Learning at Bet Alef is a lifelong pursuit, and we encourage our members and others in our community to explore Jewish spirituality and mysticism with us. Rabbi Olivier’s skilled leadership and training provide our community with a wealth of opportunities to explore Jewish tradition, texts, mysticism, and meditation, as well understanding the broader threads of Kabbalah, holidays, and major life cycle events (birth, marriage, children, death). Our classes are offered on a rotating basis each year, so we encourage people to keep subscribed to our newsletter in order to learn which courses are currently being offered.
We also encourage you to join the Beit Midrash currently offered on our Shabbat Saturday mornings at 10:30 AM.
Our classes provide the opportunity for deeper immersion on specific topics including, but not limited to:
How To Be an Anti-Antisemite
America has recently seen antisemitism flare up on its streets, against its Jewish institutions and, exponentially, online.
Public harassment, desecration of sacred sites & vandalism have multiplied, as have the numbers of fatal shootings. On the far-right, tiki-torches marchers shout on America’s streets: “Jews will not replace us!” On the far-left, Israel-hating activists attack Jews in NYC’s neighborhoods and LA’s restaurants.
This hatred of Jews isn’t new. It is more than 2,000 years old. And though it expresses today in different guises than in the past, the core of what animates antisemitism has remained the same. Understanding this history, tracing back the birth and evolution of the different strands of antisemitism in time, allows us to better spot it, call it out for what it is, and confront it today, something we can no longer postpone doing.
This course is for anyone, Jewish or not, invested in combating racism and prejudice wherever and however it may appear. This is a necessary course. And its time is now.
We are providing this content for free at the More Info button, and any support you can provide for this effort would be appreciate,
Exploring Chasidism: Its History, Mystical Concepts, and Ecstatic Practices
In the 1700s, on the Eastern European Jewish scene, emerged a movement that spread like wildfire, alighting the hearts, minds and souls of millions of Jews. Steeped in mysticism and aiming to open to the masses the secret practices of Kabbalah, Chasidism grew to revolutionize Jewish worship, and redefine the purpose of Judaism altogether. In doing so, it drew the ire and fierce opposition of the Talmudic, scholarly, traditional Jews who castigated this new radical movement as heresy.
What was Chasidism? Where did it come from and what mystical teachings were at its source? How was it able to translate these teachings into actual daily practices aimed at spiritual awakening?
Rabbi Olivier will guide us through an in-depth exploration of the movement that changed the face of Judaism, its main teachers, its revolutionary approach to worshiping and encountering God. He will, of course, also invite us to sample some of its mystical practices. Recommended as a complement to this course, and a text Rabbi Olivier will invite us to discover, please purchase Martin Buber’s “Tales of the Hasidim.”
Now you know your Alef-Bet and you can read Hebrew comfortably if not fluently. It’s time to add some vocabulary, learn about basic grammatical concepts and finally understand what the Torah and the Sidur have said all along, without the need for anyone else’s translation. Besides, Rabbi Olivier has found a great workbook and will be leading this class, so you know it’s going to be fun!
This class is for those who have taken the Hebrew 101 class, or are proficient in reading Hebrew. If you are unsure, contact Rabbi Olivier.
Spectrum of Consciousness
It’s election year in America. Whatever side of the proverbial aisle we find ourselves, we often wonder: “How can ‘they’ think/vote the way they do? What is wrong with people?!” In most cases our infuriating frustration stems from a shared flaw in human design; what teachers have called: “The Myth of The Given.” It refers to the assumption most of us make that there is a given reality “out there,” the perception and understanding of which is universal. In other words, the world that I perceive is the same for everyone.
Through this class, Rabbi Olivier will invite us to deconstruct this myth and help us unpack how consciousness evolves both individually and universally as a gorgeous multicolored spectrum. It might, for sure, help us face the upcoming elections more mindfully. Most critically, however, it might just change everything.
The Torah is not just an ancient document or scroll, but a vital source of meaning, purpose and guidance. As a great Talmudic sage in Pirkei Avot (First Principles) once said about Torah “Turn it and turn it again, for everything is in it. Reflect on it and grow old and gray with it. Don’t turn from it for nothing is better than it.” [Avot, 5].
This course offers an introduction to the basic tenets, rituals, and prayers of Judaism and the mystical aspects that keep them relevant thousands of years later. This course typically runs for 12 sessions over 6 months.
Introduction to Kabbalah
Through this course you will…
- Learn the basic history of the unfolding of Jewish mysticism over the ages.
- Discover the core principles of Kabbalah and its key teachers.
- Meet the work of Rabbi Isaac Luria and the teachings that became known as Lurianic Kabbalah.
- Unpack the complexities of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life.
- Be a hands-on mystic yourself:
* Interpret Torah through the lens of Kabbalistic principles.
* Study a page of the Zohar and/or the Sefer Yetzirah.
* Experience the writings of mystical Chasidic Masters.
* Practice Kabbalistic Meditation
Course span: 12 teaching sessions over six months
These 1 or 2 day workshops give members and those new to Judaism the knowledge and skills to aid preparation for the High Holy Days, Passover, and other major holidays of the Hebrew calendar
Preparation for Dying
The Jewish High Holy Days are an invitation to explore our mortality from one year to the next, never knowing whether any of us might reach the next Rosh HaShanah. Rabbi Olivier has created a year-long workshop to reflect, heal, make whole and step fully into our own life, embracing its fragility and preciousness. Preparing for Dying is the most life-affirming process anyone can enter into.