Dear Friends,

In our Center for Jewish Life we endeavor to bring you inspired thinkers who engage in issues that are of vital importance to Jews and to our world. Reflecting on this year’s program, I am enthusiastic about the wide variety of voices we have included as well as the eclectic personal stories and perspectives.

You will hear:

  • Two of America’s celebrated legal minds examine the issues before the Supreme Court
  • A White House speechwriter’s Jewish discovery
  • The story of the world’s only one-armed special forces sharpshooter and  the harrowing account of a man who fled the famine of Ethiopia and now devotes his life to helping other Ethiopian Jews in Israel

You will:

  • Meet a Palestinian who grew up on the Gaza Strip and hear his moving story about survival, hope, and the pursuit of peace
  • Examine the reciprocal impact of the Persian Jewish Community on Los Angeles forty years after the revolution in Iran
  • Engage with an expert on marriage
  • Experience a concert with violins, violas, and cellos, some of which were played by Jewish inmates in Nazi concentration camps and were recently painstakingly restored. Violins of Hope comes to LA in March.

We offer over twenty classes (many taught by Stephen Wise Temple clergy), opportunities to become an adult bar or bat mitzvah (an extraordinary experience), expanded museum visits, and much more.

Ten years ago the Center inaugurated our branch of the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning. The response of our community went beyond expectations. Today our school is among the largest of any synagogue-based Melton school in the United States. Melton is an experience. Just ask the students.

What lies ahead are opportunities to learn and grow, to elevate Jewish thought and practice, to embrace your community, and to celebrate the gifts of Judaism.

I hope we have inspired your curiosity and we will see you often in the coming year.

Sincerely,

Rabbi David Woznica
Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin Rabbinic Chair
Stephen Wise Temple

Lectures & Dialogues


Forum on Critical Values
Rabbi David Woznica continues his series of dialogues probing the minds of thoughtful people to explore their ideals and the values that drive their lives.

Two Extraordinary Stories:
Izzy Ezagui and Daniel Sahalo
in Dialogue with Rabbi David Woznica

Monday, December 9, 2019 at 7:30 p.m.

Izzy Ezagui is the only one-armed special forces sharpshooter in the world. Born in the United States, he emigrated to Israel at age 19 to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. In 2009, he sustained serious injuries in a mortar attack, losing his left arm above the elbow. He had been left-handed. After months of recovery and rehabilitation, Izzy weaned himself off heavy painkillers, got back into shape, and returned to active duty in the IDF. After military service he returned to the United States to pursue an acting career.

Daniel Sahalo was four years old when his family fled the famine and political instability of Ethiopia. For eight weeks they walked toward the border of Sudan. Barefoot and traveling only in the darkness of night, they faced gangs of thieves, starvation, bitter cold, and wild animals. Tragically, Daniel’s 23 year old sister and her toddler daughter did not survive. Ultimately the family was flown to Israel. Daniel enlisted in the prestigious IDF paratroopers 101 combat battalion.

He currently is marketing and sales manager of the Megemeria jewelry collection created by the Megemeria social enterprise, which teaches Ethiopian immigrants to Israel the art and science of jewelry design and manufacturing. He is married and the proud father of two children and uncle of 40 nieces and nephews.

$15: Stephen Wise Temple members
$20: General Public

This program is presented in cooperation with Israel Bonds. Those in attendance will have the opportunity to purchase Israel Bonds at the event if they choose.

The Words of My Father:
Yousef Bashir in Dialogue
with Rabbi David Woznica

Tuesday, February 18, 2020 at 7:30 p.m

As Mr. Bashir writes:
In the Gaza Strip, growing up on land owned by his family for centuries, eleven-year-old Yousef is preoccupied by video games, school pranks, and meeting his father’s impossibly high standards. Everything changes when the Second Intifada erupts and soldiers occupy the family home. Yousef’s father refuses to flee and risk losing the house forever, so the army keeps the family in a state of virtual imprisonment. Yousef struggles to understand how his father can be so committed to peaceful co-existence that he welcomes the occupying Israeli soldiers as “guests,” even in the face of what he sees as unfair and humiliating treatment. Over time, Yousef learns how to endure his new life in captivity—but he can’t anticipate that a bullet is about to transform his future in an instant.

These transformative experiences set Yousef on a difficult new path that leads him to learn to embody his father’s philosophy and spread a message of co-existence. Yousef’s memoir, The Words of My Father is a moving coming-of-age story about survival, tolerance, and hope.

$15: Stephen Wise Temple members
$20: General Public


Presented in partnership with Jewish Book Council.


