Jewish Learning

Rabbi Ethan Bair is offering two weekly evening classes this semester to help deepen the Jewish experience for Hillel students who are seeking greater connection to the traditions of our heritage.

Elul Study Group

Tues 5:30-7:00pm with dinner

A study group preparing for the High Holy Days spiritually and intellectually in the month of Elul

In this Elul Chavura (circle of friends) a small group of committed students will learn about Rav Kook on life’s purpose and the soul; write their own piyyutim (liturgical poems) in the model of the High Holy Day piyyutim that we find in the machzor (High Holy Day prayerbook), and discuss metaphors of God in the liturgy of Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur; learn about what’s involved in teshuva (repentance) according to the teachings of Maimondies and Rav Soloveitchik; learn about mussar (Jewish ethical practices) and engage in a workshop of Heshbon HaNefesh(accounting of the soul); and study the symbolism of the shofar in preparation to lead the Shofar Service during the High Holy Day services at Hillel this year.

Why Be Jewish?

Wed 6:00-7:30pm with dinner

This is also a weekly study group offered with Reb Ethan this semester. It centers on the teachings of Rabbi S. R. Hirsch and other Jewish philosophers on the most central and compelling themes of Judaism. In the first session, students will write their own letters to Rabbi Hirsch in the style of his Nineteen Letters. Rabbi Hirsch wrote in a time when he felt the need to defend Judaism from an onslaught of Enlightenment ideals that seemed to trivialize its wisdom and practices. He responded by imitating those who took issue with Judaism by writing letters to himself and answering them. The practice is useful as students explore their own discomforts and challenges with aspects of Jewish tradition. We will discuss mitzvot (Jewish commandments), and their relevance in the modern age. We will consider Hirsch’s 6 categories of mitzvot, their logic and their application to our lives. While it will begin with Rabbi Hircsch’s teachings, we will study many Jewish thinkers and traditional texts throughout the semester as we explore and seek to find meaning in the central Jewish themes of Shabbat, covenant, community, Jewish history, prayer, and values.

The Casden Series 

This monthly faculty-student luncheon is designed to provide students with the opportunity to get to know Jewish professors, from different fields, in a small, non-classroom environment.

This program is conducted in partnership with the Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life at USC and the Louchheim School of Judaic Studies at USC.

Usually 1st Mondays of every month, 12:30-1:30pm at USC Hillel.

All Casden Series lunch capped at 15 students. RSVP today by sending an email to ebair@uschillel.org

Jewish Culture Group

Ellen Feldman, Jewish Learning co-chair, is also organizing a Jewish Culture Series to focus on Jewish poetry, film, and music from Israel, the US, and other parts of the world where Jewish artists and writers thrive. It will take the Tues time slot of the Elul Study Group after the High Holy Days. Contact Ellen Feldman at ellenfeldman@dpengineering.org if you think you might be interested.