Jewish Community Center Presents

Day of Jewish Learning

You choose what you want to do

Sunday February 12, 2017

10:00 am–3:30 pm

Finley Community Center, Person Senior Wing

2060 W. College Ave, Santa Rosa, CA 95401

FREE ADMISSION - Open to the public

Three One-Hour Learning Sessions

Session 1: 10:30am-11:30am

Session 2: 11:40am-12:40pm

Lunch Break: 12:45pm-1:30pm - Bring your own lunch

Session 3: 1:30pm-2:30pm

Complimentary Social Hour: 2:40pm-3:30pm music by Mama Loshn 

More information: 707/528-2549 • 

Click here to see the flyer!

Day of Jewish Learning Class Descriptions 

SESSION 1:  10:30am – 11:30am


Norman Eisley                                         Auditorium 

Lo Ish D'varim Anochi – Storytelling As a Tool: From the moment Adam tried to talk his way out of the “Apple Incident” until today, storytelling has been at the heart of Jewish culture. This session will give participants a path to finding stories that will move listeners and some exercises to build story telling muscles.

For over 25 years Norman Eisley has written and performed stories for audiences worldwide. Mr. Eisley formerly served on the Board of the Storytelling Association of California. He now serves on the Board of the Jewish Community Center of Sonoma County and does community outreach for the Friendship Circle.


Shaina Hammerman                                 Room 1

The Most Trusted Jew in America: Jon Stewart's Earnestness: This class covers how Jon Stewart constructed a vulnerable Jewish persona as a way to engender trust with a large audience, even though Jews have historically been mistrusted by non-Jews. His game of playing up a particular version of Jewish powerlessness in the face of athletes, world leaders, and celebrities actually lent him a great deal of power with those individuals and his audience.

Shaina Hammerman is a cultural historian and media critic and author of the forthcoming book Black Hat, Silver Screen: The Hasid in Film (Indiana University Press). She holds a PhD in Jewish History and Culture from the Graduate Theological Union and teaches in the Bay.


Eran Kaplan                                             Room 3

The Temple Mount: The site of the ancient two Jewish Temples has emerged over the last century as the focal point of the Zionist/Israeli-Arab conflict. In this class, we will examine the place of the Temple Mount in ancient Jewish history. We will explore how the destruction of the Temple has led to a radical transformation of the Jewish religion, and we will look at how the other two monotheistic religions have viewed the Temple Mount. We will examine contemporary Jewish views on the significance of the Temple Mount and the tensions that have been growing at the site between Jews and Muslims since the 1920s.

Eran Kaplan is the Rhoda and Richard Goldman Chair in Israel Studies at SFSU. He received his B.A. (magna cum laude) from Tel Aviv University and his PhD in Modern Jewish History from Brandeis University. Before coming to San Francisco, he taught at Princeton, Cincinnati and Toronto.


Gerald Huth                                            Room 4A 

Expressing Yourself Through the Art of Collage: I will spend the time talking about how to use collage as a means of self-expression. I have done several new cylinders. I will bring two examples of my collage cylinders. 

Gerald Huth’s work, deeply personal and expressionistic in its nature, deals with the "human condition", his life experiences, and impressions gained through his extensive travels to other countries and by exposure to their cultures.


Altie Wolwovsky                                   Room 4B  

Shema Uncovered: Discover why this succinct statement has become so central to the Jewish people that it is the climax of the final Ne’ilah prayer of Yom Kippur, and is traditionally a Jew’s last words on earth. We inhabit a cosmic mirage. We perceive myriad creations, all seemingly self-sufficient and independent beings. But, as Jews, we believe that in fact there is only one true entity. One G d who is the essence of everything. One G d manifest in an infinite amount of creations. “Hear, O Israel: G d is our L rd, G d is one.” 

Altie is the Director of the Hebrew Club, where families of all affiliations and backgrounds feel comfortable and welcomed. The program offers a warm and lively Jewish atmosphere where children can attain a unique and exciting awareness of their Jewish identity.  Hebrew Club sessions are held at the Chabad Jewish Center, Santa Rosa.


Shoshana Fershtman                           Room 21

Rediscovering the Sacred Feminine in Judaism: If you love Judaism but have struggled with the strongly patriarchal tones of our tradition, you may be delighted to discover how deeply the Sacred Feminine is interwoven in our collective history. This workshop will be an opportunity to become acquainted with the most ancient expression of the Hebrew Goddess, and the forms that She has taken over the years in the mystical tradition of kabbalah. We may also reflect on archetypal figures such as Serach bat Asher and Lilith, and muse on their symbolic meanings. 

Shoshana Fershtman, JD, PhD, is a psychologist in private practice in Santa Rosa, and in the analytic training program at the CG Jung Institute of San Francisco, and a core faculty member at the Depth Psychology Masters’ program at Sonoma State University. She has spent many years studying the Jewish mystical tradition and the re-emergence of the Sacred Feminine in Judaism. She is completing a book on reconnection with Judaism in the wake of collective trauma.


