Utah Teenagers Begin Talmud Study with HUC-JIR/LA Rabbinical Student

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Danny Burkeman, a rabbinical student at HUC-JIR/LA, worked with two teenagers at his student pulpit in Ogden, Utah when the youths decided to begin studying Talmud. 

Walker Stern and Aaron Bales, both teenage members of Brith Sholem in Ogden, Utah, decided to study Talmud together on a weekly basis. Most Shabbat mornings when Burkeman was in town there was a Torah study session, but the teenagers wanted to transform their own religious studies. They looked on the Internet and found a translation of Talmud Avodah Zarah. Bales says, "I was inspired to study Talmud out of my desire to learn more about my religion." 

He went on to say, "Talmud provides an exclusive view into the minds of the ancient Rabbis. By trying to learn their wisdom through the pages of Talmud, we can make ourselves more holy." 

Stern says, "I decided to study Talmud as a recourse from sinking to a point when I no longer studied religiously. The Talmud has always interested me as a source of knowledge based on anecdotal and textual evidence coupled with the wisdom of the Rabbi's. So it was only natural for me to turn to Talmud to study." 

Burkeman is a transfer student from Leo Baeck College. He talks about his student pupit: 

"When I told people I would be going to Ogden, Utah to serve as student Rabbi, most people responded 'Are there really Jews in Utah?' Now I can tell them that not only are there Jews, but there are young Jews studying Talmud. With the Student Rabbi program from HUC-JIR we visit the congregation once a month, and it is so satisfying to know that in the intermediate weeks across the generations people are engaging in Jewish study." 

Burkeman first met with Stern and Bales and says, "On my first visit, they asked to sit with me to ask some questions about their Talmud study. I am so glad that the three of us got the chance to sit and learn together." 

He adds that Stern and Bales "always had interesting questions for me when I would visit Brith Sholem. It was clear that they cared passionately about their Judaism. I am so happy that they have found a way to express their love of Judaism by studying together." 

Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's first institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu