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Jewish Studies

The Program of Jewish Studies is generously sponsored by Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary.
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Our Jewish Studies classes inspire learners from all knowledge levels and backgrounds looking to add meaning and purpose to their everyday lives. We offer classes with master teachers to help you gain a better understanding of ancient texts or today’s headlines, with classes in Torah and Talmud, Jewish Film and History, Archaeology and current events. Join our community of learners to connect with our tradition and learn how it relates to us today.

  • The Currents in Current Events (Morning Class)

    The Currents in Current Events (Morning Class)

    Your weekly news magazine. We will examine the connections between events both near and far. We will seek history and context in order to be informed, knowing that knowledge is power and fights the despair of helplessness and hopelessness. We might even laugh as we remember Marx (Karl not Groucho) writing that History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce. Read More

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  • The Currents in Current Events (Evening Class)

    The Currents in Current Events (Evening Class)

    Your weekly news magazine. We will examine the connections between events both near and far. We will seek history and context in order to be informed, knowing that knowledge is power and fights the despair of helplessness and hopelessness. We might even laugh as we remember Marx (Karl not Groucho) writing that History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce. Read More

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  • The Roots and Bitter Fruits of Anti-Semitism

    The Roots and Bitter Fruits of Anti-Semitism

    The oldest xenophobia begins before Christianity but is codified in the Gospels for a specific purpose and in a specific verse. We'll discuss how this bigotry has poisoned the world and explore how even the Torah/Hebrew Bible and other ancient texts are misused to justify hatred. From ancient slurs to modern excuses, Anti-Semitism remains alive. Read More

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  • Challenges & Hopes in the Middle East

    Challenges & Hopes in the Middle East

    Every nation and people in the Middle East faces challenges. From Egypt, a failing state, to Jordan, a fragile state, from Saudi Arabia, a brittle state, to Syria--no longer really a state, to Iran, and enemy state, chaos is pandemic. Even Israel, the most stable, successful and democratic state, has both internal and external challenges. Yet with all the moving pieces of tribe, ethnicity and religion, there are alliances of convenience and opportunity emerging. Possibly even order. Read More

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  • American Art in the Roaring Twenties

    American Art in the Roaring Twenties

    Georgia O'keeffe, Frank Lloyd Wright and Alfred Stieglitz helped to define the independent spirit of America in the roaring twenties. The Jazz Age gave birth to the Haarlem Renaissance and deeper connection between the races, while a flashy new materialism would cause artists to search for the spiritual side of Modern life. Dynamic speaker John Paul Thornton presents the story of how America found its voice in the twentieth century. Read More

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  • Movie Matinees at the Sperber: The Nazi Officer's Wife

    Movie Matinees at the Sperber: The Nazi Officer's Wife

    Our popular documentary film and discussion series continues. Join us for a screening of The Nazi Officer's Wife. Share your thoughts about the film and enjoy some popcorn! Explores the extraordinary life of Holocaust survivor Edith Hahn Beer, who escapes the Holocaust by living as a non-Jew in Munich, marrying a Nazi and raising an Aryan family. Read More

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  • Holocaust Film & Discussion Series: Labyrinth of Lies (Germany)

    Holocaust Film & Discussion Series: Labyrinth of Lies (Germany)

    This film exposes the conspiracy of prominent German institutions and government branches to cover up the crimes of Nazis during World War II. In 1958, the war has been over for thirteen years and the Federal Republic of Germany is booming. But where are the Nazis? This film opens our eyes to the ways in which we allow ourselves to forget events that we find too painful to acknowledge. Read More

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  • Jewish Dissidents Lecture Series: Friedl Dicker-Brandeis: the Courage of Art

    Jewish Dissidents Lecture Series: Friedl Dicker-Brandeis: the Courage of Art

    How did a courageous art teacher trapped in a Nazi internment camp bring light and clarity to hundreds of children whose lives were threatened by darkness? Art historian and popular Whizin Center instructor John Paul Thornton traces the true, inspiring story of Friedl-Dicker Brandeis, revealing the brilliant methods she created and documented while literally inventing the discipline we now call "Art Therapy." Read More

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  • Award-winning Author Kathy Kacer and Jordana Liebowitz -- To Look a Nazi in the Eye: A Teen's Account of a War Criminal Trial