Men, Marriage, and Masculinity: Reflections on Intimacy, Fatherhood and Career
Dr. Jeffrey Marsh

Tuesday, March 17, 2020 at 7:30 p.m.

Men face unique issues in becoming husbands and fathers. The challenges of balancing work, marriage, and fatherhood can be daunting, and many marriages face a significant drop in satisfaction during the child-rearing years. Couples frequently don’t have the same level of conversation and communication they once shared. When communication suffers, intimacy suffers as well. Dr. Jeffrey Marsh will offer insights into how to keep marriage vibrant and elevate the marital bond through meaningful communication between spouses. It is possible to enhance passion, pleasure, and joy throughout all of the stages of family development by finding new ways to be more present for your spouse and children while balancing the complex stresses of ordinary life.

Dr. Jeffrey Marsh is a psychologist in private practice specializing in working with individuals, couples, and families from adolescence to old age. He pioneered the father/child programs at Stephen Wise Temple over 30 years ago and continues to facilitate a private group that began as a spinoff—a group that has been running uninterrupted for over three decades. The group has been running uninterrupted for over three decades. Dr. Marsh is married and is the father of three adult sons. 

$15: Stephen Wise Temple members
$20: General Public


Violins of Hope
The Los Angeles Jewish Symphony

Dr. Noreen Green, Artistic Director
Lindsay Deutsch, Violin

Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the
Performing Arts California State University, Northridge

Sunday, March 22, 2020 at 7 p.m.

The Violins of Hope is a collection of violins, violas, and cellos rescued from the Holocaust and restored by Israeli luthiers Amnon Weinstein and his son Avshalom.  Included is a violin played in the Auschwitz orchestra as well as one used on the Kindertransport. Some were played by Jewish inmates in Nazi concentration camps; others belonged to the Klezmer musical culture. These instruments were silenced by the Holocaust.

Violins of Hope Los Angeles opens on March 22 with the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony and captivating violinist Lindsay Deutsch. Deutsch will be playing one of the finest of the rescued violins, performing Schindler’s List Suite, Ernest Bloch’s Baal Shem Suite, and Suite for Klezmer Band and Orchestra by Sid Robinovitch.

This unforgettable evening will commemorate the 75th year since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps and honor the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and millions of other victims of the Nazis.

A limited number of premium orchestra seats are being held at a special rate for the Stephen Wise Temple group on a first come, first served basis. We encourage you to purchase as soon as possible.

$95: Stephen Wise Temple members
$109: General Public


Yossi Klein Halevi in Dialogue
with Rabbi David Woznica

AIPAC @ Wise

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Yossi Klein Halevi is a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, an acclaimed author and frequent op-ed contributor. His most recent book, Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor, is a heartfelt plea for peace and new dialogue based on common ground in faith. This evening coincides with the transition from Yom Hazikaron to Yom Haatzmaut—important days for Israelis and Jews all over the world. With the holidays serving as background, Rabbi Woznica will engage Mr. Klein Halevi on the wide-ranging issues confronting Israel, America, and Diaspora Jewry.

Rabbi Woznica has conducted over 75 public dialogues with noteworthy intellectuals and world leaders.

AIPAC @ Wise is presented by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in partnership with Stephen Wise Temple.

Courses

Classes offered by the Center for Jewish Life deepen knowledge, engagement, and intellect. These opportunities range from three-week seminars with Wise clergy to semester-long adult education courses that open the door to the Hebrew language, traditional texts, Jewish arts and culture, and much more.

There is no charge for these classes.

Mini-Courses with Clergy:

Forty Years After:
The Los Angeles Persian Jewish Community

Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback
and Dr. Saba Soomekh

The impact of the revolution in Iran in 1979 goes well beyond the Middle East and few communities in the United States have felt that impact more than Los Angeles. The Jewish community has been forever changed by the immigration of tens of thousands of Persian Jews over the past four decades. The influence has been mutual—both communities have been transformed in exciting ways because of these larger forces.

This series explores the mutual impact of the Persian Jewish community, the broader Los Angeles Jewish community, and the City of Los Angeles.

Sexuality  |  Wednesday, January 8, 2020  |  7:30–9 p.m.

While Iran was cosmopolitan under the rule of the last Shah, the transition to Los Angeles was still a shock for many Persian Jews. We’ll explore how Los Angeles, and America more broadly, has changed the way many Persian Jews understand issues of sexuality and gender.

Culture |  Wednesday, February 19, 2020  |  7:30–9 p.m.

Jewish Culture in Los Angeles has been shaped by the Persian Jewish community. From cuisine to music and minhagim (customs), the Los Angeles Jewish community has been transformed over the past four decades. This evening we explore the indelible impact of the Persian Jewish community on the Jewish community of Los Angeles.

Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback is Senior Rabbi of Stephen Wise Temple.

Dr. Saba Soomekh is the Assistant Director of Interreligious and Intercommunity Affairs at AJC-LA and a lecturer at UCLA.  She teaches Religious Studies, Middle Eastern History, and Women’s Studies courses. Dr. Soomekh authored From the Shahs to Los Angeles: Three Generations of Iranian Jewish Women between Religion and Culture (SUNY Press, 2012).


Nine
Rabbi David Woznica

Tuesdays | 6:30-8 p.m.
January 14, 21, 28, 2020

The Rabbis of the Talmud teach that there are nine commandments, each of which is equal to all the other commandments combined. The list will likely surprise you.  We will study them in our first class.

The Rabbis of the Talmud teach that there are nine requirements that every city should meet in order for Jews to live there. In other words, what is essential in order to create a decent society. The list too, will likely surprise you. We’ll study them in our second class.

After God, the most prominent figure in the Torah is Moses. In our final class, we will explore nine lessons from the life of Moses. In doing so, we will bring this extraordinary figure to life and to our lives.

Over the course of our studies, we will embrace 27 insights into how Judaism can make us better people and how to shape a better world.


The Italian Jewish Tradition
Cantor Nathan Lam

Wednesdays | 7:30–9 p.m.
January 29; February 5, 19, 2020

The Italian Jewish tradition includes 2,000 years of uninterrupted history. From before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, this community has outlasted the Roman Empire, and forged a relationship with the Vatican that has lasted for 1,700 years. The Italian Rite has its own music, not Sephardic or Ashkenazi, but unique in its own way. 40,000 Jews still live in Italy and thrive, honoring their history and the collective history of the Jewish People.


Become An Adult
Bar/Bat Mitzvah

Cantor Emma Lutz

Informational Meeting
November 5, 2019 | 7 p.m.

When a Jew reaches the age of 13, he or she becomes a bar or bat mitzvah, literally a “son” or “daughter” of the commandments. Some, however, did not have the opportunity or privilege at 13 to be formally called to the Torah. Becoming a bar or bat mitzvah as an adult gives one the opportunity to seize a special moment in life. Many choose to mark a special anniversary or to honor the memory of a loved one by becoming an adult b’nai mitzvah. Connect with an intimate group of learners by becoming part of our Adult B’nai Mitzvah program. After the initial informational meeting, studies will begin in spring 2020 and the program will culminate with a Shabbat service led by the cohort in late 2020.

Please contact Cantor Emma Lutz at ELutz@WiseLA.org or at 310.889.2270 to learn more.

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.

We Were Strangers in a Strange Land: Jewish Texts on Immigration and Welcoming the Stranger in a Real World Context of Enormous Complexity
Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback

Millions of migrants and refugees are moving about the globe today, searching for safety. Jews know that experience personally and collectively. What do our traditions teachings about welcoming strangers suggest to us about dealing with the refugee crisis and immigrants today? Are there limits to the obligation to welcome the stranger? How do we balance the need to show mercy and compassion for refugees with very real security and economic concerns? In addition to these questions, we will share our own stories of how we ended up on these shores.

Two Encounters in Genesis
Rabbi David Woznica

The account of Cain and Abel and the Binding of Isaac (when God tells Abraham to offer his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice) are among the most chilling incidents in the Torah.  In the twelve verses of the Cain and Abel encounter we confront sibling rivalry, human nature, freedom of choice, and more. In the Binding of Isaac we try to understand God’s demand of Abraham, the role of faith, and many other lessons of this memorable encounter.

Join Rabbi Woznica as we dive into two of the most memorable stories in the Torah and their enduring messages for us today.

Synagogue Music
Cantor Nathan Lam

Learn the connection between the music of the synagogue and the spirituality of our tradition.

Sheaves of What?: Counting
the Omer as a Spiritual Practice

Rabbi Sari Laufer

The days between Passover and Shavuot are counted as the Omer. Originally merely an agricultural practice, together we will explore ways to use this time for self-reflection and personal growth in a modern context.

Why We Do What We Do
Rabbi Ron Stern and Rabbi Joshua Knobel

What do Jews believe? What are the origins of the laws of kashrut? When did Judaism start to believe in life after death? Why haven’t Wise congregants heard that much about the afterlife from the clergy? What’s the oldest modern Jewish denomination?

This class will uncover some of the mysteries and myths of Jewish life and gain a deeper understanding of why some Jews do or do not engage in certain practices.

Ongoing 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 when 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
Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback

Wednesdays:
(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.

Bible Study Continues
Rabbi Ron Stern

Alternate Mondays
(unless otherwise noted): 9-10 a.m.

Join Rabbi Stern for a continuing deep dive into the intricacies of the Hebrew Bible. Viewed through the lens of modern scholarship, the Bible reveals the secrets of its authors as well as powerful insights into the value and meaning of ancient Jewish history for our own times. We’ll be starting from the beginning after 20 years of study! Now’s a great time to join us.


Explore the vast cultural offerings of Los Angeles through the expert lense of Mario M. Muller, Stephen Wise Temple Artist-in-Residence. This popular series of small group outings is back for 2019-20 and features smaller museums as well as larger spaces that capture the eclectic Los Angeles art scene: from photography to painting to sculpture and so much more.

Please note that some museum admission fees may apply.

The Hammer Museum

Lari Pittman Retrospective
Wednesday, December 11, 2019 | 11 a.m.

The first large-scale retrospective of this prolific Los Angeles painter and long-revered teacher is a feast for the eyes.

$15: Stephen Wise Temple members
$20: General Public
Parking: $7 for three hours with validation

Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)

With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in American Art 1972–1985
Wednesday, January 15, 2020 | 1:30 p.m.

A generous survey of this groundbreaking American art movement, encompassing works in painting, sculpture, collage, ceramics, installation art, and performance documentation, With Pleasure presents color in ambitious scale!

$15: Stephen Wise Temple members
$20: General Public
Parking fees $15.

Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden

Wednesday, February 12, 2020 | 1:30 p.m.

This excursion will consist of a curated conversation during a 1.5-mile walkthrough the Westwood campus of UCLA.

$15: Stephen Wise Temple members
$20: General Public
Parking fees on the UCLA campus apply.

Hauser and Wirth

Wednesday, March 11, 2020 | 11 a.m.

This relatively new blue chip gallery opened in 2016 with 20,000 square feet of exhibition space and it always promises an exhibit demanding of attention and worthy of curiosity.

$15: Stephen Wise Temple members
$20: General Public
Street parking and nearby garages available.

Additional Classes

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 when you wish.

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

Introduction to Judaism
Rabbi Sari Laufer and Wise Clergy

Sundays beginning
January 19, 2020 | 10 a.m.–12 p.m.

Whether you are curious about or considering Judaism, or still looking to answer that question you’ve had since your days in religious school, Introduction to Judaism is a place to voice your questions, learn multiple perspectives, and discover what is most meaningful to you in liberal Judaism.

Open to all, this course is perfect for interfaith couples, those raising Jewish children, spiritual seekers, individuals considering conversion, and Jews who want a meaningful adult Jewish learning experience. Taught by Rabbi Sari Laufer, students will have a chance to learn from members of the Stephen Wise Temple clergy and other guest teachers while exploring holidays, lifecycle celebrations, prayer, theology, sacred texts, and much more.

Questions are encouraged and only curiosity is required.

Please contact Rabbi Sari Laufer by email at SLaufer@WiseLA.org or by phone at 310.889.2229 to learn more.

$280: Stephen Wise Temple members
$360: General Public


Classical Intermediate Hebrew

Alisa Lottati, American Jewish University

Mondays: October 28–December 16 | 6:45–9 p.m. 

This course is for students who completed Beginning Hebrew 1 and 2 or have sufficient knowledge of Hebrew.

$284 plus $25 book fee
Register online at AJU.edu/Hebrew or by phone at 310.440.1572

To learn more about these Hebrew classes contact the Hebrew department of American Jewish University by phone at 310.476.9777 or by email at Hebrew@AJU.edu.

Stephen Wise Temple is pleased to present these Hebrew courses in partnership with the American Jewish University’s Whizin Center.


Mussar might best be described as “Jewish spiritual ethics” and has been practiced for centuries to cultivate and strengthen qualities of the inner mensch. Mussar offers a Jewish path that can help you find your way toward becoming your best self and help our community to reach a higher potential.

For questions, please contact Rabbi Karen Strok at KStrok@WiseLA.org

Introduction to Mussar
Rabbi Karen Strok

Fridays: October 25, 2019–May 1, 2020 | 10 a.m.–12 p.m.

Mussar might best be described as “Jewish spiritual ethics” and has been practiced for centuries to cultivate and strengthen qualities of the inner mensch. Mussar offers a Jewish path that can help you find your way toward becoming your best self, and our community to reach a higher potential.

