The Academy for Adults Interfaith Studies at HUC-JIR Launches Fall, 2007 Courses on October 8

Monday, September 3, 2007

Leading scholars to explore the ancient synagogue, Song of Songs, angels, biblical narrative and history, religious freedom in democracy, and Ishmael and Isaac, from Jewish, Christian, and Islamic perspectives 

Adults of different faiths and backgrounds are invited to attend Fall 2007 courses ofThe Academy for Adult Interfaith Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), which offers a wide variety of non-credit courses in religious studies for the adult learner. Learn in a relaxed setting with men and women who share the desire to explore areas of religion in a spirit of free inquiry. Applications are being accepted now for the fall semester, which begins the week of October 8. Instructors are some of the most gifted scholars in the Greater Cincinnati community. The courses vary in length depending on the course material. The following is a listing of courses and information about the instructors: 

Just an Old Fashioned Love Song? The Song of Songs in Jewish and Christian Thought
Dates: Mondays, October 15, 22, 29; November 5, 12, 19
Time: 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Location: Mayerson Auditorium, HUC-JIR 

This course will explore the variety of ways in which Jewish and Christian writers have interpreted the Song of Songs. Although many understood the Song of Songsas an allegory about the relationship between God and Israel, or Jesus and the Church, there were numerous variations and, occasionally, those who took theSong quite literally. An examination of these interpretations will provide the class the opportunity to explore rabbinic and patrisitic literature (Writings of the Church Fathers) as well as medieval philosophy and mysticism. Exploring these writings can tell us much about how Jews and Christians related to each other throughout the generations. 

Dr. Jason Kalman is Assistant Professor of Classical Hebrew Literature and Interpretation at HUC-JIR, Cincinnati. He received his Ph.D. from the Department of Jewish Studies at McGill University and is a research fellow affiliated with the University of the Free State, South Africa. He specializes in the history of Jewish biblical exegesis, and his specific research interests include rabbinic anti-Christian polemic, medieval intellectual history as reflected in biblical commentary, and biblical interpretation after the Holocaust. 

Synagogues, Jesus, and Paul 
Dates: Tuesdays, October 9, 16, 23, 30
Time: 4:30-6:00 p.m.
Location: Mayerson Auditorium, HUC-JIR 

From Temple and Sanhedrin, we move on to the synagogue, Judaism's most important institution for early Christian history. Which New Testament stories of Jesus in synagogues are credible? Why did Paul, a synagogue-enforcer persecuting Damascus Christians, suddenly become their persecuted proponent (and without any conversion on the "Road to Damascus")? Precisely how did synagogue networking and attending "God-fearers" become the prime drivers of Christianity's expansion? 

Dr. Michael J. Cook is Professor of Intertestamental and Early Christian Literatures, and holds the Sol and Arlene Bronstein Professorship in Judaeo-Christian Studies, HUC-JIR/Cincinnati. Dr. Cook's specialty is the New Testament, and he has extensive expertise in the field of Jewish-Christian relations. He received both his rabbinic ordination (New York) and Ph.D. (Cincinnati) from HUC-JIR. 

Ishmael and Isaac's Interfaith Struggle: A Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Understanding
Dates: Tuesdays, October 9, 16, 23, 30; November 6
Time: 6:00-7:45 p.m.
Location: Mayerson Auditorium, HUC-JIR 

Some say that the children of Sarah and the children of Hagar have been fighting since biblical times. This class will closely examine the texts that are often said to be the source of their enmity: the birth of Hagar's son Ishmael and their subsequent expulsion at the request of Sarah. What was the relationship between these two women? Between Isaac and Ishmael? What was Abraham's role in this family struggle? Through an in-depth study of a variety of sources including Second Temple literature, the Christian Bible, Islamic tradition, and modern commentators, we will explore the differing interpretations given to the actions of Sarah and Hagar. In the process we will discover this story is not as clear cut as we might think. As we examine the motivations of various authors, we will also come to our own understanding of the text and its place in the modern world. 

Erica Seager Asch is a fifth-year rabbinical student at HUC-JIR. Before entering rabbinical school, she taught high school math in the Mississippi Delta as a member of the "Teach for America" program. 

Biblical Narrative through the Eyes of History
Dates: Wednesdays, October 10, 17, 24, 31; November 7, 14
Time: 6:30-8:00 p.m.
Location: Mayerson Auditorium, HUC-JIR 

What did it mean to write history in the biblical world? Did the authors of the Bible write history the way we do, or did they have a different approach? Were they writing a different kind of text altogether? Through the study of the Exodus narrative and the spies' episode in the book of Numbers, this course will open a window onto these complex and fascinating questions. We will also gain a new way to think about how the Bible relates to its ancient context as well as new insights about the meaning of these narratives for us today. 

Angela Roskop Erisman is a doctoral candidate at HUC-JIR who specializes in the historiography of ancient Israel and Mesopotamia. An avid writer and editor herself, she is particularly interested in how ancient literature was composed. She has excavated and traveled in both Israel and Jordan, and is an amateur violinist and chef in her spare time. 

Freedom of Religion in a Democracy?
Dates: Thursdays, October 11, 18, 25; November 1, 8, 15
Time: 4:30-6:00 p.m.
Location: Mayerson Auditorium, HUC-JIR 

This course will examine the tensions between contemporary religion and state cases. We will discuss how modern democracies protect religion and look at times when the values of modern religion and democracy seem to conflict. 

Ana Bonnheim is a fifth-year rabbinical student at HUC. In addition to her studies, she is a rabbinical intern at Congregation Beth Adam (Cincinnati), serves Congregation B'nai Abraham in Portsmouth, Ohio, and is a group facilitator at Fernside: A Center for Grieving Children. She spent a summer as a rabbinic legislative assistant working on church-state issues at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, DC. 

Angels Are Jewish?!
Dates: Thursdays, October 11, 18, 25; November 1, 8, 15
Time: 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Location: Mayerson Auditorium, HUC-JIR 

Beginning with the Bible and then tracing through post-biblical, rabbinic, medieval, and modern writings, we will look at how angels are portrayed in Jewish texts. Some of the questions we will explore include: What are different Jewish viewpoints on angels? What roles are angels understood to fill? How are angels conceived of in Jewish prayers? What are the similarities and differences between how various religions view angels? We will also briefly consider how angels are portrayed in popular culture today. 

Laura Baum is a fifth-year rabbinical student at HUC. She graduated from Yale University with a degree in psychology and then worked at a synagogue in Hamden, Connecticut, for two years. She is currently the rabbinical intern at Congregation Beth Adam (Cincinnati) and has also served pulpits in New Iberia, Louisiana; Terre Haute, Indiana; and Portsmouth, Ohio. 

The registration fee per class is $60. Payment must be received before classes begin and refunds will be made during the first week of class only. Participants who bring a family member or friend who has never taken a class before will receive 50% off on their registration (if two new friends or family members sign up, participants will only pay $10 per course). Skirball Museum, Cincinnati members, ILE, and MARCC members receive a 10% discount. A limited number of scholarships are available based on need. The tuition reflects only a fraction of the actual expenses incurred to offer these courses, therefore, financial support is greatly appreciated. For information or to register for a class, contact the Department of Outreach Education at HUC-JIR, 3101 Clifton Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45220, at 513-487-3053 (Fax: 513-221-0316) or email Stacey Delcau at sdelcau@huc.edu. The Academy for Adult Interfaith Studies and HUC-JIR gratefully acknowledge the support of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati. 


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 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