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Torah for Skeptics

July 21, 2016

Rabbi Ellen Jaffe-Gill, RRC 14, was among eight current students and recent graduates who were awarded a micro-grant through the Auerbach Entrepreneurial Grant Program. The program – funded by the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford – aims to spur bold experiments that seek to reconstruct Jewish experience and engagement for the 21st century. It funds innovative pilot projects for Jewish living and engagement in the 21st century that have the potential to grow and be replicated. 

Rabbi Jaffe-Gill was awarded $1,000 to fund a 10-week Bible study program for Jewish adults in southeast Virginia. The program aims to offer unaffiliated Jews the chance to study Torah outside of a synagogue setting, to engage Jews who may be alienated from Torah because of youthful experiences, and as the rabbi put it, “to make a tiny dent in the overwhelming ignorance among diaspora Jews of foundational Jewish texts.”

The Virginia Pilot reported the story.

Here is an excerpt:

“Many American Jews formed the image of who they were based on a 12- or 13-year-old’s understanding,” said Jaffe-Gill. “Now, as parents and grandparents, they are struggling to explain the tenets of their Jewish beliefs and want to know more.”

The program begins July 31 with sessions to be held on a semi-monthly basis in Jaffe-Gill’s home in the Bayside area of Virginia Beach. It is offered free of charge, with materials provided.

“The only thing necessary to bring is intellectual curiosity,” said Jaffe-Gill, noting the scope of subject matter will cover foundational texts from all three major sections of the Hebrew Bible: Torah, Prophets and Writings. Each session will be free-standing, allowing for participants to join at any time.

Jaffe-Gill said genuine Torah study means getting underneath the surface of the words on the page, to their deeper meaning. “It is not enough to know the words; there should be understanding of what they can mean within historical context as well as contemporary application.”

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