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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.

  • Sixty-Seven Words that Changed the Jewish World -- A Century After the Balfour Declaration: Visions and Realities

    Sixty-Seven Words that Changed the Jewish World -- A Century After the Balfour Declaration: Visions and Realities

    Presenting two public lectures by world-renowned Middle East scholars in honor of this historic 100th anniversary. From a Vision to a Plan: Balfour and Pre-State Zionism with Dr. Robert Wexler, President, AJU in conversation with David Makovsky, The Washington Institute's Ziegler Distinguished Fellow and The Dayenu of Zionism 1917: The Idea of a Homeland for the Jewish People with Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, President, Shalom Hartman Institute, Jerusalem. Read More

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  • The Dayenu of Zionism 1917: The Idea of a Homeland for the Jewish People with Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, President, Shalom Hartman Institute, Jerusalem, in conversation with Rabbi Ed Feinstein, Valley Beth Shalom

    The Dayenu of Zionism 1917: The Idea of a Homeland for the Jewish People with Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, President, Shalom Hartman Institute, Jerusalem, in conversation with Rabbi Ed Feinstein, Valley Beth Shalom

    The Balfour Declaration marks the turning point in the balance between the two pillars of Jewish collective existence: The Judaism of Being and the Judaism of Becoming. Join us to explore how these two core principles of Jewish identity evolved with the Zionist idea of a homeland for the Jewish people, and how the shift continues to play out in modern Israel today. Read More

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  • Holocaust Film & Discussion Series

    Holocaust Film & Discussion Series

    AJU's Whizin Center & the Sigi Ziering Institute and the Consulate Generals of France, Germany, Hungary and Poland present a major Holocaust related film series featuring The Zookeeper's Wife, Sunshine, Labyrinth of Lies and La Rafle (The Roundup). Following each film, Holocaust scholar Dr. Michael Berenbaum, Director of the Sigi Ziering Institute, will be in conversation with the respective Consul General. Read More

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  • Holocaust Film & Discussion Series: The Zookeeper's Wife (Poland)

    Holocaust Film & Discussion Series: The Zookeeper's Wife (Poland)

    This film tells the true story of one working wife and mother who became a hero to hundreds during World War II. In 1939, in Poland, Antonina Zabinski (Jessica Chastain) and her husband, Dr. Jan Zabinski, (Johan Heldenbergh) manage the Warsaw Zoo. They help to save the lives of hundreds living in the Warsaw Ghetto, with Antonia putting herself and her children at great risk. Read More

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  • Judaism of the Second Temple and the Rise of Christianity

    Judaism of the Second Temple and the Rise of Christianity

    Following the Babylonian Exile, Cyrus the Great allowed the Israelites to return to the former kingdom of Judah and rebuild the Great Temple. For 600 years, several Jewish sects arose with competing expressions of Judaism: Sadducees, Pharisees, Zealots, Sicarii, Essenes as well as Samaritans and Nazarenes, the first followers of Jesus. We will explore each of these sects and their beliefs and examine how the Jewish Nazarene movement eventually led to Christianity. Read More

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  • American Art in the Gilded Age

    American Art in the Gilded Age

    In the nineteenth century, America faced a political and social landscape similar to our own in 2017. Wealthy patrons forged an elegant aesthetic of refined beauty, decorative color and exotic delight. Yet beneath the "gilded surface" loomed political scandal, a new racial dynamic, yearnings for women's suffrage and desire for spiritual substance. We examine the art of Cecilia Beaux, Mary Cassatt, Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, H.O.Tanner, John Singer Sargent, Louis Comfort Tiffany. Read More

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  • 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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  • Jews and the American Presidency

    Jews and the American Presidency

    From the birth of this nation, the American President and his policies have been consequential to Jews in the U.S. and around the world. This special relationship continues to be vital both to the American system of government and to the conditions under which Jews live here and throughout the world. Read More

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  • Jews & the American Presidency: Introduction and Series Overview, From George Washington to the Present

    Jews & the American Presidency: Introduction and Series Overview, From George Washington to the Present

    Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben, Ph.D., Rabbi Emeritus, Kehillat Israel Reconstructionist Congregation Read More

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  • The Children of Abraham: Jews, Christians, Muslims

