – is vitally important and personal. It’s hard, but important, to make sure you have thought about and begun the critical conversations you need to have with those you love – parents, children, partners, friends and yourself – about what matters to you.

We will explore various approaches and use a variety of new resources – film, essays, games, and reflection tools – to look at the important choices we have at the end of life.

Kate Judge is the Executive Director of the American Nurses Federation. She served as executive producer for a 2017 feature-length documentary, Defining Hope. The film tells the story of patients with life-threatening illnesses and the nurses who share their journey, as they make choices about how they want to live, how much medical technology they can accept, what they hope for, and how that hope evolves when life is threatened.

Patricia Quigley is the Manager and Funeral Director of West Laurel Hill Funeral Home. For many years, Pat has been a member of the Chevra Kadisha, the Jewish burial society, which performs tahara, the ritual cleansing of the body in preparation for burial. She says,“That work was a fulfilling and holy experience for me.” She also studied chaplaincy and volunteered as a para-chaplain, visiting people who were homebound or near death. Pat writes: I experienced first-hand the importance of traditions surrounding death and dying, and learned how to be supportive to both the dying and the living during this significant and inevitable life event.”

Register online: End-of-Life Planning: When, How, Why

Walk the Talk: Knowing Nature through a Jewish Lens
Saturdays, Jan. 19, April 27: 12:30 - 2:30 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 register and pay in advance via the website.

Walk the Talk is a series of guided outdoor experiences in which participants learn about ‘reading’ the natural landscape as a text, and about ways to cultivate a mindful approach to walking in nature. We walk in the nearby Wissahickon forest, observe elements of the natural word, learn about ecological relationships among forest creatures, make blessings and study short Jewish texts.

The Jan. 19 walk takes place two days before Tu B’Shevat, a time when the sap is rising in the seemingly sleeping forest, and we can sense the forest coming back to life through the cold. This gives us the opportunity to experience our local trees in the context of the kabbalistic concepts of the “four worlds” of Assiah (action), Yetzirah (formation), Beriyah (creation), and Atzilut (emanation). Our community’s Tu B’Shevat Seder, held this year on Sunday, January 20, explores three of these four “worlds,” through the sensory experience of fruits or nuts with a hard outer shell, those with a hard inner part, and those that are soft all the way through. On our walk, we will encounter (and eat!) examples of local native plants that fall into these categories.

Our April 27 walk will focus on the flowering of many of the plants native to our valley.

Participants should meet at Mishkan Shalom after services at 12:30 p.m., then carpool to a starting point for the walk in the nearby woods. Walkers should wear sturdy shoes and sensible clothing for the outdoors. All ages are welcome. The walk takes about an hour-and-a-half.

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

Register online: Walk the Talk: Knowing Nature Through a Jewish Lens

SoulCollage® with a Jewish Spin
Sundays, Feb. 10, May 12: 1:00 - 4:00 p.m.: Social Hall (1st floor)
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! Teens and adults, previous SoulCollagers and newcomers welcome. No art experience is necessary — just receptivity, trust in the process and a spirit of adventure.

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 Susan's SoulCollage website.

Register online: Soul Collage with a Jewish Spin

Learn to Leyn/Chant with Cantor David
Sundays, 12:15 - 1:15 p.m.: Feb. 24; March 10, 24, 31; April 14, 28
Led by Cantor David Acker

$108.00 members/$162.00 non-members.
Pre-requisite: Ability to read Hebrew.

If you have ever wanted to chant (or leyn) the passages for the Torah portion of a Shabbat service, now is your chance! Cantor David is offering a class, open to both adults and self-selected kids, who would like to learn the secrets of trope.

If you hope to fully memorize and retain all the trope marks (musical notes) that you study in class, you will need to spend time studying at home between classes.

A special invitation is extended to parents who have a child who might become b’nai mitzvah in the coming years. You may want to debut your Torah-leyning skills alongside your child at their ceremony!

Cantor David Acker holds a Masters in Cantorial Studies and Jewish Music from Gratz College as well as music degrees from Temple University’s Esther Boyer College of Music and Swarthmore College. He is also a candidate for a Masters in Jewish Education at Gratz College.

David teaches Dalet and Hay (4th and 5th grade) in Mishkan Shalom’s Congregational School. He challenges his students to invest their own creativity, imagination and intelligence into the development of their Jewish identity. He is drawn to teaching in the synagogue because he experiences the whole gamut of Jewish life: prayer, education, b’nai-mitzvah preparation, lifecycle and community.

Register online: Learn to Leyn/Chant with Cantor David

Why God Won't Go Away:
The Evolving Experience and Understanding of the Divine in Jewish Tradition and Contemporary Life
Sundays, 10:00 a.m. - noon: March 3, 24, 31; April 7: Rabbi Shawn's office (1st floor)

Led by Rabbi Shawn Zevit

$72.00 members/$108.00 non-members

Especially in challenging times, the longing for meaning, purpose, community and connection remains unabated.

In this 4-session course, we will explore the historic Jewish God ideas from biblical to modern times, with a special focus on 21st century schools of thought: ecological, neo-hasidic, humanistic, feminist and new neuro-theological. We will discover how these understandings may guide us today.

