"Beit Midrash" literally translates to "house of study" in Hebrew. Traditionally, it refers to a room or hall dedicated to the study of Torah and Talmud, distinct from a synagogue (or "beit knesset"), though in modern times it can be used to refer to a Hebrews school or Jewish day school. What distinguishes it from a synagogue or sanctuary is that, rather than being a place of worship, the beit midrash is a place of learning. Typically, this learning occurs in pairs (or havruta), who read the text aloud to one another and then debate the meaning amongst themselves.
New Haven Beit Midrash is a cross-denominational evening of structured study, conducted in groups rather than pairs, that is themed around a specific topic. Each session features a keynote educator from Pardes North America, as well as 2-3 breakout sessions led by local New Haven teachers. Rather than refer to a location itself, New Haven Beit Midrash is a "floating" place of study, rotating amongst local area synagogues every other month.
Absolutely not! While knowledge of Hebrew and midrashic background would certainly enhance your experience, New Haven Beit Midrash programs are open to folks at all levels of Jewish education and no prior knowledge is required to attend.
Rabbi Jonathan Leener is a Faculty Associate Fellow for Pardes North America and the rabbi of BASE, a grounding point for young Jewish adults. Ordained at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, he was also the founding rabbi of Base BKLYN. His writings on Judaism and Israel have appeared in The Washington Post, The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, and Huffington Post. He most recently published a children’s book, Esther’s Magical Mystery Torah, bringing the Torah of Rabbi Nachman to young children.
Avi Spodek is a lifelong learner and master educator. He is a graduate of the Pardes Educators’ Program (Cohort 12) and is currently the Recruitment Professional for the Pardes Center for Jewish Educators. Avi holds a BA in History from Bar Ilan University, an MJEd from Hebrew College (Boston) and he is a mushmach of Rav Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg zt’l and Rav Daniel Landes shlit’a. He lives in Baltimore, MD with his wife and three children.
Rabbi Brent Chaim Spodek is a Faculty Associate Fellow at Pardes North America. He has been recognized by the Jewish Forward as one of the most inspiring rabbis in America, by Hudson Valley Magazine as a Person to Watch, and by Newsweek as “a rabbi to watch.” He is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute and a Fellow of the Schusterman Foundation. Rabbi Brent has been spiritual leader at Beacon Hebrew Alliance since 2010; prior to that, he served as Rabbi in Residence at American Jewish World Service and was the Marshall T. Meyer Fellow at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in New York. Rabbi Brent holds rabbinic ordination and a master’s degree in philosophy from the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he was the first recipient of the Neubauer Fellowship.
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