Days of Learning


Remember when we were young? We learned because we had to. Now we learn because we want to.

Days of Learning is a new opportunity to teach and learn from each other. The program is designed for congregants at least 50 years old, but we are all welcome. We hope that studying together—Jewish topics or secular topics through a Jewish lens—will deepen profound connections to self, others, synagogue, Judaism, and God.

Questions? Contact Gail ‘Malka’ Meister at [email protected].

Days of Learning Task Force: Bob Bierman, Ben-Zion Friedman, Ellen Poster, Jeffrey Saunders, Mel ‘Moshe’ Seligsohn, Jerry Silverman, and Gail ‘Malka’ Meister, chair; Catherine Fischer, staff


Days of Learning dates: Tuesday, November 28 and Tuesday, December 5

$18 for RS members before November 14; $25 after November 14; $25 for Non-members before November 14; $35 after November 14

Click HERE to register


Morning Study Groups, 11:00am  - 12:15pm

Speaking Up Jewishly with Eli Freedman and Laurel Freedman (Two sessions: November 28 and December 5): If you want to help heal the world, this two-session class will give you the Jewish mandate and tools for getting involved. We’ll study key biblical and rabbinic texts that call Jews to action. We’ll also share tips for choosing partners and forming coalitions, and practical techniques—such as using social media—for seeking social justice.

Our Sacred Space with Michael Hauptman (November 28 only): We will explore the 147-year architectural history of the Rodeph Shalom presence at the corner of Broad Street and Mount Vernon, from the original Furness building to our current 1928 building and its 21st century expansion. We’ll uncover the sources of the various achitectural styles and how the design of the latest expansion evolved from the vision of three successive architects and numerous proposals.

The Art of Rodeph Shalom with Ethel Goldberg (December 5 only): We’ll walk around the building to sample art from RS’s three collections: the RS collection, the Obermayer collection of Judaica, and the Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art (both the permanent collection and current temporary exhibit). Prep: If you have questions about a specific piece, please email ahead to Ethel at [email protected] so she can have an answer ready for you.

Lunch Break, 12:15-1:15pm

Bring your own lunch and schmooze with RS clergy and staff.

Afternoon Study Groups, 1:15-2:30pm

Making Sense of an Enigma: Israeli Politics with Fred Strober (Two sessions: November 28 and December 5): Our two-session class will examine the roots of the major Israeli political parties and how they have evolved since the creation of the State. We’ll discuss how the Israeli political system works and how different segments of Israeli society align with the major parties. Prep: If you can, read My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel by Ari Shavit (Spiegel & Grau, 2013).

Jewish Philadelphia with Jerry Silverman (November 28 only): In case you couldn’t join Jerry on his two RS walking tours of Philly’s old Jewish quarter, don’t despair...just sit in a chair! Through the magic of technology, you will see photos of many former and current synagogues, newspapers, social halls, banks, and more. There will be lively descriptions of everything, with lots of input expected from you as well.

The Spiritual Light of Candles with George Stern and Abby House (December 5 only): We often don’t know the origins of rituals or their connections to Jewish teachings, mitzvot, and ethical behavior. Why do we light two candles on Shabbat? Why does it matter which candle we light first on the chanukiyah? We’ll share personal reflections (!) and look at biblical, rabbinic, and modern texts. Then we’ll get our hands into clay to make our own candlesticks. No experience necessary. Prep: Bring an apron or smock.

Open Forum, 2:30-6:30pm

Stay for informal discussion and conversation. Find an old friend. Meet a new one. We’ll have local restaurants’ takeout menus for your use.

Evening Study Groups, 6:30-7:45pm, except where noted

Forgotten Women of the Bible with Gloria Becker (November 28 only): You probably know about Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, and Miriam. You probably also know about Ruth and Esther. But do you know the stories of Hannah, Deborah, Judith, and Jezebel? These women made exceptional contributions to the foundations of Judaism. Be one who knows who they are!

The Politics of Memory with Aaron Levy (November 28 only): How do we remember atrocities and public trauma? Can monuments empower us to take responsibility and even contest those who commission them? What happens when artists’ expressions of collective memory cause conflict? We’ll discuss how Holocaust memorials in post-war Germany may help us confront recent events in Charlottesville and give us ways to remember. Prep: If you can, read ahead James E. Young’s seminal essay, “The Counter-Monument: Memory Against Itself in Germany Today” in Critical Inquiry (Winter, 1992), Vol. 18, No. 2., pp. 267-296, also HERE.

