Local JCCs to join global community in day of learning

If you want to mark the Global Day of Jewish Learning with Jews around the world, no need to resurrect your passport.

Everything you’ll need for the first-of-its-kind day on Nov. 7, dedicated to the study of Jewish texts, will be at four participating Bay Area locations: the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto, Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael, JCC of the East Bay in Berkeley and Peninsula JCC in Foster City, all in partnership with area synagogues and organizations.


“We want participants to know that Jewish learning is for everyone,” said Ellen Saliman, adult program coordinator at the PJCC. “The fact that the JCC is the convener shows how serious we are about Jewish education.”


All four JCCs will start with a video  explaining the significance of the Global Day of Jewish Learning. The lineup of learning that follows at each location will then branch off into different areas.

At the PJCC, Rabbi Michael Chernick, an Orthodox professor at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in New York who has longstanding ties to the region’s Reform and Conservative movements, will speak on why the Talmud is a “must read” for every Jew.

The next hour will be devoted to a series of workshops with Chernick and Rabbis Karen Citrin of Peninsula Temple Beth El, Daniel Feder of Peninsula Temple Sholom

and Nathaniel Ezray of Congregation Beth Jacob. Kids’ storytelling and adult programming also will be in the mix.

“This ties in with our guiding principles,” Saliman said. “Welcoming all to our space on this day fits in with our mission and the way we see ourselves in the community.”

Nov. 7 has special significance: It is when renowned Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz is expected to complete his 45-volume translation and commentary of the Talmud during a ceremony in Jerusalem. The Global Day of Jewish Learning will celebrate the achievement, which took five decades to reach.

Jews in communities large and small — in Germany, Tunisia, the Netherlands, Albania, Brazil, India, the Philippines, Cuba and more — will come together to study the Talmud through seven main themes: the environment, God, love, leadership, miracles, prayer and tzedakah.

Steinsaltz’s mission is based on the belief that the foundational texts of Judaism belong to everyone. The day is designed to be a reminder that while Jews are dispersed across the world, they are bound together by sacred sources and values.

The Osher Marin JCC will kick off its Global Day of Jewish Learning in San Rafael with a keynote speech from Rabbi Joseph Telushkin on his latest book, “Hillel: If Not Now, When?” Telushkin is the best-selling author of “Jewish Literacy,” “The Book of Jewish Values” and other books.

A special session of Family Connections, geared to families of all faiths, takes place in the morning. Participants will explore Jewish traditions through music, art, stories, cooking and parent education.

The JCC of the East Bay already has experience organizing community-wide learning with its Tikkun Leyl Shavuot, a springtime celebration and night of Torah study. So there was no hesitation in adding a second educational event to its calendar.

“It makes a lot of sense for us to do something like this,” said Ron Feldman, chief financial officer. “It’s exactly half a year set off from our Shavuot commemoration, and people are excited about the opportunity.”

A multitude of workshops organized and taught by local rabbis and academics will cover topics ranging from the Talmud to modern literature to philosophy.

Instead of different workshops, the Oshman Family JCC will hold one large study session on the concept of miracles in Jewish texts. Afterward, the group will gather to watch the culmination of Steinsaltz’s work.

Also on the schedule is a crash course by Israeli scholar Rivka Amado on how the Jews of Spain have maintained their identity for 500 years, mixing Ladino song, historical narrative and Sephardic culture. Guitarist Joel Siegel will accompany Amado and an ensemble of musicians for a special performance.

“This event is part of this JCC’s mission of creating a sense of community,” said Mimi Sells, chief marketing officer of the OFJCC. “There is a power in all of us being together and celebrating great moments.”

For information on the Global Day of Jewish Learning, visit www.1people1day.org.