Beyond the Big Three: The Rich, Diverse World of Jewish Sects

March 11th, 2020, 7:00 pm
Adas Israel Congregation
2850 Quebec Street NW
Washington, DC 20008

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The major denominations of Judaism are well-known enough—Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and so on. But Judaism is also a sprawling  civilization with many far-reaching subtribes, not just cultural or geographic but religious as well. In this series, we’ll introduce you to three groups that some Jews may find exotic or improbable—and yet all of which have thriving presences within Judaism in the here and now.

March 4 at 8:15 p.m.—The Karaites

Instructor: Ken Cohen

Karaite Jews are deeply religious, but since they reject the authority of the Talmud, their religious practices are very different from ours. Karaites eat milk and meat together, as long as they are from different species (“Do not cook a kid in its mother’s milk.”) They don’t celebrate Chanukah (it’s not mentioned in the Bible). Karaites are aghast that we light Shabbat candles (doesn’t the Bible clearly say that we are not to kindle a flame on Shabbat?) and think it is appalling that we rabbinic Jews compound our explicit transgression by saying a blessing, thanking God for commanding such a desecration! Come learn more about this group, which originated in medieval Babylonia and is still going strong and attracting new adherents.

Rabbi Ken Cohen is spiritual leader of Beth Israel Congregation in Lexington Park, Maryland. He wrote his rabbinic thesis at Leo Baeck College, London, on “The Personal Status of Karaism in Rabbanite Halacha.”

March 11 at 7:00 p.m.—The Satmar Hasidim

Instructor: Morris Faierstein

Satmar is an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic group that is unusual in many respects. The class will consider its origins, its core beliefs and attitudes to the contemporary Jewish world. A particular aspect is its attitude to the state of Israel and rejection of Zionism and modernity.

Dr. Morris M. Faierstein is a Research Associate at the Meyerhoff Center of Jewish Studies at the University of Maryland. He has published twelve books and more than 125 scholarly articles and reviews in the areas of Hasidism, Kabbalah, and Early Modern Yiddish Literature.

March 18 at 7:00 p.m.—Jewish Witches, Wiccans and Neopagans

Instructor: Marilyn Cooper

A growing movement of secular Jews—mainly, but not exclusively, women—are reclaiming the divine feminine and goddess worship. With strong ties to eco-feminism, practitioners are using new liturgies and rituals to create diverse and radically inclusive Jewish communities. How are neo-paganism and witchcraft compatible with traditional Jewish practice? What’s the role of the modern Hebrew priestesses? What’s a “Jewitch”? We’ll explore this phenomenon as well as Jewish texts and traditions about witchcraft.

Marilyn Cooper has studied Jewish magic and its history since childhood. She davens with the Traditional Egalitarian Minyan at Adas Israel and is a writer, poet and certified yoga & meditation teacher.

Three sessions: JSC, Adas members $40, others $55 (W-9, W-10, W-11)
Single session $15/$20