Elaine Leeder                                       Room 28

American Jewish Radicals: The Lesser Known Stories: Jews in America have long been involved in progressive causes. Beginning with the Bund in Europe this workshop will cover the way that Jews have influenced American social policies. We will look at the Jewish labor movement, particularly women Pauline Newman, Rose Schneiderman, Rose Pesotta and others who were firmly rooted in Jewish traditions but eager to stretch American ideals. The audience will be involved in dialogue about contemporary relevance of our radical foremothers and father’s ideologies and actions. 

Elaine Leeder is a Professor of Sociology and the Dean Emerita of the School of Social Sciences at Sonoma State University in California. She has 40 years of distinguished accomplishments and experience in academia and public service. Her awards include a National Endowment of the Humanities Fellowship, Visiting Scholar status at the United States Holocaust Museum. In her first book, “The Gentle General: Rose Pesotta, Anarchist and Labor Organizer”, studied radical Jews who were active in the labor movement. Her presentation will cover lesser known radicals.

 SESSION 2:  11:40am – 12:40pm


Rabbi Josh Jacobs-Velde                   Auditorium 

Nature-Connected Jewish Prayer: Did you know that Judaism contains profound teachings that link the open, prayer-filled heart with the nature world? In this session we’ll explore some of those teachings, from the lush and vivacious Song of Songs to the shamanic meditations of Reb Nachman of Breslov. 

Rabbi Josh Jacobs-Velde is the rabbi and co-founder of ZMANIM (, a nature-connected, spiritual Jewish community in West Sonoma County.  He is also the rabbi Kol HaEmek in Redwood Valley, CA.  A certified Torah Trek Guide, he is passionate about drawing on Jewish teachings to deepen and heal our connection to the natural world. He was ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and also has a strong spiritual lineage from the Jewish Renewal movement.


Shaina Hammerman                               Room 1

Yiddish Women Writers and Their Feminist Legacy: Analyze the selected writings (in English translation) of early 20th century Yiddish-American women writers, and their mid-century Jewish feminist successors. In the fiction and poetry of Kadya Molodowsky, Celia Dropkin, Tillie Olsen, and Grace Paley, encounter the immigrant experience from a women’s perspectives. Examine how the writers depart from earlier Jewish literary forms to critique or reiterate prevailing cultural modes and values, and discuss how the work reflects their complex experience as Jews, women, and Americans. 

Shaina Hammerman is a cultural historian and media critic and author of the forthcoming book Black Hat, Silver Screen: The Hasid in Film (Indiana University Press). She holds a PhD in Jewish History and Culture from the Graduate Theological Union and teaches in the Bay.


Eran Kaplan                                            Room 3

Making Sense of Israeli Politics Today: In this class we will explore the basic mechanism of the Israeli political system. We will then examine what are the social and cultural forces that have shaped Israel over the last three decades: The Ashkenazi-Mizrahi, Secular-Religious, Jewish-Arab divides and how they may help us understand the political dynamics in contemporary Israel. 

Eran Kaplan is the Rhoda and Richard Goldman Chair in Israel Studies at SFSU. He received his B.A. (magna cum laude) from Tel Aviv University and his PhD in Modern Jewish History from Brandeis University. Before coming to San Francisco, he taught at Princeton, Cincinnati and Toronto.


Rabbi Mordecai Miller                          Room 4A

Finding Ways to Personalize Prayer: Participants will seek to find ways to integrate the sentiments expressed in a prayer with their own thoughts and feelings. In this way the words become a means to reach towards our Creator. 

Rabbi Mordecai Miller is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Ami in Santa Rosa, California. Rabbi Mordecai Miller earned his BA in philosophy and Hebrew at the University of Natal. He was thrilled to secure a position as assistant Rabbi at a Conservative congregation in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he served happily for seven years. There followed ten years in Canton, Ohio, and twenty-one years in St. Louis, Missouri.


Rabbi Ted Feldman                                Room 4B

A Snapshot of Martin Buber: This 20th Century Jewish philosopher has had a profound effect on Jewish and Christian thought about how we relate to the world around us and to our spiritual lives. His teaching about “I-Thou” encapsulated that approach. During this session, we will look at this basic teaching to discover how its essence is relevant and important to our lives today. 

Rabbi Ted Feldman joined B’nai Israel Jewish Center of Petaluma on August 1, 2005. Rabbi Feldman had served as the congregation’s interim rabbi from January 1998 until June 1999. After serving for ten years, he left his position as executive director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services of the East Bay in April 2005.  Visit, for more information.


Rabbi Dovid Bush                             Room 21

In G-d We Trust: The Importance and the Power of Thinking PositiveIt's been on our currency since 1864, and is now the official motto of our country. Faith, optimism, and joy are integral to overcoming challenges in life. Discover how our perspectives actually create and shape our realities. Do events determine how we feel or do our feelings determine the nature of events? 

Rabbi Dovid Bush grew up in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, NY. After completing his yeshiva studies in New York and Montreal, he received his Rabbinical ordination from the Central Lubavitch Yeshiva in 2008. A dynamic and vibrant rabbi, Dovid has an exceptional knack for connecting with people of all ages and backgrounds. He is a gifted teacher and enjoys sharing his love for Judaism, sense of humor and juggling prowess (you should see him juggle fire torches at Bar Mitzvahs!) in an energetic and experiential fashion.

 Lunch Break: 12:45pm – 1:30pm

Bring your own lunch

SESSION 3:  1:30pm – 2:30pm

Gale Kissin                                  Auditorium

Love Songs in the Key of Yiddish: We'll explore the historical context, selections and translation of the most melodious and poetic genre in the Yiddish song repertoire AND you will leave with a song to offer to your bashertke for Valentine's Day! 

Gale Kissin was bathed in the lyrical rhythm of Yiddish language and music from the crib and has been singing Yiddish music since before she was fluent in English.  In childhood, she was exposed to Yiddish teachings in the Workmen’s Circle / Arbeter Ring tradition. Her passion for the language has continued through the years, she studied at the YIVO Institute on Columbia’s campus in NY. Gale went on to found, “Mama Loshn,” the band that transmits through their unique interpretation of Yiddish music, the strongly held connections to our Old World musical roots. In 2014, Gale, along with Gesher Calmenson, Reb Irwin Keller and Suzanne Shanbaum, co-founded YiddishLand! - the First Sonoma County Festival of Yiddish Culture. 


Shaina Hammerman                        Room 1

From Spinoza to Seinfeld: We'll explore the origins of secular Jewish expression in the literature, theater, and music of Jewish Eastern Europe and follow these forms to America where they are joined by film, television, and festivals. What does it mean to be a secular Jew? In what ways have secular Jewish practices become ritualized? How have religious Jews incorporated or resisted secular cultural expression.

Shaina Hammerman is a cultural historian and media critic and author of the forthcoming book Black Hat, Silver Screen: The Hasid in Film (Indiana University Press). She holds a PhD in Jewish History and Culture from the Graduate Theological Union and teaches in the Bay.


Rabbi Steve Finley                          Room 3

Between the Lines – Voices of Israel: Stories Untold: Come hear the stories of two inspiring young Israelis – their struggles, their successes, their military service, and their hopes and dreams. Ask the tough questions, and learn what it is actually like to live in a country that is subject of so much discussion in the media and on campus. 

Rabbi Steve Finley came to Sonoma County with his family in the summer of 2014 to serve as rabbi of Congregation Shir Shalom in the town of Sonoma. Before coming to Sonoma, he held a rabbinic post in Mexico City for the previous three years.  Having lived for many years in Israel, Steve also served in a combat unit in the I.D.F. in the early eighties which took him to the Lebanon War of 1982.


Rabbi Mendel Wolvovsky                  Room 4A

Let’s Wine: Wine is used for the sanctification of Shabbat and Yom Tov and at Jewish simchot. In the Beit Hamikdash wine was poured upon the altar. Discover how wine represents what Judaism is all about: the fusing of the holy and the mundane, the spiritual and physical, the body and soul. 

Rabbi Mendel Wolvovsky, Chabad Jewish Center  


Rabbi Daria Jacobs-Velde                      Room 21

Mussar — A Spiritual Practice for Equanimity and More! Do you often feel unsettled and thrown off by the events and interactions around you? Do you struggle with having enough patience for those around you? Come learn some new tools, as offered by the Mussar tradition, for gaining understanding and skill with this everyday aspect of interacting with others and walking in the world.  

Rabbi Daria lived in Israel and Japan, completed an Ed.M. at Harvard University, a B.A. in Sociology from Brandeis, and was ordained at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.  Through her exploration of the multiple avenues of learning and teaching she worked with learners at many different stages of life, from elementary schools, high schools, adults and children of different ages. Before moving to Sebastopol, she served as co-rabbi at Congregation Ohev Tzedek in Ohio with her husband, Josh.


Reb Irwin Keller                                        Room 4B

With my Eyelashes All in Curl: The Queer Life of Joseph: What makes a queer life story? Many elements of Joseph's life read like queer biography: gifted, isolated, gender-variant, brutalized, transplanted, reemerged. The sages are uncomfortable with Joseph's beauty and apparent femininity - describing him primping eyes and hair before a mirror. Together we'll look at text and commentary and celebrate one of Torah's queerest stories. 

Reb Irwin Keller is the spiritual leader of Congregation Ner Shalom in Cotati. His past work includes legal advocacy and performance (ask him for details). He is currently continuing his studies in the Aleph Rabbinic Ordination Program of the Jewish Renewal Movement. His challenging, poignant and humorous sermons and essays live on his blog, Itzik's Well, which can be found at