In this course called “Seeking Everyday Holiness”, our small study group becomes a caring community where we explore Jewish teachings about humility, gratitude, equanimity, patience, order, honor, and more. This journey, which takes place over several months, includes 11 small group meetings, private journaling exercises, and weekly spiritual practices.

Please contact Rabbi Karen Strok by email at KStrok@WiseLA.org or by phone at 310.889.2291 to learn more.

$590: Stephen Wise Temple members
$640: General Public

This class meets offsite.

Advanced Mussar
Rabbi Karen Strok

Fridays: September 20, 2019–April 24, 2020 | 10 a.m.–12 p.m.

Students who have completed the “Seeking Everyday Holiness” and “Inner Ladder” courses are eligible to take this higher level course called “Seasons of Mussar.”  We will enhance our Mussar practice by spending time examining the middot (character traits) of patience, anger, forgiveness, simplicity, strength, and faith. At this higher level, more advanced Mussar practices are added to the program, including Cheshbon Ha’nefesh, or “accounting of the soul,” which involves both daily recitation of phrases and keeping a journal. In our third year of Mussar study, we will continue to develop as individuals and as a sacred community.

Please contact Rabbi Karen Strok by email at KStrok@WiseLA.org or by phone at 310.889.2291 to learn more.

$485: Stephen Wise Temple members
$535: General Public

This class meets offsite.


The award-winning Melton School of Stephen Wise Temple’s Center for Jewish Life 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 from year to year. One of the unique features of our school is the intentional creation of supportive communities in each class.

To register or learn more about Melton please contact our Melton School Director, Rabbi Karen Strok by email at Melton@Wisela.org or by phone at 310.889.2291.

Jews in America: Insiders and Outsiders and From Sinai to Seinfield: Jews and Their Jokes

Tuesdays: October 29, 2019–March 31, 2020 | 10 a.m.–12 p.m.

Jews in America: What are the challenges of Jewish acculturation to American life? What sacrifices and contributions have been made over the past 200 years?

From Sinai to Seinfeld: Treating Jewish jokes as text, we will analyze and interpret the evolving concerns, styles, rhythms, preoccupations, and values of the Jewish people that lie buried deep in words that make us laugh as Jews, and that bond us as a people.

$675: Stephen Wise Temple members
$775: General Public

Medical Ethics: A 21st Century Discussion
and Ethics of Jewish Living

Tuesdays: October 29, 2019–March 31, 2020
10–11:30 a.m. or 7–8:30 p.m.

This class is devoted to examining how Jewish teachings shed light on contemporary medical ethical issues like human cloning, surrogate motherhood, genetic identity, and other modern issues like social media, war, and artificial intelligence.

$575: Stephen Wise Temple members
$675: General Public

Bereshit (Genesis) Part I: From Adam to Abraham: The First 20 Generations and
Bereshit (Genesis) Part II—The Story of the
First Jewish Family

Wednesdays: October 23, 2019–March 25, 2020 | 10-11:30 a.m.
or:
Thursdays: September 5, 2019–May 7, 2020 | 8:30–10 a.m.
(for parents of young children)

Bereshit I: An exploration of the  themes of family and faith, honor and dishonor, passion and power provide a rich exploration of our people and ourselves.

Bereshit II: These stories of sibling rivalry, wrestling with an angel, palace seduction, rape, and reconciliation provide some of the most dramatic and iconic images that reverberate across the millennia.

Wednesdays: October 23, 2019–March 25, 2020 | 10-11:30 a.m.
or, for parents of young children:
Thursdays: September 5, 2019–May 7, 2020 | 8:30-10 a.m.

$575: Stephen Wise Temple members
$675: General Public

From Sinai to Seinfield: Jews and Their Jokes
and Ethics of Jewish Living

Thursdays: October 24, 2019–April 2, 2020 | 10-11:30 a.m.

From Sinai to Seinfeld: Treating Jewish jokes as text, we will analyze and interpret evolving concerns, styles, rhythms, preoccupations, and values of the Jewish people that lie buried deep in words that make us laugh as Jews, and that bond us as a people.

Ethics of Jewish Living: How Jewish teachings shed light on contemporary ethical issues like social media, war, and artificial intelligence.

$575: Stephen Wise Temple members
$675: General Public

Do You Believe in Miracles?

Thursdays: September 12, 2019–October 3, 2019 | 10-11:30 a.m.

Explore multiple Jewish approaches to some very difficult, timeless questions: Is there such a thing as a miracle? When do miracles happen, and when do they not? What must one do to deserve a miracle? Is everything that happens meant to be? This course takes a look at the notion of miracles through the eyes of the sages as well as those of modern thinkers.

$120: Stephen Wise Temple members
$140: General Public

Past Events