Four Centuries of Jewish Women’s Spirituality: A Sampling with Gloria Becker (December 5 only): In 1992, Ellen Umansky and Dianne Ashton put together a groundbreaking collection of personal prayers and short essays of women dating back to 1560. We’ll look at these women’s intimate hopes and dreams of across the centuries and perhaps find spiritual connections to our “ansisters.”

Jewish Film with Carrie Rickey (December 5 only. Starts at 6:00 and ends at 8:15pm): What’s Jewish about Jewish film? Let’s watch John Barrymore in Counsellor-At-Law from 1933, directed by William Wyler. We’ll talk about who plays Jews in the movies, which aspects of American Jewish life are portrayed, and what the film said in its day and says now. We’ll start the film at 6:00 and go immediately into our discussion afterwards, ending by 8:15pm.



Gloria Becker was born on Broad Street (Temple University Hospital) and has been a learner ever since. She’s been teaching about Judaism since 1980 and is proud to say she’s gotten better at it over the years! If you have a pulse and want to learn, she is happy to sit beside you and help.

Eli Freedman graduated from Brandeis University and was ordained at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in 2010. Before coming to RS, Rabbi Freedman interned at the NYU Hillel, attended rabbinical school in London, and ran outreach programs at Columbia/Barnard Hillel. Among his RS duties is coordinating our RiSe Up! social justice initiative.

Laurel Freedman earned dual master’s degrees in social work and Jewish nonprofit management after undergraduate activism in student government and on women’s issues. She continues advocating for women’s and civil rights, racial justice, interfaith dialogue, food security, and environmentalism. Laurel currently provides education, advocacy, and access in the medical cannabis field.

Ethel Goldberg is a retired School District of Philadelphia administrator. She has been a docent at the Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art as well as an active member of POWER, the interfaith coalition working for social and economic justice. In her spare time, she enjoys needlepoint, reading, mahjong, writing about local sports, and attending the city's pops and orchestra concerts.

Michael Hauptman is a partner at Brawer & Hauptman, Architects, which specializes in the design of synagogues and other institutional buildings. Their portfolio includes over two dozen synagogue projects from planning studies
to additions and renovations to new buildings. RS’s current president, Michael received his bachelor’s degree from Brandeis in fine arts and his Master of Architecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

Abby House followed Rabbi Fuchs to RS. She and her husband have been active in many RS events. Now in her 18th year teaching our youngest congregants in Berkman Mercaz Limud, Abby brings enthusiasm for experiential learning, passion for doing Judaism, and a wealth of insights about Judaism from four year-olds.

Aaron Levy is a senior lecturer in the Departments of English and the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania, where he has taught since 2002. Dr. Levy also serves as executive director and chief curator of the Slought

Carrie Rickey spent 26 years as a movie critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer. A bachelor’s and master’s graduate of the University of California San Diego and early champion of women filmmakers, she has published work in The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and The Village Voice, and many books. She still writes reviews and is interested in connecting under-known or obscure titles to those who will appreciate them.

Jerry Silverman has a master’s degree in Jewish education from Gratz College and a long career in math education which have prepared him to teach and administer in numerous Hebrew schools in our area, including both branches of RS back in the late '70s. His love for Philly has led him to a new career as a tour guide for Mural Arts Philadelphia, American Jewish Committee, the Preservation Alliance, and RS.

George Stern was confirmed at RS in 1963 and ordained at Hebrew Union College in 1974. He served a pulpit in Nyack, NY, then returned to Philadelphia as executive director of Neighborhood Interfaith Movement. Prior to
retirement, he worked with senior citizens at William Penn House and then as executive director of Jewish Social Policy Action Network. A self-described “professional activist,” he works with POWER and Indivisible.

Fred Strober is a real estate lawyer at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr, whose practice focuses on nonprofit organizations. Fred was president of RS from 2008 to 2011 and serves on the Board of Trustees. Fred’s family has lived in
Jerusalem since 1809 and figured prominently in Israeli politics since before the founding of the State. Fred was in Israel during the Yom Kippur War and spent nine months working on a kibbutz.