Each class will include experiential exercises, study and discussion, and will build one on the other. Texts will be provided, in addition to the required purchase of Finding God: Selected Responses, by Rifat Sonsino and Daniel Syme (Revised Edition, 2002) (Available at these booksellers. Please be sure you purchase the latest edition).

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.

Register online: Why God Won't Go Away

Ethical Wills for Today: Create a Keepsake with Your Values and Life Lessons
Wednesdays, May 8, 15; Thursday, May 23: 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.: Library (3rd floor)
Led by Jessie Stein Diamond

$54.00 members/$81.00 non-members
Attendance at all three sessions is encouraged. However, participants may come for one or two sessions.

Maximum 10 participants for this workshop.

“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”    — Kierkegaard

In this era of digital overload, over-consumption, FOMO and alienation, take time to consider your core values, reckon with lessons learned from the twists and turns of your own life, distill and share what matters most with loved ones.

Join this workshop to create a "Forever Book," with your personal, essential messages and your favorite images.

This contemporary version of an ethical will, an ancient Jewish tradition of bequeathing one’s values, has its roots in the Bible and the Talmud and is of value to people from diverse backgrounds.

In a series of three creative, focused and productive sessions, participants will listen and laugh, develop meaningful text without taking ourselves (and life) too seriously, and combine insights with images to create evocative content of value today and for generations to come.

Each Forever Book can be printed and shared digitally; length will vary based on individual preferences, priorities and progress. Registered students will receive a set of prompts relevant to their lives, and will be invited to share a set of digital images to combine with the texts we develop.

Jessie Stein Diamond enjoys helping people distill the lessons of their lives into beautifully designed custom keepsake books. An experienced professional writer, editor, interviewer and writing coach, Jessie has a knack for translating nuanced or technical concepts into engaging text and for navigating skillfully through sensitive topics. She writes for university alumni magazines about breakthroughs in medicine and engineering, develops digital and print content for nonprofits and universities, and is an effective writing and editing mentor. Learn more about Jessie by visiting her website.

Register online: Ethical Wills for Today

One Book Mishkan: 14th Annual Selection:
Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All of Its Moods,
by Michael Wex

Born to Kvetch closely examines the Yiddish language in order to paint a deep psychological and sociological portrait of the Jewish life and culture of European Jewry. Wex examines the attitudes and experiences behind the language that most of our ancestors used for over a millennium.

In Mishkan Shalom's 30th year, our rabbis have challenged us to ReGenerate and celebrate our sacred connections to community and the world. With this selection, the Library Committee suggests we be mindful of our past – where most of us came from and how our ancestors, only a few generations ago, thought and spoke – as we consider our future.

One Book Mishkan Shabbos Matinee: Yidl Mitn Fidl, 1936 musical starring Molly Picon
Saturday, March 2, 1:45 - 3:30 p.m.: Chapel (3rd floor)
Following Shabbat Morning Shoah Torah Memorial Service, Kiddush Lunch, Yahrzeit Tiles Dedication and Short Neigborhood Stroll

Facilitated by Dr. Adam Blistein

Suggested donation: $5.00.
We will not collect money on Shabbat. Donations are welcome before or after the program.

Yidl Mitn Fidl (“Yiddle with his Fiddle”) – the most popular Yiddish film ever produced – is a 1936 Yiddish language musical (with subtitles), featuring an effervescent Molly Picon in the story of a young woman who dresses as a man to join her father's klezmer band. But, the film is also a window into the world of Polish Jewry that would, in a short time, virtually disappear. The first part of the movie was filmed in Kazimierz Dolny, a Polish shtetl little changed in several centuries.

During Shabbat services on this day, we remember the Jews of the small Czech city of Uherske Hradiste who perished in the Shoah, and chant the week's parasha from the 300-year-old Torah scroll rescued from its synagogue, which we are privileged to guard. While screening this light-hearted musical comedy contrasts sharply with that somber memorial, with local inhabitants of Kazimierz Dolny as extras, we see the real Jews of the town and their vibrant life, an astonishing view into the Yiddish-speaking world destroyed only a few years later by the Holocaust.

Donate online: One Book Mishkan Shabbos Matinee: Yidl Mitn Fidl

One Book Mishkan Arts Afternoon: Yiddish in Story & Song
Sunday, May 19, 4:00 - 6:00 p.m.: Social Hall (1st floor)
Eilen Levinson, Producer
Reception to follow.

Suggested donation: $10.00.

We’re thrilled to announce the return of this springtime favorite, when we’ll bring the rich world of Yiddish stories to life with staged readings, in English, of stories originally written in Yiddish by several different authors. The highly evocative world of Yiddish song and klezmer will be highlighted in musical interludes between the readings.

Donate online: One Book Mishkan Arts Afternoon: Yiddish in Story & Song

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

Torah Study
Shabbat (Saturday) mornings, 9:00 - 10:00 a.m.: Library (3rd floor).

Every Shabbat morning, year-round, 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. Adults and teens, members and visitors are all welcome. If you’d like to lead a session or have questions about Torah study, Eugene Fleischman Sotirescu, Torah Study Coordinator, welcomes your inquiries.

Click here to learn more about our weekly Torah Study.

Download the Lifelong Learning Winter/Spring 5779/2019 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