    The Children of Abraham: Jews, Christians, Muslims

    This comparative religion course explores the core beliefs and biblical images of Judaism and how they "begat" and influenced the beliefs and images in the Christian Gospels and Islam's Quran and Haddiths. We'll find amazing similarities among these three religions as well as theological deal-breakers based on seemingly innocuous biblical passages. 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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  • Movie Matinees at the Sperber: Portrait of Wally

    Movie Matinees at the Sperber: Portrait of Wally

    Our popular documentary film and discussion series continues. Join us for a screening of Portrait of Wally. Share your thoughts about the film and enjoy some popcorn! Traces the history of famed artist Egon Schiele's portrait of his mistress from mid-century Vienna to the Museum of Modern Art in 1997. Read More

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  • L.A. Art Now Tour: An Insider's View to Local Art Histories, Narratives, & View

    L.A. Art Now Tour: An Insider's View to Local Art Histories, Narratives, & View

    This L.A. art historical and contemporary art overview features lectures, discussions, and visits to a few of the most vital art destinations. Our visits and excursions will help each participant open themselves up to the pleasures, and (yes!) even beauty that can be found in the best of today's art. Our adventure begins at AJU with an introductory discussion about the current Contemporary Art scene, keeping in mind Bruland's favorite motto: "Fear No Art." Each week, we'll meet a local artist or visit a gallery, studio or workshop presenting contemporary exhibitions. Past tours have included visits to The Broad, the Museum of Contemporary Art and artists' studios. We'll conclude with a discussion to celebrate our learning. Read More

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  • Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage at LACMA and Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust: Conversation with Woman in Gold attorney, E. Randol Schoenberg

    Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage at LACMA and Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust: Conversation with Woman in Gold attorney, E. Randol Schoenberg

    Connecting art, history and Jewish heritage, our day begins with a private guided tour of Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art that highlights the principal role that music and dance played in Chagall's work. The exhibit features the artist's vibrant costumes and set designs - some of which have never been exhibited since they appeared on stage. Visiting points of interest along our walk, we'll reconvene at Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, for a tour and a discussion between Jewish Historical Society President Stephen Sass and attorney E. Randol Schoenberg, former President, LAMOTH, who specializes in legal matters related to the recovery of looted or stolen artwork. He was one of the principal figures in the case of Maria Altmann vs. the Austrian government and ultimately recovered her family's Klimt painting, Woman in Gold, the focus of the recent film, starring Helen Mirren as Altmann and Ryan Reynolds, who played Schoenberg. Read More

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  • Four Jewish Dissidents: Challenging the Status Quo

    Four Jewish Dissidents: Challenging the Status Quo

    Throughout history, certain members of society have challenged leadership and expressed opposition to official policy. What can we learn about Jewish ethics and values by examining those who were labeled as dissidents? What can we learn about this present moment by looking back at those who redefined Jewish culture, history and scholarship? Read More

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  • An Evening with Golda Meir

    An Evening with Golda Meir

    While conducting research for a biography of Golda Meir, Elinor Burkett longed to pose questions directly to Israel's near mythic Iron Lady. The author culled through hours of rare TV and film interviews, creating a virtual Q&A. Hear Golda in her own inimitable voice discuss war and peace, refugees, women's rights and Israel's relationship with America. Read More

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  • Meet the First Jews of America

    Meet the First Jews of America

    Who were the first Jews to set foot on North American soil? These pioneers were a group of 23 Brazilian/Portuguese Jews who fled from northeastern Brazil seeking shelter in New Amsterdam (future New York) in 1654. Throughout American history, their descendants left their mark with memorable achievements and exemplary lives. This course aims to tell the origins, adventures and accomplishments of these Jews in America throughout the country's history - unveiling some secrets that may link the Jews from Portugal and Spain to the continent's discovery. Read More

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  • Jews & the American Presidency: Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman

    Jews & the American Presidency: Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman

    Dr. Michael Berenbaum, Director, AJU's Sigi Ziering Institute and Professor of Jewish Studies
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  • Jews & the American Presidency: Abraham Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson

    Jews & the American Presidency: Abraham Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson

    Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben, Ph.D., Rabbi Emeritus, Kehillat Israel Reconstructionist Congregation Read More

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  • Jews & the American Presidency: George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush & Barack Obama

    Jews & the American Presidency: George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush & Barack Obama

    Dr. Raphael J. Sonenshein, Executive Director, Cal State LA's Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs Read More

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  • Movie Matinees at the Sperber: Hummus!

    Movie Matinees at the Sperber: Hummus!

