New JLI course to cover 33 centuries of Jewish literature

Rivkah Slonim will teach JLI’s new winter 2023 offering “Book Smart” in person at the Chabad Center and virtually. The course will explore the history, authors and content of Judaism’s “most important titles” subdivided in eight general genres. It will be held on six consecutive Mondays, beginning on January 30, at 7 pm. An 8:45 pm section of the course will be offered if there are a minimum of 10 registries for that time. To register, e-mail, call the Chabad Center at 797-0015 or visit The course fee is $79 ($150 for a couple) and includes the course textbook. 

During the 90-minute sessions, participants will begin a six-week survey of traditional Jewish literature, including 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.

“It’s an ambitious undertaking,” says 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.”

“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 course organizers. “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.” 

The history of Jewish literature is a broad subject, but Slonim noted that 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.”

“Book Smart” was developed by the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute, which is headquartered in Brooklyn. Organizers noted that the institute “has a sterling reputation for producing high-quality and engaging courses.” 

Slonim said 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,” she noted, “giving us valuable context for all our future Jewish learning.”

She added, “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.”

JLI offers programs in 11 languages at more than 1,600 international locations in 41 U.S. states and 28 countries on five continents. More than 400,000 students have attended JLI classes since it was founded in 1998. 

“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,” organizers said.