Open Beit Midrash


  A weekly opportunity to study Jewish texts, hear live Jewish music, and enjoy good food.

Tuesday Evenings

October 1, 2013 to April 1, 2014

6:15 -6:55   Dinner

7:00-8:30    Learn! Classes, Lectures, Demonstrations

8:30-10:00  Live in the Choir Loft:  Joey Weisenberg and the Hadar Ensemble

The Beit Midrash (House of Study) has traditionally been the cultural center for creative spiritual conversation, a place to bring everyone together in an atmosphere of focused learning, energetic discussion and personal search.

Using the educational techniques of a traditional Yeshiva, but in a progressive, inclusive, Brownstone Brooklyn way, our study will center around tables, with provocative texts and helpful resources arrayed before the students.

The Open Beit Midrash is for learners of all levels. We value diversity. Come whether you have studied Jewish texts for 20 years or are a complete novice. Madrichim, learning guides, will roam the Beit Midrash to welcome students and help them find an appropriate level of study.

Each Beit Midrash evening begins with dinner, followed by various opportunities for Jewish learning (i.e. the “Beit Midrash”), and then concludes with a performance of  new Jewish spiritual music by Joey Weisenberg and the Hadar Ensemble, with more refreshments.

The Open Beit Midrash takes place on all Tuesday evenings (except for national holidays) from October 1st to April 1st.   Our offerings this year follow a six week plan, repeated four times over the twenty four weeks of the Beit Midrash.

Cost is $15 per evening, or you may purchase a Beit Midrash subscription for the year:  As many courses, dinners and music performances as you like for 24 Tuesday evenings. Per person, Kane Street members: $180. Scholarships are available; contact Rabbi Weintraub at  

Child Care We are able to offer supervised babysitting for children ages 5-10 and homework help/hangout for ages 11-14 for the evenings when we have the special, community-wide Scholarly Presentations (Oct 29, Dec 10, Feb 4, March 25) and the special “New Jewish Spiritual Music” program (Nov 5, Dec 17, Feb 11, Apr 1).  Please reserve for child care one week in advance by sending a message to

Download the BeitMidrash_calendar

Download the new Beit Midrash 2013-14


Week I: (Oct 1st, Nov 12th, Jan 7th, Feb 25th):  Mutual Support Chevres. Participants join in facilitated affinity groups to explore shared personal commitments and journeys.  Each group includes study of relevant classical Jewish texts and group discussion. Cohorts now planned include artists, social activists, people contemplating conversion to Judaism, a prayer leaders’ workshop, and an interfaith couples’ workshop.  If you would like to facilitate  another cohort to address your own experience, please contact us at !

Weeks II-IV ([Oct 8,15,22], [Nov 19,26, Dec 3rd], [Jan 14,21,28], [March 4,11,18]):  Limud – Learning. Informal, engaging classes, taught by talented teachers, explore a wide range of Jewish subjects. Focus is on classical texts, which are all taught in English translation.

Week V (Oct. 29, Dec. 10, Feb. 4, March 25th): Shiur – Scholarly Presentation. The community comes together to learn from a prominent Jewish educator.  The evening includes both lectures and interactive components.

 Week VI “New Spiritual Jewish Music” (Nov 5, Dec. 17, Feb 11th, April 1st):  Led by Music Director Joey Weisenberg, these will be opportunities to come together to both study inspiring Jewish Musical Texts and to heartily sing as a community!


Mutual Support Chevres   Oct 1st, Nov 12th, Jan 7th, Feb 25th

Social Justice Chevre  -  (Rabbi Reuven Greenwald)
Our Brooklyn (and NYC) community is home to many activists, educators, social welfare professionals, and volunteers who are working towards positive communal, societal, and global change.  The Social Justice Chevre will be a space for study and open conversation for those engaged in tzedek (justice) work.  We will study Jewish texts to weigh competing values and agendas and to clarify individual visions and goals.

For Those Considering Conversion  (Rabbi Sam Weintraub) This is an open discussion for those planning or contemplating conversion to Judaism.  While the participants’ own questions will set the agenda, we will also look at relevant Jewish values and practices, relating to non-Jewish families of origin, and the spiritual meaning and ritual requirements of conversion.  There is absolutely no requirement or expectation that participants will convert; the group is to explore and refine our spiritual goals and journeys.

Shabbat Prayer Leaders  (Joey Weisenberg) This is a session devoted to developing the skills of prayers leaders at Kane Street and in the community at large.  We will review melodies, prayer chant (nusach), as well as strategies for effectively leading communities in prayer and music.  Join us if you are an experienced prayer leader and are looking to develop your skills, or if you’re entertaining the idea of leading, and would like to learn what’s involved.