    Award-winning Author Kathy Kacer and Jordana Liebowitz -- To Look a Nazi in the Eye: A Teen's Account of a War Criminal Trial

    Prolific Canadian children's author Kathy Kacer collaborates with 19-year-old Jordana Leibowitz, a granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, to tell the fascinating, true story of her experience attending the trial of Oskar Groening, known as the bookkeeper of Auschwitz, possibly the last trial of its kind in Germany. Read More

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  • Dr. Micah Goodman: Catch '67, 50 Years Since the Six Day War

    Dr. Micah Goodman: Catch '67, 50 Years Since the Six Day War

    50 years after the stunning victory of the Six Day War, Israel finds itself caught between two ideological visions of what Zionism is meant to be. Explore how both the right and left have succeeded in this enduring battle, and where they have gone wrong. What are the possibilities if we focus on practical, common-sense wisdom rather than purely ideological commitments. Read More

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  • Jewish Dissidents Lecture Series: Last Thing/Late Work, Sigfried Kracauer & the Crisis of History

    Jewish Dissidents Lecture Series: Last Thing/Late Work, Sigfried Kracauer & the Crisis of History

    What is the relationship between photography, exile, and the late work of an artist? How might all three serve as powerful metaphors for the writing of history and the truth it can tell? Dr. Megan R. Luke, Associate Professor of Art History, USC focuses on Kracauer's last, posthumously published book, History: The Last Things Before the Last, connecting it to the "photo-inflation" and accompanying "crisis of historicism" of the Weimar era. Read More

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  • Movie Matinees at the Sperber: Body and Soul: An American Bridge

    Movie Matinees at the Sperber: Body and Soul: An American Bridge

    Our popular documentary film and discussion series continues! Join us for a screening of Body and Soul: An American Bridge. Share your thoughts about the film and enjoy some popcorn! The story of one of the most popular songs in the jazz repertoire, this film illustrates the complex musical interplay between Jewish and African-American cultures. Winner of the Best Music Documentary award at the San Francisco Black Film Festival, it is a tribute to the enduring power of song to break down barriers and unite disparate peoples. Read More

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  • Rembrandt's Jews: A History of the Jews of Holland to 1945

    Rembrandt's Jews: A History of the Jews of Holland to 1945

    In this historical survey, we touch on the following themes: •The growth of the Sephardi colony in Amsterdam (circa 1600) •Rembrandt's Jew: Profile of Amsterdam's Chief Rabbi and Renaissance man, Menashe ben Yisroel • Renegades: The excommunication of Baruch Spinoza and the suicide of Uriel da Costa •Rabbi Aboab de Fonseca and the Dutch Jewish enclave in Recife, Brazil • The Haskalah and its impact on Dutch Jewry •Eastern European Jewish migrations into the Netherlands •Quiet Heroes: Christians who rescued Jews in Nazi-occupied Holland Read More

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  • Jewries of Africa

    Jewries of Africa

    In this Power Point presentation we cover the following communities: • The Berber Jews of the Atlas Mountains of Morocco • Jews in the cave of Jebel Gharian, Tripolitania, Libya • Y Chromosome Jews: The Lemba of southern Africa • The Beta Israel and Agau Kemant of the Ethiopian Highlands • Righteous Proselytes: The Abayudaya of Uganda • From the Land of the Lotus Eaters: The Jews of Jerba, Tunisia • A Lost Tribe of Israel?: The Igbos of Biafra Read More

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  • First A Trickle: Jewish Life in Colonial America

    First A Trickle: Jewish Life in Colonial America

    Some topics covered: • Inauspicious beginnings: Jewish life in New Amsterdam under Governor Peter Stuyvesant • New Israel and Old Israel: Encounters between Puritans and Jews in New England • Sephardi merchant princes: Jacob Rivera and Aaron Lopez, and the Newport, R.I., whaling industry • Colonial Jewry and the slavery issue • Profiles of Jewish patriots in the American Revolutionary War • Financier Haym Salomon and his contribution to the American Revolutionary War effort: Myths and Realities • The founding fathers -- Paine, Adams, Monroe, Jefferson, and Franklin -- what were their attitudes towards Jews? • "To Bigotry No Sanction": George Washington's correspondence with Hebrew Congregation, Newport, Rhode Island, 1790. Read More

