Friday Noon Study Group

An informal discussion group considering various major Jewish texts and writers. Past subjects have included the Books of Judges, Kings, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Daniel, Pirkei Avot: The Ethics of the Sages, the religious philosophy of Mordecai Kaplan, Elliot Cosgrove's Jewish Theology In Our Time, Abraham Joshua Heschel's The Sabbath, Rebecca Goldstein's Betraying Spinoza, Sylvia Boorstein's That's Funny, You Don't Look Buddhist, Simon Wiesenthal’s The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness, Ari Shavit's My Promised Land:  The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel,  Ruth Calderon's A Bride for One Night:  Talmud Tales, Song of Songs, Julie Galambush’s The Reluctant Parting: How the New Testament's Jewish Writers Created a Christian Book, Lawrence Wright's Thirteen Days in September:  The Dramatic Story of the Struggle for Peace, the Book of Joshua, Amy-Jill Levine's The Short Stories of Jesus, Martin Buber's I and Thou, the Book of Hosea, Robert Wright's The Evolution of God, and Joseph Telushkin's Words That Hurt, Words That Heal.  We meet every Friday from 12-1 in the CBI Social Hall.


Last week, we concluded our study of Jewish Sensibilities with a discussion of the practice of Chidush, a creative interpretation of tradition. We began by defining "interpretation," and whether it involved "explaining the meaning of something" or "showing your understanding of something" (i.e. how objective or subjective can interpretation be).  We looked at Jewish sources that clearly advocated for the need for re-interpretation from generation to generation.  And we spent the bulk of our time discussing whether interpretation involved "new readings of prior sages [tradition] without abandoning even a word of their wisdom," the "courage to depart from our ancestors, while still loving [and remaining] in ever-present dialogue with them," or whether "chidush is an act of subversion of tradition," whether it "is not progress, but rupture."  Opinions varied, but we all seemed to value the advice of striking a balance that would include tradition within our efforts to innovate.  

Although we left a few topics of "Jewish Sensibilities unexplored, you are invited to explore them yourselves by accessing the Sh'ma Now Archives at and downloading topics from their menu.


PLEASE NOTE:  Our group will be taking a two-week break and will resume with a new topic on Friday, March 10:

The Genius of Judaism by Bernard-Henri Levy

The Genius of Judaism is a breathtaking new vision and understanding of what it means to be a Jew, a vision quite different from the one we’re used to. It is rooted in the Talmudic traditions of argument and conflict, rather than biblical commandments, borne out in struggle and study, not in blind observance. At the very heart of the matter is an obligation to the other . . . .   Lévy offers a fresh, surprising critique of a new and stealthy form of anti-Semitism on the rise as well as a provocative defense of Israel from the left. He reveals the overlooked Jewish roots of Western democratic ideals and confronts the current Islamist threat while intellectually dismantling it. Jews are not a “chosen people,” Lévy explains, but a “treasure” whose spirit must continue to inform moral thinking and courage today. 

Europe's foremost philosopher and activist confronts his spiritual roots and the religion that has always inspired and shaped him—but that he has never fully reckoned with.

Our informal discussion group meets every Friday from noon to one in the CBI Social Hall.  All are welcome to join us, regardless of their level of expertise, and regardless of whether they've attended any previous sessions.   If you have questions, please contact Jay Jacoby at