Spring 2021 Session

Classes begin on Wednesday 1/20 and Thursday 1/21 via Zoom


Registration for the Spring 2021 session has closed. If you are interested in these courses, please contact Barry Kanarek at bkanarek@jewishrockland.org or (845)362-4200 x 170.


Wednesdays, 9:30-10:45

S1. Prominent Rabbinical Leaders of the 20th and 21st Centuries

12 sessions
Cost: $210
Instructor: Leslie Goldress

This course will focus on the careers and writings of some of the prominent rabbinical leaders of the 20th and 21st centuries, ranging in their perspectives from Orthodox to Reform. Their careers and writings will give us insight into their theology and how they view Jewish law, tikkun olam, secular education, and the role of women.   

Some of the rabbis to be studied include: Abraham Joshua Heschel, Dov Soloveichik, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Jonathan Sacks, Harold Kushner, Harold Schulweis, David Wolpe, Leslie Alexander, Rachel Adler, and Gunther Plaut.

Wednesdays, 11:00-12:15

S2. The Jews of America: In Their Own Words (and the Words of Others)

12 sessions
Cost: $210
Instructor: Sharon Halper

We will examine a variety of sources to look at the challenges and triumphs of Jews in America and what the encounters of the past might teach us. How did we do it? How do we do it? And how might we continue to do it in the future?    

From the colonies to suburban colonials, from the Civil War and slavery to rabbinic arguments and being “too Jewish”, we will look at the place of Jews in America and the role of America in Jewish life.

Thursdays, 9:30-10:45

S3. Reel Theology: Understanding God and Life through the Lens of Hollywood Films and Jewish Thought

12 sessions
Cost: $210
Instructor: Rabbi Brian Leiken

Through Hollywood movies, we will aim to gain a better sense of the central questions we have about God and life. Watch scenes from Hollywood films, with Rabbi Leiken, scenes that help us make sense of God, and of questions we all have about life and the intersection of faith and reason. We will examine not only the films, but also the times in which they were made. Rabbi Leiken will help us understand how art truly imitates life.   

Films that we will study together include Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors, the Cohen Brother’s A Serious Man, Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Open and many more.   Each session will use Jewish texts and will help us think through many of the spiritual dilemmas of our own times, including the loneliness created by the pandemic and the ravaging division that plagues our country.

Thursdays, 11:00-12:15

S4. Bioethics 2021: The Latest Update

12 sessions
Cost: $210
Instructor: Rabbi Jill Hackell

Ethical issues in the field of medicine permeate modern life and come from real situations that we face.  We will look through a Jewish lens, at topics such as abortion, genetic engineering, end-of-life, physician assisted dying, and the many ethical issues that have arisen in time of COVID, such as triage in time of healthcare shortages, human research, immunization, and more.    

New students and those who have previously taken bioethics with Rabbi Hackell are welcome to take this class, updated to address this ever-changing field of study.

Thursdays, 12:30-1:45

S5. Lascivious and Lurid:  Stories and Statutes of Sex in the Bible

12 sessions
Cost: $210
Instructor: Rabbi Daniel Pernick

Though many people think of the Bible as staid and averse to sex, the Jewish Bible (Tanakh) is actually filled with hundreds of stories and laws relating to the topic. 

We will read and discuss Biblical narratives relating to adultery,incest, prostitution, and more - not from the tabloids, but from the Bible. We will also discuss many of the Torah’s laws relating to all things sexual.


Leslie Goldress has taught Melton and Midreshet since their inception in Rockland. A Jewish educator for over 40 years, she has a graduate degree from the Jewish Theological Seminary. Leslie served as Educational Director of the New City Jewish Center for over 20 years. She has taught Dramas of Jewish Living, a Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning core class, Melton graduate courses on American Jewish Experience, Contemporary Jewish Issues, Israel, and the Development of the Jewish Denominations.

Dr. Rabbi Jill Hackell received her M.D. degree from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and practiced pediatrics for several years. She worked for over 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry, where she did clinical research on new vaccines for children. She was ordained at the Academy for Jewish Religion (AJR), a pluralistic rabbinical school. Rabbi Hackell is the rabbi at the West Clarkstown Jewish Center. She also teaches Jewish Bioethics at AJR, and Secular Bioethics at Dominican College in the Graduate Nursing program.

Sharon Halper has been involved in Jewish education for three decades, first in the field of informal youth education, and as a Reform congregational educator and then as a Melton Adult Mini-School Teacher and Director. Sharon has also served as regional educator for the Union for Reform Judaism.

Rabbi Brian Leiken has been the Senior Rabbi at Temple Beth Sholom since June 2012.  He is passionate about social justice, Jewish history, and the study of modern American Judaism.  As the religious leader of Temple Beth Sholom, Rabbi Leiken has transitioned the temple into a relational synagogue, one that is built upon the inter and intra-relationships between the clergy and its members. He attended the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion where he was ordained in May of 2007.  

Rabbi Daniel Pernick was ordained at the Cincinnati campus of Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in 1982. He has served as Rabbi of Beth Am Temple in Pearl River since 1985. Rabbi Pernick has made adult education and community outreach central features of his rabbinate. A past president of the Rockland Board of Rabbis and a two-time past president of the Pearl River Interfaith Council, Rabbi Pernick has been a campus minister and an adjunct faculty member at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill since 2002.


For more information, contact Barry Kanarek at bkanarek@jewishrockland.org or (845)362-4200 x 170.