Interfaith Couples (Rabbi Valerie Lieber)  Kane Street Synagogue welcomes interfaith couples into congregational life. Many of these couples have particular concerns about integration into the Jewish community, the questions their children pose, personal and religious identity, relationships with extended family and more. Our chevre will provide a safe, supportive venue to explore these issues and discover the ways that interfaith couples can enrich their Jewish life.

Text, Study and the Arts:  An Artists’ Beit Midrash  (Deborah Ugoretz)  The work of the artist can bring a unique perspective to the understanding of Jewish texts and midrash.  The Artists’ Beit Midrash is open to artists of all media and skill levels who wish to explore Jewish texts and create interpretations based upon class study. Participants will create work outside of class and bring it to class for critique and discussion.  The Artists’ Beit Midrash will meet on Oct 1, Oct 22nd, November 12, December 3, January 7, January 28, February 25, and March 18.

3 Part Mini-Series  ([Oct 8,15,22], [Nov 19,26, Dec 3rd], [Jan 14,21,28], [March 4,11,18])

October 8,15,22

Rabbi Sami Barth “Subversive Liturgy”  This class will explore how a careful reading of the prayer book opens up challenges and paradoxes, showing us that tension and struggle with prayer and worship were common in the Talmudic era no less than in modernity.  We will look at central Shabbat morning prayers, Shabbat Kiddush, the Prayer for the State of Israel,  and other texts that emerge from our discussion.

Dan Greenwood  “Midrash and Justice:  Politics, Hubris and Equality in the Torah and Talmud” We will study three sets of Biblical texts with commentaries that have used them to debate how people should live together in a decent society — the law of Kings (which considers the functions of government), the ban on idolatry (and its implications for -isms and ideologies in politics), and the creation of Adam (and its use in arguments for and against egalitarianism).  Texts will be in translation, with the Hebrew available for those who wish.

Nov 19, 26, Dec. 3

Dr. Sharon Keller: “Take My Wife Please: Marital Relationships in the Biblical Text”  Stories that vex our modern sensibilities can take on a different cast when viewed in their ancient contemporary context.  We will look at some Biblical stories from the vantage point of the ancient world and see some of the insights that the contemporary context can provide.

Rabbi Sam Weintraub “Beautify the Face of the Elderly – Jewish Wisdom about Aging”  This class will address Jewish perspectives on aging.  What is the spiritual meaning of our older years?  How do Jewish texts and traditions understand and honor the aging process?  How does one preserve pride and integrity in old age?  What does Judaism say about the relationships of older people and their children?  The class will especially explore the writing of ethical wills as a vehicle to insure that our values live on after us.

January 14, 21, 28

Rabbi Reuven Greenwald  “Open-Space, Open-Source and Owner-less Torah: Talmudic Self-Criticism of the Beit Midrash”  Like other intellectual leaders and their academies, the Talmudic sages were prone to elitism and insularity.  In a most self-reflective way, the sages told critical and powerful aggadot (tales) about their own behavior.  Through text study and conversation, we will think about how outreach and access as core Torah values can be strengthened in our Jewish communities and institutions.

Dr. Eitan Fishbane “The Zohar:  Understanding the History and the Artistic Beauty of the Masterpiece of Kabbalah”  The Zohar is, without question, the single most important work in the history of Jewish mysticism, and is arguably one of the most extraordinary texts in the entire history of Judaism.  Authored in late 13th century Spain and attributed to a Rabbi of Second Century Palestine, the Zohar is a work of majestic beauty and seemingly boundless spiritual insight.  Come join us in an exploration through the mysterious pathways of this revered and highly influential work of Kabbalah.

March 4, 11, 18

Rabbi Jason Gitlin  “Ecology and The Three Festivals: A Pilgrimage to Our Place in the World” Jewish life is rooted in the seasons and agriculture by a number of our most prominent practices and holidays, including the Shalosh Regalim, the three Pilgrimage Festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.  This class will consider how these three Holidays bind our national and spiritual narratives to our relationship with the earth, thereby shaping a holistic perspective on humanity’s place in the world.

Orly Daboosh-Nitzan: “Judaism, Social Justice, and Change in Israel Today”  Orly Daboosh-Nitzan is an Israeli educator, attorney and activist who directs the “Secular Beit Midrash” Neve Schechter in Tel Aviv.  This class will look at social change in Israel through the lens of classical texts and contemporary political events.

Communal Shiurim (Oct. 29, Dec. 10, Feb. 4, March 25th)

Oct. 29th: Interfaith Dialogue: The Importance of Hope: Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, and Jewish Perspectives A panel discussion co-sponsored with the Interfaith Center of New York.  How do our diverse religious traditions understand hope?  What are the similarities and differences between a hope for redemption, enlightenment, divine justice, or Tikkun Olam?  In the face of individual and collective suffering, is an attitude of hope rational?

