Area Chabads offering new course on Jewish identity

The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute will present “To Be a Jew in the Free World: Jewish Identity Through the Lens of Modern History,” the institute’s new six-session Winter 2014 course that will begin during the first week of February.

In New Orleans, Rabbi Mendel Ceitlin of Chabad Jewish Center will conduct the six course sessions at 7:30 p.m. on six Wednesday evenings beginning Feb. 5 at Chabad Jewish Center in Metairie.

Bais Ariel Chabad in Birmingham will hold the classes on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. starting on Feb. 5, and on Thursdays at 10 a.m., starting Feb. 6. Rabbi Yossi Friedman will lead the sessions.

“A recent PEW study exposed that 22 percent of Jews identify as ‘Jews with no religion’ and for many, this is a clear indication that the landscape of Jewish identity is changing rapidly” said Rabbi Zalman Abraham of JLI’s headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y. “Our objective with this course is to initiate a discussion about Jewish identity, why it is still relevant, and what we can do to make it something our children and grandchildren will cherish for generations to come.”

In “To Be a Jew in the Free World,” participants will confront questions of allegiance and issues in which Judaism and contemporary society appear to be in conflict. Looking into the past, the course explores a series of fascinating case studies, such as arguments made in the 1650s to convince Oliver Cromwell to readmit Jews to England, and how Ulysses S. Grant’s 1862 expulsion of the Jews in western Tennessee and northern Mississippi became a defining issue in his presidential election.

“The subject of identity is close to the hearts of many in our Jewish community, yet it’s a subject that is rarely discussed nowadays,” said Ceitlin. “The course provides a rare opportunity to address this issue that will benefit the wider community of New Orleans, and we invite everyone to attend.”

Like all JLI programs, “To Be a Jew in the Free World” is designed to appeal to people at all levels of Jewish knowledge, including those without any prior experience or background in Jewish learning. All JLI courses are open to the public, and attendees need not be affiliated with a particular synagogue, temple, or other house of worship.

Interested students in New Orleans may call (347) 351-6476 or visit here for registration and other course-related information. Cost is $75, with a 10 percent discount for couples and returning JLI students.

Registration for Birmingham is available here. Cost is $89 for individuals and $135 for couples.