Introduction to Judaism



Please obtain your books prior to the first session. Books are available through Barnes and Noble, or other venues, new or used.

Living Judaism, by Rabbi Wayne Dosick

Jewish Literacy, Revised edition by Joseph Telushkin

For students considering conversion: 1 book on conversion. Suggestions:

Choosing a Jewish Life by Anita Diamant, Choosing Judaism by Lydia Kukoff or Embracing Judaism by Simcha Kling, or other


Read: It will be assumed that you have read the assigned material and are ready for class discussion.

Post: Post at least one question, comment, response or assignment weekly on the class mailing list,“> To view attachments and other documents, log onto

Ask questions: Questioning is fundamental to Jewish learning.

Shabbat services: Attend at least 4 Shabbat services, including both evening and morningfollowing each, write a ½-1 page journal entry with questions and reflections – e-mailed to the group. At least one of these services should be prior to Nov. 13. We recommend attending together in small groups

Shabbat dinner with class: Friday evening, Nov. 16 held at Congregation Beth El, Troy.

Project: small group or individual mitzvah project, d’var Torah, brief research on topic of choice, hosting a Jewish event, etc. summed up in 2-3 pages and presented at end of course.

NOTE: Certificates will be granted to all who attend regularly and complete course assignments.


Oct, 16: Introductions and Expectations.

UNIT 1- Some Fundamental Concepts:

Oct.23: Fundamental Concepts-Brit

Brit – God and Israel

                                Kidusha – Kidoshim tihiyu, ki ani anonai el Kadosh

                                Mitzvah (Mitzvot) – doing God’s will

                                                Torah, Avodah, Gemilut Hasadim

                                                Tikkun Olam, Tzedakah

Theologies in modern Jewish thought

              Readings: Dosick, pgs. 7-42; Telushkin, look up and read sections on italicized terms

Oct.30:  Fundamental Concepts – Jewish Home

                                Mezuzah and Chanukat haBayit

                                Dietary practices – Kashrut

                                Integrating mitzvot

               Readings: Dosick, pgs. 247-8, 256-268; Telushkin, read sections on italicized terms

Nov.6:   Fundamental Concepts – Torah – Jewish texts and halachah

Tanakh and its components – the Jewish narrative and source texts

Talmud, Halachic literature and the chain of Jewish law

               Readings: Dosick, pgs. 73-100; Telushkin, 146-8, 153-7

Nov.13:                Fundamental Concepts-Synagogue

Siddur, Jewish services, reading of the Torah, synagogue and ritual objects

Will be conducted at Ohav Shalom (tent.) with presentation on worship by Rabbi Ornstein, and discussion of synagogue services with instructor.

             Readings: Telushkin, pgs. 717-750

(Fri. Nov. 16 – Erev Shabbat dinner)

Unit 2- History

Nov.20:                Jewish History – Biblical, Rabbinic History

                               Patriarchs and Matriarchs, Exodus from Egypt, Priestly cult, The Temple Period

(Kings Saul, David, Solomon), 1st and 2nd Temple, Divided Kingdom, Babylonian Exile, Mishnaic and Talmudic periods

               Readings: Become familiar with the above through Telushkin, pgs. 3-5, 11-15, 21-25, 27-42,

               45-50, 61-68, 70-75, 79-86, 104-106, 109-112, 114-121, 127-144, 146-152

Nov.27: Jewish History – Middle Ages to mid-20th c.

                                Spread of Jewish life, Golden Age of Spanish Jewry, Inquisition, Enlightenment, Early Zionism – founding of the State of Israel, Holocaust

               Readings: Telushkin, pgs. 161-166, 171-2, 175-199, 203, 210-211, 215-218, 229-232, 235-238, 271-316, 383-404

Dec.4:   Jewish History – Modern Jews

Who is a Jew, Ancestral and cultural groupings

Overview of modern movements

Jewish Organizations

Gerut – conversion

               Readings: Dosick, 55-72; Telushkin, pgs. 437-450, 455-461, 471-476, 480-495

Dec.11: Jewish History – Modern American Movements-Presentations by rabbis from each of Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, modernOrthodox (NOTE: 7-9:15 PM)

               Readings: Related sections from Telushkin for Dec. 4

Dec. 18: Jewish History – Modern Israel

History, government, politics, culture, issues

             Readings: Dosick: Chapter 8; Telushkin, 318-380

Unit 3- Jewish Year

Jan. 8: Jewish Year- Calendar and Shabbat


Introduction to Shabbat practices

               Readings: Telushkin, pgs. 630-633, 673-680

Jan. 15: Jewish Year –Fall

Rosh haShanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah

               Readings: Dosick, Pgs, 130-150; Telushkin, pgs. 634-646

Jan.22:  Jewish Year –Winter

Chanukkah, Tu b’Shevat, Purim

                Readings: Dosick, pgs. 151-161; Telushkin, pgs. 646-651

Jan.29:  Jewish Year-Spring-Summer

Pesach, Yom Hashoa, Yom Ha`atzmaut, Shavuot, Tisha B’av

               Readings: Dosick, pgs. 162-200; Telushkin, pgs. 652-669

Unit 4- Jewish Life Cycle

Feb.5:   Jewish Life Cycle 1

Birth, coming of age, weddings, divorce.

             Readings: Dosick, pgs. 285-302; Telushkin, pgs. 683-700

Feb.12: Jewish Life Cycle 2

Illness/bikkur cholim, death and mourning

               Readings: Dosick, pgs. 303-312; Telushkin, pgs. 594-5, 703-709

Feb.19:                 Conversion

                                Visit with 2 gerim (male/female)

Review of process

               Readings: Selected book re: conversion, Telushkin, pgs. 700-702

Feb.26:                 Project presentations/discussions. (Any written material circulated in advance.)