JLI lit. course “Book Smart” to begin Jan. 30

The Jewish Learning Institute will hold a six-week class, “Book Smart,” which will look at 33 centuries of Jewish literature. The class will be held on Mondays at 7 pm beginning January 30 in person at the Chabad Center and virtually. It will be taught by Rivkah Slonim. An 8:45 pm section of the course will be offered if there are a minimum of 10 registries for that time. The course will explore the history, authors and content of Judaism’s writings subdivided in eight general genres.

To register, write to Rshea@ChabadofBinghamton.com, call the Chabad Center at 607-797-0015 or visit The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute's website. The course fee is $79 ( $150 for a couple) and includes the course text book. “Please register sooner rather than later if you are planning to join so we can order the correct number of text books for all interested participants,” said Slonim.

“To study the history of most cultures, you need to learn about wars and empires, warriors and city builders, and great works of art,” said organizers of the class. “But the history of Judaism is overwhelmingly a history of books. Books form the core of Judaism’s culture. But even if they’re known as the ‘People of the Book,’ much of Judaism’s classic literature remains closed to contemporary Jews.”

“It’s an ambitious undertaking,” said Slonim, “I’m excited because I think the course will give us a richer understanding of what Judaism meant throughout the centuries and what it can mean for us today.”

The 90-minute sessions will offer a survey of traditional Jewish literature, covering Torah, Talmud, midrash, halachah, ethics and philosophy, as well as Kabbalah and Chasidic mysticism. “We’ll meet the authors behind the big ideas of Jewish history over a period of 33 centuries,” explained Slonim.

The history of Jewish literature is a broad subject, but Slonim says the course will also go deep: “We’re not just going to learn why these works were written. We’re actually going to get a taste of what it’s like to participate in a talmudic debate, unpack a philosophical conundrum and decipher a kabbalistic text from the Zohar.”

Slonim says she isn’t promising students overnight expertise on the works discussed in the course. “But I can assure them it will be an enjoyable and intellectually engaging journey, giving us valuable context for all our future Jewish learning.”

“Book Smart” was developed by the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute, headquartered in Brooklyn, NY. More than 400,000 people have participated in JLI’s courses since the organization was founded in 1998.

JLI offers programs in 11 languages at more than 1,600 international locations in 41 U.S. states and 28 countries on five continents. JLI uses cutting-edge pedagogical techniques to create content that communicates Jewish teachings, observances, and history to Jewish audiences of all backgrounds and affiliations, across a wide range of formats and media.