These questions and others will be explored by a panel of distinguished teachers from four faith traditions: the Rev. Dr. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki, a Buddhist priest; Dr. Sarah Sayeed, a lay leader and social activist in New York’s Muslim and interfaith communities; The Rev. Stephen Muncie, an Episcopalian priest; and Kane Street’s own Rabbi Sam Weintraub.  The program will include significant time for questions and conversation, and will be moderated by Dr. Henry Goldschmidt, Director of Education Programs at the Interfaith Center of New York. Find out more in faculty bios below.

Dec 10th: Dr. Amy Kalmanofsky  “The Dangerous Sisters of the Hebrew Bible” Though sisters are often overlooked, they play a significant role in the Bible’s family narratives.  Through a close reading of Genesis 19 – the story of the two daughters of Lot who conceive from their father – we will consider the role sisters play within this narrative and within the Bible at large.

Feb 4th: Dr. Eitan Fishbane  “What is Jewish Mysticism?—Understanding the Kabbalah” Mysticism has been central to Judaism throughout the history of the Jewish people, and it has become something of a popular fascination in our own day.  But what is it all about?  What are some of the major characteristics of the phenomenon known as ‘Kabbalah’?  How can contemporary Jews draw on the treasures of this tradition in their own spiritual lives?

March 25th:  Rabbi Elie Kaunfer   “Can I Love Everyone Equally?: The Day the Student Boycotted the Rabbi’s Class”  If all humans are created in the image of God, how am I supposed to relate to humanity? How can I morally justify privileging one group of people over another? Come explore these timeless questions through a fascinating story of a rabbi who refused to come to class because of his moral objections to particularism, and the crisis that ensued.


Rabbi Samuel Barth is senior lecturer of Liturgy and Worship at The Jewish Theological Seminary. As a congregational leader, Rabbi Barth developed a reputation for creating religious services that were deeply rooted in classical texts, in accord with halakhah, and also embraced the creative use of the Jewish poetry and music of modernity and the medieval period.  Rabbi Barth’s articles have been appeared in numerous publications and several of his original prayers were published in a recent Jewish Lights Anthology called “Prayers by Jewish Men.”

Orly Daboosh-Nitzan is the first community shlicha (educator about Israel) within UJA Federation of NY.  She is leading a new initiative, in Brownstone Brooklyn, to create deeper levels of Israel engagement within local Jewish institutions and the community at large. A lawyer and educator based in Tel Aviv, Ms. Daboosh-Nitzvan has been the director of Neve Schechter (, and the chair of Shacharit-Creating Common Cause (

Rabbi Jason Gitlin is project manager of the Jewish Theological Seminary’s experiential education initiative ReFrame. He taught the Foundations of Jewish Life course at the Open Beit Midrash last year and served as Kane Street’s Congregational Engagement Associate. Ordained from JTS, he previously worked at UJA-Federation of New York and as a journalist and holds an M.A. in Near Eastern Studies from NYU.

Professor Eitan Fishbane serves on the faculty of the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he teaches students in the Rabbinical, Graduate, and Undergraduate schools. A scholar of Jewish mysticism and spirituality, he is the author of three books, including As Light Before Dawn: The Inner World of a Medieval Kabbalist (2009 Stanford University Press), the editor of two others, and the recipient of numerous awards and honors. Professor Fishbane has lectured and taught at more than thirty synagogues across North America.

Dr. Henry Goldschmidt is the Director of Education Programs at the Interfaith Center of New York, a non-profit organization working to build relationships among New York’s religious communities and civic institutions.  He is a cultural anthropologist, community educator, and scholar of religious and cultural diversity.   He is the author of Race and Religion among the Chosen Peoples of Crown Heights (Rutgers University Press, 2006), and co-editor of Race, Nation, and Religion in the Americas (Oxford University Press, 2004).

Rabbi Reuven Greenvald is Director of Strategic Outreach, North America at the Jewish Agency for Israel.  He was graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A (honors) in Ancient Near Eastern Studies, spending his third year at Midreshet Yerushalayim, a yeshiva program in Israel.  Reuven was ordained as a rabbi by the Jewish Theological  Seminary.  Following rabbinical school he worked for over twenty years as a day school leader.   From 2002-4, Reuven was a Jerusalem Fellow at the Mandel Leadership Institute in Israel.

Daniel J. H. Greenwood is a Professor of Law at Hofstra University specializing in corporate finance, business organizations and torts.  Professor Greenwood received his A.B. magna cum laude from Harvard College, pursued graduate studies in political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and received his J.D. from the Yale Law School, and then held the position of Professor of Law at the University of Utah.  He has published numerous law review articles, book chapters and popular opinion pieces on corporate law, corporate speech rights, and the role of corporations in politics.

