Zusia: The Bet Midrash

Come join us for transformative, inclusive, communal learning that opens doorways in both the mind and the heart.

Zusia is serious but playful study and is for all learners who are interested in examining the multi-faceted nature of Torah and Jewish culture. 

Each course is taught by an instructor with specialized knowledge and a passion for expressive and deep thought. Our bet midrash, literally “house of learning,” is currently being offered via Zoom. Did you know? You’ll receive a charitable donation receipt for course fees.

Please contact Matthew Gindin with any questions: learning@orshalom.ca

Spring 2021 Zusia Course Offerings

Seven Weeks To Rebirth: Sefirat HaOmer Through Art and Contemplation

We’ve all been through a lot; this wilderness sojourn has been long and bewildering. How might we like to prepare ourselves to re-emerge from the chrysalis of this extraordinary time and take on new butterfly shapes? Join Rabbi Hannah Dresener for a dive into spiritual learning, art process and personal inquiry. We will mark the omer weeks by exploring the sefirotic quality associated with each week, mining it for its personal resonance. Every class will be centered on art making in the virtual studio we will create together. Give yourself the gift of seven safe and spacious opportunities to dream into possibility.

Instructor: Rabbi Hannah Dresner, MFA
Prerequisite: None
Dates: Tuesdays, March 30 to May 11
Time: 7-9 PM
Investment: Members $105; Non members $172
This course is full and registration has been closed.

Consider a Tree – The Way of Martin Buber

Martin Buber was one of the greatest Jewish activists and thinkers of the 20th century. “I and Thou”, one of his many writings, is considered a masterpiece of existentialism and a key text for psychotherapy and practitioners of conflict resolution and many other forms of dialogue. In this four week class we will dive into “I and Thou” to unlock its full potential as Buber intended it: as a manual for the transformation of consciousness and our relationship to life itself. Classes will consist of readings and group meditation exercises.

Instructor: Matthew Gindin
Prerequisite: None
Dates: Tuesdays, May 25 to June 15
Time: 7-9 PM
Investment: Members $60; Non-Members $98

Winter 2021 Zusia Course Offerings

Speaking of Health: Jewish Wisdom On Caring For Self and Others

Join us for a four week course on facets of health and healing from a Jewish perspective. The course will be led by Matthew Gindin and feature fascinating guest speakers in an interview format. Topics include:

Jan 12 – Jewish Views of Healing
Jan 19 – Living In The Body
Jan 26 – Medical Ethics within the Jewish tradition, with guest speaker Rabbi Elyse Seidner-Joseph
Feb 2 – Healing The Mind within the Jewish tradition, with guest speaker Estelle Frankel.

Speaking of Health Course Overview:

Instructor: Matthew Gindin, with guests Rabbi Elyse Seidner-Joseph and Estelle Frankel.
Prerequisite: None
Dates: Tuesdays, January 12 – February 2, 2021
Time: 7-9 PM
Investment: Members $60 Non-Members $98

Speaking of Health Guest Speaker Bios:

A dear friend and chevruta study partner of Rabbi Hannah, Rabbi Elyse Seidner-Joseph is a retired/disabled gastroenterologist and community rabbi. A graduate of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, she also completed a residency and fellowship at Columbia before joining a suburban Philadelphia practice. She is also a Juliard trained, consummate pianist. Rabbi Elyse was ordained by ALEPH in 2013, and she teaches Jewish Bio-Ethics in the ordination program. She serves on the Chester County Hospital’s Pastoral Care and Ethics Committees.

Estelle Frankel is a practicing psychotherapist, author, spiritual director and popular public speaker. In her private practice in Albany, Ca. she works with individuals and couples providing brief and long-term psychotherapy and spiritual mentoring. Estelle is also a seasoned teacher of Jewish mysticism and meditation who offers workshops on the intersection of psychology and spirituality, Kabbalah and healing, and Musar, Mindfulness and Positive Psychology. Estelle is the author of two books: Sacred Therapy: Jewish Spiritual Teachings on Emotional Healing & Inner Wholeness, a groundbreaking book on the intersection of Kabbalah and depth psychology, and The Wisdom of Not Knowing: Discovering a Life of Wonder by Embracing Uncertainty, a guide to overcoming fears of the unknown and embracing uncertainty.