    Our popular documentary film and discussion series continues. Join us for a screening of Hummus. Share your thoughts about the film and enjoy some popcorn and Hummus tasting! Hummus is a superfood with the power to bring Muslims, Christians and Jews together, and we meet them in this documentary from Israel. Enjoy a special Hummus tasting after the film to pick your favorite! Read More

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  • Holocaust Film & Discussion Series: Sunshine (Hungary)

    Holocaust Film & Discussion Series: Sunshine (Hungary)

    This film describes the fate of three-generations of a Hungarian Jewish family – originally Sonnenschein (German: “sunshine”), later changed to Sors (Hungarian: “fate”) – throughout the 20th century. The patriarch (Ralph Fiennes) becomes a prominent judge but is torn when his government sanctions anti-Jewish persecutions.  Read More

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  • Jews & the American Presidency: Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter & Ronald Reagan

    Jews & the American Presidency: Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter & Ronald Reagan

    Dr. Michael Berenbaum, Director, AJU's Sigi Ziering Institute and Professor of Jewish Studies Read More

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  • A History of the Jews of Hungary

    A History of the Jews of Hungary

    This class will explore: • Pre-Magyar Jewry • Cossack pogroms, and the mass migration of Ukrainian and Polish Jewry to Central Europe the life and times of the Chasam Sofer • Munkacs, Satmar, and the rise of militant anti-Zionism among Hungarian chareidim • The controversy of the "Kasztner train" out of Auschwitz • "Marranos" under Communist repression in the post WWII period • "Goy Columns": The rise of the fascistic Jobbik Read More

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  • Jews and the Silk Road

    Jews and the Silk Road

    Topics covered in this class: • Aurel Stein and the discovery of Jewish treasures in the Cave of Thousand Buddhas • Tracing the spread of the Jewish Diaspora through the odyssey of the Jewish glass-makers • Rhadanite merchants on the Silk Road • Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, and the decimation of the Jews of Central and West Asia • Sino-Judaic civilization in Kaifeng • How emissaries from Israel revived Jewish life along the Silk Road and causes for the demise of the Silk Road Read More

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  • Heritage Square Museum & Jewish D.T.L.A. Walking Tour

    Heritage Square Museum & Jewish D.T.L.A. Walking Tour

    We will travel back in time by Metro and on foot, with JHS docents Stephen Sass and Jeremy Sunderland. Starting at Union Station, we'll explore the beginnings of Los Angeles and our Jewish community. We'll visit: • Heritage Square Museum, the living history "architectural petting zoo" of Victorian-era structures • The newly rebuilt Colonial Drug, operated for six decades by Jewish pharmacist George A. Simmons and family • Downtown Los Angeles where we'll discover the role played by the Jewish community in the growth and development of El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Angeles, the Shtetl of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels Read More

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  • The Jews of Latin America: Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico

    The Jews of Latin America: Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico

    Topics covered in this class: • Inquisition in Mexico City; Brazilian Jewry under Dutch rule (17th cent.) • Moroccan Jewish rubber tree growers along the Amazon (1840s) • Yiddish Gauchos of the Argentinian Pampas; Juan and Eva Peron and Argentinian Jewry • The hunt for Eichmann and Mengele in South America • Jewish detainees who disappeared during the Argentine military dictatorship (1976-83) • The AMIA Bombing: Argentine Jewry and Islamic terrorism Read More

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  • Moses Maimonides (1135-1204): His Life and Times

    Moses Maimonides (1135-1204): His Life and Times

    Topics covered in this class: • The Rambam's milieu: 12th century Spanish Jewry • Curricula of the budding intellectual giant; the Almohades invasion: did Maimonides and his family temporarily convert to Islam? • In the court of Saladin • Maimonides on Christianity and Islam • Maimonides on the candidacy of the Messiah • Medical writings of Maimonides: on asthma, hemorrhoids, sex • The "Maimonidean Controversy" and the burning of the Rambam's books by the Dominicans (1232) Read More

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  • Movie Matinees at the Sperber: Klezmatics: On Holy Ground

    Movie Matinees at the Sperber: Klezmatics: On Holy Ground

    Our popular documentary film and discussion series continues. Join us for a screening of Klezmatics: On Holy Ground. Share your thoughts about the film and enjoy some popcorn! Follows the Grammy winning band over three years, capturing their highs and lows and rousing scenes from their live concerts. 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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