Dr. Amy Kalmanofsky is a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and an assistant professor of Bible at The Jewish Theological Seminary, teaching courses on biblical literature, religion, and feminist interpretation of the Bible.  Dr. Kalmanofsky is the author of numerous books and articles, including Terror All Around:  The Rhetoric of Horror in the Book of Jeremiah (2008) and contributions to The Torah:  A Woman’s Commentary.  Her most recent book, The Dangerous Sisters of the Hebrew Bible (forthcoming Fortress Press, 2014) examines how the Bible portrays sisters and sisterhoods, and argues that sisters and sisterhoods play a vital role in the Bible’s narrative.

Rabbi Elie Kaunfer is the co-founder and executive director of Mechon Hadar ( A Wexner Graduate Fellow and Dorot Fellow, Elie is the author of Empowered Judaism: What Independent Minyanim Can Teach Us about Building Vibrant Jewish Communities (Jewish Lights). He has been named multiple times to the Forward 50 and to the Newsweek list of “Top 50 Rabbis in America.” He has served as Scholar-in-Residence at the Federation’s General Assembly and at the annual Jewish Funders Network conference, and has lectured widely on building grassroots Jewish communities.

Dr. Sharon Keller, a popular teacher and lecturer in the tri-state area, is currently teaching at Hofstra University and has held faculty positions at HUC, JTS, and NYU among others. She has written numerous scholarly articles and has edited several academic books. Her most popular book, Jews: A Treasury of Art and Literature, was awarded the National Jewish Book Award.

Rabbi Valerie Lieber is the Director of Education & Family Programming at Kane Street Synagogue. She received ordination at Hebrew Union College in 1995.  She started the L’Tzedek service-learning program for children nd their families at Kane Street Synagogue, and currently serves as the staff fellow in the synagogue in our participation with the Jewish Greening Fellowship.  She is an active volunteer with Hazon, the largest Jewish environmental organization.

The Rev. Stephen Muncie began to serve as the fourteenth rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Brooklyn Heights in 2004.  After studies at Antioch College, Miami University, and the Vanderbilt University Divinity School, he was ordained in the Diocese of Southern Ohio in 1982.  Active in diocesan and national church ministries, Rev Muncie currently serves as Legislative Secretary for the House of Bishops.

Rev. Dr. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki, D. Min., is a Buddhist priest, ordained in the 750-year-old Jodoshinshu tradition of Japanese Buddhism.  He is currently President of the Buddhist Council of New York, and Vice President of the Interfaith Center of New York.   He is the author of two books in Japanese:  No Worry, No Hurry, Eat Curry:  A New York Buddhist Priest Walks in India (Gendai Shokan, 2003) and Diary of a Manhattan Monk (Gendai Shokan, 2010).

Dr. Sarah Sayeed is currently the Director of Community Partnerships at the Interfaith Center of New York, where she conducts the Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Retreats for Social Justice, a biannual conference that brings together New York’s diverse grassroots religious leaders with secular and city agencies.  Dr. Sayeed is a long-time board member of Women in Islam, Inc., a social justice and human rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of women through knowledge and practice of Islam.  She speaks regularly on Islam, Muslim women, and interfaith relations.

Deborah Ugoretz is an artist who has been creating visual interpretations of Jewish writings since the 1970’s. She is a master paper cut artist, recognized by the New Jersey Council on the Arts.  She also creates Jewish Marriage contracts(ketubot), paints in acrylic and has created stained glass windows, Torah Mantles and other synagogue art.  Three of her pieces are included in the exhibition, Of Subject and Object, Contemporary book artists interpret Hebrew Texts, curated by the Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA) this past summer.

Rabbi Sam Weintraub was ordained as a rabbi at JTS and has been Spiritual Leader of Kane Street Synagogue for 17 years. One of his favorite Biblical verses is “Hoi kol Tzamei L’chu LaMayim” “Ho! Let everyone who is thirsty (meaning searching) come for water (meaning Torah)!” (Isaiah 55:1)  His main interest is the relevance of Jewish text for modern ethical issues, and his published articles have focused on interfaith relations, environmental and economic ethics, intermarriage, and the interplay of Judaism and globalism.

Joey Weisenberg is the Music Director/Community Educator  at the Kane Street Synagogue, as well as the Creative Director of the Hadar Center for Communal Jewish Music.  He’s a multi-instrumentalist musician, singer and composer, who has performed and recorded internationally with dozens of bands in a wide variety of musical styles.  Selected in the first round of the Jewish Week’s “36 under 36 Young Leaders,” he is the author of Building Singing Communities, and has released three albums of his nigunim and compositions.


We invite you to join us in building a more knowledgeable and caring community. If you’d like to volunteer in one of the Beit Midrash committees, contact Joey Weisenberg at


If you have any questions about the Beit Midrash, or would like to suggest a course, contact Joey at

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