All Israel’s Children: Reconsidering Patrilineal Descent

People can be joined to Israel by birth or by choice. Who, though, is a born Jew? Opinions on this have shifted over the last four thousand years of the Jewish journey, and today this is a vexed topic. Must one have a Jewish mother, as Talmudic tradition came to assert, or does a Jewish father also make one Jewish? Join Rabbi SaraLeya Schley for a historically and legally informed exploration of this issue.

Instructor: Rabbi SaraLeya Schley
Prerequisite: None
Dates: Tuesdays, February 9 – March 2, 2021
Time: 7-9 PM
Investment: Free to Or Shalom Members (or by donation); Non-Members $98

Rabbi SaraLeya Schley is a colleague of Rabbi Hannah’s as one of the six rabbis who have been ordained by the Integral Halachah Institute of the Jewish Renewal movement as dayanim (adjudicators of Jewish law from a Renewal perspective). As such, she is deeply committed to a 21st century halachic process and to sustaining commitment to traditional Jewish practice.

In 2019 she was designated a Senior Rabbinic Fellow by the prestigious Shalom Hartman Institute, and since 2003, she has served as spiritual leader to several communities in California and Washington including Chochmat HaLev in Berkeley, from 2008-2014. Prior to rabbinic ordination, Rabbi Schely practiced as an Ob-Gyn for 36 years.

She has three married adult children and is savta to three, including one grandchild in Vancouver! With family in Vancouver, Rabbi SaraLeya has joined Or Shalom on numerous Shabbatot, and now we welcome her to teach in an important area of her scholarship.

Registration is now closed.

Zusia Courses Offered in the Fall of 2020

Spinoza: Jewish Philosophy In The Time of Covid-19

Spinoza was among the most fearless of philosophers. He formed his thought both in tension with, and inspired by, his Jewish background. His vision of personal and communal ethics is as countercultural today as it was in the 17th century, and is still provoking revolutionary thought and action. In this 4 week online class we will look at Spinoza’s potent insights on joy, human flourishing and freedom, democracy, and community and how these can offer us guidance during our current moment of overlapping crises.

Matthew Gindin, Or Shalom’s Master Teacher, is a long time student of Spinoza’s thought. He has published articles on Spinoza in ​The Forward a​nd ​Science and Philosophy ​and has written a free online commentary on the first two books of Spinoza’s ​Ethics.

Instructor: Matthew Gindin
Prerequisite: None:
Dates: Tuesdays, November 3 – November 24, 2020
Time: 7-9 PM
Investment: Members $60; Non-Members $98

Return to the Place: The Wisdom of Sefer Yetzirah

Sefer Yetzirah is an ancient and foundational work of Jewish mysticism. This brief and cryptic book imagines letters as the building blocks of the universe, focusing our attention on the components of space, time, and soul and the elements of air, fire, and water. Its goal is to allow adepts to contemplate, and even partake in, the Divine creative process. In this series, we will explore sections from the book closely as well as use images from the text to meditate and reflect on our own spiritual experience. ​In the worldview of the Sefer Yetzirah, we and all things are part of the One, and all we need to do is remember and return.

This course will consist of a series of three pre-recorded video lessons with downloadable text, online chevruta work in study assigned groups, and a final (4th) session that is an interactive webinar with Rabbi Hammer.

Pre-recorded lessons can be viewed at your leisure. Chevrutas will meet online each Tuesday evening at the regular Zusia class time (7pm PST). On the final Tuesday, our session with Rabbi Hammer.

Purchase options:
Return to the Place (Ben Yehuda Press)
Return to the Place (Amazon.ca)

Rabbi Jill Hammer, PhD, is the Director of Spiritual Education at the Academy for Jewish Religion, and the co-founder of the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute. Her most recent book is titled ​Return to the Place: The Magic, Meditation, and Mystery of Sefer Yetzirah​.
She is also the author of ​Sisters at Sinai: New Tales of Biblical Women​, ​The Jewish Book of Days: A Companion for all Seasons,​ ​The Hebrew Priestess: Ancient and New Visions of Jewish Women’s Spiritual Leadership ​(with Taya Shere), ​Siddur haKohanot: A Hebrew Priestess Prayerbook​ (with Taya Shere) and ​The Book of Earth and Other Mysteries​.

Instructor: Rabbi Jill Hammer, PhD
Prerequisite: None:
Dates: Tuesdays, November 3 – November 24, 2020
Time: 7-9 PM
Investment: Members $60; Non-Members $98