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  • Blacks and Jews: Allies and Antagonists

    Blacks and Jews: Allies and Antagonists

    Some themes covered in this class: • Booker T. Washington's philosophy of black self-reliance and the Jew as a role model for former slaves • Marcus Garvey, the African National Congress, and the Jews •The Bronx "Slave Market" • A Grand Alliance: Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Dr. Martin Luther King, and the Civil Rights Movement • The rise of Black militancy and the deterioration of the Black-Jewish coalition • From black anti-Semitic rabble-rouser to devout Jew: Profile of Brandeis University professor Julius Lester • Malcolm X on the Jews • Black anti-Semitism and Jewish racism • "Shvartzes": Appropriate and inappropriate uses and abuses of The Word Read More

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  • How Goya's Art Saved the Jews

    How Goya's Art Saved the Jews

    The mockery of Jews and Muslims in European art dates back to 1100 C.E., when it suddenly appeared throughout Europe as a visual tool intended to promote Christianity over Semitic religions. The Spanish painter Francisco Goya (1746-1828) lived long enough to witness the Spanish Inquisition surrender to social justice. The constant subject of Goya's art--deep humanism and compassion--did much forge this positive social change. In three lectures we will learn how Goya used art to fight anti-semitism in Spain. Read More

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  • Holocaust Film & Discussion Series: La Rafle (The Roundup)

    Holocaust Film & Discussion Series: La Rafle (The Roundup)

    This film recounts the true story of the infamous Vel'd'Hiv Roundup of July, 1942, in Paris. During this mass arrest by French police, 13,000 Jews, including more than 4,000 children, were sent to the Velodrome d'hiver, an indoor bicycle stadium, held under inhumane conditions, and the deported to Auschwitz. Read More

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  • Movie Matinees at the Sperber: Streit's: Matzo and the American Dream

    Movie Matinees at the Sperber: Streit's: Matzo and the American Dream

    Our popular documentary film and discussion series continues! Join us for a screening of Streit's: Matzo and the American Dream. Share your thoughts about the film and enjoy some popcorn! An iconic New York institution and a fifth generation family business, the Streit's factory and the Streit family itself have long held firmly to tradition, churning flour and water into matzos through ovens as old as the factory itself. The film is a story of tradition, of resistance and resilience, and a celebration of a family whose commitment to their heritage and to their employees is inspiring proof that the family that bakes together, stays together. Read More

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  • Movie Matinees at the Sperber: Sustainable Nation

    Movie Matinees at the Sperber: Sustainable Nation

    Our popular documentary film and discussion series continues! Join us for a screening of Sustainable Nation. Share your thoughts about the film and enjoy some popcorn! Millions of people around the world lack clean, safe drinking water. The world's water crisis is killing more people than war. Idealistic "Water Revolutionaries" from Israel are using technology, innovation, know-how – and guts – to save water and save lives. Through systematic water resource management and a holistic approach to sustainability, Israelis have become trailblazers in global water technology. Read More

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  • Breed Street Shul & Boyle Heights Walking Tour

    Breed Street Shul & Boyle Heights Walking Tour

    Boyle Heights was the largest Jewish neighborhood on the West Coast from the 1920s until after World War II. Starting at Union Station, we'll board the Gold Line with JHS docents Stephen Sass and Jeremy Sunderland. We'll visit: • Breed Street Shul, an architectural and cultural treasure that serves as a bridge between the Jewish and Latino communities and is the last remaining of 30 synagogues that once dotted the area. • We'll also explore the area's history as we walk by former landmarks: • L.A.'s first Jewish day school and elementary schools, JCC and outpatient clinic • The original Canter's Deli • Libros Schmibros Lending Library Read More

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  • Movie Matinees at the Sperber: Welcome to Kutshers: The Last Catskills Resort

    Movie Matinees at the Sperber: Welcome to Kutshers: The Last Catskills Resort

    Our popular documentary film and discussion series continues! Join us for a screening of Welcome to Kutshers: The Last Catskills Resort. Share your thoughts about the film and enjoy some popcorn! As the famed Catskills resorts decline, this film provides unprecedented eye-witness documentation of Kutsher's from its 100th anniversary season through the next seven years until the hotel is sold and demolished in 2014. The story of Kutsher's is a uniquely American, previously unexplored story of the modern Jewish experience. Read More

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