Center for Jewish Life

Learning is a gift; it is one of life’s great pleasures. When you encounter fascinating new ideas it can shape your world in meaningful, life altering ways.

The following pages offer descriptions of dialogues, lectures, courses, and off-site seminars that canvas a range of Jewish and general subjects.

Year after year we bring you innovative and, at times, provocative presenters who represent the best in Jewish life. Our vision at Stephen Wise Temple is to embody creativity (יִיצְרִיּוּת), generosity (נְדִיבוּת), and inclusivity (כְּלָלִיּוּת). These programs strive to reflect those core ideals.

The Center for Jewish Life presents this distinguished program of Jewish learning. I hope you will be inspired by this brochure and register. I extend to you my personal and heartfelt invitation to join us.


Rabbi David Woznica
Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin Rabbinic Chair
Stephen Wise Temple

To register, please use the links below.
Alternatively, please call 888-380-WISE (9473).

Lectures and Dialogues

Learning in Your Neighborhood

Members of Stephen Wise Temple are invited to study with fellow members at a home in their neighborhood. All members of the congregation will receive an invitation along with registration information by email later this year.

There is no pre-registration.

Jewish Wisdom on Kindness and Compassion
Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback

Rabbi Akiva taught the Torah verse “Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18) is the major principle of the Torah. Rabbi Hillel was asked to summarize Judaism “while standing on one foot.” He responded “what is hateful unto you, don’t do to your neighbor. The rest is commentary—now go and study.” (Babylonian Talmud: Shabbat 31a)

Rabbi Hillel added “now go and study” because were it easy to live as the Torah and Talmud would have us aspire, we would not have all the teachings of our tradition. In this class we delight in uncovering texts (some well-known and others more obscure) which will give us practical ways to be kinder and more compassionate in our personal interactions. We will learn how to disagree respectfully, how to prioritize and choose our charity (including, unexpectedly, defining an “upper limit”), pursue justice (through some fascinating Talmudic insights), when and how to express disappointment and/or anger, and more.


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Preparing Ourselves and our Loved Ones
for the Inevitable
Rabbi David Woznica

This class will cover two issues related to death. Considering them in advance can be a gift to those we love.

Funerals: Some people have made arrangements for their funerals and interments. Many have not. Either way, many questions that surviving loved ones face about burial can be dealt with well in advance. We will look at those questions, study the traditional Jewish practices, and learn what decisions and directives we can make about ourselves. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn Jewish teachings about death and burial—teachings that are indeed uplifting and beautiful.

Ethical Will: What is the legacy we wish to leave our children, grandchildren, or other loved ones? Judaism suggests we write an ethical will that reflects the values we hope our loved ones will embrace. We will read examples of ethical wills as guidance for those who may wish to write their own.

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Mythbusters: Jewish Mix-Ups and Misinterpretations Explained
Rabbi Ron Stern and Rabbi Joshua Knobel

Why do we eat brisket on Passover? Why is a mezuzah put on the doorposts of our homes?  Is bacon prohibited because it’s not good for you? For millennia, Jews have proudly embraced a distinctive range of practices and beliefs that are steeped in the rich tradition of history which, at the same time, can often obscure the true origins and rationale. Join us as we debunk popular Jewish myths concerning a broad variety of topics such as the prohibition against trayf, the lighting of Shabbat candles, and the origins of monotheism. From the “A” in “afterlife” to the “Z” in “Zohar,” our mythbusters will crack the code and peel back the layers of misconception to provide a deeper and sometimes surprising look at our rich and varied tradition.

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Jewish Music Your Grandparents Wouldn’t Recognize
Cantor Nathan Lam

Listen, learn and enjoy the new sounds of the American shtetl.

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On One Foot: Your Judaism in a Nutshell

Rabbi Sari Laufer

For hundreds of generations our teachers and texts have sought to crystallize the core message of Judaism. From justice to mercy, commandedness to covenant, the answers often reflect our existential questions and our responses to the world around us. Together, we will look at some of these answers and ideas, and perhaps even leave with our own “on one foot” response.

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Regular Study Sessions

Join us for these ongoing opportunities to study with clergy members in group discussions full of lively conversation, facilitated discussion, and deep learning of ancient texts.

These are drop-in classes—attend whenever you wish!

For more information or to notify us of attendance in advance contact our clergy office at 310.889.2272.

The Wisdom of the Sages
with Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback

(each week unless otherwise noted) 12–1 p.m.

Study the stories and the teachings of the sages of the Babylonian Talmud. These teachings—dating back over 1500 years—have formed the foundation of Rabbinic Judaism and continue to have relevance for us today. By studying the stories and the teachings of our sages, we’ll learn more about ourselves, our tradition, and the values that are meant to elevate our day-to-day lives.

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Bible Study
with Rabbi Ron Stern

Alternating Mondays:
(unless otherwise noted) 9–10 a.m.

Crack the Bible code with Rabbi Stern! The last 50 years of Israeli archeology and Biblical research have revolutionized our understanding of the Bible and made it possible for us to understand this ancient text in ways never comprehended by the generations that preceded us. Join us as we explore the ancient stories and discover the ways that they give us insights into the lives of early writers.

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Additional Classes

Intermediate Classical Hebrew
Alisa Lottati, American Jewish University

Mondays: April 8–July 1 | 7 p.m.

This class is held at Stephen Wise Temple, Bel Air. This class, taught in English, focuses on Siddur and Biblical Hebrew with an emphasis on reading and comprehension. Students will improve their reading and pronunciation and will learn to read and understand basic classical Hebrew, such as prayers.


Register online at or by phone at 310.440.1572

To learn more about this class contact the Hebrew department of AJU by phone (310.476.9777) or email (

Stephen Wise Temple is pleased to present this course in partnership with the American Jewish University’s Whizin Center.

Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning

Stephen Wise Temple Center for Jewish Life Melton School is one of the largest synagogue-based Melton schools in the United States. We take pride in our distinguished faculty and that the overwhelming majority of our students continue beyond the Core Curriculum into graduate classes (at an unprecedented rate among Melton programs). Classes often create close and supportive communities.

At a recent International Directors Conference, our school received the Florence Melton Award in tribute to our program, an exemplar for Melton schools throughout the world.

To Register or to Learn More about Melton, please contact or Melton School Director, Rabbi Karen Strok, at or 310.889.2291.