Jewish Study Center - Washington, DC

Winter 2017 Course Descriptions

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Wednesdays at Adas Israel Congregation

2850 Quebec St. NW Metro: Cleveland Park—Red Line


The New Jewish Writer: Themes and Identity

April 26, May 3, May 10 at 8:15 p.m.


This class will focus on short stories as an introduction to several outstanding Jewish American authors of the 21st century. Our main texts will be Molly Antopol’s The Unamericans (2014), Erika Dreifus’s Quiet Americans (2011), and David Bezmozgis’s Natasha and Other Stories (2004). All these writers offer a contemporary lens on both previously-explored and lesser-examined subjects, including the lives and experiences of Soviet Jewish emigres; the effect of the Holocaust on subsequent generations; the McCarthy era; family relationships; the meaning of home and exile; and American/Jewish identity generally. The classes will incorporate both lecture and discussion. Copies of the texts will be made available in class, but students are particularly encouraged to purchase or borrow from local libraries Molly Antopol’s text (in paperback).


Instructor: Rabbi Mindy Avra Portnoy, Rabbi emerita of Temple Sinai, currently serves as Adjunct Rabbi at Congregation Beth El. She has written five Jewish children’s books, including Ima on the Bima: My Mommy is a Rabbi and Matzah Ball, and has taught adults in the Washington, DC area for the past 37 years.


Series: JSC or Adas members $40, others $55. Single sessions $15/$20





Global Jewish Cultures

May 3, 10, 24 at 7 p.m.


May 3, 7p.m. - Kreplach and Dim Sum: Yes, There are Jews in China!
In this lively multimedia presentation, Robyn Helzner shares stories, photos, video and music to explore the extraordinary history of the Jewish communities in Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Kaifeng, and traces their emergence as the fastest-growing region in the world today. Robyn Helzner served as the Cantor for the United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong and officiated at the first bar mitzvah celebrated in Beijing. She also leads Jewish heritage tours to China, including one starting October 17. (For more information about the trip, visit or email
Instructor: Robyn Helzner

May 10, 7 p.m.: The Heritage of Ethiopian Jews in Israel

A native of Ethiopia who made aliyah when three years old, Pnina Agenyahu was the first Israeli of Ethiopian background to be director of the Hillel chapter at Tel Aviv University. She now serves as Senior Shlicha for Israel Engagement for the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and speaks widely on cultural diversity in Israel and the effect of its “melting pot” heritage on Israeli society, culture and politics. In 2014, she was named by Haaretz as one of 66 influential Israeli women to watch.

Instructor: Pnina Agenyahu


May 24, 7 p.m.: Hebrew Street Art and the Creation of Jewish Spaces

Hillel Smith, an artist and graphic designer focusing on engaging Jewish communities with their heritage in innovative ways, has painted dynamic Jewish murals in Southern California and Israel with his Hebrew street art venture Illuminated Streets. He revitalizes ancient rituals with online projects like his GIF Omer Counter and Parsha Poster series, encouraging creative reconsideration of religious practice. This workshop focuses on artistic empowerment, continuity, and manifesting identity through the arts. Seeing Hebrew as the visual glue binding Jews together across time and space, he also teaches Jewish typographic history, using print as a lens for Jewish life and culture. You can see his work online at Copies of his book Parsha Posters will be available for sale.

Instructor: Hillel Smith


Series: JSC or Adas members $40, others $55 Single sessions $15/$20





Ask the Rabbis Live! How can we balance civility and political disagreement?

May 17 at 7 p.m.


A panel discussion with local rabbis co-sponsored with Moment Magazine. Which is more important, peace in the community or freedom to express political disapproval? Can we disagree Jewishly? Continuing a discussion launched in Moment's March/April issue.

Moderator: Sarah Breger, executive editor of Moment


Adas, JSC members $15, others $20


Sundays: Shirat Hanefesh Adult Education – For further information go to or email


Israel’s Cultural Revival: Videos and Discussions

April 30, and May 7


The Tekumah series presents the story of Israel as a modern nation and what it means to be Israeli, what Israel has achieved, and what Israel dreams of becoming. Each video will be presented by a Shirat member who will lead a discussion afterwards. A perfect way to commemorate Yom HaShoah, Israel’s Remembrance Day, and Israeli Independence Day.


Sunday April 30, 1-3 p.m.: Tzahal/The Israeli Defense Forces, presented by Gideon Amir,at the home of Roanne and Hazzan Ramon Tasat, 2445 Lyttonsville Rd., Apt. 305, Silver Spring, MD.

Sunday, May 7, 5-7 p.m.: The Ingathering of the Exiles, led by Orit Simhoni, at the home of Drs. Neal Epstein and Deborah Warden, 8005 Ashboro Court, Chevy Chase, MD.





Class Cancellations

Weather-Related Cancellations

      Classes may be cancelled for the following reasons:
The building is closed due to inclement weather.
The teacher cannot make it to the class due to inclement weather.
The teacher cannot make it to the class due to illness.

      The easiest way to see if a class is cancelled to inclement weather is to call the building where your class will be held:  Adas Israel Synagogue: (202) 362-4433.

       If a class is cancelled due to teacher illness we will notify you as soon as possible. Class sessions cancelled due to weather will be rescheduled as soon as possible and when possible at the same place, time and day of the week as the original session.   For information about rescheduled class sessions, refunds or other matters, please call (202-332-1221) or message the Study Center at

Do you have an idea for a class? Contact the Study Center to make class suggestions.

Hebrew Classes:
For other levels of biblical and prayerbook Hebrew, contact Adas Israel Congregation for community classes.


Archived list of classes


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.....I REALLY enjoyed last Thursday's class. The challah had doubled in size by the time I arrived home!  I couldn't believe my eyes. I now understand why bread is used as a symbol of fellowship and life in both the Jewish and Christian traditions.  It truly is a miracle of life.  And the satisfaction I felt when I took the baked loaves out of the oven that night, it was indescribable. The only thing better was breaking that bread with friends on Shabbat and being told that it was delicious.  Maraming, maraming salamat (thank you very much) for this wonderful gift!
Warmest thanks, 
Tanya Lat (from the Philippines)


On behalf of Hill Havurah, we thank the Jewish Study Center for sending us Master Storyteller Bob Rovinsky, who enthralled our eight participants with his Tales from the Heart.  Bob was a terrific workshop leader who kept everyone's attention, even the two children who attended.  We all agreed that the Hill Center is, indeed, a lovely venue, and the room they gave us was perfect! Thanks again.  And we're looking forward to continuing collaboration.

Laurie Solnik for Hill Havurah


Thanks to the JSC, I became "Zahara"! I first took Judaism 101 at the JSC with Barbara White, because I wanted to learn more about my own heritage -- I was serving on the board of a Jewish organization and knew very little about Judaism due to my secular, interfaith upbringing. After that class, I was hooked. I went on to learn basic Hebrew so I could start to say the blessings. Then when I learned Barbara was hosting a Bat Mitvah class at Fabrangen, I signed up. At the ceremony two years later, I was called up to the bimah, using my new Hebrew name, Zahara Aviva. Later I even taught a JSC class on Jewish Poetry. I am grateful that the JSC has been there to guide me on my journey of learning and transformation.